January has been a spectacular month for the Washington Capitals. With newly crowned Captain Alexander Ovechkin at the helm, the team has lost only one game. Entering tonight’s appointment with the Tampa Bay Lightning, their nine-game winning streak was imperiled. After all, it was the Bolts that handed Washington their most recent defeat, the only under the Russian Machines’s reign, and nearly demoralized the team (if not for some histrionics from Matt Bradley). Compounded by the teams’ history is the Caps’ tendency to play down against lesser opponents and give lackluster performances at matinee games. In spite of all these factors and the lack of my wearing the undefeated RMNB t-shirt, the Caps snuck past the Bolts with a 3-2 victory and finished the month of Janaury with an incredible 13 wins.
Let’s get these bullet points out so you can fall asleep watching the Grammys:
- Brooks Laich finished off a lovely passing series by Flash and Semin to give the Caps a 2-0 advantage. The cool part about this was how… Knublian Laich’s goal was. If the Caps’ opponents think of them as a team of finesse snipers, smashmouth players like Laich and Knuble will continue to provide the score augment needed to pull out the win. Mark my words, come playoffs this will be crucial.
- Alexander Ovechkin was stumped for a good 53 minutes tonight. Eleven of his shots were blocked by pesky defenders (especially Mattias Ohlund) and only six made it to netminder Mike Smith. When the Bolts mounted their comeback and tied the game in the third, the Caps looked for a leader to be a hero. Lo, Alexander Ovechkin. The man simply refuses to let his nigh-unblemished record go to waste.
- Dave Steckel won a stunning none of his faceoffs in the offensive zone but was a flawless 4 for 4 on defense. This includes besting Vincent Lecavalier three times before jedi-mind-tricking him into an unsportsmanlike minor penalty with 2 seconds to go. Stecks wasn’t exactly a game-changing force today, but we thought this was an enjoyable morsel of a stat that we should share.
- Tyler Sloan pulls in a massive paycheck, and we’ve been somewhat doubtful of late that his contributions merit such remittance. Well, Tyler was a monster tonight while filling in for Mike Green (suspended, at home playing a dwarf in The Lord the Rings Online MMORPG). Sloan had four hits, two takeaways, and even a couple of shots. Thank you, Tyler, for reminding us to be fans first and critics second. You were awesome today.
- The record for most consecutive games won belongs to the 1993 Pittsburgh Penguins. For the Caps to tie the record, they’d have to win every game until the Olympic break. That includes games against the Rangers, the Habs, the Senators, and the damned Penguins.
With today’s win, the Caps of 09-10 have matched the 83-84 team’s 10-game winning streak. This is a huge achievement and one worth considering at length, but we should keep everything in perspective. For the Capitals, the regular season is no longer about winning games and accruing points, but rather building momentum for a gloriously long post-season.