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The last time the Caps won eight straight

There was a flood of incredible numbers churned out concerning the Caps' hot streak Wednesday night, many produced by the Caps' media relations folks.

* Jeff Schultz hasn't scored in 40 games, but everybody else in the Caps lineup has scored in the last 11 games.

* The Caps are Caps are 11-1-0 since Alex Ovechkin was named captain. Nine of those wins were decided by more than one goal.

* The Caps are the NHL's only team that hasn't lost four games in a row in regulation since Thanksgiving of 2007.

* Ovechkin and Alexander Semin each have nine games with at least two goals this season. The entire roster of the Calgary Flames has combined for nine multi-goal games. The entire roster of the Boston Bruins has produced seven.

* The Caps lead the Southeast Division by 21 points, their largest lead in franchise history.

That last one is my favorite, because of what it means. What it means is the Caps could forfeit every hockey game on their schedule for the next five weeks, and return on March 5, and still be in first place, even if the Florida Panthers went on a 10-game win streak. Sure, the Olympic break makes this a longer pause than you'd think, but it's sort of staggering.

Anyhow, with the franchise having won eight straight games for the first time in two decades, I figured I should flash back to our coverage of that previous win streak. A few things I quickly noticed:

* Both Michael Wilbon and Mark Maske wrote Caps stories during the streak.

* And yet, during at least the final two weeks of this hot streak, the sports section didn't run a single Caps column. Imagine. (There was one A1 story, about a blind Caps fan who sees games through the descriptions of his friends.)

* One of the big themes of the streak was that all four lines were finally scoring. "That is the big difference in our team, more balance," said Coach Bryan Murray after the sixth win. "We have four lines that can play and compete fairly well. Certain people get the bulk of of the goals, but there is potential there for more guys, since we have more lines that can score."

* There was some talk of contending for the Stanley Cup, and also some talk of winning over the town. "After five years of steady growth, the Capitals will finish the season with 23 sellouts and an average attendance of 17,0l3," the Post's beat writer wrote after the seventh win. "That is greater than the capacity of 12 NHL buildings. For the last 18 home games, there were a total of 1,216 unsold tickets. Hockey in Washington has come a long way. Now, with excitement reaching a peak, it has a chance to go a lot further."

Mike Vogel also wrote up the 1989 win streak on the Caps' Web site, with a game-by-game breakdown. To add to the memories, here are the opening paragraphs of the game story following the eighth win, which turned out to be a rather significant one.

CAPITALS TAKE 1ST PATRICK DIVISION TITLE CICCARELLI'S GAME-WINNER ENDS CHAMPIONSHIP VOID IN 15TH SEASON
By Robert Fachet, Washington Post Staff Writer

Dino Ciccarelli, with a big assist from the Pittsburgh Penguins, brought the Washington Capitals their first Patrick Division title last night.

Ciccarelli's goal with 2:48 left lifted the Capitals to their eighth straight victory, a 3-2 decision over a battling bunch of New York Islanders led by an outstanding rookie goalie, Mark Fitzpatrick.

Afterward, the Capitals stood on the ice and signed autographs for thousands of fans as part of the annual Fan Appreciation Day that so often has been a vehicle for sharing disappointment.

Last night, though, the players and their families retreated to the Inner Circle club at Capital Centre to await the result of the Pittsburgh-New York Rangers game while a few diehard fans sat and watched on TelScreen. Eventually, at 10:27 p.m., they were rewarded, as Pittsburgh's 6-4 victory assured the Capitals, in their 15th season, of a first championship banner.

"It means a lot to me personally, it means a lot to all the players and it means a lot to the organization," said Coach Bryan Murray. "To have the kind of streak we have right now, it means a great deal."...

"It means a great deal," said defenseman Scott Stevens, who achieved a personal goal by reaching a plus-one rating last night, after languishing at minus-22 in late December. "We've been in the playoffs seven years, but we've never been in first place. Now we can look forward."

Probably the quote that will be treasured most, however, came from an opponent, the Islanders' Pat LaFontaine: "Washington has a great shot to make the [Stanley Cup] finals this year."

By Dan Steinberg  |  January 28, 2010; 9:45 AM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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Comments

This is a pretty staggering streak considering we played both of the Stanley Cup finalists last year and roundly whupped the team that won it.

Posted by: EricS2 | January 28, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Hope they save some for the playoffs..........................

Posted by: poguesmahone | January 28, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I loved rooting for the 1980s Caps teams but playoff time (aside from 1989-90) was almost nothing but heartache.

What's interesting is the only memorably long Capitals' playoff runs (1989-90's trip to the conference finals, and the 1997-1998 team's trip to the Cup finals) were after a mediocre 36-38-6 in 1989-90 (http://www.hockey-reference.com/teams/WSH/1990.html); and a hardly overpowering 40-30-12 in 1997-98 (http://www.hockey-reference.com/teams/WSH/1998.html).

Caps teams that won 48 and 50 games in the regular season in the 1980s were playoff duds. So I'm excited about the Caps' streak but all fans know it means nothing come playoff team (sometimes the teams that just barely squeak into the playoffs are most dangerous).

Posted by: blackjack65 | January 28, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Great post Steinz. The Caps are so stacked it isn't even funny. An 8 game winning streak with the #2 and #3 goalies. Can you imagine what this team would do with a Ryan Miller in net? They'd go undefeated.

Posted by: calhokie | January 28, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

I second blackjack. All I could think about the past two night was, "I hope they're not peaking too soon, like all those Caps teams in the 80s that ripped off great winning streaks in February and March and then flopped in the playoffs."

Having said that, while there are still questions in goal and not total confidence in the defense, there's never been a Caps team that could score like this (with all due respect to Gartner, Gustaffson, etc.) If Semin keeps playing consistently at the sublime level he's now at, this is a team that should be very difficult to beat

Posted by: TheFingerman | January 28, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I was at that Division clinching game back then. I miss Scott Stevens.

Posted by: FlyersSuck | January 28, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully they win three more and make history for the Caps franchise. With TB and Florida up next it shouldn't be that much of a challenge, but you never know.

Btw, just found a great new blog. It's published by a Caps fan for Caps fans: http://washingtoncapitalsblog.blogspot.com/

Posted by: gfsportsfan | January 28, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

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