In early December, Capitals vs. Canadiens was a clash of division-leading titans. It sure feels like a different story as this month draws to a close, especially with Montreal’s Atlantic edge in peril.
Each team continued recent patterns on Saturday night via Washington’s 3-1 win against Montreal.
This decision gives the Capitals an impressive seven-game winning streak, fattening edges in the Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division. They’ve won seven in a row, and it goes deeper than that, as Washington is now 14-1-1 in its past 16 games.
If they’re not the best team in the NHL, they’re certainly the hottest.
… And Braden Holtby continues to be a factor.
Malaise for Montreal
Meanwhile, Montreal might just be the iciest bunch of them all, at least among contenders.
This marks six straight losses and and 10 regulation defeats in their past 11 games. What was once an enormous margin in the Atlantic is now a paper-thin edge; the Canadiens are only four standings points removed from sixth-ranked Tampa Bay as of this writing.
The Canadiens haven’t necessarily played poorly on a nightly basis, but there results leave the Habs hobbling into 2016.
This treacherous eight-game road trip ends with opportunities for their division foes to knock them down the ladder, too:
Monday: at Tampa Bay
Tuesday: at Florida
Friday: at Boston
Jan. 5: at Philadelphia
Maybe the message is really for the Capitals: things can go south quickly during an 82-game season. They needed only to look at their opponents on Saturday to see as much.
Alex Ovechkin getting a little banged up punctuates that thought.