Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Only Win

The 1974-75 Washington Capitals were nothing like this season's Washington Capitals. It was the inaugural season for the Capitals and it would go down as one of the worst in NHL history, but tomorrow is a special day in Capitals history. It is the anniversary of their first road win in franchise history! If that seems a little odd, it might be had it not been for some history-making moments for the newest member of the NHL. What makes it more special is that the road win would come against the California Seals! This is the story of that memorable day when history was stopped by having the Capitals pick up their first win outside of the District of Columbia!

The season started off with some major realignment for the divisions as the Washington Capitals and Kansas City Scouts were brought into the fold. The season was bumped to 80 games as a result of the added teams, moving from 16 to 18 in the NHL. Washington would find itself in the Norris Division along with the powerhouse Montreal Canadiens, the surprising Los Angeles Kings, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Detroit Red Wings. Honestly, once the puck dropped, it wouldn't matter much for the Washington Capitals who they played as they were regularly on the losing end of the equation.

There were some interesting notes as the season rolled on. Bobby Orr would win his second scoring title. The California Seals and Pittsburgh Penguins were rumoured to be moving to Denver and Seattle, respectively, to ownership groups that had been awarded franchises for the 1976-77 season. Those moves, of course, didn't happen. There was a three-way tie for first-overall in the NHL as Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, and Philadelphia Flyers all finished the season with 113 points. The Flyers would be determined to be the first-overall team as they had the most wins.

And then there were the Capitals. They didn't make the playoffs. They barely made it out of the gates. Washington would finish the season with an NHL-worst 8-67-5 mark for just 21 points. The finished 20 points worse than the Kansas City Scouts who were the second-worst team that season. It was truly a brutal season for the Capitals if it weren't for the records they were setting for losing.

Washington actually started the season 1-2-1, winning their fourth game against the Chicago Blackhawks by a 4-3 score on October 17. After an 0-13-1 run, they won their second game against the California Golden Seals by a 6-4 score on November 19. Another 0-9-2 run would see the Capitals pick up their third win on December 15 in a 3-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Wins against the Detroit Red Wings on January 26, the New York Rangers on February 11, and the Kansas City Scouts on February 16 accounted for three more victories. It was this win on February 16 - a 3-0 shutout win no less - that would see the Capitals set an amazing record.

The Capitals would record 17-straight losses over the next six weeks. They were shutout twice (Boston and Atlanta), gave up double-digits in goals twice (Chicago and Pittsburgh), and surrender six-or-more goals in 11 of the 17 losses. In other words, it was ugly. And to make matters worse, the Capitals had won all six games at home and had lost every game away from the Capital Center. After a 5-1 loss on the road to the Los Angeles Kings, the Capitals ventured down the highway to face the California Seals.

March 28, 1975 saw the Washington Capitals record their first road win in franchise history, beating the California Golden Seals by a 5-3 score after Nelson Pyatt scored two third-period goals. The win snapped the 17-game losing streak and the 37-game road losing streak, both records to that point in the NHL. They would finish the season 1-39-0 on the season with the last two road games against Detroit and Pittsburgh ending in 8-3 and 10-2 finals, respectively.

It's a foregone conclusion that Washington will pick up the one point they need to earn the President's Trophy tomorrow night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but to think that they'll do it on the same day they earned their first road win and the only road win of the 1974-75 season is pretty special.

The only thing left is the Silver Chalice. And they look like one of the favorites for that honour as well this season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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