This season has been a year of great moments on home ice for the Washington Capitals. From January through to March, the Caps recorded a winning streak of 15 games at home. More recently, Washington set another franchise record for most home wins in a single season.
Washington’s new franchise record came after a recent 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes, where Daniel Winnik had two goals. The win against Arizona marked the team’s 31st home win this season. Previously, the team’s record for most home wins in a season was 30, which happened during the 1985-86 and 2009-10 seasons.
With two more home games remaining before the playoffs, the Caps might extend the franchise record to 33. Whether Washington can actually achieve this is hard to say, as one of the Caps’ opponents will be their archrivals, the New York Rangers. This year, the Rangers hold a 27-10-2 record on the road, the best of all teams in the league.
Still, whether the Capitals can pick up more home wins or not, the team’s current season will go down as one of the best in franchise history. So how does the Capitals’ current season compare to the ones back in 1985-86 and 2009-10?
The 1985-86 season happened during a transformative time in Capitals history. Washington’s first decade as an NHL franchise was disastrous, as the team failed to make a single playoff appearance. To date, the inaugural season record of 8-67-5 remains the worst in team history. 1983 became a monumental year for the Caps, as the team made the playoffs for the first time.
Only three years after its first playoff appearance, Washington hit another milestone yet again. In 1985-86, the Caps set a new record not only for home wins, but also for wins overall. For the first time, the team hit 50 wins a season, a number that they would not match again until 2008-09. That year, the Capitals finished second in the Patrick Division and third in the league.
The 1985-86 season also marked the Capitals’ best performance in the playoffs. Up until that point, the Caps at best ended only in the Division Finals. 1985-86 ended in the same playoff round, but compared to its last appearance, Washington did do slightly better. In the 1986 Division Finals, the Caps had two wins against the Rangers. In 1984, the Capitals’ ended up falling four games to one against the New York Islanders.
This year being another milestone season for Washington, it is the hope of every fan that the team can somehow get past the second round of the playoffs. To date, the only year that the Caps got past the second round was in 1998 — the same year they appeared in the Stanley Cup Final.
The 2009-10 season was also a monumental season for the Capitals. With 121 points to finish the season, it was the first time that Washington picked up a Presidents’ Trophy. To date, no other season has ended with that many points. Last year, when the Caps clinched the title for the second time, they had only 120 points.
Apart from the team’s first-place finish, Washington also saw some outstanding performances from individual players. Alex Ovechkin was third in the league in goals with 50 despite having played nine fewer games than the other league leaders. Nicklas Backstrom had his most productive season that year with 101 points. Mike Green also had the most goals, assists and points of all defensemen.
The Caps have been the league leader in points for most of this season, so the Presidents’ Trophy is a title that the team may well claim again this year. Washington currently has 108 points and with seven more regular season games remaining, there’s a chance that the team might set a new record for points yet again.
Backstrom also stands a good chance of being the league’s assists leader again. With 60 assists, he is only two behind Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and could still surpass him.
For the Capitals, every season where the team has managed to set a new record in home wins was also pivotal in other ways. This year is no exception.
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.