The Caps are looking to taste the post season once again. Now that the League is down the final stretch of 5 to 6 games left, the Caps will need some outside help too. All they have to do is win, and let us, the fans/experts/media, do the worrying for them.
One way to see if the Caps even have an outside chance of slipping into that 8th and final playoff spot is to look at the records of the teams in front of them. Since every team will be finishing the season playing within their own division it's even easier to find out that answer.
#6 NY Rangers - It might be a long shot to catch the Rangers, but hey, the Caps are only 6 points away from the Broadway Blues. Unfortunately the Rangers have a good record versus their division (17-6-2). Not very likely the Caps will be able to catch them.
#7 Philly Flyers - The Flyers have quietly put together three straight wins and are just 2 points behind the Rangers, and 4 points ahead the Caps. The good news here is the Flyers are a so-so team against their division with a 13-11-2 record. True that is on the winning side, but they do have to face down the Rangers, Devils, Islanders and the Penguins on a 4 game road trip in their next 5. I can see them getting 4 out of 8 points on this road trip.
#8 Boston Bruins - Let's face it, the Bruins are suffering a mini collapse of late. Sure they secured a point in a shoot out loss to the Canadiens, but they also got swept this season by the Habs. Good news for the Bruins, they won't face them again for the rest of the year, but bad news is their divisional record has suffered because of it (9-12-5). Clearly they are catchable, but don't count them out. Teams play differently under pressure, they could go on a late surge to keep themselves in it. They have a home and home with Toronto (who seems hard to beat all of a sudden) then face off with Ottawa, Buffalo and New Jersey in their next 5.
#9 Washington Capitals - Keep winning.
#10 Buffalo Sabres - These guys are hard to figure out. Just when you think they have called it quits and send Brian Campbell to the west coast, they put a beat down on the Hurricanes and are still fighting for a playoff spot. Right now they are .500 against their own division (11-11-3). They have a chance to make up some ground with a home and home with sagging Ottawa then face the Habs, Bruins and the Maple Leafs for their next 5. 3 games will be at home, so I can see the Sabres coming away with 6 points in the next 5.
#11 Florida Panthers - The Panthers are playing really, really, really good hockey right now (14-10-2 in the SE). Their offense is sparking and their goaltending is solid. But here the Caps can help themselves since the two will face off together twice before the season concludes. However, the Caps won't get much help since the Panthers face the Bolts and Thrash in their next two games before the Cats face the Caps. The good news, Florida's last three games are on the road against Atlanta, Carolina and the Capitals.
#12 Toronto Maple Leafs - They are only two points away from the Caps, and they have been playing better than expected as the season winds down. While the Capitals would like to see the Leafs lose a few here or there, the Leafs can help the Caps. The Leafs play well against their own division with a 13-9-4 record. They will play a home and home with Boston, and then play Buffalo at home a few days later. If the Caps can stay two points ahead of the Leafs and the Leafs beat Boston on both nights and Buffalo, that could mean playoffs for the Caps.
The Capitals are still just 5 points from Carolina (17-8-1 in the division by the way). With a couple of wins against the divisional leaders, they could catch them. The Caps don't have to be perfect in their last few games, but it doesn't hurt.