That’s probably the magic number dangling in front of the Capitals when they return from their 18-day Olympic hiatus and face the Florida Panthers in Sunrise on Feb. 27.
Thanks to a pair of solid victories over the Winnipeg Jets and New Jersey Devils the Caps entered the Olympic break with a 27-23-9 record and 63 points.
The wins were crucial because they kept the Caps one point behind the Detroit Red Wings, who hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
The problem for the Caps is that the Red Wings aren’t the only team they’re chasing. The Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets also have 63 points and are ahead of the Caps in the standings, Columbus because it’s played one fewer game than the Caps and Ottawa because it has 23 regulation/overtime wins [ROW], four more than the Capitals.
And don’t underestimate the power of ROW. Among the five non-playoff teams within three points of Detroit, all have more ROWs than the Caps’ 19 and since that is the first playoff tiebreaker the Caps almost certainly will need to finish with more points than the Red Wings, Blue Jackets, Senators, Hurricanes and Devils to get into the playoffs.
That is, unless they can gather four more points than the Flyers or five more points than the Rangers, who hold the third and second spots in the Metropolitan Division standings, respectively.
Which brings us back to 92 points, which is likely the absolute minimum the Caps will need to get into the post-season for a seventh straight season.
To get there the Caps would need at least 29 points in their final 23 games. That equates to them going 13-7-3 in the final six weeks of the regular season.
That would be a major accomplishment when you consider the month of March features three games against the Bruins, two each against the Flyers and Penguins and a six-day trip to California to face the Ducks, Kings and Sharks.
That in itself may seem like a daunting task. But if you break it down into smaller segments, if the Caps win two out of every three games the rest of the season, they’ll finish with just enough wins to get into the post-season.
“If we can do that, we’ll be looking pretty good, maybe even fighting for home ice advantage,” Caps right wing Troy Brouwer said. “But like you said, you have to break it up into little segments.
“You have to win little mini series for the rest of the season and if you look at it like that it’s less exhausting and less mentally draining than looking at the season as a whole.”