They lost two games in December, throwing caution to the wind- Those separated by a nine-game win streak during which they allowed a total of 13 goals (1.44 per).
It's out of the frying pan and into the fryer for the Dallas Stars tonight as the league's hottest team, by a wide margin, comes calling in the form of Alex Ovechkin and his Capitals with their 84 points.
Not to mention their absurd +57 goal differential. They've not scored as many as the Stars have (180) but have allowed just 121 to Dallas' 149. They've won five in a row. They have earned points in eight of their last ten. They have on a league-best 20 times on the road.
And on and on the superlatives go. As the Dallas Stars were carving a path through the league in November and December, so too now are these Caps.
Oddly enough, however, their Corsi % sits at a very average 50.1% in all situations and about the same at 5-on-5. They boast one of the league's highest save percentages overall and also the top shooting percentage- Just a tick above the Stars' 10.0% on the season.
That combines for a league best PDO (save percentage + shooting percentage) that some might explain as at least somewhat "lucky," but such sustained success at such a high level for 53 games speaks for itself.
Nine times Washington has lost in regulation this year- Once to the Stars. Dallas was out-shot 35-31 on November 19th in our nation's capital but defeated their hosts 3-2 on the strength of a big night in net from Kari Lehtonen- The same man that stole consecutive road games from Central opposition this week despite getting grossly out-shot in third periods.
One would guess Ruff will ride the hot hand but we'll check back after morning skate. The Capitals will no doubt counter
"There's no question he's probably stole 10 victories for us this year," coach Barry Trotz told a local Washington radio show via the local CBS affiliate. "Almost literally by himself."
"The thing with Braden is he's made key saves at key times and he's making it look easy. He's the best goaltender in the National Hockey League and that's why our record is where it is."
He's collected 35 wins in just 44 appearances while recording a 2.10 GAA and a .927 save percentage. That's just 13 off Martin Brodeaur's record 48 wins with still 29 games to play. Think about that.
At Stars practice there was mixed news Friday.
Jason Spezza was skating. So that's positive. But Mike Heika reports he may not be ready until "the end of next week", so there's still quite a bit of work to do without him with trips to Nashville and St. Louis upcoming.
Meanwhile the team appears to have lost Travis Moen who could be "out for a little while." Jason Demers might be ready to return, however, after missing Thursday's contest due to illness.
The Capitals have been trotting out something like this-
Not Braden Holtby
They're 5-1-1 against the Central Division, 10-2-2 against the Western Conference, they have the league's top power play, a top-5 penalty kill, and a gaudy point percentage- in FEBRUARY- of .792.
It's the test of test's tonight @ 7:00pm CST on Fox Sports Southwest.
From Stars PR:
The Dallas Stars return to American Airlines Center to face the Washington Capitals in the second of two meetings during the 2015-16 regular season. Dallas has won eight-straight games (8-0-0) against the Capitals, including a three-game winning streak on home ice (3-0-0). The Stars' eight-game winning streak over the Capitals is the second-longest active win streak for the club against any opponent and their longest over a team from the Eastern Conference (longest: 10 games, Vancouver). Dallas won the first game of the season, 3-2, on Nov. 19 in Washington, D.C., marking the team's fifth-straight win against the Capitals at Verizon Center (5-0-0). Defenseman John Klingberg posted a team-high two points (0-2=2) with a +3 plus/minus rating and goaltender Kari Lehtonen stopped 33 of 35 shots faced.
Stars forward Patrick Eaves recorded a hat trick (3-0=3) in the first period of Thursday's game against the Chicago Blackhawks, becoming the second player in franchise history and the first player since the Stars moved to Dallas to tally three-plus goals in the first period of a game (other: Bill Goldsworthy, three goals in first period on Dec. 11, 1973 vs. Los Angeles). He becomes the 10th player in franchise history and the third player since the team moved to Dallas to tally a hat trick in one period (last: Tyler Seguin, three goals in the second period on Dec. 7, 2013 vs. Philadelphia). The forward tied his career-high for goals in a game on Thursday night, with the only other hat trick (3-1=4) in his NHL career coming against the Dallas Stars on Dec. 29, 2010 as a member of the Detroit Red Wings.