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Backhanded Compliments All Around!

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Lest MSM pundits be accused of writing something overly postive about the Washington Capitals (and not just the team's superstar), they are always careful to make sure any praise is prefaced by a dig at the franchise. Witness two examples, the first from USA Today's Ted Montgomery:
I would never be foolish enough to suggest that the Washington Capitals are a legitimate playoff contender, but at least the Washington faithful are getting a little glimpse of a much brighter future for their team. After playing nearly a third of the schedule, they had a winning record and were above .500 both home and on the road. Sometimes you've got to measure progress in tiny increments; the Caps are definitely a team on the rise.
Hmm. In my book, a team that is "above .500 both home and on the road" is a legitimate playoff contender, but what do I know - I'm just a caveman. I fell on some ice and later got thawed out by some of your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me.

Anyway, here's a second example, from The Worldwide Leader:
We might be giving the Caps too much credit here, but they're regarded as one of the hardest-working teams in the league. The Caps snapped their skid with three straight wins, their first such stretch of the season.
It's ok, ESPN - go out on that limb. After all, your power rankings are, at least in part, supposed to reflect teams' current level of play, and saying that the Caps are playing middle-of-the-pack hockey after running off three straight wins against three good-to-very-good teams certainly isn't giving them too much credit.