Second thoughts on the first-place Capitals

Second thoughts on the first-place Capitals
November 18, 2013, 10:00 am
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Highlights: Capitals 4, Blues 1

Sudden and second thoughts as the Capitals breathe the rare air atop the Metropolitan Division standings following Sunday night’s impressive 4-1 win over the St. Louis Blues:

Bring on those Pens: With their third straight win, the Caps [12-8-1] climbed one point ahead of the idle Pittsburgh Penguins [12-8-0], who face Bruce Boudreau and the Anaheim Ducks tonight in Pittsburgh. The Caps have gone 11-4-1 since their 1-4-0 start. The Pens have lost four of their last five and have gone 5-7-0 since their 7-1-0 start.

Great to be 8: Alexander Ovechkin was the greater of the two Alexanders Sunday night, outscoring the Blues’ Alexander Steen to move into a first-place tie with him in the goal-scoring race with 17. "For me it means a lot,” Ovechkin said. “It’s always nice to score big goals in big game, but it was a very good team effort, especially first period when we jump on them.” Ovechkin has four goals in his last three games and nine points in his last seven. He’s now had four two-goal games this season. Each time he scored twice in the same period.

Back-trick: Nicklas Backstrom assisted on three of the Caps’ four goals against the Blues and is tied with Ovechkin for fourth in the NHL with 24 points, one behind the Islanders John Tavares and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and two behind Steen. Backstrom has recorded three assists in a game three times this season. He’s now done it 24 times in his career.  He has 12 points in his last nine games. With his assist on John Carlson’s power-play goal Backstrom also passed Scott Stevens to move into fifth place on the Caps’ all-time power play assists list with 137.

[RELATED: Ovechkin leads Caps past Blues]

Gnarly Carly: John Carlson’s goal was his fifth in eight games. He also led the Caps in ice time [25:01] and blocked shots [four]. In the two games Mike Green has missed with a lower body contusion, Carlson has taken a team-high 60 shifts and is a plus-4. He is also tied for fourth among all defensemen with five goals, two behind Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson. 23:42.

Grab-ing points: With 18 points in 21 games, third-line center [can we start calling them the second line?] Mikhail Grabovski now has two more points than he had in 48 games in Toronto last season. Grabovski has four points in his last four games and his seven goals are two short of what he managed last season. Grabovski is on a one-year, $3 million contract with the Caps and it will be interesting to see if the Caps will try re-signing him during the season or let him cash out in the offseason.

Feeling his Mojo: Reunited with Ovechkin and Backstrom on the Caps’ top line, Marcus Johansson picked up an assist and now has eight points in his last seven games. He’s tied for fourth in the NHL with 16 assists.

Mo-vember: Since a bunch of players began growing mustaches on Nov. 1, the Caps are 7-1-1 in November and have outscored opponents 32-20. They are 7-0-1 this season when leading after two periods.

What’s next: The Caps have a complete day off today and will hit the ice at Kettler at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday as they prepare for Wednesday night’s 8 p.m. clash against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. That game will be preceded by NBC Sports Network's Rivalry Wednesday show at 7 p.m.