'Your papers, please' must never be heard in America
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The Caps will have to go through a tougher division to make the playoffs and then to reach the East finals. They won the Southeast Division five of the past six seasons but went 8-10-2 against the Penguins, Rangers, Islanders, Devils, Flyers and Hurricanes this year.
It's Washington's sixth straight playoff appearance and fifth division championship in that time. It's also something that would have been difficult to envision at several points earlier this season. The Caps started 2-8-1 and were at the bottom of the NHL standings.
For the first 10 minutes Thursday night, the Caps didn't register a shot. But in beating the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1, they rolled to their sixth straight victory.
A groin injury kept Laich out for the first 28 games of the season with a groin injury, and he has missed the past three. He suffered a lower-body injury Thursday that coach Adam Oates said negatively impacts Laich's groin.
Ovechkin is hot and he's carrying the Caps along for the ride. Sure, others are playing well. Sure, they don't do anything without being a team and all that. But let's make one thing clear — Alex Ovechkin rows that boat.
The Caps lead a division that could better be known as the Southeasy based largely on their 12-3 record against the Jets, Hurricanes, Lightning and Panthers. They're 9-14-2 against the rest of the Eastern Conference yet would earn the No. 3 seed in the playoffs if they maintain this lead.
General managers have voted to approve hybrid icing — racing to the faceoff dots instead of the puck — as one way to prevent injuries, but it's hard to find a consensus on the best way to handle the situation.
Fourteenth in the Eastern Conference on March 20, the Southeast Division lead was nine points away and looked like an impossible dream. A little more than two weeks later, the Caps are in first place and in a playoff position for the first time all season by virtue of their 2-1 shootout victory over the New York Islanders.
Jim Larranaga made his mark as a basketball coach years ago at places like Bowling Green and George Mason. This season, with his Miami Hurricanes enjoying unprecedented success, Larranaga showed he has impressive footwork.
Hendricks took a glove to the eye from Hurricanes forward Tim Brent as some pushing and shoving was going on. His vision was "a little disrupted" and he saw spots, but drops and a contact lens allowed him to continue about his business.
When the Washington Capitals raised four straight Southeast Division champions banners to the rafters of Verizon Center, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and Alexander Semin led the charge. Semin is gone to the Carolina Hurricanes, and the rest of the 'Young Guns' are a little older now but still dangerous when they're on like they were Tuesday night.
The Caps recalled Philipp Grubauer to serve as Braden Holtby's backup Sunday night at the Philadelphia Flyers, and the training staff will keep an eye on Neuvirth.
This week the Hurricanes signed Alexander Semin to a five-year, $35 million contract, the longest and most lucrative of the mercurial winger's NHL career. It's a bit more of a risk considering the tenure, but it's one Carolina made after Semin's strong performance so far.
John Erskine hopes to play by the weekend. Tomas Kundratek could be close to returning. Soon the Washington Capitals could have just about a healthy blue line again, which could require some roster juggling.
Braden Holtby made 19 saves and Alex Ovechkin had a goal and two assists as the Washington Capitals defeated the Winnipeg Jets 4-0 Thursday night. Nicklas Backstrom scored and had an assist for Washington (13-16-1), while Troy Brouwer and Marcus Johansson added goals as well.