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NHL Power Rankings: Caps are starting to hit their stride

NHL Power Rankings: Caps are starting to hit their stride

Through the first half of the regular season, one thing is very clear: The Washington Capitals are a very tough team to beat when they are firing on all cylinders.

We have seen glimpses of that all season. After getting shutout by San Jose, the Caps managed a road win in Chicago. After two straight losses, Washington trounced rival Pittsburgh 7-1. But the ultimate beatdown came this week against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

SEE THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Columbus had looked unbeatable with 16 straight wins, just one shy of tying the all-time NHL record. Then the Blue Jackets came to Washington and the Caps obliterated them 5-0.

The important thing now is for Washington to build some consistency off of that win and extend their five-game win streak.

With how dominant the Metropolitan Division has looked this season, the Caps began sliding in the standings, causing many to wonder just how good this team really is. Thursday gives you the answer. When this team wants to play, they are pretty darn good. Now they just need to bottle that up to keep pace in the division and make a deep playoff run.

The big win over Columbus and the five-game win streak have Washington climbing in this week's Power Rankings. Find out just how high here.

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The Capitals were not pleased with the officiating in Game 1

The Capitals were not pleased with the officiating in Game 1

They did not want to talk about it, but it was clear after Game 1 that the Caps were not pleased about how Game 1 was officiated.

In a tense postseason matchup between two rivals that featured several scrums and dustups, Washington was not given a single power play and was shorthanded twice after what looked like soft calls.

RELATED: Prediction recap: Sidney Crosby ruins everything

Alex Ovechkin took an interference penalty in the first period for a weak hit on Patric Hornqvist and Matt Niskanen was given a slashing penalty for swiping at a puck just as Marc-Andre Fleury tried to freeze it.

“For all the stuff that was going on, I'm not going to criticize the referees,” Trotz said when asked about Niskanen’s penalty. “They do an outstanding job, but at the same time, I thought with all the stuff that was going on, it was a pretty light one.”

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, was given only one penalty on the night, a matching minor between Scott Wilson and Kevin Shattenkirk.

Considering how good the Caps are on the power play, it was frustrating for the team to not get that unit on the ice. That frustration was compounded by what looked like two rather soft calls against Washington.

Following the game, the players would not criticize the referees, but they still made their displeasure known.

“No comment,” Niskanen said when asked about the officiating.

“It was kind of weird game,” Ovechkin said. “No penalties on their side. Sometimes those kind of [expletive] happen and you just have to fight through it and just put the puck in.”

MORE CAPITALS: 3 key observations: Pittsburgh capitalizes

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Prediction recap: Sidney Crosby ruins everything

Prediction recap: Sidney Crosby ruins everything

The Caps battled back from a 2-0 deficit but ultimately fell 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.

Here’s a recap of the three bold predictions for Game 1.

1. Washington will score first - Wrong

Neither team was able to score in the first period, but Sidney Crosby made short work of this prediction in the second period with a goal just 12 seconds in. He then added a second for good measure at the 1:04 mark to put the Penguins up 2-0.

RELATED: 3 key observations: Pittsburgh capitalizes

2. Patric Hornqvist will draw a penalty - Correct

It was a softy and it wasn’t for the reason I thought it would be, but it counts. Alex Ovechkin knocked into Hornqvist as the Penguins rushed the Caps’ offensive zone early in the first period. When I wrote this prediction, I expected him to get knocked around a bit in front of the net, not in the neutral zone. Considering I got the other two predictions wrong, however, yeah, I’m taking the point.

3. Sidney Crosby will not get a point – Very Wrong

Not only did Crosby get a point, he got two to match his total from all six games in last season’s series. And not only did he get two points, they were both goals.

2017 Results: Crosby ruined the Caps' night and my predictions. The man must be stopped!

Correct: 9
Wrong: 11
Push: 1

MORE CAPITALS: David Letterman shows up at Game 1 of Caps-Penguins