A 4-1 win against the Boston Bruins gave the Washington Capitals 11 consecutive wins, a new franchise record. The historic win for the team also put them #1 overall in the NHL since the San Jose Sharks lost the same night.
So the question that arises among Caps fans is the following: is this the best Capitals squad in their 35 years of existence?
It’s hard to ignore the question, especially from looking at just some facts from this season.
- The 38-12-6 Capitals just came off the most successful month ever, at 13-2 for the month of January. They also are the fastest Caps team to 80 points this season.
- With the arsenal of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Semin, and Mike Green, the Capitals seemed unstoppable last season. This season, with more balanced contributions all around, this team is definitely more well-rounded than the superstar led 2009 Capitals. After all, every Caps forward has had at least one goal in one of the last 9 games.
- The 2010 Washington Capitals are playing dangerous hockey right now, especially when I can consider the Bruins game to be a subpar game, but they scored 4 goals and let in only 1. After the Caps’ win against the Lightning, Washington Capitals insider, Mike Vogel, mentioned that they can actually still win 50 games without being above .500 for the rest of the season; 13-13 will cut it.
With most other teams, one can look at the Stanley Cup winning teams, and narrow the best team in the franchise that way. However, since the Caps have yet to win a Stanley Cup, I define the best team as the team that came the closest to winning it all.
That team would have to be the 1998 Washington Capitals. That 40-30-12 Caps squad were the first and only Eastern Conference champions in the franchise’s history. The 1998 Caps were, of course, the only team to make the Stanley Cup Finals. Unfortunately, all Caps fans know the result: swept in 4 game by the Wings. Regardless, this team has gone the farthest, and therefore, are the best and most successful team throughout the 35 years. It certainly helped to have a squad with Dale Hunter, Peter Bondra, Calle Johansson, Joe Juneau, Adam Oates, Olaf Kolzig (Vezina Trophy winning year as well) – I don’t need to go on.
But at least in terms of regular season success, this current Caps team might already take that title without a doubt.
As a result some people have mentioned that it was too early to define this team’s success and to even have this discussion of “best Caps team ever”.
Yet, history would have the Capitals actually improving and continuing their play The Capitals have historically been better in the second half of a season than the first. If Washington continues on this historic stretch even after the Olympic Break, the odds would have the Caps performing at least around the same level.
It may be too early to place an incomplete season among the top teams in the franchise’s history. But the obvious answer is that if this team won the Cup, it would be fairly undisputed this would be the best Caps team for a LONG time. If they were able to repeat the success (may the hockey gods bestow even one truly successful season) these Caps will be in the running for one of the best teams throughout the whole NHL (ONE of them, never said the best).
Nonetheless, I will leave it up to the Hockey Gods to see if they will finally allow Washington an opportunity for true greatness.