Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Streaking Washington Capitals

With the number one spot in the East clinched, the Presidents Trophy within grasp, and the largest goal differential in the league by 28 goals (+78) the Alexander Ovechkin led Washington Capitals are undeniably the most dangerous team in the NHL.

They are also one of the league's streakiest.

The Capitals have racked up three-or-more consecutive wins seven times this season, including two six-game streaks, and an unbelievable 14 game-winning streak that lasted from January 13th until they fell to the Canadiens in overtime 28 days later on February 10th.

However they've also had their losing streaks. Five times the Caps have dropped three consecutive games, and once, early in the season they lost four straight.

Perhaps no other statistic better illustrates the nature of Washington than this: following a victory, the Capitals have an impressive 35-14 record. However, following a loss they are a pedestrian 13-13.

And when you look at the team's record outside of that dominant 14-game stretch, they are 35-27. Still top-notched? Absolutely. But much further in line with the other elite teams.

And their goal differential? During that unearthly streak the Capitals outscored opponents 78 goals to 33, winning each game by an average of 3.2 goals. The rest of the season they have outscored their opponents 220 to 187, winning each game by an average of only .5 goals.

There is no denying the Capitals are an imposing team, and are entirely capable of plowing through the Eastern Conference to the Stanley Cup Finals. But there is also another - not as unlikely as it might seem - outcome to the Capitals dominant regular season: That of the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins.

The '92-'93 Penguins won the Patrick division by 13 games, and the Presidents trophy by five. They were a team that finished the regular season with an incredible +99 goal differential (367-368). A team that put together the NHL's longest winning streak ever, rattling off 17 consecutive victories. A team better than the previous two Penguins squads who amounted back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. And a team that stumbled in the second-round of the postseason, losing in seven games to the downright mediocre New York Islanders.

Few doubt the Capitals chances of raising Lord Stanley's Cup in two months time, and for good reason. But perhaps too few realize the likelihood of the streaky team tripping up, dropping consecutive games, as they have done more than a few times this season, and making a disappointing early exit.