One of the crimes we all commit is wishing time away -- usually in anticipation of a future event.

Washington Capitals fans likely would be willing to commit this crime if it meant the Stanley Cup playoffs could start today. And the players may be accomplices as well.

In fact, it is not a reach to say that Washington hockey fans and players would have just as soon skipped the 2010-11 regular season and gotten right to postseason play, considering the Caps' startling exit in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last year at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens.

Unfortunately, they have an 82-game schedule to play, so the best Caps fans can hope for is some sort of evidence that this hockey team will somehow perform differently in the postseason than it has the past three years.

Going into the All-Star break, the Caps have not been the most high-powered show on ice as they were a year ago. Instead -- and especially of late -- they have turned into a much more well-rounded team.

But it hasn't been easy. The hope that these young and talented Caps are transforming into a playoff-tough unit has come with a price -- they are not likely to win another President's Trophy this year as the prettiest team in the regular season with the most points.

Coach Bruce Boudreau has forced this team to develop into a better defensive unit with a commitment to scoring from a few feet away from the goal rather than the glitzy perimeter shooting their young superstars fell in love with last season -- a tactic that hastened their playoff exit.

So the games are closer to the 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Monday and the 2-1 win over the New York Islanders before that and not like the 5-4 shootout games last year's team often found itself in.

In the last 28 games, the opposition has scored more than three goals only four times. Ladies and gentlemen, that is playoff hockey.

"That's what we've been doing, and it's been fairly successful," Boudreau told reporters. "It might not be the most exciting brand of hockey in the world. But everyone seems to like winning hockey these days, so that's what we have to do."

He's right. Based on last year's disappointing playoff performance, the whole purpose of the 2010-2011 regular season should be to get this team prepared to play playoff hockey -- and, of course, playing it well enough to make the playoffs in the first place.

It has been frustrating for fans and players alike, particularly for superstar Alex Ovechkin, who is among the best goal scorers in the league but has just 19 this season (though he erupted for a hat trick last weekend against Toronto).

It has been an adjustment of day-by-day expectations, traded in for the faith and hope that the 2-1 loss you live with in January will pay dividends with a tough playoff win in April or May.

Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and Contact him at