- George Zimmerman will not be charged in domestic dispute
- Russian officials press bilateral U.S. trade deal
- Selfies at Funerals blog creator retires after Obama flub: ‘Our work here is done’
- New Obama adviser Podesta is against Keystone but will steer clear of pipeline deliberations
- 40 Australian adults, children found in ‘one of the worst accounts of incest ever made public’
- Venezuela’s Maduro calls on student ‘price vigilantes’ to hit the streets, report businesses
- Atheists smug as Hindus join Satanists to demand display at Oklahoma Statehouse
- Bow before Valkyrie, NASA’s ‘superhero robot’ entry in DARPA challenge
- 10-year-old Pennsylvania boy suspended for pretend bow-and-arrow shooting
- Tea partyers turn on Capitol Hill budget deal
DAN DALY: At home, bully for the Caps
Question of the Day
A year ago, it was all about winning the division for the Capitals. That was accomplishment enough given their horrid start and the coaching change in November. This year, though, they want to be more than just the biggest bully on the Southeast block. And to achieve that, they have to beat the other bullies in the Eastern Conference. This is how you secure a first or second playoff seed and position yourself for a Stanley Cup run.
In a sense, the Caps are in a division now with the Bruins, Flyers, Rangers, Canadiens and Devils - the teams that, halfway through the season, have the best shots at those top seeds. And you'll be pleased to know they're doing fabulously well against such competition. Tuesday's 2-1 shootout win over Philadelphia gave the Caps an 8-1-2 record against those clubs, the best in the group.
This might be the most significant indicator of the Caps' progress from last year to this. They're not just feasting on the Panthers, Lightning and Thrashers. They're knocking around the big boys, too.
One of the reasons it behooves them to earn the home-ice advantage for the postseason is that they've been practically unbeatable at Verizon Center. They're 18-1-1 - 37 of a possible 40 points, folks - prompting Bruce Boudreau to say, "I've been in this business 33 years, and I have never been on a team that has played 20 games and lost only once [in regulation] on home ice."
Fans are flocking to Uncle Ted's Pond, wearing their red and raising a ruckus. It's become a hard place for an opposing club to play - though Philly did about as well as anybody by pushing the Caps to overtime and beyond.
"The crowd's huge," said Nicklas Backstrom, whose goal in the first three minutes gave the home team a 1-0 lead. "It feels like an extra player."
Loud as they were, though, the customers couldn't inspire the Capitals to score again - not, at least, until Viktor Kozlov flipped the puck past Marty Biron to win the shootout. But that says something, too, about the Caps and their maturation. How many times in the regular season have they gone almost 63 minutes without a goal and still come away with a "W"? They might be thought of as an offensive team - what with The Two Alexanders, Ovechkin and Semin, and Mike Green pumping in goals - but they're also winning with defense and goaltending.
Offseason pickup Jose Theodore was a stone wall in the shootout, stopping all three Flyers attempts. He's been a different netminder since coming off the injured list Dec. 19, allowing just 11 goals in his last six games, all victories. Of course, he's also been a different netminder since 20-year-old Simeon Varlamov was called up from Hershey in his absence and backstopped the Caps to wins against the Canadiens and Blues. A little creative tension never hurts.
Varlamov returned to the minors, but his time will come - just as it did for another 20-year-old, Karl Alzner, whose addition in late November helped firm up the blue line. Then there's 18-year-old Stefan Della Rovere, the Caps' seventh-round pick this year, who earned a spot on Canada's world championship junior team. Currently skating for the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey League, he sounds like a Dale Hunter-in-training - a rabble-rouser who can score.
During the Canadians' win over the U.S. team, Della Rovere "was so far under the skin of the Americans," the Toronto Globe and Mail reported, that "at one point they were taunting him from the bench: 'You're dead! You're dead! You're dead!'"
The Winnipeg Sun, meanwhile, describes him as "capable of controlled chaos."
Yup, sounds like another Hunts, all right.
That's what you have to remember about the Caps: This is just the beginning for them. They're still developing players, still evolving into what they hope will be a perennially contending franchise. Heck, there's so much talent in the organization that even the Web site producer, Brett Leonhardt, has college goaltending experience - and, in a pinch, filled in as the emergency backup. (Not to worry, though. There are no plans to use the Zamboni driver in the next shootout.)
The Caps spent the second half of last season in an all-out sprint, trying to make up lost ground. They're in the exact opposite position now, with a 10-point lead over the Hurricanes in the Southeast.
"It's different," Boudreau said. "But it's one thing to get [to the top] and another thing to stay there. We like it up there - and I think the guys want to be one of the best teams in the league. We're going to push the envelope as far as we can and see where it takes us. And hopefully it can take us far."
About the Author
Dan Daly has been writing about sports for the Washington Times since 1982. He has won numerous national and local awards, appears regularly in NFL Films’ historical features and is the co-author of “The Pro Football Chronicle,” a decade-by-decade history of the game. Follow Dan on Twitter at @dandalyonsports –- or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- DALY: Rookies RG3, Alfred Morris hold their own against two Browns greats
- DALY: Players soon may equate Redskins with winning
- DALY: Quarterbacks waste no time making impact
- DALY: Just the tip of the iceberg for these Redskins
- DALY: Striking a balance integral to Redskins’ success
Latest Blog Entries
By Matt Kibbe
- Rand Paul: Budget deal 'shameful,' 'huge mistake'
- Teen thugs in D.C. run wild -- even while wearing GPS ankle bracelets
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- CARSON: Why did the founders give us the Second Amendment?
- VEGAS RULES: Harry Reid pushed feds to change ruling for casino's big-money foreigners
- Biden guarantees victory on immigration reform
- MILLER: Dick Heller challenges D.C.s gun registration, files for summary judgment in Heller II
- American bourbon now better than Scottish whisky: U.K.-born expert
- Tea partyers turn on Capitol Hill budget deal
- Leon Panetta named as source of 'Zero Dark Thirty' scriptwriters information
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Interviews and show reviews from the Los Angeles punk scene past and present. Los Angeles has always been rich in punk rock talent since punk rock was born.
Buzz on Bees is a column promoting the love and life of God’s greatest pollinators on earth: The Honeybee
Brazen, leading-edge, “call it like it is” columns and reporting from Ohio native, radio host and writer, Sara Marie Brenner.
A libertarian look at breaking news and political trends by author Tom Mullen.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow