Capitals

Capitals

A seven-game losing streak for the Capitals left them staring up at the New York Islanders in the Metropolitan Division standings with only a one-point lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets for second place.

My how things have changed.

Now in the home stretch of the season, Washington has reversed course with seven straight wins to take a four-point lead in the division race. The seven wins ties a season-high for the Caps who seem to be cruising to a fourth straight division title.

Teams always want to peak at the right time and the Caps seem to be doing just that, putting enough distance between themselves and the competition to not allow any time for a comeback while also building momentum heading into the postseason.

You cannot help but be impressed by what the Islanders have accomplished this season, but is anyone really surprised that Washington was able to overtake them? The race is not over by any means and they could surprise yet again, but it is hard to see the Caps slowing down anytime soon even with a brutal schedule ahead of them.

Around the rest of the division, Carolina is still hot but was handed a reality check in an 8-1 loss at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets. Columbus, meanwhile, is teetering on the edge of disaster. Can you imagine the Blue Jackets not getting into the postseason after making so many moves at the deadline and with Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky both with seemingly one foot out the door? It’s almost as if changing around the entire chemistry of the top-six a month before the end of the season is a bad thing….

 

Pittsburgh seems to be rounding into playoff form which should surprise no one. Sidney Crosby is not going to allow this team to miss the playoffs.

But the Penguins, like the rest of the division are looking up at the Caps. In the past, it would not have mattered given the team’s postseason history. This time, with a Stanley Cup in their pocket, Washington will bring a lot of confidence with them into the postseason along with another division crown if, of course, they remain hot and finish off the Metro.

SEE THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps.

  • Since acquiring both Carl Hagelin and Nick Jensen, the Caps’ have killed off 22 out of 25 penalties for a rate of 88-percent, seventh best in the NHL. They have now killed off 16 straight penalties.
  • Alex Ovechkin is one point shy of 1,200 for his career. He has now gone without a point in each of his last two games. When it comes to milestones, Ovechkin either blows through them like a hot knife through butter or they linger for a bit. Once he finally gets past it, the points will start coming again. Expect a flurry of points for the Great 8 once he finally gets 1,200 out of the way.
  • The job Nicklas Backstrom’s line did against Mark Scheifele’s line on Sunday was magnificent. They completely shut down one of the more dominant lines in the NHL and still added a goal of their own. To not only be able to shut down an opponent’s top line like that, but also add offense is such a huge asset that often goes overlooked.
  • No, I don’t know why Todd Reirden elected to play Pheonix Copley Sunday against Winnipeg rather than Friday against New Jersey. He was asked about it at Sunday’s morning skate and his answer was vague. My best guess is that he knew his team has a tendency to play down to opponents so he kept Holtby in against New Jersey as a signal that this game matters and then put in Copley for a Western Conference opponent.  It ended up working out as Washington won both games. Copley played well against a strong Jets offense, but he had trouble catching the puck and gave up a lot of rebounds. He was able to pounce on them before it got him into trouble, but he has got to clean that up. Teams are going to scout him and park someone in front of the net to start cashing in.

The Caps seem to be getting hot at the right time and that has them climbing in the rankings. Where do they land?

Find out here in this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings.

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