Since the Feb. 26 trade deadline day deals that brought veterans Cristobal Huet, Sergei Fedorov and Matt Cooke to the District, the Capitals have been taking care of business, winning seven of 10 games during that span. Each of those three losses came by a single goal in games that were winnable, had some scoring opportunities not been wasted. That’s how close the Caps are to a 10-game winning streak.
As it stands, they’ve got a three-game winning streak and they’ve gone the longest of any team in the NHL between five-game winning streaks right now. It’s been more than seven years since the Caps have strung together as many as five straight wins. You’ve got to win four straight before you can win five straight, and the Caps’ first order of business on their upcoming business trip is taking care of the Predators here in Nashville.
It won’t be easy; the Caps have won once in five previous visits to this city and haven’t done so since Feb. 12, 2000. Nashville has exactly one more win and one fewer regulation loss than the Caps; if Washington wins in regulation tomorrow both teams will have identical records. The Predators are winless in four straight at home (0-3-1) for the first time since they went 0-2-2-1 in a five-game stretch at home from Mar. 1-27, 2004. Nashville is 20-12-4 overall at home this season, the league’s 12th best home ice mark.
Washington’s 15-15-5 road mark is 23rd in the league in terms of total points. The last time the Caps had more than 15 road wins was in 2000-01 when they were 17-18-4-2 away from the District. The last time the Caps were above .500 on the road was in 1995-96 when they were 18-17-6 away from USAir Arena.
With six of their last nine games on the road, and with their next six on the road, Washington will probably need to finish the season with 19 or 20 road wins to get into the playoffs. The franchise record for road wins in a season is 22, and the Caps have reached that number on three occasions, most recently in 1993-94. That mark is obviously out of reach this season.
Since Bruce Boudreau took over the reins on Nov. 22, the Caps are 11-8-4 on the road. How well the Capitals fare on the team’s current foray will go a long way toward determining whether the team will keep playing beyond its scheduled regular season finale against Florida on Apr. 5.
It’s a business trip, the team’s most important road swing in five years. Six games in six cities over a span of 12 days, with a quick stay back home in the District between the first three and the last three. Following the Caps has made for a wild and interesting ride this season, and the next two weeks should provide more of the same. If the Caps can take care of business out here on the road, they may well prolong their season for the first time in five years.