The similarity between this iteration of Washington Capitals and the probably-best-ever regular-season Tampa Bay Lightning of 2018-19 is obvious on the surface.
The Caps are on a blistering points pace, poised to run away from the pack and win the Presidents’ Trophy, even as the Boston Bruins are on a run able to be held up alongside some of the best ever seen.
Monday night’s loss to a lowly Columbus team included, the Caps are still on a pace for more than 126 points, just shy of what the Bolts put up last season. That’s also slightly more than the Bruins’ roughly 122-point pace, but both those numbers would rank as the Nos. 5 and 7 regular-season point totals in NHL history.
The problem with keeping up those kinds of paces, however, is that every regulation loss, and indeed, every loser point you get in OT or a shootout, knocks you way off the pace. These are almost entirely teams that left something like 40 points on the table over 82 games, and a minor setback, when compared with the giants of history, is actually a major one.
Nonetheless, the Capitals are lingering in the conversation for one perfectly clear reason, much like the Lightning did last year: Elite talent is buoying them.