It has only happened once before in franchise history. The Washington Capitals clinched the best record in the National Hockey League on Monday night, securing the President’s Trophy, awarded to the team with the most points in the regular season.
Regular Season “Champions”
The Capitals have a fourteen point lead on the next closest teams in the NHL, the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues. They also have an impressive 29 goals-for lead over the next closest teams, with a plus-64 overall differential. To say that this is one of the best Washington Capitals’ squads ever would be an understatement.
Although they now know they’re the best in the NHL, at least as far as their record indicates, the Capitals won’t take the President’s Trophy as a signal to slow down. They’ve won that award before, and a ticket to the Stanley Cup Championship doesn’t come with the Trophy.
Previous President’s Trophy
In 2009-10, the Caps’ 36th season in existence, the team went 54-15-13 with the best record in the NHL. That record, while impressive, did nothing for them in the postseason. In fact, they made an early exit losing in the first round, dropping a seven-game series to the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens. Washington will make every effort to ensure their playoff trip lasts longer this time around.
There are multiple Capitals on this team that played on the squad in 2009-10 and they are well aware that the season doesn’t stop in April. Nicklas Backstrom in particular, doesn’t place much emphasis on the regular season award. As quoted recently in the Washington Post, Backstrom stated, “The teams, one through eight, can beat anyone.”
The major benefit of winning the President’s Trophy is that the Capitals are now assured of home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Caps, in addition to having the best overall record in the league, have the best record at home. Again, they can’t let the comfort of playing the majority of games at home be reason to lift their foot off the pedal.
One of the things Washington will need to change heading into the playoffs is their penchant for giving up the early lead. While they have been able to get away with staging comebacks throughout the regular season, it may not be so quick to happen within the atmosphere of playoff intensity.
While winning the President’s Trophy and securing home-ice throughout the playoffs is nice, the Capitals know they haven’t achieved their ultimate goal. That prize is set in the month of June when they hope to be hoisting the Stanley Cup over their heads.