Washington Capitals' confidence is at an all-time high

The Montreal Canadiens beat the Capitals, 6-5, in overtime on Wednesday, snapping Washington's 14-game winning streak. The Caps hadn't lost a game since Jan. 12, a span that set a new franchise record for consecutive victories.
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post staff writer
Thursday, February 4, 2010

NEW YORK -- Having joined the Washington Capitals in 1982, team president Dick Patrick has witnessed a lot from the owner's suite. Last year's record-breaking season saw the Capitals tie a franchise mark for wins and set a new standard for points. The 1991-92 team scored a club-record 330 goals. The 1997-98 edition advanced to the 36-year-old organization's first and only appearance in the Stanley Cup finals.

But this year's Capitals, Patrick said one day after the team set a franchise record with 11 consecutive wins, is the best of them all.

"I would have a hard time arguing otherwise," said Patrick, who is also a part owner. "We've had some great teams, and you always have really good feelings about your association with them when they have that much success. But this current team, I don't think we've had the same array of talent and highly skilled players that we have now, starting with Alexander Ovechkin."

The Capitals' gaudy statistics support Patrick's assertion. Consider:

-- They're on pace for 120 points in the standings, which would shatter the record 108 they accumulated last season.

-- They're on pace for more than 55 victories, a year after tying the franchise benchmark of 50.

-- They're on pace to score the fifth-most goals in team history (313) and the most since the 1992-93 Peter Bondra-led team that played in a more offensive era.

-- The power play is converting at a 25.8 percent rate, which is also tops in the league and on pace to set a team record.

-- Ovechkin, meantime, is arguably having his most complete season. The two-time MVP is averaging a league-best 1.60 points per game, is leading all players in plus-minus with a plus 36 rating (compared to a plus 8 last season) and is on pace for a career-high 63 assists.

That, coupled with the team's winning streak, has stoked an unprecedented level of confidence that extends from the dressing room to the boardroom at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

"To win that many games in a row takes a lot of skill and a lot of good play," said Patrick, the grandson of longtime Rangers coach and general manager Lester Patrick and cousin of former Penguins general manager Craig Patrick. "But it also takes some luck, some good breaks and some great goaltending in some of these games that, maybe, we shouldn't have won."

The Capitals' current run isn't only the best in franchise history, it has put them in position to do something no NHL club has done since 2000-01: win 12 straight. That opportunity comes Thursday when they face off against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. (The NHL mark for consecutive victories is 17, set by the 1992-93 Penguins.)

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