Don't look now but it was a very successful weekend. In Bristow, we held our annual Christmas Party on Saturday and "a good time was had by all."
Oh and those Washington Capitals - they won back to back games on Friday & Saturday beating Ottawa at home on Friday night 5-1, a game that left many fans wondering just what does Brent Johnson need to do to get his first shutout of the season; and beating the Montreal Canadeans 2-1 in Montreal on Saturday night. Rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov made his debut on Hockey Night in Canada for the Saturday Night game. The Capitals now have a "human schedule" until January 9th and 10th when they play Columbus at home, followed once again on Saturday evening in Montreal. If you are keeping track so far this season the Capitals and the Canadeans have played twice (once home, once away) and the Caps lead the series 2-0. Through 31 games so far this season, the Capitals lead the Southeast Conference by 8 points. If you're keeping track, as of this morning the Capitals are the number 5 team in the league-wide standings and number 3 in the Eastern Conference. More importantly as of this morning the Capitals are on a 1.26 standings points per game pace, in other words they are on track for a 103 point season. Of course as I noted, that doesn't compare to the blistering pace that San Jose, Boston and Detroit are on, 1.72, 1.53, and 1.52 points per game respectively. However, it does signal that the Capitals are firmly on track to return to the playoffs, and if current trends continue to do so once again as the Southeast Division Champions.
The only negative news of the weekend are the injuries to Jose Theodore, Sergei Federov, and Tyler Sloan. Hopefully the only issue for Nicklas Backstrom was a migraine and it will pass and he'll be back on the ice at practice today. Sloan has indeed been a great story to follow and another surprise from the Capitals player development system - he has worked extremely well paired with several defensive partners, not the least of which has been Tom Poti. Even when John Erskine returns, it's extremely possible that Sloan and his bargain salary cap hit of $475K stay on the roster as the seventh (7th) defenseman. Sergei Federov supplies so much both tangibly in the way of flexibility and intangibly in the way of leadership and experience to the Capitals that his presence in the lineup as much as of the rest of the season cannot be overstated. However, the only thing more important that Sergei Federov in the Caps regular season line up is a healthy Sergei Federov in the Capitals playoff line-up. Despite Simeon Valamov's fantastic debut and Brent Johnson's fantastic play throughout this entire season (ignoring game 1 in Atlanta), Washington needs Jose Theodore back and on mark. Solid 1A and 1B goaltending from both Johnson and Theodore will be essential for the Caps to reach their potential this season.
Back to the positives, with the month of December half over, the Capitals appear to be getting back on track. The Caps' record over the last ten games is 7-3-0; for the month so far they are 5-2-0 and over the past 3 games they have outscored their opponents 10 - 3. Through the season so far the Caps have managed to keep it together and on track and lay the foundation for a solid season. Looking at the Caps record on a month by month basis shows remarkable consistancy despite having dressed 31 unique players to date: October 5-3-1 (0.611 hockey), November 8-5-2 (0.600 hockey), and December to date 5-2-0 (0.714 hockey). The entire team and extended line-up has raised the bar from last season's great results. However, the Capitals' "special teams" have taken that very good 5 on 5 play up yet another level: the power play has been 37.9% efficient (11-for-29) over its last seven games and the penalty kill crew has killed 89.7% (35 of 39) of all shorthanded opportunities over the last nine games.
Next up for the Caps: the New York Islanders at Nassau County Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY - tomorrow night at 7PM EST. Let's all hope the Caps play the Islanders as hard as they've been playing the tougher teams this past week and they take their winning streak to four (4) games. The Islanders are 2-8-0 in their last 10 games and are 5-8-1 at home so far this season. They have a talented, experienced team but are fighting through a lot of injuries themselves. They could play desperate hockey, so the Caps will need to bring their solid, relentless forecheck and be on their game to make it four wins in a row.
LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!