The Washington Capitals last night secured their second consecutive Presidents’ Trophy after accounting for New York Rangers 2-0 at Verizon Center. The win sees the Caps improve their record to 54-18-8 on the season, holding an insurmountable seven point division lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins with just two games remaining.
The win ensures the Capitals head in to the playoffs as the number one seed and are seemingly heading for a match-up with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. Head to head on the season, the Caps own a 2-1-0 record against the Leafs, having recently beaten them convincingly in Toronto 4-1.
Much like the 2015-16 season, 2016-17 has been an incredibly consistent one for the boys in red who will experience just one extended slump, in early March, when they lost four consecutive games. The strength of the season has undoubtedly been the team’s performances on home ice, where they’ve lost in regulation just six times. Just one home game remains, on Sunday against the Florida Panthers.
Arguably stronger than last season’s team heading into the playoffs, the Caps have recently been boosted by the return to form from captain Alex Ovechkin. Scoreless through a 10-game stretch during late-February and early-March, and only picking up four assists, Ovechkin has since picked up achaten-suisse.com 12 points in 12 games, including scoring a hattrick against the Minnesota Wild last week. On the season, the great number eight has tallied 68 points (33 goals, 35 assists).
He’s been well supported up front by T.J. Oshie (33 goals, 56 points), Nicklas Backstrom (23 goals, 85 points), Marcus Johansson (23 goals, 57 points), Justin Williams (23 goals, 46 points), and Evgeny Kuznetsov (19 goals, 58 points).
Oshie’s 33 goals thus far are a career high, while Backstrom’s 85 points are the most he’s recorded in a a season since the 2009-10 season where he picked up 101. Others who have contributed significantly to the Caps’ 258 goals on the season include Brett Connolly (15) and Jay Beagle (13). Others to find themselves on the scoresheet consistently throughout the season have been the trio of Lars Eller, Andre Burakovsky, and Daniel Winnik.
Braden Holtby has reaffirmed his place as one of the League’s most prominent goalies, collecting 42 wins on the season thus far and working to a .925 save percentage – the best of any full season during his career. He’s allowed just 2.08 goals against per game, another career mark, and has nine shutouts. Furthermore, his impressive statistics alone won’t show the countless phenomenal saves he’s pulled off where goals seemed almost certain – many of which have been game saving. Philipp Grubauer has been more than valuable in support, collecting a career-high 12 wins from his 22 games (18 starts), while recording an even better .926 save percentage and 2.07 goals against mark. Grubauer’s position on the team cannot be underestimated and his performances often go unheralded in the shadow of Holtby. He remains, however, one of the most respected players on the team and a fantastic goalie in his own right.
As a team, the penalty kill has once again been a strength, successfully killing 84% (7th) of opportunities opponents have had with the one man advantage, while on the flipside, the Caps have scored 23.6% (3rd) of the time on the powerplay.
While last nights win and second piece of silverwear in two seasons is an impressive achievement and reflection of just how strong this current team is, it won’t be enough to satisfy players and fans alike who only care about one honour – bringing the Stanley Cup to DC for the first time in the franchise’s history – which now spans over four decades. The first round match up (likely) against the Leafs will fill Caps fans with plenty of confidence, however the second round against either Pittsburgh or Columbus will have nerves raised – especially given the Caps’ playoff history. If they can progress beyond that, I fully expect them to go all the way.