There is a connotation about the Washington Capitals that no matter what they do in the regular season, they seem to fall short in the postseason. This year the Capitals have the most wins through the first 52-games in the last 70 years with a record of 39-9-4, yet there is still skepticism of whether or not this team is for real this season. For those who think the Capitals are just a regular season success this year, think again. This team is the real deal and will look to prove the naysayers wrong.
Superstar Alex Ovechkin, much like his team, doesn’t get the proper recognition and respect he deserves. He is constantly being compared to guys like Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks. The biggest difference between Ovi, Crosby and Kane is the fact that Crosby and Kane have Stanley Cups, something that has eluded Ovechkin thus far in his career. Here is a guy who just scored his 30th goal of the season on Sunday, marking the 11th consecutive season with 30-plus goals to start his career, trailing only Mike Gartner and Wayne Gretzky. That’s pretty elite company to be discussed with. He scored his 500th career goal this season and became the all-time leader in goals scored by a Russian-born player, yet the historic milestone didn’t get the front page headlines it should have. Ovechkin and the Caps have typically been a pretty good regular season team. That’s the problem; the regular season doesn’t win Stanley Cups. This season Ovi and company seem to be on a mission to change the narrative and avenge previous year’s shortcomings. However, it isn’t just Ovechkin (30 goals, 14 assists) who is putting the puck in the net and contributing, showing the team’s depth.
Six different players have at least 30 points this season, including Ovechkin. Center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is likely the heir apparent to Ovechkin, leads the team with 53 points on 15 goals and 38 assists. Fellow center Nicklas Backstrom is second on the team in point with 48, including 17 goals and 31 assists. Right wingers Justin Williams (16 goals, 19 assists), T.J. Oshie (16 goals, 16 assists) and left winger Marcus Johansson (13 goals, 17 assists) are all having stellar seasons. Washington is even getting contributions from defensemen John Carlson and Matt Niskanen, who have combined for nine goals and 41 assists.
Arguably the biggest contributor to the Caps success this season is goaltender Braden Holtby, who leads the NHL with 34 wins. His overall record is 34-5-3 and he is allowing just 2.06 goals per game and has a save percentage of .929. He gets a lot of help from his defense, who are a physical group. The Caps are the league’s top scoring team, averaging 3.26 goals per game. They are 27-0-2 when scoring at least three goals and are 29-0-1 when leading after two periods. That is no easy feat, yet this team is making it look easy. This team has a ton of depth which really goes a long way, especially once the playoffs begin.
Washington never gets the national respect or recognition it deserves, mainly due to how the team performs or underachieves in the playoffs. This year’s team just has a different feel to them. They don’t seem like a team that is only going to be good in the regular season, but rather a team that is destined for a Stanley Cup. The Caps are 12 points ahead of the second-best team in the Eastern Conference, the Florida Panthers and lead the New York Rangers by 17 points in the Metropolitan division. There doesn’t seem to be a team that can beat the Caps in a best-of-seven series. Beating this team four times will be no easy task.
The Caps got win No. 39 in a 5-3 win over Nashville on Tuesday night. Jason Chimera started the scoring off in the first period with his 14th goal of the season. That lead would stick until Tom Wilson put Washington ahead 2-0 with his fifth goal of the season, 4:55 into the second period. Flip Forsberg cut the deficit in half for the Predators, sending the teams into the second intermission with the Caps leading 2-1. Williams added his 17th goal of the season to put the Caps up 3-1 before Johansson added his 14th goal of the season to increase the lead to 4-1 just three minutes later. The Preds did not go away without a fight as Roman Josi and Forsberg scored three minutes apart to make the score 4-3 with 8 minutes left to play. Ovechkin ended any hope of a comeback with an empty-net, power play goal, his 31st of the season. Holtby notched his 34th win of the season and stopped 23 of the 26 shots he faced.
Next up for the Capitals is a trip to Minnesota on Thursday night for a game against the Wild and then Saturday they visit the Dallas Stars.
Year after year this team shows it can score at will, but can’t ever seem to get the goal scoring going when it matters the most. This year is different and the Caps are on a mission. Regardless of what has transpired in years past, this team is extremely good and are the real deal. It’s time for the rest of the league to get the memo.