Capitals Win 9th Straight
If I told you that the score of last night’s Panthers-Capitals game was 4-1, that the Capitals had to start their 3rd string goalie, Ovechkin and Semin were held without a goal, and Mike Green left the game in the middle of the 2nd period, you’d probably conclude Washington’s win streak was snapped. But, that was not the case last night. Even with all the odds stacked against them, not only did the Capitals win, but they dominated the Florida Panthers to take their their 9th game in a row. Washington has a 6 point lead in the Eastern Conference, and has been playing their best hockey of the season, despite having to get starts in 3 of the last 4 games from rookie net-minder Michal Neuvirth.
Neuvirth, who was called up because the Caps ‘other’ young goaltender Seymon Varlamov is injured, has made the most of his time with the team going 8-4. Neuvirth actually has a better Goals Against Average (GAA) and save percentage, than the Caps top line veteran goalie Jose Theodore (though both are well behind Varlamov in both categories). While Neuvirth’s time with the team may be coming to an end, with both Varlamov and Theodore on the mend, one can not overstate his importance to the Capitals (especially during this streak).
Washington will go for their 10th win on Sunday against the Lightning. While it might seem like there is so much of the season left, and that it doesn’t matter as much that the Caps have a big lead in the Eastern Conference, but this season isn’t a normal one. With the Olympic break coming up in just over 2 weeks, there is extra incentive for the Capitals to jump out to a big lead in the Conference.
There is so much uncertainty when it comes to the Olympics, with the chance that star players could get injured, or that the rest of the team is rusty because they haven’t played meaningful hockey in two weeks. Also there is the very real possibility that the team’s chemistry is off given the players coming back from being on different teams. If the Capitals can maintain this big lead into the break, then I think that will help take some of the pressure off when the season starts up again in March. Right now Washington is the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, and with the way they’ve dominated their opponents during this 9 game stretch, no one from either Conference should want to play them in a 7-game series.