Enjoy this, kids. Is there much of it left? (WFP)
Friday night was another great night for the Washington Capitals as they humiliated the host Winnipeg Jets 6-1 on their home ice for a second consecutive win and a third in four games. Alex Ovechkin scored another two goals, one of which on the power play, to pace the Caps as they played another complete game to slowly eke further forward in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Mike Green, Jay Beagle, Troy Brouwer, and Brooks Laich also scored for Washington while Braden Holtby made 30 saves for another victory in the Washington cage. With their win, the Caps are now 14-16-1 for 29 standings points and, according to SportsClubStats, their chances of making the playoffs are up over 25%. Mercy.
The Jets came out hard and fast, desperate to get the sour taste of a Thursday night whitewashing out of their mouths by playing hard, physical hockey. That drew two early power plays for the home team, but the Caps killed them off brilliantly, setting the tone for the whole game. The Caps were dominated in possession in the first period but somehow found a way to be up 2-0 after 20 minutes because they took advantage of their chances and stifled the Jets’ power plays with great penalty killing. They carried their momentum through for the entire game and earned a brilliant result for the second consecutive night.
Mike Ribeiro sure is having himself a career year in a contract year. What a shocker. With these two wins in Canada increasing the Capitals’ playoff chances by several orders of magnitude, the decision on what to do with Ribeiro has become a lot more difficult. On one hand, Ribeiro is a great player who helps the Capitals’ offense. On the other, he would cost a fortune to re-sign, especially with the cap coming down, and would fetch a lot in a seller’s market at the deadline. I’ll have a post up on this later this week, but you need to consider that Ribeiro is having a dream season and is not likely to ever put up these type of MVP-numbers regularly, if ever again.
There’s really not much to say about Braden Holtby at this point other than he has taken the opportunity given him by Adam Oates to be this team’s number one goaltender and ran with it like he stole it. He might have, considering how he was thrust into the spotlight last spring, but you can’t argue with the way he is playing right now after a very poor start to the season. It’s a shame because of how talented he is, but you can almost hear the door closing on Michal Neuvirth’s tenure in Washington. A shame, really, given how talented he is. But sometimes, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, as sad as it is.
Mike Green scored a goal on Friday night as he continues to work his way back from another long absence because of a groin injury. The Caps’ best offensive defenseman made a particularly strong impact in this game on breakout passes; his first connect out of the zone is something that the Capitals truly missed while he was hurt and the positive change has been felt immediately. If Green can stay healthy, he gives this team a huge boost in their chase for a playoff spot, seemingly against all odds. What a wacky premise; a really good possession and offensive defenseman helps the team win games. The devil, you say.
This season is officially a roller-coaster. As Neil Greenberg pointed out during the game, the Capitals are 5-13-1 against non-Southeast Division opponents this year, so I’d like to see some consistent winning against teams not in the worst division in hockey before I get too excited. But at the same time, it’s impossible to ignore just how good they have looked over the last 36 hours against the leaders of said Division. It is quite the catch-doubly-deuce for a Washingto team that still does not have a real identity and has not had any consistency all year long. I still doubt that they are a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup, which is what matters, and that must play a role in the decision making going forward. Still, wins are nice.
Washington has Saturday off and will meet the Rangers for another critical game Sunday at Madison Square Garden. Big boy pants time as this team gears in for the playoff run – and the trade deadline is a little more than ten days away. Holy moly!
Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here for all your news needs this season.