The Washington Capitals weren’t ready for their HBO close-up in the middle of the 2010-11 NHL campaign, but they’re firing on all pistons as the regular season draws to a close and nearing the very top of the THN.com Power Rankings.
Although Alex Ovechkin has missed the Caps’ past three games nursing an undisclosed but minor injury, Washington has won two of those three games and 12 of its past 14. The Caps are getting solid goaltending as Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby have both posted shutouts over the past 10 days and the team has posted an impressive 11-2-0 mark in March.
Even better, Washington’s final six games appear to be as close to a cakewalk as it gets in the NHL these days. Only one comes against a team currently in a playoff position (Buffalo), while the rest - single games against Carolina, Columbus and Toronto and a pair of matchups against Florida - will not require Herculean efforts from the Caps.
They won’t repeat as Presidents’ Trophy winners, but the Caps still can overtake the Philadelphia Flyers for first in the Eastern Conference. In any case, that’s not the Capitals’ ultimate concern - and with their recent hot streak, they’ll have time to focus on that ultimate concern: the Stanley Cup.
Nucks have first 50-win season in franchise history, but it won’t mean a thing if they’re not as dominant this spring
With or without Alex Ovechkin, Caps are rounding into peak form for playoffs
Inconsistent Flyers have managed just a pair of two-win streaks since mid-February
Stellar Sharks have just two games this week, but both against playoff-desperate teams (Dallas on Thursday, Anaheim on Saturday)
Coach Dan Bylsma has worked wonders without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin
Wings went 0-2-1 against Preds, Pens and Canucks last week
Stingy Yotes have allowed just 14 goals in their past nine games
Injuries to Justin Williams, Anze Kopitar will test Kings’ depth
Five of Bruins’ final seven games come against non-playoff teams (Leafs, Thrashers, Isles, Sens and Devils)
Does anyone want to face Pekka Rinne in the first round of the playoffs? Didn’t think so
Corey Perry now leading the NHL in goals (44), fifth in points (85)
After struggling all season, Rangers finally learning how to win at home, taking four of past five at MSG
Hawks have dropped five of their past eight games, still no lock for playoffs
Bolts stumbling toward regular season finish line with just three wins in March (3-6-4)
Four losses in past five games have Habs fans gnawing on their cuticles
Sabres haven’t lost two straight games or more since three-game skid in mid-February
If Stars didn’t go 3-8-1 in February, they wouldn’t be in dogfight for one of West’s final playoff berths
Flames should be commended for rebounding from disastrous start, but they look out of gas
Only two of Canes’ final seven games are against non-playoff teams (Isles and Thrashers)
James Reimer for rookie of the year? Sorry Leafs fans, but Messrs. Skinner, Couture and Grabner have something to say about that
Despite heroic comeback, Devils will miss playoffs for the first time since 1995-96
Chris Stewart has 11 goals, 15 points in 19 games since trade from Avs
Thrashers playing better, but at this point in the season it’s simply too late
Looks like Rick DiPietro will have to beat Al Montoya for Isles’ starting goalie job next season
Jackets were 31-24-6 at the end of February, but their March record (2-7-5) was final nail in their disappointing season’s coffin
Have to think big changes are coming for disintegrating Wild
Senators went 8-5-1 in March, but is that a case of playing well without any pressure?
Panthers have won just seven of 27 games since the end of January
Canucks have more road wins this season than Oilers have total wins
Brutal Avs have one regulation time win (and three wins in total) since Jan. 26
The Hockey News ranks the teams 1-30 each Monday based on a combination of last week’s play and a squad’s overall outlook.
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