With a commanding 6-2 victory over the Panthers Thursday night, the Capitals improved their record against Southeast Division teams to a sparkling 6-0-0. They also remain the only team to be undefeated within their own division so far – by a wide margin – and have played in three and a half of those games without their top scorer.
Let’s put that in historical perspective.
The Southeast Division has been around in its current incarnation for a decade; the Caps have won said division four times. Yet in that time, the Caps have never once started a season with six straight wins against division rivals. The closest they came was in the 2002-03 season, when they went 4-1-1, way back when that last number stood for a tie. They’ve also outscored their division opponents 29-16 for their largest goal differential to date.
…er, for the good, anyway. We’ll conveniently ignore 2005-06, when the Caps not only went 0-5-1 through six Southeast games but were also outscored 31-10.
Equally impressive is head coach Bruce Boudreau's record against the Southeast since taking over the helm early in the 2007-08 season. When he came onboard, the team had dropped six straight division battles. Since then, the team's interdivision record is 37-13-2:
- vs. Carolina - 7-6-0
- vs. Florida - 10-4-1
- vs. Atlanta - 9-3-1
- vs. Tampa Bay - 11-0-0
Of course, leading the division will always trigger references to the SouthLeast (…get it? Because "East" and "Least" rhyme, ha ha). It’s long been tradition for fans of other teams to insinuate that the Caps, or whichever team happens to lead, is less respectable as a top three seed merely on the basis of the teams against whom they compete.
So it’s worth pointing out that the Southeast currently has three teams above the playoff line – more than any other division in the East – with a fourth team, Florida, sitting just three points out (and tied with the Flyers). And that the very competitive Central Division teams have similar point totals to those in the Southeast. And in reality, in this day and age of parity, there are simply no easy divisions.
At the end of the day, you still have to win the games – and the Caps are doing just that.