The team took home their second President’s Trophy in franchise history thanks to a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night. The Capitals now hold a 54-16-5 record so far and have seven games to go in the regular season, which makes them the third fastest team in NHL history to secure the President’s Trophy.
Of course, holding the best record in the regular season doesn’t mean much in the post-season.
Of the 29 previous President’s Trophy winners, only eight have gone on to win the Stanley Cup. The Chicago Blackhawks accomplished the feat in 2012-2013, with the Detroit Red Wings doing it before that in 2007-2008.
With the victory against Columbus, the Capitals tied their franchise record for wins. They reached the marker first in 2009-2010 and should pull past the 54-win plateau this season. And they’re on pace for 125 points, the most by any team since the Red Wings in 1995-1996.
Also at stake in the regular season is Braden Holtby’s chance to crack Martin Brodeur’s 48-win record. The netminder caught his 46th win of the season on Monday night.
On paper, these Capitals are more than dominant. Not only is Holtby putting up huge numbers, the rest of the team is pulling their weight.
Alex Ovechkin has 43 goals in 73 games, with 22 goals coming on the power play. He’ll likely pick up yet another Rocket Richard Trophy, his fourth in a row.
And Evgeny Kuznetsov has 73 points in 75 games, with 16 of his 20 goals on the man-advantage. He’s turning into a beast in just his second full season with the Capitals.
It’s not unheard of for the Capitals to win their division or to put up solid numbers in the regular season, of course, and hockey’s ho-hum culture isn’t exactly clanging the bells for what is really a spectacular year.
After all, it’s playoff success (and little else) that defines how good a team is in the National Hockey League. The Capitals have had trouble escaping the second round of the post-season and there are no assurances that they’ll do well this year because, well, there are no assurances.
But isn’t there something to celebrate for Washington? They have enjoyed a terrific year by most objective sporting standards. They’ve been exciting to watch. They have an embarrassment of riches on the roster and are working well together under head coach Barry Trotz. Shouldn’t hockey fans embrace this level of dominance, at least for the sake of it?
That’s a tough sell.
Hockey, perhaps even more than other major pro sports in North America, is judged on playoff achievement. And so the Capitals will be evaluated as well. If they see another early exit from the demanding post-season, all the President’s Trophy wins in the world won’t matter.