Sunday, February 24, 2008

Caps' Successful Non-Losing Streak Continues

The Capitals again continued their almost-three-month-long streak of not losing consecutive games in regulation. We could feel bitter that it’s their third straight non-win, and fifth non-win in six games, but why, when they remain solidly in contention for the division lead and even still a sixth, seventh, or eighth playoff seed? Besides, some are much worse off.

Again helping us feel better about our team are the Philadelphia Flyers, who were good enough to not win for the tenth straight time. For the second time in a week, their OT loss point seems less beneficial than the Caps’ similarly gained point. It’s all about perspective. While the Caps fought for a point during a temporary-yet-season-preserving up and down stretch, the Flyers flailed for a point while grasping desperately during a nothing-but-down stretch that first destroyed their division title hopes and now is threatening their playoff dreams. I don’t know how I missed this before, but this beautiful streak of rotten Philly phortune began at the hands of…the Capitals. How about that? An rival's distress hasn’t felt this satisfying since that little Mets collapse of this past Fall. But enough about that.

The Southeast Division race is clearly far from over, the momentousness attached to last night’s defeat to temporary division leader Carolina notwithstanding. Five points back with two games in hand is not a terrible place to be. A couple of wins here, a beating of the Hurricanes there (i.e. March 25 and April 1), and it’s right back to where we were a couple of weeks ago: on top. Isn’t it simply grand we’re even talking about single-digit point deficits and a division race after all that happened in October and November? And they’re still above .500, such as .500 is in these days of OT losses. The Rangers even did the Caps a division-related favor by managing to not blow a 5-0 lead in beating the Panthers today, giving our team one less nuisance to worry about. No reason to feel glum here.

The entire game against the Devils was much like the first period against the Hurricanes (though I can’t speak for today’s overtime, being deprived of it as I was due to the vagaries of DVR non-overtime-recording). That is, the Caps likely should have lead 6-0 at some point in each. It was the offensive-pressure-filled hockey we enjoyed during the season’s initial three-game win streak and for weeks at a time during the Boudreau era.

Finally, look who’s back in the scoring race, and doing it with assists as he waits for the inevitable return of the goal-scoring touch. Certainly Alex Ovechkin’s four (primary) assists in the last two games (not to mention several magnificent passes that could have resulted in more) are an affront to some analysts who bemoan his supposedly subpar “playmaking” ability (this statement usually seen in head-to-head comparisons with Sidney Crosby and, more recently, Evgeni Malkin).

So there you go. Despite a couple of weeks of relative non-success, there is still a quarter of a season to go, and really no all that much ground to make up. It’s still looking very good.

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