The Caps have wrapped up the division, but if they want to add a cherry to their regular season achievements, they’ll go ahead and knock off Ottawa and Boston to finish the week, for a couple reasons.
Firstly, momentum is a precious thing. It is retained when injuries, scheduling, confidence, and the Sports Gods allow it. The Caps have it right now, and they must keep it under their thumb as they roll into the playoffs. They play their final two games at home, which benefits when it comes to rest and routine, and should allow the squad to remain fresh and focused. The fact that they play games one and two of their first round series at home serves as extra motivation to keep the train rolllin’, and inspiration comes from looking back at how that Los Angeles Kings team came together down the stretch last season. They got white hot at the same time and were able to parlay that into a Stanley Cup. Seems like a pretty good deal to me, let’s hope the Caps can muster that magic.
Secondly, extra motivation also comes from the opponents. Ottawa, currently in playoff position, is a possible first round matchup for Washington, and has beaten the Caps twice already this season. Boston, 1-0-1 against Washington this year, is currently the second seed in the conference, and would be a likely second round opponent for the Caps. This should serve as any and all motivation for Washington throughout the final week of the regular season, if they need any in the first place. Both teams have been a nuisance for the Caps this year, making it all the more important that D.C. heads into the playoffs with the fresh realization that they can handle those two competitors.
More specific than just collecting the W’s, there are a few in-game details that I’m looking for in the last two games. I’m really hoping Ovechkin can remain the 220lb. Jedi that he’s been the last couple months, for both the Rocket Richard trophy and the team’s playoff aspirations. He has been can’t-miss hockey for weeks now, and nobody in D.C. or the league’s office wants to see that stop now. I am also hoping for Holtby and the defense to have great games to finish out the week. The “hot goaltender” is step one of the playoff success manual, and it would really be great if Braden could build on the fantastic playoff debut he put together last year.
If these things happen, and Oates is able to continue to roll all four lines, someone is going to have to sedate me for round one. The onslaught of optimism might be too much for my frail, D.C. sports-fan body to handle all at once. Something has to knock me down a peg, and this is usually where the team does it for me. Here’s to hoping that they are too focused on finishing their business at hand to deliver me a gut punch.