Alex Ovechkin broke a 2-2 tie with six and a half minutes remaining in yesterday's game, and the Washington Capitals withstood a late flurry to hold onto a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning
at the sold out Verizon Center.
Both Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and an assist, and Brooks Laich added a goal, leading the Capitals to a franchise record-tying 10th consecutive victory, originally set Jan. 27-Feb. 18, 1984.
"I told the guys it's something that you might go your whole career again without getting again, and so enjoy it," coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters after the game.
Ovechkin's reaction to the streak was certainly in keeping with his personality, "It's kind of fun and it's kind of good. But we don't want to stop."
And why should they? During the streak, they beat both of last year's finalists, other contenders, and division opponents alike. They've won in blowout fashion and in nailbiters. Everybody's scoring, as their longest individual scoring drought is Boyd Gordon's 10 games.
And they are getting quality play in goal. Yesterday, Jose Theodore returned from a lower-body injury to record 25 saves for the win. Theodore went 8-1 in January with a 2.28 GAA and .930 save percentage.
Whether it's been Theodore, the veteran, or Michal Neuvirth, the rookie, they've been getting the job done between the pipes.
You know a team is comfortable in the standings when they decided they can send their rookie backup (Neuvirth) down to AHL Hershey so he can get enough games in to qualify to play there during the Olympic break. It leaves the team with another rookie, Braden Holtby, backing up Theodore for the time being.
Holtby, who started the season at ECHL South Carolina
, has yet to make his NHL
The team hopes to get Semyon Varlamov, yet another rookie, back soon from the knee injury that has had him sidelined since early December.
This team is the first in the Capitals' 35 years to reach the 80-point mark before February. They're the first to record 13 wins in January. And with 26 total points in January, Washington tied its single-month franchise record set in Dec. 1984.
They currently hold a 23-point lead in the Southeast Division, and an eight-point lead in the Eastern Conference.
It seems players are reaching personal milestones on a daily basis as well. The latest was yesterday, as Nicklas Backstrom notched his 23rd goal of the season, passing his career season high set last season.
This team is firing on all cylinders right now, and there are only two questions that separate this team from true greatness:
1) Are they peaking too early?
2) How will the Olympic layoff effect the team?
These are both questions to be answered as we play out the rest of the season. For now, Caps fans, enjoy the ride.
The Caps have road games against offensively challenged Boston
and the imploding Rangers
, then home against Atlanta
in the coming week.
It's not hard to imagine a 13-game streak heading into the Super Bowl Sunday match-up with Sidney Crosby
, Evgeni Malkin, and the rest of the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins
Bruce Boudreau would tell us not to get ahead of ourselves. And I'm SURE he's telling his players not to.
But the way the Caps are playing and winning, it's hard not to. Especially with the juicy nugget of the Pens game looming on the horizon.