Apr 23, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) and Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (19) celebrate after scoring a goal against the Winnipeg Jets in the second period at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Winnipeg Taps, Caps Crash the Net and Playoffs

Job well done by the good guys. Last night’s game was undoubtedly a playoff atmosphere from start to finish, albeit against a team not currently in the playoff picture. Regardless, the Caps came out and took care of business and clinched the division. I can’t wait to not care about Winnipeg box scores. But let’s just take a moment to step back and really breathe in this type of consistency from a D.C. sports team. Forget what happens once in the playoffs, the Caps have made the postseason six straight times! Forget about being in the worst division in hockey history, the Caps have won five out of six division crowns! (It really is six straight– the Caps finished second to Florida last year, despite having four more WINS… Don’t get me started.) I am absolutely convinced that I won’t see a run like this (which is nothing to cities like New York, Boston, L.A.,) for the rest of my life. And yes, this conviction comes while knowing RGIII is still alive and under contract. Anyways, back to the game:

Hendricks and Chimera forced their way onto the scoresheet in the first period in a way that gave me flashbacks to last spring’s gritty Caps team. It was like they wanted to bruise the goalie before scoring. All four lines were playing with the urgency and aggression that was needed against a team playing the second night of a back to back. The Caps were in playoff mode, crashing the net with abandon. That’s how their first four goals were scored. This is a good trend, because the “sauce” isn’t going to be there every night, and playoff hockey demands that you be able to put the puck in the net in the ugliest ways possible. I’m excited, because this speaks to the team-wide confidence that Oates is building. In sports, you can’t focus and garner results without confidence. Before each game, every team knows how and what to execute, but if a team doesn’t have confidence it will not matter. Obviously, the Caps knew how they had to play last night. I was just wondering if they were going to do it. The physical skills become second nature, the mental skills are what separate good teams from great teams. The Caps are winning in all sorts of ways the last couple months, and the confidence keeps on building. I believe the sports proverbs fit for this context are, the Caps are “getting hot at the right time,” and, hopefully, “not peaking too soon.”

I blocked out most of the negatives from this game out of sheer willpower. Now that I’m trying to remember, I’m having flashes of Erskine making multiple goal-line stands, I feel like Holtby would like a few back, and I feel like the Caps got one measly power play. Whatever. Winning cures all.

How much fun was Ovie’s empty-netter? Great all-around moment for the Verizon Center crowd there, with all this team has been through this season and all that the game meant last night. Really fun to see Ovie flying around out there all the way to the end of games. The disgruntled among us probably only think about Ovie as a defensive liability in those situations, and I used to agree, but think about it this way: how scary is Ovie for opponents when they don’t have a goalie in net? That has got to weigh heavy on the mind, knowing that one slip up and Ocho, the deadliest goal scorer of the last decade, is most likely barreling towards your empty net. He laid some serious wood on that slapper last night, good heavens that one was screaming. Serious props to whichever Jets player decided to pose as a goalie for that one. I’m loving it, even if his accuracy from the neutral zone is evidently atrocious. Onward and upward.

Tags: Alex Ovechkin Braden Holtby Jason Chimera John Erskine Matt Hendricks NHL Washington Capitals Winnipeg Jets

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