Don’t Break Out The Panic Button Just Yet
In a shortened NHL season, the Washington Capitals and their fans have had little to remain positive about. While the Caps remain tied for last in the NHL in points (New York Islanders and Colorado Avalanche each have 9 as well) they are just 6 points out of the lead of the Southeast Division. Their play over the course of 13 games so far this season has been nothing to write home about, and neither has their division outside of Carolina. The Caps are fortunate to be benefitting from the division’s play but they know they must turn it on quickly. A team that has deservedly had high expectations in recent years has disappointed. Until recently.
The Capitals are on a two-game win streak. Can it be considered a streak if there are only two? Simply put… yes, because they haven’t sniffed one until these last two games, beating the Florida Panthers in a home and home series, 5-0 and 5-4, respectively. After their first win against Buffalo, Washington carried a 2-0 lead into the second period against the Senators. Then, as would become an unfortunate theme for the Caps, the lead was cut into, tied, and eventually lost. Caps lose 3-2. The team would start hot and then fade in the latter part of games, as noticed with Toronto, Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh again.
The first game against the Panthers showed old fans what they had become accustomed to in the 2009-2010 season when they finished 54-15-13. It was a 5-0 shutout victory in the Phone Booth with Ovechkin netting one on a power play… things Caps fans literally dream about. The game on Tuesday night, however, I think showed more about the character and development of this team than any game all year. The Caps took an early lead off of a power play goal from Mike Ribeiro who is proving to be a huge acquisition for the team. The lead was eventually squandered with the Caps trailing 5-3 early in the third period. Same old song and dance? Wrong. They came together, pressured the puck, got quality shots on net, and never let up, showing they can be on the other end of a comeback in the deeper parts of games. Eric Fehr redirected the puck 14:53 into the third period past Florida goaltender Clemmensen to bring the Capitals within one goal. Shortly after, Ovechkin tied the game with a wicked wrist shot off of a power play face-off, netting his 5th of the season. Early into overtime Backstrom finessed a BEAUTIFUL pass through three Florida Panthers to Troy Brouwer for a breakaway. Not without drama, Brouwer was stoned on the first shot but buried the rebound. Caps win their second in a row for the first time this season.
Head coach, Adam Oates had just one week to get his players ready for the NHL season. One week to implement, yet again, a brand new system. One week to have his leaders buy-in. Expecting the team to come out firing on all cylinders, as most of us have, is unfair. However, I wouldn’t expect anything less from hockey fans in the District. The passion of the fans is what makes this team great and what makes the players want to play for them. It gives them some fire as they try and stretch a two-game win streak into three, all against Division foes. All is not lost. In fact, it’s not even close to that. Benefititng from less than stellar division play and a small hot streak to build on, the Caps are anything but a write-off for the season.