Getty ImagesHello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
The long-standing joke in the NHL is that the Southeast Division is the worst in hockey by a mile. And while that hasn't always been categorically true, it's certainly been true enough over the years that, unlike the belief that Sidney Crosby is a diving whiner, it's not always easy to separate legend out from reality.
This year, however, there have been no such difficulties. The race to the bottom in the Southeast has reached an unfortunate nadir in the past several days, as the Capitals now lead it with a point total which equals that of the New York Islanders. That point total is just good enough to get them into the playoffs even under rational circumstances — for example, not giving a division winner an automatic top-3 seed just for fun — but it's also tied for 14th league-wide.
Were you to look up ignominy in the dictionary, you'd see a picture of Adam Oates sneaking into this prime playoff spot, while still scowling over yet another defensive breakdown by these 2013 division-leading Caps, who have conceded 110 goals in just 39 games.
The Capitals, unlike the teams ahead of them and also immediately behind them in the standings, have the luxury of playing Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay, and Winnipeg four and five times this season. Their record against those teams, including last night's result against the Lightning, is 12-3-0. That should tell you everything you need to know about how fraudulently this division title is going to be won by whichever team backs into it least-hard: The Caps' record against teams outside the Southeast is a brutal 8-14-2.
It doesn't really seem fair that, simply on the basis of geography, a team that actually deserved to win home ice by racking up a large number of points against teams that wouldn't struggle against middle-of-the-pack AHL sides won't be able to do so. People talk an awful lot about how the Maple Leafs aren't even that good, and they're probably not wrong, but they have 46 points playing in the only division in hockey with two 50-point teams. This is far more of an accomplishment than leading the only one with three teams at 34 or below. And only doing it by six points.
I'm sure there have been worse-performing divisions than this one throughout NHL history, but what I doubt is that they've been quite this brutal to watch. These are some defensively ugly teams, as evidenced by the fact that Carolina, Winnipeg and Florida are in the bottom six in the league in goal differential, ranging from minus-18 to minus-37, respectively. That seems like a pretty good reason all other teams in the East are a combined 74-40-11 against these five teams, good for a .636 winning percentage, or a pace for about 104 points in an 82-game season. Only one team in the East (Buffalo, of course, at 2-8-2) has taken fewer than half its points against Southeast opponents.
The good news, if you want to call it that, is this type of postseason abomination, which cropped up to a lesser extent last year when the Florida Panthers sneaked in as the No. 3 seed when it should have been eighth, is in its dying days.
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