Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
Though the Capitals record in its last ten games is a productive 6-2-2, the recent penchant of the team for, dare we say, floating during long stretches of games, and not quite putting lesser teams away with decisiveness, doesn't, for the moment, inspire a great deal of confidence in our boys' ability to reach ultimate playoff heights this spring. But a team doesn't just coast to the threshold of a 50-win season by being lucky, and this campaign has included a level of inspirational and ecstatic moments, born of both hard work and scintillating talent, nearly unprecedented in Caps country.
So, with the home portion of the regular season concluded, and with all of those wonderful moments upon which we can reflect, what's your favorite one of the season?
Beating arch-rivals Pittsburgh twice at the Igloo with huge third period goals? It was games like those that renewed my belief in the "team of destiny" theme that we enjoyed indulging in the pre-season. Could those two games in Pittsburgh this season have played out any differently than the contests of so many seasons past, regular season and playoff matches together?
The primal yelp of pure joy heard exploding from the cavernous lungs within the Russian Machine, Alex Ovechkin (the man that the Pittsburgh TV announcers kept calling a "wild stallion"), as he scored the first go-ahead goal of the third period in the January 15th affair in Rust City, raised up the spirits of all in Caps country, assuaged our suffering at the hands of the jaundiced and black for so many years.
The Caps miracle on 34th Street of December 23rd, where #8 finally "[gave] fans at Madison Square Garden a true view of his talent?"
The Hershey contingent holding the fort down in December? Or more generally, the consistent first-place divisional position of a squad featuring eight players this season making their NHL debuts (Tyler Sloan, Karl Alzner, Sean Collins, Oskar Osala, Simeon Varlamov, Andrew Gordon, Jay Beagle, and Michal Neuvirth)?
The retirement of Mike Gartner's #11, bridging the gap between the stellar (at least, in the regular season) teams of the mid- to late-1980's in DC, and the resurgent franchise of today?
The team reaching 100 points for the first time since 1999-00?
From a pure hockey perspective, I'm inclined to go with the victory at home over Boston on January 17th. There, we witnessed two elite squads orchestrating a seamless display of defense, each skater often correctly anticipating the maneuver of his direct opponent, in idyllic playoff fashion. And then Alex Semin blew our collective minds by drilling a shot past Tim Thomas in the third, billowing the back of the twine, and sending the sold-out home crowd on 7th and F to the bars, and home happy with a 2-1 victory. And providing a timely validation that this Caps team can roll with the best of them in the post-season. (The kid's got a bit of a reputation for GWGs against the B's, doesn't he?)
Otherwise, the aforementioned triumphant return of our Masterton Trophy candidate is tops for me.
Heck, I could even throw into the mix a moment occurring before the season began: the exhilaration which I felt witnessing the future of the franchise, the embarrassment of prospect riches, vanquishing that of the Flyers to the tune of 7-0 (including several intriguing bouts, one featuring Osala and another involving John Carlson, which stirred the imagination), in the September rookie game immediately preceding training camp, at Kettler. Before a SRO crowd, and the neighborhood abuzz with hockey excitement.
So tell us your favorite moment and why. In a season with so much already to celebrate, we hope that the best is still yet to come in the next two months.