Shouts of “M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!” caromed off the walls of the Phone Booth on Tuesday night as the Washington Capitals locked up another Southeast Division title, their fifth in six years. In what was an up and down game, the Caps eventually came out on top, both in the game and in the division. Second chances were the theme for the Capitals in a must-win game last night. John Erskine provided a second line of defense for Holtby on two separate occasions last night, sacrificing his body at the goal line on one, and swatting a bouncing puck away on the second, providing players, coaches, and fans with some serenity. Hendricks tallied the first goal for the Capitals on a shot off of the back of netminder, Pavelec, to set the tone.Chimera scored the second goal after initially being denied before putting away the rebound. Perreault’s goal, the same. Alex Ovechkin, the obvious recipient of the “MVP” chants, recorded the insurance goal in the final minute and assisted on another with a beautiful 5-hole pass to Backstrom. Washington wins 5-3.
Ovechkin has his eye on both the Hart Trophy (MVP) and the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (most goals scored) for the third time in his career. He won both the Hart Trophy and “Rocket” Richard Trophy in ’07-’08 and ’08-’09. Sidney Crosby is in conversation MVP as well, as he still leads all players in points despite his missed time due to injury. However, the Penguins have posted an 8-3 record in Crosby’s absence, weakening his case for most valuable player. Ovi currently leads all goal scorers in the NHL with 31, his latest tally securing a playoff berth last night for the Capitals with 30 seconds left in the game. Washington has piggybacked off of the Great 8’s goal scoring outburst, clinching a playoff berth in the process. While not all credit should be given to Ovi for the team’s performance, there’s no question he has been the catalyst for their late season surge. What a turnaround Oates, the boys in red, and these fans got to witness over the course of the season. Washington started slowly with an 0-4 record that quickly turned to 2-8, and eventually to 12-16-1. Fans and analysts wrote them off; their record a mere product of a new coach implementing a new system in a lockout shortened season. It seemed comfortable, almost their destiny, to be sitting at or near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Premature. As of March 21, the Caps boast a 14-2-1 record, best in the league over that stretch. Since late March, things have clicked for Washington and head coach, Adam Oates – their record a result of patience and composure. The Caps have clinched the third seed in the playoffs with two games to spare and cannot do better or worse than the three-slot. Multiple teams with more points will likely be out-seeded by Washington.
As of today the Washington Capitals would play host to the New York Islanders in the first round of the playoffs. The Islanders took the regular season series 2-1 and have not lost a game in April. They are a dangerously hot team heading into the postseason, posting an 8-0-3 record this month. However, Washington is the hottest team in the league and has been over a longer stretch of time. A seven-game series will be a tough test for any team in the league against a red hot Washington. Currently ranked 4th in goals per game, they can score at will. Goaltending throughout the year has proven to be solid with two capable netminders in Holtby and Neuvirth. Washington has allowed three goals or more only four times in April. They could not be in better position heading into the postseason. For the sixth straight year, DC fans will be rocking the red, packing the Phone Booth, and crowding area bars when the playoffs start on April 30 .
As a Caps fan I could not be more excited.
**Look for a preview of the Capitals first playoff series after playoff seeds and teams have been finalized.**