I know what you’re thinking: “Oh no, not another one of these ‘convincers’ saying this team is different.” I’m not here to do that necessarily. I know there’s two types of Caps fans out there. There’s the “Oh they’re winning now, it doesn’t matter, show me in the playoffs” and then there’s the “let’s just enjoy the ride”, the glass half empty vs. the glass half full.
Last year I wrote a piece comparing and contrasting that year’s team with the President’s Trophy winners from 2009-2010. This year I’m here to say that this team is better than either of those teams, whether the regular season ends with another President’s Trophy or not.
I’m only going to talk about the past very briefly. The 09-10 team was all about offense, while last year’s team had the tools but had difficulty towards the end of the regular season playing complete, 60-minute, hockey games. Now why is this team different? I point to three factors.
The first is drive. This is year two of GM Brian MacLellan’s two-year window. This team is playing with a lot more passion than it did earlier in the year because they know the window is closing. Players like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have achieved milestones of late, earning career points 1,000 and 700 respectively. Backstrom also achieved 500 career assists and is tied for second in the league in scoring. But both players want a cup and they know they have a legit shot at it this year.
The second is how they’ve handled the competition. The month of January was projected to have a stretch of games that would tell us all which direction this Capitals team is going. They had the Blue Jackets come in having won 16 in a row and looking to tie the record. The Caps blew them out 5-0. Six days later the Caps beat the Penguins 5-2 and then took down the Blackhawks and Flyers respectively. I looked at that stretch as an early test for postseason play and the Capitals aced it. They need to get through teams like Pittsburgh, Columbus, Philadelphia, and (the) New York (Rangers) if they want to get past the second round of the playoffs.
The third is teamwork. Everybody is chipping in and playing a big role each game. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky have broken out of slumps. Even with Burakovksy’s injury, Zach Sanford did a great job replacing him in the game this past Saturday. If everybody continues to play well, Washington will enter the postseason with a lot of depth.
This is why I think this year’s team is better than last year. Now it’s time for the boys in red to prove me right.
By Michael Marzzacco