Don’t look now, but the Capitals are just a point away from the top spot in the Eastern Conference. OK, technically the first-place Flyers still have two games in hand, but it’s close enough now to consider Washington as the No. 1 seed.
Shh … don’t tell Bruce Boudreau.
“I don’t wanna think about it because to me, yeah, it’s a nice feather in your cap and we got a nice little trophy for winning the President’s Cup last year. But in the end, I don’t care if we’re eighth or first,” he said. “I gotta believe the eight can beat the one. It’s happened, I think.”
Well, yes, it has happened. But now let me add something Flyers coach Peter Laviolette has said many times this season: His goal is that top seed because it ensures four rounds of home-ice advantage.
Anybody think the second-best home team in the NHL wouldn’t like to have that advantage through at least the Eastern Conference finals? Absolutely.
As Boudreau pointed out, being the No. 1 seed and having the best record in the entire league last season got the Caps a shiny trophy – but not the one they wanted. Last year’s Cup finalists – Philadelphia and Chicago – didn’t finish atop their respective conferences, and the Flyers were the seventh seed.
The key is just getting in.
“So as long as we get in and we get a chance to go to that party, I think we’ll give somebody a tough go,” Boudreau said.
The reason for a lot of playoff talk all of a sudden doesn’t just have to do with the fact that April is a few weeks away, as Sunday featured a milestone win for the Caps. Their 4-3 overtime victory against the Blackhawks got them to the magical 90-point mark, which is usually enough to guarantee a playoff berth.
Naturally the Caps won’t lose out, barring some unforeseen circumstances, so the rest of the season they can be greedy and fight for positioning – even if Boudreau isn’t thinking about No. 1
“Now we haven’t guaranteed anything,” Boudreau said. “But … we’ve got 90 points now, so we’re at least in the hunt for thinking that we’re gonna make the playoffs and looking for more.”
Boudreau-ism of day
On Marcus Johansson setting up Mike Knuble’s game-winner, minutes after his hooking penalty helped the Blackhawks tie the score on the power play.
“I still really haven’t seen the goal; everybody was standing up. But I’m sure Marcus wanted to work doubly hard on that shift because he felt responsible for them getting the tying. Even though I thought it was a pretty chintzy call.”
Boudreau said one way to prove all his forward lines are playing well is to look at the score sheet. If their minutes are fairly equal, it means they’re all contributing, he said.
“It’s a nice thing to see,” Boudreau said, “but that’s why you win – when everybody contributes.”
A glance at those numbers showed that balance in Sunday’s win over the Blackhawks. No Caps forward played less than 10:26 (Jason Chimera, who missed five minutes for fighting), and no Caps forward played more than 20:24 (Alex Ovechkin).
“[All the lines] were all good. That’s why I didn’t shorten the bench, because all four lines were going,” Boudreau said. “You’ll see me shorten the bench pretty easily if I deem that I don’t think certain players or certain lines aren’t going.”