On January 12th, 2010, the Washington Capitals got smacked down by the Tampa Bay Lightning. That game was marked by a lack of focus, weak goalie performance, and an insufficient will to win. It was only Alex Ovechkin’s fourth game as Captain, so the loss might have hit him hard (see Bradley stealing his fight). Something about that 7-4 scrubbing might have woken the team up. Maybe that loss was the impetus for the 14-game winning streak that followed.
In honor of The Streak (R.I.P.), the Russian Machine takes a fond look back at how it all came together.
The Caps would overcome a 4-1 deficit to send this game into overtime. Jason Chimera showed his speed in an second-period goal and proceeded to earn a Gordie. Mike Knuble was robbed of a goal. CSN’s Joe Beninati said, “Vokoun vacuums the puck” about a million times. The shootout (some call it a gimmick) lasted twelve long rounds before Tomas Fleischmann’s wrister ended it all. 5-4 (SO)1/16, Vs. Leafs
The Caps soared in this match, even if it descended into fist fights half a dozen times. Mike Knuble lusted after the hat trick, but went home unfulfilled. Jose Theodore was almost perfect. 6-1 Wings!1/17, Vs. Flyers
Philadelphia made the tactical error of placing Ray Emery in net. Alexander Semin played like Daredevil and got two points. Tom Poti and the blueliners also looked like superheroes while snuffing out the Flyers’ offense. Alex Ovechkin scored the hot wing goal on a penalty shot. 5-3 Wings!
Jose Theodore stops 44 pucks, which probably pissed Detroit off a lot since they outshot the Caps two to one. Matt Bradley scored a goal without bleeding in the same game, which happens less often than you’d think. David Steckel did that deflection goal thing we love him so much for (see: Playoffs 2009). The penalty killers were flawless. 3-2
RMNB spent the day griping about the last time the teams met. Mike Green had the flu or something. Eric Fehr scored with a sneaky stuff. Mike Knuble picked up the trash. Flash scored on the breakaway. Ovechkin makes empty net goals a regular occurence during the streak. Japers Rink and Puck Daddy hosted a rad party. Everyone tried to act like beating the Penguins wasn’t a big deal. It was. 6-3
RMNB uses the word “streak” for the first time not in reference to public nudity. Semin had a goal and three assists and generally looked awesome. Neuvirth played in net for the first time since the Bolts beatdown, and he played just fine. Ovie scored on an empty net again. The Caps take first place in power play conversion. 4-2
Pretty much everbody gets a goal, except for Alexander Ovechkin, who surprisingly wasn’t pissed. Alexander Semin makes his two goals unassisted just to look cool. Jose Theodore tweaked his hip and had to be replaced by Neuvirth, who did a great job. 7-21/27, Vs. Ducks
RMNB correspondent Stevie K. attends the game and takes hilariously bad photos. The Caps run roughshod over the not-so-mighty Ducks, scoring three goals in three minutes. The Ducks decided that hockey was for wusses, so they just start fighting. 5-2 Wings!
Those crazy kids, Mike Knuble and the Hat Trick, just can’t seem to get together. Sarge joins the goal parade. #52 gets 52 points in 52 games, then gets suspended for an elbow to the head because some loudmouths at TSN were looking at a bad angle. Bruce Boudreau for the first time acknowledges the streak and says he is “touching wood all the time.” RMNB staff snickers like 12-year olds. 4-1
The streak begins to overtake individual games as the overriding narrative. The game is tied until 7 minutes remain, when Ovechkin got the go-ahead goal. David Steckel mindf&#@s Vincent Lecavalier into an unsportmanlike penalty in the last 5 seconds of the game. The Caps tie the winning record set by Craig Laughlin’s 1984 team. Everyone recoils from moustache flashbacks. 3-2
Jose lets only one puck past him (again). Almost everybody agrees that this streak is as much his as it is Ovechkin’s. Brooks Laich grabs the GWG for the second time during the streak. Ovechkin gets the empty net goal for the third time during the streak. Alex Semin reverses his trend towards perfection with three minor penalties. The Caps set a new record, and everyone gets kinda drunk. 4-1
Gaps in the defense start to show, as Jose Theodore cannot stop five goals. Nicky Backstrom has a huge game with five points. Alex Ovechkin reaches 500 career points with a stupid awesome goal: he treats Lundqvist’s pads like a ramp. D.C. and surrounding area hear word of an impending storm, but we’re sure it won’t be so bad. 6-5
The Snovechkin begins. Ovechkin breaks a stick, gets another, scores. Mike Green returns from suspension to get an empty net goal, the third of the streak. Mikey Neuvirth stops 44 pucks! Semin hooks Brooks up with the pass of the year, and Brooks scores. Then Semin steamrolls Neuvirth and scores on his own team. John Erskine is wicked in a fight. 3-12/7, Vs. Penguins
The Penguins have a hard time getting to D.C., which is buried under 3 feet of snow. NBC Sports covers the game and thinks every player is Mike Knuble. The Pens get a 3-goal lead, but Alex Ovechkin says nu-uh. Ovie gets the Hat Trick, breaking a season-long drought for the team. Jeff Schultz gets a slashing penalty for using telekinesis. Mike Knuble gets the overtime goal and the Gordie. Ian draws an awesome picture of him. The Penguins go home in disgrace, and no one ever watches NBC again. 5-4 Wings!
And then on February 10th, the streak ended. Why? Well, it could be because the increasing defensive gaffes finally outweighed the offensive production. Maybe it was because the team hasn’t been able to brush up on fundamentals at practice. It’s almost certainly because Mike Wise wrote a column about the team. Doesn’t matter; the streak is now over, and we must find other thoughts to fill our minds.
But not yet. Let’s consider for a moment that hockey has changed a great deal in the 16 years since the Pittsburgh Penguins won seventeen games in a row. Salary caps have done a lot to normalize talent across teams. During a post-game interview on the 10th, head coach Bruce Boudreau made a compelling case that the Caps 14 games may have been harder to achieve than the Penguins 17.
So what did the streak give us? One hat trick, two Gordies (Chimera, Knuble), three empty net goals, four games without Mike Green, one white-knuckle shootout, four free meals of wings, two Penguin cullings, $81,606.21 in fines, heroic cycles for Brooks Laich and Mike Knuble, the Caps’ ascent to the top of the East and NHL alike, 500 points for Ovechkin, three Caps in the top 4 for plus-minus, Alex Ovechkin back in the goal scoring lead, and five feet of snow.
I’ll take it.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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