Caps: Don’t Stop Believin’
The Washington Capitals stormed into a tie for first place in the Southeast Division tonight with a 4-1 pounding of the Carolina Hurricanes amidst a sea of fans wearing red at the Verizon Center. During the final two minutes, the Caps adopted theme song by Journey, “Don’t Stop Believin’,” blared throughout the arena with many fans joining in just shortly after several chants of “M-V-P, M-V-P” were yelled in honor of Alexander Ovechkin. The Great #8 notched his 63rd goal of the season in spectacular fashion once again tonight taking a puck on wheels with his back to the net and then spinning and firing it off the far post and past Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward all in one motion. That goal sealed the deal for Washington with just less than four minutes remaining in the hockey game. Cristobal Huet was in net for Washington and turned in a very good effort stopping 21 of 22 shots including a crucial one on Scott Walker with the score 2-1 in the second period.
The Caps have now won five games in a row and nine of their last 10 as they attempt to do the “what seemed like impossible” back in November and make the playoffs. Now Washington must win both of its final two home games against Tampa Bay and Florida and hope for one of the following to occur:
Carolina does not go 2-0 in their final two games against Florida and Tampa Bay. [Caps win Southeast Division in this scenario]
Philadelphia does not go better than 1-1-1 in their last three games (at Pittsburgh, New Jersey, and Pittsburgh). [Caps get the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference in this scenario]
Boston does not go better than 1-1-1 in their last three games (at New Jersey, at Ottawa, and Buffalo). [Caps get the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference in this scenario]
So there is still much work to be done for Washington and the task is even harder considering that the Caps lost one of their top three defensemen tonight when Shaone Morrisson left in the first period with an apparently serious shoulder injury. With Morrisson out of the lineup now it looks like Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau will give additional ice time to Tom Poti, Mike Green, and Jeff Schultz and get by with Milan Jurcina, John Erskine, and likely Sami Lepisto as the last three on defense giving them the remaining minimal ice time. I just don’t see Boudreau having confidence in putting former first round draft pick Steve Eminger on the ice in these two crucial games.
Other key performances were turned in tonight by forward Matt Cooke, who has been everything that was expected coming from Vancouver at the trade deadline, and Alexander Semin, who took a pass from Mike Green between his legs, knocked it down, and then fired it over a sprawling Ward on a power play in the second period to give the Caps a 3-1 advantage.
Tickets should still be available for the contests on Thursday and Saturday night so grab them up quick, put on your red jersey, and head to DC to help the team make the playoffs.
On Hockey Night in Canada radio today (Sirius Channel 122 from 4-8pm) host Jeff Marek was like a kid in a candy store as he awaited the big Caps-Carolina game tonight talking about the huge matchup throughout the program. Last week Marek sent me an email explaining that he had to be impartial as a journalist but as a fan he really wanted to see the Caps make the playoffs because of how exciting they are to watch, especially Ovechkin. Coach Boudreau has made several radio appearances on the program this season.
The playoff races are as exciting as ever and tonight the thriller of the evening was in St. Louis where the Blues raced to an early three goal lead over the Nashville Predators and put Nashville’s playoff chances on high alert. However, the Preds came back strong and won the game, 4-3, in OT to keep the pressure on Calgary, Vancouver, and Colorado for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Nashville needs to win their last two games to make it and they face St. Louis again on Thursday before closing the season in Chicago on Friday. Dan Ellis started in net tonight for Nashville but was pulled after giving up three goals on seven shots before Chris Mason came in and shut the Blues down stopping all 10 shots he faced. Look for Mason to get the nod in net the next two games after tonight’s performance. I’m pulling for Barry Trotz (former Skipjacks coach) and former Caps GM David Poile to make the playoffs.
Speaking of Calgary, they won a huge game in Edmonton tonight, 2-1, to put the Flames at 92 points and very close to clinching a playoff spot. Meanwhile they likely sent their arch rival Oilers to the golf course for the second straight season.
The race for first place in the Eastern Conference is now deadlocked between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Montreal Canadiens after Montreal blanked Ottawa, 3-0, tonight. The Habs are playing without injured defensemen Mike Komisarek but they continue to get solid goaltending from Carey Price who is now 21-12-3 on the season. Price stopped 32 shots in tonight’s win.
Wednesday night is can’t miss TV for Caps fans who have the Centre Ice package as Carolina, Boston, and Philadelphia all are in action.