Despite a spectacular performance by Toronto's net minder, James Reimer, the Capitals clinched their fourth consecutive Southeast Division title last night in a 3-2 shoot out win against the Leafs. You'll recall that the Division title looked to be clasped rather firmly in the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning when the Caps were struggling back in the dark days of December. Toronto came out hard against the visitors last evening, but our big, bad d-man John Erskine came out even harder, with some bone-crushing hits and a rare second period tally.
Much to the delight of Capitals fans, Alex Ovechkin seems to be peaking at exactly the right time. The Great Eight notched yet another milestone with his 300th career goal - a power play sizzler in the first period. Reaching the 300 mark also signifies that Ovi has averaged around 50 goals over his first six seasons as a Capital. He's on fire as of late, accruing points in 17 of his last 20 appearances - lighting the lamp 10 times and kicking in 16 assists during that time frame!
Of course, the game winning goal came at the hands of the trusty veteran Mike Knuble, when Gabby decided to line up the shoot out roster according to age. Yes sir, those elder statesmen Knuble and Arnott are aging like fine wine - Knuble has 23 goals on the season and both have vast playoff experience (with Arnott having actually hoisted Lord Stanley's vessel).
The Caps return to a playoff-ready Phone Booth tonight to meet the Florida Panthers. Rumors are swirling that tonight's game may see the return of Mike Green to the lineup. The race to the playoffs continues and the boys now occupy the top spot as the Flyers continue their late season struggles, falling last night to 14th place Ottawa. Philly has only two games left (against the Sabres and Islanders) to make up a two point deficit.
Though we love to loathe this team, HM has to applaud the Penguins (take note as this happens maybe once in never) for their new initiative to test local youth hockey players for concussion symptoms. The issue of head injuries has come front and center with Mike Green, Sidney Crosby, Marc Savard and a host of other NHLers suffering with the results this season, so it's vital that youth players, parents and coaches are aware of the signs and symptoms of concussions - which can be especially debilitating to youngsters.