Well fellow Caps fans in the week that has occurred since my last public musings/blog post as far as I can tell it's pretty much all good here in "Capsland."
From a "big picture perspective" the Caps remain on track for a 100 point/40+ ROW season even though currently they are in the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference as the third place NY Rangers have 3 games in hand on the Caps. However the overall metropolitan Division race has tightened as only three points separate the Caps from the First Place Islanders. Additionally the top of the Eastern Conference Standings have also tightened, even though 7 points separate the seventh place Caps from the first place Tampa Bay Lightning, only three points separate them from the Third Place Montreal Canadiens. Additionally there are now 8 points between the Caps and the currently "wrong side of the bubble" ninth 9th place Florida Panthers. All things to ponder, muse/consider with just three weeks left before the 2014-2015 NHL Season trade deadline.
The Caps have played four games this past week racking up a 2-1-1 record, that 0.625 hockey, more importantly they had a GAA of slightly under 1.50 in those four games including a less than stellar defensive performance against the Saint Louis Blues where they allowed a high of 40 SOG by the Blues and lost 4-3. Backup Goalie Justin Peters posted a SV% of 0.900 in the Saint Louis game but the Caps were basically just slightly outplayed by the Blues in every facet of the game and neither team played even close to their best hockey in front of wither Peters or Blues goaltender Brian Elliott who posted a 0.917 SV% against 36 Capitals SOG. To me the second two periods of the game were the best goaltending we've seen from Peters since the start of the season and give me cause for hope. I feel much of the fan calls for Peter's head are as much a result of just how well Braden Holtby is playing as they are caused by the fact that to date Peters has played just that much under where the Caps need him to play. I've said it before, in the Caps are on their game and our net-minder posts a 0.915+ SV% two regulation goals should get the team at least one standings point and three goals all but guarantees a two point ROW night. Hopefully in his next outing Peters gets more team defense in front of him and he notches his gam up from a 0.900 SV% to a 0.915+ SV%. The other three games the Caps played this week were well played, if not excellent+ efforts all, even the 1-0 OT loss to Montreal at Belle Centre. My view of the Montreal Game is the loss was due to two words - Carey Price, the Caps were very good up in Montreal but it was a night where Carey Price basically stole two points from Washington.
The other two games were just awesome clinics in one way or another. Tuesday evening the reigning Stanley Cup Champion LA Kings came into town and faced Braden Holtby and the Capitals and all the Caps did is have Holtby pitch a perfect game 4-0 shutout while Troy Brouwer-Power scored two goals in 16:10 TOI while playing in his 500th NHL game. As others noted afterward it was as complete and perfect execution of the Caps game plan as we've seen thus far this season. Against Ottawa last evening in Ottawa the Caps put on a clinic in three things a) how to properly respond to an opposing team opening the scoring in a game; and b) how to kill off penalties when the calls are going against you (Senators had 4 PP, Caps 0); and finally c) how to play with and protect a one goal lead in the final period of a game, other than the penalties, that is. Finally a simple observation, perhaps only in Ottawa does a one tem get basically outplayed in pretty much every aspect of the game, lose 2-1 and still somehow end up having two of the three named stars of the game.
In any case now looking ahead to this coming weeks games, the Caps have two home games this weekend - the Ducks tonight and the Flyers on Sunday afternoon. Then they leave for a West Coast/California road trip facing the Sharks in San Jose on Wednesday evening; the Kings at LA's Staples Center on Saturday Evening and then the Ducks on the other side of LA LA Land in Anaheim at Honda Center on Sunday Evening before jetting home. So over the next nine (9) days the Caps have five games - 2 at home and 3 on the other end of a pretty darn long road trip.
Before we look forward and muse about tonight's Duck-Caps tilt at Verizon Center a couple of season to date notable statistics and associated musings:
1) Along with his score of his thirty second goal of the season last evening, Alex Ovechkin returned to his position atop the NHL goal scoring leaders in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy. As noted elsewhere, Ovechkin is just the fifth player in the "modern era" to put up thirty or more goals in his first ten NHL seasons and as long as the stars stay aligned for him, he could possibly "notch" his sixth 50 goal season this year. He also has 18 assists and is + 13 for people that care about those things as well. Oh and over the past couple of weeks he gave a car away to a charity, you might have heard about it cause it means that unlike last season when he was a selfish, self-absorbed, person and not very good/incomplete hockey player, this season he's both great at hockey and a really, really excellent human being. Don't you just love it when a young man turns his life around? ... Just kidding but lets be clear Ovi is now a great person having a great season, and apparently Sidney Crosby is as close to an enigmatic professional hockey player as someone not born in Russia can get. Maybe this off-season Sid can retain whoever counseled Ovi last summer.
2) Braden Holtby is now in the top five NHL Goalies stats for GAA and Save Percentage with season to date numbers of GAA 2.14; SV% of 0.925. Holtby is also number two in shutouts with six (6) and and sixth in wins with 25. Solid numbers given his league leading forty - five (45) games played and 2,634:04 time on ice this season to date.
3) Nicklas Backstrom has slowly climbed his own way up the league leaders overall scoring leaders to fourth with 54 points; Nicklas is also second on the "assists" leaders board with 38 apples. Also not too shabby.
4) The Capitals now have six players on the roster with 11 or more goals; eleven (11) players with 15 or more points; and eighteen different players have scored at least one goal.
5) Among NHL Defensemen, John Carlson is 10th in scoring and Mike Green is 14th with 35 and 30 points respectively. Overall as a team to date the Caps are 9th in the Goals Against Department with just 130 goals against allowed and sixth in differential with a +23. No doubt this is a much tougher team to play against then the Capitals teams of the past two seasons.
Now about tonight - I'm rooting for another two point night for the Capitals and the way I see it they'll get the ROW. I figure the Ducks should be tired from scoring 5 goals on the Predators and Pekke Renne last evening in Smashville and flying to DC last night - that flying stuff really makes those guys wings/arms tired as I hear it. Seriously, another great test for the Capitals, if they can keep playing like they have for the last four games, smart, disciplined, structured hockey the Caps could win tonight against a team coached by their old coach.
I'm calling it 4-2 final for the Caps with the fourth goal into the empty net with under 1:30 to play.