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Top Line: What saved the Capitals, Blackhawks playoff-ready, more links

Capitals vs. Penguins A 2-1 loss to the sizzling Penguins in March apparently jolted the Capitals awake. (Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)

By Allan Muir

An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:

Braden Holtby says "something changed in our locker room," before back-to-back wins over Winnipeg on March 21 and 22 that turned the season around for the now red-hot Washington Capitals.

• Probably helps that the Caps have a coach who's been called "the smartest" by one legendary former NHLer.

• The Blackhawks survived a a playoff-style assault from the Blues to secure a 2-0 win. This was an impressive effort by Chicago, which managed to up its compete level every time St. Louis challenged the Hawks physically.

• The Blues played well enough to win on Sunday, but the lack of a finisher scuttled their chances.

• A 7-2-2 run has some people thinking that the Los Angeles Kings are peaking just in time to defend their 2012 Stanley Cup crown.

• Canadian hockey fans -- and broadcasters --are looking forward to a dream playoff match-up.

An old, ripped undershirt -- and maybe a more consistent effort - has helped Derick Brassard transition from the Blue Jackets to the Rangers.

• The Pittsburgh Penguins think that Alex Ovechkin deserves the Hart Trophy. Nah, I'm just messin' with ya. If they had a vote, which they don't, the hardware would go to Sidney Crosby.

Eric Hartzell didn't leave Pittsburgh with the prize he came for - -an NCAA title -- but the outstanding netminder for Quinnipiac nailed down a decent consolation: a one-year deal with the Penguins. Because of his age (24), that's the maximum contract length to which he could be signed, so basically that means he has the rest of this season to prove himself in the AHL. That could mean the end of Brad Thiessen's run in the organization.

• Although the math says they're still in the race, the playoff hopes of the Winnipeg Jets are being strangled by the strong play of the teams they're chasing and an injury to top defender Tobias Enstrom, who was deemed "week-to-week" last night.

A punchless offense has been Philadelphia's undoing down the stretch, but the Flyers might be looking for a blueliner with their first-round pick in the upcoming draft.

• From changing up their ties and their meals and their game-day routines, the New Jersey Devils are trying everything to break their nine-game losing streak. Everything? Until I hear they've poured some rum for Jobu, they haven't tried everything.

Filip Forsberg's NHL debut did not go unnoticed in Washington. Good thing the Caps are rolling right now. Watching the guy they traded away at the deadline put on a show with this creativity and ability to find space might otherwise have spoiled their weekends.

• They were pretty pleased about it in Nashville, too.

• The struggling Minnesota Wild could get a boost from the return of two-way forward Matt Cullen tonight.

• The Blue Jackets will be without key forward Artem Anisimov during the playoff stretch run. Adding insult to the injury, the Department of Player Safety chose not to discipline Minnesota's Charlie Coyle for the head shot that sent Anisimov to the sidelines.

• Tough news day in Denver, where the home team learned that former first-rounder Joey Hishon had suffered another head injury just before the Avs became the first team officially eliminated from the playoffs.

• The Panthers saw their time run out this weekend as well.

• Florida GM Dale Tallon is one of four GMs on the hot seat according to David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail.

Oilers' GM Steve Tambellini doesn't make that list, but they're calling for his head in Edmonton.

• Shoalts also lists his three favorites for the Jack Adams. Not sure how he misses Adam Oates...

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