After a team wins the Stanley Cup, they usually experience a kind of lag at the beginning of the season.
They start off slow, they’re still coming off a high in winning a championship, and they more than likely feel that the pressure is off. This is completely understandable despite the fact that this is a professional sports team.
This season, the Washington Capitals experienced a so-called hangover to start the season. Sure, they were winning hockey games and getting by, but they certainly were not playing up to their potential.
Things have certainly changed since then for the Caps. As of this writing, the Caps have won five straight games and currently find themselves atop the Metropolitan Division.
Yes, the Columbus Blue Jackets are breathing down their necks as they are just one point behind the Caps. With that said, the Caps have been able to get the job done to be leading the division at this point.
At 13-7-3, the Caps find themselves as one of the hottest teams in the entire league. One of the main reasons why the team is starting to have consistent success is because of their resiliency.
For example, the Caps gave up the first goal of the game for the fourth time in five games when they allowed one to the New York Rangers back on November 23. The team did not back down and won all five of these games.
There are not many teams that can do this, but the Caps can do it now because of what they went through to win their first Cup in franchise history last season. In the postseason last year, this team learned to not give up, to battle the whole game and play to the final whistle.
Another reason why this team is streaking right now is that they are putting the puck in the net with regularity. As of this writing, the Caps are fourth in the league in goals scored with 79 goals in 23 games.
The team has scored 20 goals in their five-game winning streak. Believe it or not, Caps’ forward and pest Tom Wilson has been a big contributor during the winning streak as he has eight points on three goals and five assists.
During the winning streak, Wilson has shown that he is indeed a good hockey player. He skates hard, he has a nose for the net, and he does have the hands to pick up points. If he could stop with all the dirty hits, he could be a very valuable member of this hockey team.
Offensively, this team is being led by a bunch of familiar and reliable players. Guys like Alex Ovechkin (27 points), Nicklas Backstrom (25 points), John Carlson (25 points), and Evgeny Kuznetsov (21 points) have all been huge contributors for this hockey club.
One area that this team does need to improve upon is their defensive play. As of this writing, the team is 25th in the league in goals allowed as they have given up 72 goals in 23 games.
The team’s goaltending, though getting better, hasn’t been all that consistent this year. Like last season, Cup-winning goaltender Braden Holtby struggled to start the season, but he is slowly starting to get his game back (8-5-2 with a 2.86 goals against average, a .913 save percentage, and one shutout).
Backup goaltender Pheonix Copley, though he has a good record at 5-2-1, has awful numbers. He has a 3.06 goals against average and a .899 save percentage.
Copley’s play needs to improve quickly because it is imperative that Holtby can rest here and there. This team is going to need Holtby at his best if they want a shot to win another Cup so Copley needs to improve his play so that Holtby doesn’t have to play every game.
This team still has a lot of work to do if they want to get back to the promised land. With that said, they are starting to do the right things and in the end, it is doing the right things that will get them to where they want to be.
Photo: NBC Sports Washington