Another home game, another big win — little has stopped the Washington Capitals from recording more than five goals in a single game for the 11th straight time at Verizon Centre. The Caps have now tied a historical record set by the Boston Bruins during the 1970-71 season.
So how exactly does the current Capitals team compare to the 1970-71 Bruins team? Not surprisingly, there are noticeable similarities between the two in terms of their overall playing chemistry.
Powerful offense has been the name of the game for Washington this entire season and it’s all been the result of strong forwards. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom — both of whom are on the main scoring line — currently rank among the league’s highest in goals and points.
The 1970-71 season was equally a prime time for the Boston Bruins offensively. That year, Phil Esposito (76), Johnny Bucyk (51), Ken Hodge (43) and Bobby Orr (37) all ranked in the league’s top 10 in goals. In points, these four players claimed the NHL’s top four spots — Esposito (152), Orr (139), Bucyk (116), and Hodge (105). Two additional Bruins — Wayne Cashman (79) and John MacKenzie (77) — took the seventh and eighth spots in this category. Orr also set a league record of 102 assists to become the first player to reach the 100 mark — more remarkably, he did so as a defenseman.
As was expected, the Bruins had a disproportionately higher number of goals in 1970-71 than any other team — their 399 goals was over 100 more than the second-placed Montreal Canadiens’ 291. Washington’s current performance probably doesn’t equal that of the 1970-71 Bruins, but the Caps so far have been neck-in-neck with the Pittsburgh Penguins for most goals in the league.
As much as offense has powered the Capitals to their current success, defense and goalkeeping have also been critical pieces of the puzzle. Washington has the least number of goals against this entire season with 123, thanks in large part to solid goaltending by Braden Holtby and Michael Grubauer.
The Bruins’ 1970-71 season saw similar results. While dominant offense helped keep the opposition away from the Boston zone that year, when it came time to stop shots, Gerry Cheevers and Eddie Johnston proved to be effective guardians of the Bruins’ net. Cheevers averaged 2.73 goals against per game while his backup had an average of 2.53 goals against. Boston’s season ended with the third fewest goals of all NHL teams that year with 207. Cheevers eventually went on to become a Hall of Famer alongside teammates Orr, Esposito and Bucyk.
Much like Cheevers and Johnston, Holtby and Grubauer have also been a phenomenal goaltending duo this entire season — with save percentages of .926 and .931 respectively. Holtby’s and Grubauer’s goals against averages also rank among the best in the league. For starting goaltender Holtby — who was last year’s Vezina Trophy recipient — this season is all about maintaining his solid performance.
Simply put, the present-day Capitals were like the 1970-71 Bruins in that both teams were outstanding on both ends of the ice.
Can the Caps Break the Record?
With the Caps’ home winning streak now at 11 games, it’s every fan’s question as to whether Washington can extend the streak further and set a new record in the league. Unfortunately, there won’t be an answer until two weeks time, when the Capitals host the Edmonton Oilers for the last home game of the month. The current week is scheduled as a bye week for the Caps before they head on their road trip to face the Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.
Washington last played against Edmonton on Oct 26, where the Caps fell 4-1 on their home ice. Despite their lackluster performance in recent seasons, the Oilers are seeing some noticeably stronger performances this year. Connor McDavid — the 20-year-old team captain — currently leads the league in points. Edmonton is also the only team with a better away record (16-9-5) than home record (13-10-3), which will make Washington’s next home game more challenging than the recent ones.
Still, with Washington’s outstanding performance at home this month, making history is definitely a possibility.
I am a Vancouver-based sports journalist currently reporting for The Ubyssey, the campus newspaper of the University of British Columbia. Sports I have covered before include hockey, basketball, football, baseball, volleyball, rugby, field hockey, swimming and track and field.