That’s where we are with our very winning hockey team here; forget about Members Only jackets, we’re now all the way back to Martha Quinn! Martha Quinn? Oh, yes, the siren of my very hormonally imbalanced adolescence. (And she had a lot to do with that.) Only the greatest, cutest MTV VJ ever.
By defeating the Florida Panthers 4-1 last night at Verizon Center and earning their ninth consecutive victory the Capitals have catapulted us beautifully back in time, from 2010 to 1989 now to 1983. It was in 1983-84 that the Caps won a franchise-record 10 straight games. They’ll attempt to match that streak Sunday at Verizon Center against the last team to defeat them, the Tampa Bay Lightning, which occurred all the way back on January 12.
Should the Caps win on Sunday they’d have earned 80 points before the start of February. No Capitals team has ever entered February with 70 points, let alone 80. Now the Olympics schedule compression plays a role in this matter to be sure, but still.
Winning tons is terrific, but winning such that you’re propelled way back in time, to the greatest decade in the history of America, well, that’s something else altogether.
Martha Quinn was big in ’83.
The winning today has a very different feel from the winning while watching Martha. For instance, obviously, the pre-game warmup music today isn’t as good.
But the Caps of ’83-84 weren’t fully 10 years old yet. They’d qualified for the postseason a grand total of one time — the season before, in ’82-83, ousted in the first round by the dynastic New York Islanders. So winning 10 straight the following season fairly formally ushered in the Caps’ arrival as a team to be reckoned with at long last after a wilderness-ineptitude existence for much of their first 10 years in the league.
That winning streak began on January 27, 1984, with a 6-1 win over Toronto. And get this — because the NHL had ties then, the Caps were separated from a potential 14-game winning streak only by a 2-2 draw on the road in Buffalo that January 25. Between January 8 and February 18 the Caps of ’83-84 lost just once — one setback in 18 games!
From the looks of things, the current Capitals might just be better than them. A whole lot better!
This winning streak is of a whole order of magnitude different. This winning is being executed by a powerhouse club, a legitimate Stanley Cup favorite. Only Chicago (37) has more wins than the Caps. The Caps are tied with the Hawks with a .722 winning percentage. The Caps score more goals than any other NHL club by a landslide — 3.83 goals a game compared to San Jose’s 3.28. They’re no. 1 on the power play (over 26 percent efficiency), again by a healthy margin. They’re the no. 1 team in the league in plus-minus (+49).
But more so than stats the Caps are league-elite by virtue of what your eyes tell you as you watch them perform these days.
I was seated next to one of my favorite members of the media the other night for the Anaheim game, and this sage observer said to me at the start of the first intermission, “Anaheim just played a very professional period of professional hockey, but the Caps are playing something else.”
It rang so true.
Bruce Boudreau noted that these days Alexander Semin is playing dominant hockey with “a smile on his face.” All of his teammates appear loose and game-loving on the bench. Winning breeds smiling of course, but that’s not what this is about. The coach and his system are perfectly in synch with the 20 skaters who must execute it, the players well armed with the skill sets to carry it out. And here is where it gets really fun: night in and night out the adversaries are conspicuously ill-equipped to defend it, to do anything about it. Maybe they keep it close for 40 minutes, but eventually they succumb. Big time.
By design the winning aura actually is conceived down on the farm, in Hershey (they scored eight goals in their third straight game last night, by the way — gracious!), and perpetuated upward with the parent. And so this is very different from the Capitals’ 1980s winning. We’ve never had such a well organized and executed culture of triumph being piped into our rink. That’s why this winning feels so special.
One game at a time, I know, but you look out over the near horizon and you expect the Capitals to win again. And again. I bet they revenge last defeat come Sunday and match the team’s all-time best winning streak. I’ll celebrate Sunday night by eating Pop Rocks and renting a season of ‘Miami Vice.’