*Note that this editorial reflects statistics and standings through the midpoint of the season (Game 41-1/06/09).
The Capitals just got their report card, and for the first year in a long time, they got straight A's. All A+, not quite, but high marks nonetheless.
Top three in the conference in scoring (check).
League leader in goals (check, tie Alex Ovechkin and Jeff Carter).
Top three power play in the conference (check).
AO, Alexander Semin, Viktor Kozlov, and Nicklas Backstrom (check).
No gripes here. The offense is borderline lethal on some nights and, despite a few injuries, has been pretty consistent.
The "A" here stands for admirable, which is the job this banged-up defensive corps has done this season.
The Capitals lost Mike Green, John Erskine, and Jeff Schultz to a variety of injuries, and are still without Tom Poti (and Brian Pothier on LTIR). Into the mix the young Caps have thrust Karl Alzner, Sean Collins, Tyler Sloan, and Bryan Helmer. Hardly an NHL game between that list at the start of the season.
Alzner is a lock to stay with the team and seems right in sync playing 25 minutes a night.
Sloan and Collins played extremely well and made very few mistakes.
Meanwhile, Helmer was a very bright spot after so many years toiling in the minor ranks.
The wildcard for the Caps still lives between the pipes.
Before his hip injury, Brent Johnson had seemingly grabbed the No. 1 job away from Jose Theodore. When Johnny went down, Theodore finally stepped up his game and found the courage to work through his mental errors.
The Caps still need to get a bit more consistency from their goalies, and the possibility of recalling top prospect Simeon Varlamov should keep both Theodore and Johnson on their toes.
As of the midpoint, the Caps owned the best home record in the Eastern Conference.
I have been to hundreds of games at Verizon Center (season tickets are beautiful, eh?) and most have failed to capture a true hockey atmosphere.
This season, something is different.
Maybe it is a carry-over from last season's playoffs, or (hopefully) the DC area has finally discovered its best pro sports team.
Whatever it is, there is excitement every time I head up to the rink. The arena is packed, there are fewer opposition fans, and the product on the ice is better for it.
The road record, the penalty kill, and the injury bug could use a bit of improvement, but as a fan, I will not complain.
The Caps succeeded in shattering the old record for the best half-season mark, and currently hold a 12-point standings lead over Carolina (10 as of Jan. 16).
Both are marks that Bruce Boudreau and the team should hold high.
If the Caps can keep up their winning ways the DC faithful will be "Rocking the Red" deeper into the playoffs this year.
Finally, the Caps are earning some credibility in the NHL, and that might even be a bandwagon off in the distance...I think the horn is blaring C-A-P-S...Caps! Caps! Caps!
As always, enjoy the game!