Washington’s 2-1 overtime win against the Boston Bruins was its best overall game in more than a week, and it was the team’s fourth game in five nights. Not surprisingly, this spirited effort came on the road, where the Capitals are 22-7-2 this season, first in the league in point percentage and road wins.
For a team that’s had some stumbles lately, the longest road trip of the season comes at a perfect time, more than a week of the team being together non-stop with no other distractions.
“I think it’s great for us to get on the road a little bit,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said. “We’ve been home for a long time and maybe are a little stale, too, being at home for so long. Get on the road and see if we can just pull our game a little bit back together.”
That process started on Saturday night in Boston, in what defenseman Matt Niskanen called a “heck of a hockey game.” It had the pace of a playoff game, and after flashing a strong penalty kill in the second period, the Capitals allowed just four shots on goal in the third period.
Getting a challenge in upcoming California opponents will help break up the monotony, too, as the Anaheim Ducks, the Los Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks are the top three teams in the Pacific Division.
“You want to play against those teams, and you want to continue to build going into the playoffs, so the best way to do that is to play against playoff teams and teams that are playing great,” Jay Beagle said. “It’s good to just keep rolling. We’ve got tough opponents coming up, but it’s a good test for us.”
Said Trotz: “We’re going to get marked up by all of the teams that we’re playing. … They’re all fighting for first place. They’re within a point or two of each other. They’re sort of peaking at the right time.”
The Capitals were at their peak in January, before a snow blizzard followed by an all-star break caused a long layoff that crushed their momentum. They’ve still won games, reaching 100 points on Saturday, but they have 17 games to return to their top form before the playoffs.
“At the beginning of the year and all the way up until the halfway point and the snowstorm time, things were just falling for us, and we could almost do no wrong,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “That’s how good things were clicking. When things start to not click, you kind of wonder what’s going on. We’ve been playing this one way for most of the year, so what’s changed? It’s kind of the ebb and flow of the game and going through little down spells. I think that was a little frustrating for us.”