Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Back on November 17, I wrote about how the next 10 games loomed large for the Washington Capitals. They just came off a terrible mini road trip during which they lost games to the Nashville Predators and the Colorado Avalanche, being outscored 12-5. The game before, they beat the Edmonton Oilers, but were outplayed and barely won via the shootout. There was something wrong with the Capitals and they were just about to be tested.
In the 10 games following, nine of them were at home, but eight of the 10 teams were in playoff spots, with only the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers on the outside looking in. With the Capitals coming into the stretch playing uninspired hockey, if the boys in red came out the other end playing the same way, there could be some big changes coming.
So how did they do?
They started out well, playing an all-around good game against the Minnesota Wild and won 3-1. But then it seemed like they fell back into their lazy ways and lost 4-1 to the Calgary Flames. After that, it seemed the Capitals were tired of losing and knew they could play better.
Over the next eight games, the Capitals went 7-1 against impressive opponents, including the Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, and even a team they never win against in the San Jose Sharks. In fact, in a four-game stretch, they played four of the top five defensive teams in the NHL, and scored 16 goals against them, a very impressive feat. The one game they lost, to the Los Angeles Kings, they actually played really well, but allowed two goals in 11 seconds, and we’re unable to score on two open nets.
So all in all they went on a 8-2 tear in those 10 games, enough to vault them into a tie for first-place in the Metropolitan Division. Perhaps even more importantly, the Capitals were playing good hockey while they still weren’t fully healthy. They did get Andre Burakovsky back in the tenth game, but lost T.J. Oshie a couple of games earlier. If they can continue to play proper hockey while getting everyone back, they could be a real threat.
It’s only the middle of December, with a lot of hockey left to play. The time to really start getting going and getting hot is in March. Still, what the Capitals did over the last 10 games showed promise. They could have fallen far back in the standings, forcing some big changes, but they didn’t. They picked up their game and showed what they can do.
By Luke Adomanis