Why the Capitals remain the team to beat in the Eastern Conference

A rough month of November for the Capitals is nothing but a speed bump. This is the East's top Stanley Cup contender. Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After winning the President's Trophy with 120 points in 2015-16, and an initially promising 8-2-1 start to the 2016-17 season, the Capitals stumbled to a 5-5-2 record during the following month, and fell to fifth in the Metropolitan division; two straight overtime victories have lifted them to fourth as of Dec. 8.

Enthusiasm in Washington's chances of success haven't been this low in years. Four major statistical models -- Money Puck, Hockey Reference, Sports Club Stats and Playoff Status -- project Washington's chances of winning their first Stanley Cup in franchise history between 2.9 and 5.0 percent.

These models also project Washington's chances of missing the playoffs for just the second time in a decade somewhere between 24.3 and 44.7 percent. This means that the Capitals are perceived to be roughly 10 times more likely to miss the playoffs than to win the Stanley Cup. That's a surprisingly pessimistic view that is increasingly being shared by fans and pundits across the NHL with every passing (or narrowly escaped) loss.

This may have been a surprisingly humbling start to their season, but the underlying numbers still suggest that the Capitals remain the team to beat in the East this season.