Monday, January 16, 2017

Weekend wrap: Capital Wasteland

So the good news is that the Blue Jackets have cooled off after winning 16 straight, and look like they’re not going to run away and hide with the Presidents’ Trophy after all.

The bad news is that now it’s another Metro team that looks unbeatable, and it’s the team that ended the Blue Jackets’ streak. Apparently ending a team’s shot at the all-time streak record is some sort of Highlander thing where the winner absorbs the loser’s powers, because now the Washington Capitals are running over everyone.

Their two weekend victims were a pair of pretty good teams in the Blackhawks and Flyers. No matter; the Caps smoked both, winning those two weekend games by a combined score of 11–0. That ran their current win streak to nine, and moved them past Columbus into first place overall. Since the puck dropped on that streak game with the Blue Jackets back on Jan. 5, the Caps are 6-0-0 and have outscored their opponents 26–3.

The Capitals are unstoppable. Nobody can score against them at even strength. And if the playoffs started today, they'd head into them as the league's top seed and Stanley Cup favourites.

For most teams, that would be considered a good thing.

But this is Washington, and Capitals fans don't exactly have the best history when it comes to getting their hopes up. That's led to some handwringing over whether the team is peaking too early, and to headlines about the winning streak that include the words "Oh noooooooo."

You can kind of see where Caps fans are coming from. After decades of periodic playoff collapses, this had been shaping up like the sort of year where they could sit back, watch their rivals eat up all the attention and expectations, then sneak into the playoffs as a solid but under-the-radar dark horse.

Then they started winning and, well, so much for that plan. Now it's all eyes on Washington. Braden Holtby is back in the running for another Vezina, Nicklas Backstrom is getting pregame ceremonies, and Alex Ovechkin has people debating where he ranks among the greatest goal-scorers of all-time. And Capitals fans who'd been banking on a nice quiet underdog vibe are suddenly curled up in a ball and dreading what's inevitably to come.

Tonight, the Caps visit the Penguins in what may be the week's best game, not to mention a possible first-round playoff preview. It's the first game of a tough stretch that will see them play seven of nine on the road, so fingers crossed, Washington fans. Maybe they can snap out of this unfortunate hot streak sooner than later.

Road to the Cup

The five teams that look like they're headed towards Stanley Cup favourite status.

5. Montreal Canadiens (27-11-6, +26 true goals differential*) – They're back, if barely. More on that below.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins (26-11-5, +20) – They went pointless on a three-game road trip, and have dropped to third in the Metro.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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