Thursday, March 31, 2011

Should the Caps Want the #1 Seed?

Ever since their nine game winning streak brought them to the top of the conference standings, the Capitals have been chasing the Philadelphia Flyers for the best record in the East. The top team gets the number one seed in the playoffs and home field advantage. However, when looking at recent NHL playoff history, is this something Washington really wants?

In the past ten NHL playoffs, number one seeds have not fared well, especially in the East. Only two #1 seeds made the Stanley Cup Final with only one winner (Tampa Bay). The average seed in either conference to make the Finals is 3.1, which is higher than in the NFL (2.4) and NBA (2.0) during that time frame. Many things factor into this including hot goalies and more prominent home field advantage in the other sports. Oddly enough, when looking at the winners of the Stanley Cup, the NHL has the lowest average seed at 2.0 compared to 3.2 and 2.1 from the other sports. This can be attributed to the NFL playing the Super Bowl at a neutral site and the NBA Finals switching to a 2-3-2 home/away/home format.

Of course the actual matchups matter as well, which also supports a caution for the Capitals pursuit of the top spot. At the current standings, the #6 seed would be Montreal, #7 Buffalo, and #8 New York, with Carolina on the outside looking in. DC is a combined 10-3 against the Canadians, Sabres, and Hurricanes this year, while only 1-3 against the Rangers. If they overcome recent injuries and the Flyers for the best record in the conference, the Caps will be facing a New York team that embarrassed them 6-0 and 7-0 already this season.

I do not know about you, but I would want all the luck and matchups I can get for the playoffs, especially after last season’s debacle. So I say, rest some starters tending injuries and get ready for the Sabres.

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