The Capitals are the NHL’s best team. They’re also its weirdest.
The Washington Capitals hosted their 14th annual Military Night on Thursday night. As part of Military Night, the Caps wore camo jerseys during warm-ups that were auctioned off later in the evening. Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer’s specially designed military masks were also up for bidding.
Photo: Bruce Bennett
The two Caps games that got postponed due the DC Blizzard just got rescheduled.
Photo: Drew Hallowell
TSN’s Bob McKenzie did his annual coach’s poll and I’m now paralyzed by superstitious, jinx-y feelings.
27 of 30 NHL coaches voted in McKenzie’s poll. A staggering 25 of 27 coaches picked the Capitals to come out of the Eastern Conference and play in the Stanley Cup Finals. Two lost souls have Jagr Fever, picking the Florida Panthers to play in a championship series I would refuse to watch.
Meanwhile, the Capitals were heavily favored by coaches to win the Stanley Cup. Washington received 16 votes while Chicago (nine), Los Angeles (one), and Tampa Bay (one) also received consideration.
This might be the understatement of the century, but the 2015-16 Washington Capitals are really good. They’ve won 35 of their first 46 games, they hold a 12-point lead over Florida in the Eastern Conference, and they’ve got a 14-point cushion over the Rangers for the Metropolitan Division crown.
But if we turn our heads to the President’s Trophy race, that’s where things get even crazier.
Sportsnet recently released a well-produced five-minute video on the Washington Capitals, focusing on how the team has changed under head coach Barry Trotz. In the video, Trotz and star players talk about the broken and fragmented atmosphere left behind by (current Sportsnet analyst) Adam Oates two seasons ago.
“I think it was a big wake up call for a lot of guys who had been here before that we needed to change something in here,” Braden Holtby said. “The happy-go-lucky Caps weren’t going to cut it anymore.”
“[New management] came at the perfect time for us,” continued Holtby. “We had our ultimate lows as an organization.”
Graphic via Hockey Night In Canada
Saturday, there was a bit of history in DC sports. The Washington Redskins, Washington Capitals, and Washington Wizards all won on the same day for the first time in 32 years (and nine days). And if we’re counting just by days, it took 11,697 of them for this to happen again.
The Redskins’ 38-24 win over the Eagles gave the Skins the NFC East title (8-7 record) and a playoff berth. It was also the Redskins’ 600th win as a franchise.
Monday night, the Capitals survived a last-minute onslaught by the Carolina Hurricanes. With seven seconds left, defenseman Matt Niskanen blocked three straight shots after Jay Beagle lost a crucial defensive zone face-off, one of just four he lost all game. Niskanen’s sacrifice, Beagle’s faceoffs, and Philipp Grubauer’s staunch defense helped secure a 2-1 win at RBC Center.
If it seems like this this team can’t lose right now, it’s not because of excellent shot suppression or smart systems, it’s due to extraordinary efforts like Niskanen’s and Beagle’s and Grubauer’s becoming commonplace lately.
The standard on-ice celebration after a win would be the skaters congratulating the victorious goalie one by one. Instead, tonight, quite appropriately, the Caps held a big group hug in the defensive zone.
With the Capitals thrilling comeback win against the Lightning on Friday, their record improved to 23-6-2. They now have 48 points and are tied with the Dallas Stars for first place in the league. But wait a second, Dallas has played one more game than Washington. So guess what: