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Because of the strong response to Bill Ratay's Mellon Arena memories printed in the Q&A recently, similar submissions from other readers interested in sharing their recollections will be posted in the Penguins area of PG-Plus. Those pieces can be sent via the Q&A submission form or to DMolinari@Post-Gazette.com
Q: How much of an impact do you feel the caliber of the other teams in your division help you come playoff time? For example, the Southeast Division does not give the Capitals consistent competition, year in and year out. Not to take anything away from them, because they are a great team and seemingly capable of handling a tough division like the Atlantic, but do you think playing in that division not only inflates their record, but handicaps them a bit, come playoff time?
Bryan, Washington, D.C.
MOLINARI: The Capitals not just are the only NHL team to clinch a playoff spot already, but have locked up the Southeast championship, as well. Washington has a league-high 106 points, 35 of which have come from inside its division, where it is 17-3-1.
It's entirely possible that the Capitals, who are on the verge of locking up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, will be the only Southeast team to get into the playoffs, and it's generally accepted that that division is the weakest in the conference.
However, the Capitals are 31-11-9 against the rest of the league, and that projects to a 114-point pace over an 82-game season. To put that in perspective, consider that the Penguins have surpassed that total just once in franchise history, when they put up 119 in 1992-93.
It's possible that the Capitals' dominance inside their division could mask some shortcomings, and there still are very real questions about whether a team can win a Stanley Cup with Jose Theodore and/or Semyon Varlamov in goal. At the same time, general manager George McPhee was aggressive at the trade deadline, bolstering a suspect defensive corps and adding some grit up front. That suggests he had a good perspective on what his team needed, although sticking with his goaltenders seems like a gamble.
Bottom line: Playing in a weak division doesn't seem like it should have a significant negative impact on Washington during the playoffs. And if there is a downside, it's more than offset by the benefits of picking up enough extra points inside the division to be virtually certain of having home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
Here's list No. 3 of proposed nicknames for the Consol Energy Center:
The CEC (Ray Hosta)
Sid's Crib (David Harrison)
66 Center (Eric Bartolowits)
The Roost (Ken Patton).
The Ice-Berg (Reggie Piper)
The Snow Fort or The Longhouse (Kevin Mahler)
Antarctica (Mark Sherbine)
The Arctic Zone (John Kampmeyer)
The Mine, The Mines or The Shock Box (Chris Mannozzi)
The Quinzhee (Jack Gaddess).
The Nest (Mike Leslie).
The Cube or The Consol Cube (Rick Gunter).
The Steel Cage, The Shelter or The Modern Igloo (Philippe Lancup)
The Penn (Don Bell).
The Pens Den (Dean Barton)
Chateau de Lemieux, the Sistine Consol, the Butcher's Dog (Doug Sechler)
Ice Bowl (Gene Gosney)
The Pit (Ed Frederick)
The Pen (Mark Sloan)
The Consolate (Gary L. Rogers)
The Gas House (Chris Miskis)
GLOO-2 (John Urban)
The Slab, The Rink, The Lookout (Jay Israel)
The Strap (Paul Oakes)
The House of Superkid (Jon Ugen)
Mario's Rink or Sid's Rink (Bob Bednarzik)
The Shock Tank (Rob Bernath)
The Lem (Mike Dindak)
Le Lemieux (Scott Bevan)
The Den (John Kellner)
Ice Box (Jeff Sypolt)