It’s probably a little premature to start calling the 2015-16 Capitals one of the greatest teams in the history of the NHL, but through 51 games they’ve done something no NHL team has done since the great 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens.
After stubbing their toes with back-to-back losses before and after the NHL All-Star break, the Caps have rung up three straight wins and are the only team in the NHL that has not lost back-to-back games in regulation this season.
That hasn’t happened over an entire season since guys named Ken Dryden, Guy Lafleur, Bob Gainey, Serge Savard and Larry Robinson led the 1976-77 Canadiens to a 60-8-12 record in an 80-game season. Those Canadiens, who went on to win their second of four straight Stanley Cups, had five occasions when they failed to win consecutive games (a tie and a loss, two ties, two ties, two ties and a loss and a tie).
That was before the advent of overtimes and shootouts.
The 2015-16 Capitals are 38-9-4 and have lost back-to-back games just twice this season – a regulation loss at Carolina on Dec. 31 followed by a shootout loss to Columbus on Jan. 2, and an overtime loss to the Flyers on Jan. 27 followed by a regulation loss to the Panthers on Feb. 2.
For the sake of comparison, if they were awarded ties for every game that went beyond regulation this season the Caps would be 32-9-8 right now, well off the 60-8-12 pace set by those 1976-77 Canadiens.
But with 31 games remaining in the season it’s still quite an accomplishment.
“Everybody has kicked their game into playoff mode,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said. “The Islanders, the Flyers, now we’re going into Nashville and they’re going to be in playoff mode.
“We’re fortunate that with our record we’ve got some separation, some money in the bank, but at the same time we can’t take that for granted. That’s when you don’t play well. That’s when you get hurt. That’s when you get frustrated. We talked to the group about letting (our opponents) help us raise our play because we need to be in playoff mode to build our game.”
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