The Washington Capitals went 2-1-0 this week, capped off with a 5-2 victory over divisional foe the New York Rangers. The win was Washington’s 12th consecutive home victory and comes off a 4-1 loss in Buffalo to the Sabers the night prior. The Caps defeated the Vancouver Canucks last Thursday by a score of 4-1. Washington has the best record in the NHL at 34-8-3 and a league-best 71 points. This team is playing at an extremely high level this year and will look to right previous years’ wrongs.
In the 5-2 victory over the Rangers, Justin Williams led the way with his second-career hat trick. Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson chipped in with a goal apiece. Braden Holtby earned his 29th victory of the season, the most in the NHL. He was pulled in the second period due to dehydration a night after he was benched in the second period against the Sabers after allowing three goals in the 4-1 loss. The loss to Buffalo was Holtby’s first regulation loss in over two months. Washington was 2/4 on the power play and held the Rangers scoreless on the power play in four chances. The Caps improved to 10-0-1 after losing a game.
The game against Buffalo did not go the Caps way at all and Johansson was the lone goal scorer for Washington that night. At that point, the game was already out of hand at 4-0. In the 4-1 win over the Canucks, Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a pair of goals to help lead the team to victory. Karl Alzner and Tom Wilson contributed a goal apiece.
The Capitals are the best team in the NHL right now. That is great, but there are some still doubting the Caps due to their lack of postseason success over the last decade. Year after year the Capitals have a high-octane scoring team, but that didn’t translate into Stanley Cups. It didn’t even translate to Stanley Cup finals appearances. The doubt needs to go out the window for the team this season. In year’s past the Caps would have a high-powered offense, but would lack defensively. This year, however, is a different story. Washington has the fourth-best penalty kill in the NHL this season, killing off 85.3 of opposing teams power plays. Braden Holtby has been a monster as the net minder and that is one of the key elements of winning a Stanley Cup. This team can score, led by Ovechkin, as they have scored 147 goals thus far this season. Time will certainly tell whether or not this success can be sustained throughout the final two-and-a-half months of the regular season and into the postseason. If the Capitals continue to play at this high level, they will be a tough out in the playoffs. Can any team in the Eastern Conference win a best-of-seven series against a team with great goaltending and an offense that can score at will? That will be very difficult to do.
Next up for Washington is a trip to Columbus for a matchup against the Blue Jackets before starting a five-game home stand. The Caps will host the Anaheim Ducks on Friday the 22nd before an afternoon affair on Sunday the 24th with the Pittsburgh Penguins in a contest that will garner a lot of attention due to Ovechkin leading his team against the Sidney Crosby-led Penguins. After the game against the Penguins, Washington will host the Flyers before the All-Star break. After the All-Star break, the Caps will host the Panthers on February 2nd and the New York Islanders on February 4th. The Caps are 18-3-1 at home this season and will look to extend their 12-game home win streak.