The Ottawa Senators loss was a much-needed call back to earth for the Capitals. An 8-game winning streak is not dependable, and this team can’t expect its luck to hold when they play as sloppily and half-heartedly as they did on Thursday.
It’s the natural tendency of a team on a winning streak — and not just a winning streak, but a “sky’s the limit, blessed by the hockey gods” type of winning streak — to start to feel, and play, entitled. Ovechkin is the best player in the league again! He can do no wrong! He may even win the Richard for the 3rd time! And Holtby! He’s been amazing! He can just bail us out whenever we’re sloppy or lazy or uninterested!
Riding a hot scorer and a hot goalie is a dangerous precedent to start, especially with the playoffs looming (and the berth not even clinched). I think it’s clear that this streak needed to be snapped, and it’s best that it happened in a game that didn’t deserve to be won. It wasn’t an embarrassing shellacking or a team being outplayed by more skillful competition — the Capitals were outshot 38 to 19. That is a game the Caps need their face rubbed in so they know not to do it again.
Hotlby was honestly the brightest spot on the Washington bench, for which he was duly awarded the 1st star of the game, though I have to imagine that’s not a lot of comfort after a (preventable, though deserved) loss. The lone Capitals goal game courtesy of Mike Ribeiro, which means Stamkos is closing uneasily in on Ovechkin’s scoring title hopes.
It was also unfortunate the Caps didn’t manage even to force OT, because the Winnipeg Jets are also coming uneasily close to stealing our playoff spot. The unusual circumstances of the Southeast division mean that the 4th place Boston Bruins already clinched their position, while our 50 points is barely enough to make it into the playoffs at all. Should we slack even a little more, Winnipeg could easily snatch it from under our collective noses. We both have just 4 games left, and our schedules are comparably difficult. Now is not the time to take our foot off the gas.