From their nine-game winning streak to Alex Ovechkin’s 1000th NHL point, January has without question been a tremendous month to remember for the Washington Capitals. Now being February, it’s time to look back at the Caps’ performance from last month and see whether the team can produce some similar results this month.
By the looks of things so far, February may very well be another successful month. Washington played its first game of the month on Feb. 1, coming out with a 5-3 win against the Boston Bruins. This may only be the start, but based on the results of the last month, Caps fans definitely look to be in for a treat again.
Keeping the Goals Coming
Offensive firepower has been a key ingredient to the Capitals’ victories last month and the stats speak for themselves. Of the 15 games that the Caps played in January, 11 of them ended in four or more goals. Even with the 3-0 shutout loss to the Ottawa Senators on Jan. 24, Washington still managed an average of 4.33 goals per game. By comparison, the League’s current highest for the entire season is 3.55 — which is held by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
A more detailed breakdown of the stats shows that the Caps do have capable and consistent scorers on every line. Every forward and defenseman on the Capitals’ roster — with the exception of Chandler Stephenson, who was temporarily recalled from the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears — recorded at least one goal or assist in the month of January. Eleven players had five or most assists and six totaled five or more goals. Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov were noticeably strong during the last month — picking up more goals in January alone than all the previous months combined. Consistency wise, seven players had point streaks lasting four or more games — of them, Backstrom’s streak was the longest with 10 games.
Alex Ovechkin — Adding to the Scoring Inventory
Reaching 1000 career points is a very rare accomplishment for NHL players — to date, only 85 players have ever achieved this milestone. For Ovechkin, his 1000th point came on Jan. 11 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was the 84th person in League history to join this exclusive club (Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks picked up his 1000th point on Jan. 20).
There is little question that Ovechkin will continue to be a powerful force with the Caps. With 25 goals and 22 assists, he currently ranks fourth in the league in total goals. His most recent goal came during Washington’s 5-3 win against Boston on Feb. 1. For Ovechkin, this is considered a very typical performance. With the help of Backstrom and T. J. Oshie on his line, little can stop him from having another productive season.
John Carlson — Returning to the Lineup
Carlson, who had been out of the Caps’ lineup with a lower body injury he suffered on Jan. 15, made his return with the team during the last game of January against the Islanders. With five goals and 20 assists so far this season, Carlson has been an important part of the Capitals’ defense alongside Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov. Although the Caps still had a successful run throughout the month of January, Carlson’s absence had an effect on the team and it showed. In the six games that he missed, Washington allowed a total of 20 goals — an average of 3.33 per game. By comparison, the team gave up 82 goals in 26 games — or 1.91 per game — when Carlson was in the lineup. With defense having always been the Capitals’ Achilles’ heel in recent years, Carlson’s return should bolster the Caps’ performance as they head into February.
There may still be 12 games remaining in February, but with consistent scoring by the forwards and Carlson back in the lineup for the defense, little stands in the way of another successful month for the Caps.
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.