THEY HAVE NO Hogs, Smurfs or Fun

Bunches, and never in their team life--until now--have the Washington Capitals been in any playoffs. But after skating to the brink of financial extinction at the start of this season, Abe Pollin's Caps have clinched a playoff spot in the National Hockey League. For those who may not always follow the confusing comings and goings of these players--who take turns "coming up from" and "going back down to" Hershey, Pa., home of chocolate and minor-league hockey--Washington finally has a genuinely talented and interesting team.

A Stanley Cup winner? Why not? Maybe Washington's sports fans are on a roll. They certainly have earned a good ride. The hard-core Caps' fans --those who did stick it out in days of record-breaking losing streaks and financial thin ice--can revel in the skillful performances that are leaving more famous and long-powerful teams shorthanded and surprised.

It is reasonable to assume, and surely Mr. Pollin would confirm--that all fair-weather fans are forgiven and will be welcomed for the important festivities to come. For those whose attention may have drifted slightly, the event of most immediate interest is the jockeying for position going on between the Caps and the superstar-filled, champion New York Islanders. They have so far split their games this season--and they meet again this afternoon on Islander ice. It's high time the NHL had new champs anyway, and what better place to keep working on it?