Capitals are crushing the regular season, but many want to see playoff success

Hot and not

ThorntonJoe Thornton, San Jose Sharks
Thornton led the way in a 6-3 win against the St. Louis Blues, netting two goals and adding a pair of assists while finishing plus-3 on the night. He now has at least a point in 17 of his past 19 games.

CondonMike Condon, Montreal Canadiens
Condon allowed only one goal through overtime and just one more in the shootout, but he took the loss in the Habs' 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Nashville Predators. Condon has just two wins since Jan. 9.

Are the Capitals getting enough respect?

Pierre LeBrun@Real_ESPNLeBrun: Are the Washington Capitals getting enough respect? After Monday's 3-2 win against the visiting Arizona Coyotes, the Caps are now 44-10-4, running away not only with the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference, but the whole league. Compliments have been rolling in all season for coach Barry Trotz and his men, but you still feel that "Yeah, well, we've seen this movie before," attitude from some people. That's why I enjoyed the take from Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post on Monday, imploring fans not to hold their breath waiting for the playoffs to start, where the true measure of the team will once again occur. Why not just enjoy the crush job they're doing now during the regular season? This Caps team is different than all the others that came before it in the Alex Ovechkin era. It started to change last season with a hard-fought, second-round playoff loss to the Rangers. The narrative wasn't about the Capitals underachieving for once. Now, I'm not guaranteeing the Caps are finally headed to the conference finals or the Stanley Cup finals, but I'm certainly sticking to the assertion that this team is different than in years past, deeper and more balanced and with more grit. In short, better build for playoff success. Washington can beat you in different ways, like all great teams do. Anything can happen in the postseason in a parity-filled league, but I think the Caps deserve more respect than they're getting.

Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: Not sure I buy the lack-of-respect narrative, my friend. Maybe in Canada, where the exchange rate limits your exposure to about 65 percent of American content (OK, lame currency joke). I think there is no shortage of respect for how this team has been built, what it's accomplishing on a variety of levels, and what it's capable of doing this spring. And no doubt this seems different than the one that won the Presidents' Trophy in 2010, then blew a 3-1 series lead in the first round against Jaroslav Halak and the Canadiens. But they'll only truly be different when they prove it. I agree, fans should embrace and enjoy the success the Caps are having, but this is a franchise that has enjoyed plenty of regular-season high points during the years, only to follow up with playoff disappointments. That includes last spring, when they held a 3-1 series leader versus the Rangers and lost Game 7 in overtime at Madison Square Garden. That said, I have trouble believing this team won't be in the Cup finals. The great thing about the playoffs, though, is that sometimes the mighty fall, even teams as mighty as the current Capitals.

Craig Custance@CraigCustance: Washington has been great, and on some level it disrespects the advancements made by the players, Trotz and GM Brian MacLellan to just say, "Show me in the playoffs." But I certainly understand the trepidation of hockey fans in D.C. who might be having a hard time getting too excited. This is hockey. One injury, or a puck that bounces the wrong way, or a goalie who gets hot, can wipe out months of dominance. Even worse than getting no respect, this regular-season domination will end up being a punchline if the Capitals get bounced in the first round. That's the biggest challenge ahead for Ovechkin and his mates. All the pressure is going to be on them in the first round of the playoffs. If they survive that, they'll roll. But just imagine a first-round series against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. You don't think Sid would love to add another chapter of D.C. heartbreak? This regular season should be enjoyed, but I understand if some Caps fans are having a hard time basking in regular-season success.

Joe McDonald@ESPNJoeyMac: The Caps' alternate jersey should replicate the red tie, white shirt and suit jacket comedian Rodney Dangerfield used to wear during his act, because Washington gets no respect. Trotz has done an incredible job overhauling the team in his two seasons behind the bench. The veteran coach is putting players in a position to be successful, and it helps that they have responded to his systems and philosophies. Ovechkin is playing the best team hockey of his career and it shows in the standings. With Monday's victory against the Coyotes, the Capitals became the first team in NHL history to win 44 of their first 58 games in a season. It's a new era in Washington, but unfortunately the Capitals won't be taken seriously unless they make a deep run. It would be fun to witness a Stanley Cup parade in D.C. and the team's trip to the White House would be an inexpensive one. But, let's not get too far ahead here, because anything can happen in this league.

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