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Caps' recent dominance fueled by a sense of urgency over closing championship window

Caps' recent dominance fueled by a sense of urgency over closing championship window

The Capitals have not just been beating teams lately, they’ve been destroying them.

Sunday’s 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings marked Washington’s 15th win in their last 18 games. In that stretch, the Caps have scored five or more goals 11 times and allowed two goals or fewer 11 times. They have chased six goalies since the start of the calendar year.

When you look at what they’ve done at home, it’s even more dominant. In their last eight home games, Washington has scored at least five goals in each game and have outscored opponents 43-11.

Marcus Johansson credited that killer instinct to “the competiveness in the whole group. No one’s satisfied. We want to keep going. We want to show that we’re a great team and what we can do.

“That’s a good mentality we have in here and that’s what’s taken us here.”

RELATED: Caps demolish Kings on Super Bowl Sunday

But that killer instinct does not just carry over from game to game. It reflects the mentality this team has regarding the entire season.

The Caps were the best team in the NHL last season and cruised its way to a Presidents’ Trophy. But once again, they fell woefully short of expectations in the playoffs, losing in the second round to the rival Pittsburgh Penguins.

That’s a lesson this team has not forgotten and, though it may not be explicitly stated, the newcomers to the group can certainly feel that competitiveness driving the team.

“They definitely know when the time of the year is to win games,” Brett Connolly said. “We're obviously winning a lot of games right now, but guys know that we've got to keep playing well and keep winning games at the right time of the year.”

“I've played on other teams where you could win three, four in a row, then you could get maybe a little satisfied and feel too good about yourself,” Lars Eller said. “It doesn't seem like this team is sitting back and feeling too good about themselves because they just keep going.”

Usually when teams go on lengthy win streaks, their first loss leads to a prolonged losing streak. After things had been going so well for so long, teams begin to get careless and struggle to adjust when the pucks aren’t going their way anymore.

The Philadelphia Flyers followed up a 10-game win streak earlier in the season by losing 12 of their next 15 games. The Columbus Blue Jackets have gone 6-8-1 after a 16-game win streak.

How did Washington respond when their nine-game win streak was ended in overtime by the Pittsburgh Penguins? With three straight wins and a 7-2-0 record in their next nine.

Clearly, this team is not taking its foot off the gas for anything right now.

But there’s something else that may be fueling the players, something that the Capitals have never faced in the Alex Ovechkin era: A sense of urgency.

This is year two of the “two-year window” as famously proclaimed by general manager Brian MacLellan. Alex Ovechkin is 31 years old and the team has a number of contracts set to expire at the end of the season including Connolly, T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, Daniel Winnik, Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Karl Alzner, Dmitry Orlov, Nate Schmidt and Philipp Grubauer.

While some of those free agents are restricted and are unlikely to go anywhere, the money it will take to re-sign them will not leave enough to keep others. This team is going to look very different next season and the players know it.

“The guys know that this group here, it's not going to be like this next year,” Connolly said. “It's kind of, this is the year where either we do it or we don't.”

It’s that unspoken understanding that may be fueling the team in its recent dominant stretch. The question is, will it continue to fuel them in the spring when it matters most?

MORE CAPITALS: Oshie destroys Budaj's water bottle

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Alex Ovechkin and wife Nastya Ovechkina welcome baby boy

NBC Sports Washington/USATSI

Alex Ovechkin and wife Nastya Ovechkina welcome baby boy

After lifting the Stanley Cup just over two months ago, something else very exciting has happened in Alex Ovechkin's life.

Saturday morning, Nastya and Alex Ovechkin welcomed their first child, a baby boy named Sergei, after Ovechkin's late brother. 

Ovi spent this week practicing at the Florida Panthers' facilities with other NHL players living in the surrounding area.

After the Cup's visit to Moscow, Nastya and Alex settled down at their apartment in Miami, staying put and preparing for the birth. 

The couple were married two years ago but didn't hold an official ceremony until July of last year. The celebration was as lavish as you'd expect.

She revealed her pregnancy shortly after the Cup victory, and has kept us up to date on life this summer via Instagram. A few weeks ago, the Ovechkins graced HELLO! Russia magazine, showing off Nastya's baby bump among their glamour shots.

💛 @aleksandrovechkinofficial #hello #hellorussia @hello__ru

A post shared by Nastasiya Ovechkina (@nastyashubskaya) on

Congratulations to Ovi and Nastya, and all our best wishes for health and happiness!


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Capitals draft pick admits he is...a Flyers fan


Capitals draft pick admits he is...a Flyers fan

Say it ain't so.

Mitchell Gibson is the first goalie the Capitals have drafted since Ilya Samsonov in 2015, but they may be thinking twice about their selection after a recent shocking interview.

Gibson spoke with a local Philadelphia CBS station and revealed that both he and his family...are Flyers fans.

Insert dramatic music.

"I think my family will always be Flyers fans in their hearts and I guess I will be a little bit," Gibson admitted, hopefully with guilt in his voice.

Gibson was selected by the Caps in the fourth round of the 2018 draft, but clearly the scouts did not do their homework. It's as if Gibson grew up a hockey fan in a place like Phoenixville, Pa. (about an hour outside of Philadelphia) without anticipating the future that he may one day be drafted by a rival team like Washington.

Shame, shame.

The young netminder tried to make up for his horrifying admission later in the interview.

"The Capitals are definitely treating me well right now so I would like to be their goalie," he said.

A likely story.

Gibson is only 19 and set to begin his first collegiate season at Harvard in 2018 so at least there is still time for Gibson to overcome his shameful past. And hey, it could always be worse. At least he's not a Penguins fan.