When the Capitals got hot earlier in the season, it looked like the Metropolitan Division was already well in hand. Yes, we have only just hit the midpoint of the regular season, but there was a stretch where everyone in the division looked really, really bad and the only true contender was the Caps.
Admittedly, I started looking ahead at possible wild card matchups for the first round. Again, the division was just that bad.
Now, however, the division is red hot. How hot? Consider this: Washington has gone 17-5-1 in their last 23 games and have put virtually no distance between themselves and the top Metro teams, specifically the Pittsburgh Penguins who just rattled off eight straight wins.
As of this writing, the Caps sit two points ahead of Pittsburgh with a game in hand, three points ahead of Columbus and four points ahead of the Islanders who have a game in hand over the Caps.
All it took was one three-game losing streak and all of a sudden Washington’s division lead had completely evaporated.
The point to all of this is that, while there may still be some really bad teams in the Metro (Flyers, Rangers), this race is still far from over.
Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps:
- Let’s talk about the power play. Through 10 games, Washington has one goal on 31 opportunities. That’s a success rate of just over 3-percent. That’s awful. The Caps, however, remain confident in the power play because it typically goes through dry spells and then rebounds. As bad as the power play has been of late, you can already see signs of improvement. The biggest issue for the power play has been their zone entries. On Thursday, the St. Louis Blues stacked the blue line and the Caps made them look like the Iron Curtain. Against Dallas and Detroit, however, they were able to enter the zone more easily and set up the power play, they just didn’t score. Now that things seem to be working again, don’t expect any drastic changes any time soon. The floodgates will open soon enough.
- Evgeny Kuznetsov has played in 35 games this season. He has only one even strength goal. It’s rare that you can look at a player with 36 points in 35 games and think he needs to step it up, but Kuznetov needs to step it up. He’s capable of more than we’re seeing right now.
- Ovechkin obviously leads the Caps in goals, but you should note the two players tied for second: Jakub Vrana and Tom Wilson, both of whom have 12 goals and are under the age of 25. Is a Vrana, Kuznetsov, Wilson line the future top line for Washington?
- What’s my opinion on Ovechkin’s decision not to play in the All-Star Game? I’m probably not the right person to ask because I think All-Star Games in every sport are garbage and should go away. Having said that, I have no problem with his decision not to go. He played more hockey in the past year than ever before and is now 33. That’s not young in hockey years. The goal is to win the Cup and missing the All-Star Game is the difference between a five-day break and a 10-day break. Yeah, that matters. As for this notion that this is when the NHL sells the game, the NHL will gain more fans during the playoffs when the hockey is at its best than for a one-day three-on-three exhibition tournament with no physical play and a bunch of star players going at 75-percent.
The Caps look as good as any team in the NHL right now, but just how good are they according to the rankings? Find out here where they land in this week’s NHL Power Rankings.
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