New fatherhood agrees with Capitals defenseman Jack Hillen.
Hillen’s second son, Knox Patrick, was born April 6. Hillen has three goals this season, the third of which came Tuesday night as the Caps smoked the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-1 for their eighth straight victory.
The other two have also come since Knox was born. If this keeps up, the youngster is going to grow up thinking his last name is Gretzky.
“It’s funny. I don’t even know what to say about that,” Hillen said. “Need to have more kids, I guess.”
Whatever works. The Caps are on quite a roll and a huge part of it is the play of captain Alex Ovechkin and the team’s other stars like Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Ribeiro, Troy Brouwer, John Carlson and Mike Green.
Ovechkin, the league-leader in goals who has made himself into an MVP candidate, had his 28th goal of the shortened season against the Leafs. He also had an assist and a huge hit that drew a penalty but served to rally his teammates after Ovechkin took exception to a hit on Backstrom.
Backstrom was scoreless Tuesday, but he has 38 assists this season. Ribeiro added two assists to give him 31 on the year. Green had two assists, as did Carlson. Brouwer had a goal.
But there is more to this streak than the play of those expected to play at such a high level. Steve Oleksy’s play on defense, Hillen’s solid defense as well as his scoring surge, Jason Chimera showing he still has “it” – pretty much the entire roster is playing at a high level.
“Those role players, those secondary players, are playing very, very well,” Brouwer said. “Sometimes they get overshadowed because of the players we have on this team. (Eric) Fehr has been playing phenomenal, Matt (Perreault) is on a pretty good point streak right now and always contributing.
“Those guys are crucial to our wins. Your star players can take you far. You need those role players to help you along.”
Hillen might be the flagbearer of that crew. In his first year with the Caps, his season got off to a bad start when he was injured in the opener. He missed 24 games and became almost a forgotten man.
Hillen was excused from practice Monday. He left early Sunday for a whirlwind trip home to Minnesota to see Knox for the first time, as well his wife, Caitlin, and older son, Finn. They packed a lot into the visit, including Knox’s baptism and first visit to the doctor.
“A great trip home,” Hillen said. “I’m going to try and get them out here and get some help for them. It was good to at least get to see them for a couple of days.