Good afternoon, Washington, D.C., snowy suburbs, and national outposts de neige! The Caps managed to pretty well get the job done last week despite a nasty little radar blip against the Florida Panthers. There's some tough Western Conference cooking on tap this week as the Capitals face the Nashville Predators, the Minnesota Wild, and the Dallas Stars. Last week the Capitals went 3-1-0 for six points and currently sit first in the Metropolitan Division, the Eastern Conference, and the NHL.
Boy, the Caps are racking up more records than a hipster hoarder. Let's see what that's worth, plus a little East Coast-West Coast beef, in this week's preview.
The Capitals currently have seven players on pace to score 20+ goals this season: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Justin Williams, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jason Chimera, and Marcus Johansson. Of those seven, four are on pace for record totals (Oshie, Kuznetsov, Chimera and Johansson). It bears further mentioning that, if this pace holds, the Capitals will have three separate lines with 20-goal scorers, and - with the exception of Andre Burakovsky, himself on pace for a record year in his own right (16 goals projected) - there will be just two players in the top nine forwards scoring fewer than twenty.
That's...well, it's preposterous. It's utterly silly. It's so gleefully absurd that if it'd been proposed to you before the season, you'd have soiled yourself in your rush to claim it. Everyone is scoring. Your mom is scoring. Backstrom is scoring on every fifth shot he takes (seriously, his shooting percentage is at 20.20%). They're on pace to score the second-most goals in franchise history behind the Presidents' Trophy-winning 2009-2010 team that ran on rocket fuel and intravenous Jaegermeister.
It's not just that, though. The 2015-2016 Washington Capitals have been scored on the fewest times in the league, and are on pace for the fewest goals allowed in franchise history. This is not just one of the best offensive Caps teams ever. This is not just the best goaltending Caps team ever. This is not just one of the best defensive Caps team ever. It is the best Washington Capitals team to ever lace 'em up and put on the jerseys that say W-A-S-H-I-N-G-T-O-N.
HOW THE WEST WAS WON
Of the Capitals thirty-one remaining games, nineteen are against opponents who would make the playoffs if they started today. Twelve of those nineteen are against Western Conference teams. If you've been wondering how the Capitals would really stack up against the best of the west (and, lord willing, its Stanley Cup final delegate), now's the time to start paying attention. This week alone the Caps play three western teams, two of whom are in playoff position. Being in the east can be insulating, like oriental Owens-Corning. The occident has produced the last four Stanley Cup winners and seven of the last nine. Winning a championship will require not just some east coast elitism, but to go west, young men.
With these words echoing in our heads and the holiness of the road in mind, I'd like to ask one of my favorite Twitter accounts, Daily Jack Kerouac, to comment on the Western Conference playoff teams in his own, unique style. Take it away, Jack:
I cursed, I cried for Chicago.— Daily Jack Kerouac (@DailyKerouac) February 8, 2016
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Their team is frustratingly good, but how the hell can you root for them? When it comes to Kane, I'm unable.
There is something brown and holy about the East; and California is white like washlines and emptyheaded.— Daily Jack Kerouac (@DailyKerouac) January 10, 2016
This one is perhaps less fair now than it was in Kerouac's 1950's, especially given that the Kings have one of the only Latino players in the league in Alec Martinez, but it's fun to be called "brown and holy," and it's entirely possible that Kerouac was referring to a symbolic, metaphorical "whiteness" that can surely be embodied in this one picture.
I forgave everybody, I gave up, I got drunk.— Daily Jack Kerouac (@DailyKerouac) March 7, 2014
Because Bruce, please, we miss you! It's all water under a high-scoring Mike Green bridge!
And with that preview complete, we turn now to the segment that was successfully launched into orbit by North Korea before conspicuously disappearing...LIABLE TO LIBEL: A BAKER'S DOZEN LIES ABOUT THIS WEEK'S OPPONENTS!
1. With defenseman Shea Weber on the books for $14 million per year, the Nashville Predators have the second-largest defense budget in America behind Haliburton.
2. Filip Forsberg's exchange for Martin Erat was the most controversial trade in history since Pontius Pilate freed Barabbas.
3. Mike Ribeiro does not actually take penalties, but rather just needs two minutes every now and then to, "go see a guy about a thing," behind an alley.
4. Nashville fans claim that Peter Laviolette is every bit the coach and model citizen that Barry Trotz was, but you'll notice they always look down as they say it, and they're always drinking when they do.
5. Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk is grateful for how warmly he's been received by his teammates, but does wish they would stop referring to scoring on him in practice as "smoking a Duby."
6. Zach Parise, American hero, moved from New Jersey to Minnesota to continue his goodwill tour of underprivelaged American states. Look for him in Detroit, next.
7. After hockey, Nino Niederreiter's name has a long career ahead of it as a rival antagonist in a skateboarding movie, or the CEO of a fictional tech startup.
8. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, which is why the Wild have a play-stopping goalie named Nicklas Backstrom, and a dour, undersized winger named Alex Ovechkin.
9. Dallas Stars brothers Jamie and Jordie Benn like to say "Benn there, done that!" when combining for a goal, which is only slightly less grating than defenseman Johnny Oduya's eponymous response, "Oduya?!"
10. Some call the recently-acquired winger from Chicago Patrick Sharp, while others call him Dylan Flat. It's six million one, half-dozen million the other.
11. At his first practice at the helm, coach Lindy Ruff asked, "Who is Tyler?" Assistants answered, "Seguin." Ruff responded, more clearly, "Tyler," and the assistants again said, "Seguin." The conversation continued in this Abbott & Costello manner for about forty-five minutes.
12. Everyone knows about goalie Antti Niemi, but few seem to know about winger Uncle Koivu.
13. The Dallas Stars have amassed the highest gross total of goals in the league, but when you take into account that Texas doesn't have income tax, the net total is really like fourth or fifth.
So, there you have it, Caps fans! The Capitals have a chance to really test their mettle against some stout Western Conference competition this week. Can they return back east with confidence, the league lead, and no greater appreciation for fish tacos than they left with? We'll have to see! Have a great week, and as always, Go Caps!