One (1), as in the number of points now separating the Capitals and the doomed Carolina Hurricanes for first place in the Southeast Division. One (1), as in the number of points now separating Alex Ovechkin and Vincent Lecavalier for…second place in overall scoring. Hmm. Would have been a nice little parallel there if Daniel Alfredsson hadn’t gone on his little seven-point tear last night. One (1), as in the one year contract extension given to good guy Donald Brashear.
It’s been quite the steady and methodical rise, with nary a relapse into pre-Thanksgiving underachieving. Likewise has Ovie’s rise in the scoring ranks been steady and methodical, as he consistently has put up 2-and-3-point nights over the last couple of months, eschewing any type of temporary Alfredssonian binge and gradually taking over various offensive categories. Ilya Kovalchuk: chased down and passed for the goal-scoring lead. Alfredsson and Lecavalier: destined to be chased down and passed for point supremacy, bringing an Art Ross trophy to Washington. Jarome Iginla: languishing four goals behind in the power-play goal department. Henrik Zetterberg: the best of the rest in shots on goal, 48 behind Alex the shooting machine (one almost wishes Alex and shotblocker extraordinaire Quentin Laing could somehow square off, but then one remembers Chris Clark’s ear and thinks better of that wish).
The Capitals are becoming quite a nice turnaround story, even if most of the league and the expert world don’t yet notice. Many just seem intent on mourning the Sid-less All-Star Game. That is, when they’re not christening his teammates as the NHL’s new savior. Ross McKeon, in his “the world is over because Sidney is hurt” column, takes the requisite shot at the Caps, calling them a bad team based on the spurious logic that they fired their coach this season and so must be bad, regardless of results since that point; results like a 16-7-4 record and zero back-to-back regulation losses in two months. But no, they’re just a bad team. McKeon also seems to subscribe to the theory of the Eternally Fixed Number of True Hockey Cities (known in the scientific community as the Cherry Constant), since he deridingly calls Atlanta a hotbed of hockey. Creative, that.
Foolish and ignorant sportswriters aside, great things await the Capitals post-All-Star Break. The Hurricanes are numbering their days in first place and packing for a long-term stay with the 10th seed in the East. With the Caps poised to make the big move to 3rd, let’s take a look at who’s waiting in 6th as a potential playoff opponent: Pittsburgh! But wait, what if lil’ Sid is still be a bit hobbled by his high ankle sprain in April? Cancel the playoffs!!!!