Alex Ovechkin… 65 goals. Most ever by a left wing in NHL history… 2007-2008.
Mike Green… goals in eight consecutive games. All time NHL record for defensemen… 2009.
Michal Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov, Braden Holtby… only trio of goalies for the same team under the age of 22 in NHL history to record ten or more wins apiece in the same season… 2010-2011.
Mike Green… first defenseman since the 1992-1993/1993-1994 seasons to go consecutive years averaging better than a point per game in each one (50 games played minimum)… 2008-2009/2009-2010
Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom… only Capitals teammates in franchise history to reach the 100-point mark in the same season… 2009-2010.
All in the rear view mirror.
And it begs the question, “have we seen the best of these players?” On one level, you would certainly hope not, given that none of them have yet gotten past the age of 25 (Ovechkin will be the first to hit 26, this coming September). And there is the matter that some of these “bests” are in the stratosphere. I mean, really… 65 goals? Goals in eight straight games… for a defenseman?
But what if it these “bests” are the best we are going to see from these players? Is that such a bad thing? Well, please note that all these “bests” have occurred since the lockout, and among the five Stanley Cup winners since the lockout…
-- Only two had a 100-point scorer (Carolina, Pittsburgh); one had two 100-point scorers (Pittsburgh).
-- None had a 50-goal scorer; three had a 40-goal scorer.
-- None had a defenseman who averaged a point or more a game.
-- One had a defenseman record more than 15 goals (and Chicago’s Dustin Byfuglien might have had a number of his 17 goals playing as a forward). In fact, of 52 defensemen dressing for the five Cup winners during their respective regular seasons, only seven defensemen recorded as many as eight goals for the season, let alone get them consecutively.
-- Four had two goalies record at least 10 wins. In fact, two had two goalies record at least 20 wins (Chicago in 2010; Detroit in 2008). None had three goalies with at least ten wins.
Perhaps career bests are nice for the trophy case and for the player notes in the media guide, but not for winning championships. Teams that have won in recent years do have dominating players – Crosby and Malkin in Pittsburgh in 2009; Datsyk and Zetterberg for the 2008 Wings; Selanne and Niedermayer in Anaheim in 2007; Kane, Keith, and Toews in 2010 in Chicago. But not necessarily “career-best” sort of dominating.
Watching your favorites on the Caps pile up numbers and the accolades that accompany them are a nice diversion during the regular season, but they are no reliable predictor of post-season success. If the Caps are going to win, it has to be a 20-man effort every night, even if it means we’ve seen the last of any “career bests” from any of these Caps.
And maybe that’s the “best” to be hoped for.