With fifteen games left in the season, the Caps’ playoff prospects are dim. Depending on whose model you want to believe, they’ve got a 15.8 or 10.5 or 7.0 or 6.4 or some [insert relatively small number here] percent chance of qualifying for the postseason.
Now, as Caps fans, you’ve got a bit of a
masochistic kink morbid curiosity to you that makes you incapable of turning away from the disaster in favor of more productive and enjoyable pursuits before it’s complete. Heck, you may even be one of those sickos who’s actively rooting for them to lose to improve their draft position (and/or further cement the future of certain team employees).
And yet, there is entertainment value - and maybe even a little reason for optimism and joy - to be found in Caps games down the stretch. Here are five (plus one) reasons to watch the Caps as their 2022-23 season ends at Game 82 for only the second time since 2006-07:
What has been a primary (if not nearly solitary) reason to watch the Caps for years is still very much that in mid-March of 2023. Currently, Alex Ovechkin sits at 36 goals for the season and 816 for his career. We’re obviously all locked in on “the Gr8 chase,” and it’s unlikely that Ovechkin scores another 78 goals this season to catch Wayne Gretzky atop the NHL’s all-time goal-scoring list. But with four more tallies, Ovi would have his 13th career 40-goal season, passing Gretzky for the most 40-goal seasons in League history. Every time this guy suits up, it’s potentially history in the making.
Acquired at the trade deadline for Erik Gustafsson and a late first-round pick, Rasmus Sandin has made an immediate and remarkable impact with a goal and seven assists in just four games for the Caps. He’s a fun player to watch and sure does look like the future of the Caps blueline. If John Carlson makes it back into the lineup before the season ends, watching the two together could be worth the price of admission (or a couple of hours on your couch) on its own.
Youth Being Served
We get it - you think Connor McMichael should’ve been in Washington all year and you scratch your head when Aleksai Protas is watching games from the press box. But with the season slipping away, the Caps should (emphasis there) be turning their attention to seeing what they have in young players like McMichael and Protas, Alexander Alexeyev and others. The Caps are limited in the number of non-emergency recalls they can make from Hershey, but here’s hoping they use them to look at potential future Caps (instead of rewarding AHL journeymen).
NEWS | The Capitals have recalled forward Joe Snively from the Hershey Bears.https://t.co/CxGzUUUQAE— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 14, 2023
Free Agent Auditions
Speaking of potential future Caps, the team has several pending free agents, including veterans Conor Sheary, Craig Smith, Matt Irwin Dylan McIlrath (all of whom will be unrestricted), and Martin Fehervary, Alexeyev, Gabriel Carlsson (restricted). Everyone’s fighting for a job - whether in D.C. or elsewhere - so they’re worth keeping an eye on. And, yes, it’s okay to hope some of them don’t impress if you want to be sure they’re not 2023-24 Caps.
While you’re rooting against Conor Sheary (you heartless bastard... he just had a kid!), why stop there? Root against the Caps and maybe they’ll increase their lottery odds and move up a couple of spots in the (upcoming stacked) draft. Currently, the Caps sit 12th from the bottom of the League with 71 points, a point ahead of Ottawa and two ahead of Detroit (with each of those teams having a game in hand on Washington). Next is St. Louis at 63 points and on down. It’s unlikely the Caps fall too far from where they are, but every little bit would help. It does seem, however, that the Caps are destined for...
The “Plus One”
You’re a Caps fan. You’ve suffered through way worse than this (and were rewarded for it). So you’d still be watching whether Ovi and Sandin were here or not, whether the prospect pool was Sahara-dry and whether or not they’d already handed out three-year one-way deals to 30-year-old players in Hershey like they were Reese’s pieces, and whether the Caps had traded all of their picks in the next five drafts. Because the season isn’t over. It isn’t over at 6.4 percent and, frankly, it isn’t over at zero percent until the final buzzer goes on Game 82.
That slim chance is still a “plus one” reason to watch, but the real reason is because this is your team, win or lose. And you know, as a Caps fan, that it’s the losing that makes the winning all that much more enjoyable. And you know, as a Caps fan, that the winning will return.