There was plenty of hand-wringing in Washington after the first month of the season. We all knew this would not be the same Capitals team we have seen in recent years, but perhaps many were not anticipating just how stark the contrast would be.
In their first 12 games of the season, Washington managed only a 5-6-1 record. Last year, the Caps jumped out to a 5-2-1 start in the eight games they played in October.
Three major problems have held this team back thus far. One, they lost a lot of players over the course of the offseason and did not have the money to effectively replace them. Two, the major changes to the lineup also changed the team’s dynamic meaning they had to play differently to be successful, a lesson they clearly struggled with. Three, their luck in terms of health finally caught up with them. There were, of course, other factors, but these seemed to be the main issues.
But now there is reason for hope as Washington has won three of its last four games and the team looks settled into its new identity. The Caps are getting more depth scoring and Braden Holtby has looked tremendous in net. They aren’t all the way there just yet – their top offensive performers have been relatively quiet, the blue line is still a work in progress and both sides of the special teams have not been great – but this team certainly looks better now than it did in the first month of the seaosn.
Now, let’s be real. Four games is a pretty small sample size and the story may be very different next week. The fact is Washington did not drop as far in the Power Rankings as they could have because they are a better team than how they looked over the first month and the same holds true now. They did not shoot up the rankings after just one week because we need to see more.