The Washington Capitals are off to their best start in their 41-year franchise history. Their 25-6-2 record through 33 games tops their mark at this point of the year than the 2009-2010 edition, which posted a 23-8-6 record through 37 games. In terms of points, as of December 23rd, both teams have 52 points. A lot of fans are comparing the two teams and while similar don’t forget there are a lot of differences.
This Caps team may very well lock in the Metropolitan Division, best record in the east, and the President’s Trophy just like the 09-10 team did (except back then it was the Southeast Division). The President’s Trophy winners didn’t go as far as they wanted to, and it is a memory that all Caps fans want to forget about. But this year’s team is far more different.
Let’s start in the front office and the man behind the bench. George McPhee and Bruce Boudreau were with the team back then while now the leaders are Brian MacLellan and Barry Trotz. Boudreau was a very offensive minded guy as the Capitals finished first in goals for with 318. As far as goals against they were 16th in the league with 233. Trotz on the other hand instills toughness both physically and mentally. You can tell that this year the team is very mentally tough. They don’t let what goes on off the ice affect them and they just go out and play the game. The Caps are second in goals for with 105 but ranked first in the league in goals against with 71.
The goaltending situation is very different. The 09-10 team didn’t have an established goalie as they kept flipping between Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov. While Varlamov was spectacular in the playoffs the previous year, he was okay during the regular season, but then again, that was his first full season. Theodore did give up a lot of goals, but he was still able to win 30 games that year thanks to a high-powered offense.
This year, we are watching a beast emerge: the Holtbeast. Braden Holtby has been playing out-of-his mind all year-long. This season he is 21-4-1 with a 1.96 goals against average and a .931 save percentage. This is the best start of his career and it certainly builds off of his numbers from last season, when he went 41-20-10 with a 2.22 goals against average and a .923 save percentage.
The rest of the team, while some players are the same, have changed in terms of experience. Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin used to be considered the young guns but now they are seasoned veterans. Ovechkin is still the captain but his leadership has improved significantly, to the point where he’s a team player now. You might have read Lincoln Cajulis’ editorial piece on how Ovechkin isn’t celebrating his goals the way he used to and that is true. While he does show enthusiasm, he is more focused on winning and helping his team out more than just individual stats.
The new young guns of the team are Tom Wilson, Michael Latta, and Andre Burakovsky. There are also the new veterans in Justin Williams and TJ Oshie. They will use their big game experience to really help this team go far. Yes both of these teams are very similar with all the success they are having in the regular season but this year’s edition is much better than that 09-10 version.
By Michael Marzzacco