Carolina is still doomed. Tonight’s little 2-1 setback against the Hurricanes does little to change that. The Capitals can make up this single point deficit the same way they made up the double-digit deficit that existed back in November. The statement has been made: they can come back from anything, so it’s not the biggest loss in the world that they slip back into second place for the time being. Plus, there’s still that huge game in hand over Carolina, which the Hurricanes can’t hid from forever. Sooner or later that game will translate into the two points the Caps need to jump back ahead.
Once again, the Caps stared down a 2-0 score. Once again they didn’t panic and subsequently give up a flood of goals. They produced numerous chances to score, and though the power play wasn’t quite up to snuff tonight, there were long stretches of sustained, encouraging pressure put on the Hurricanes. It was enough to rile up the 18,000+ in attendance and make it the loudest game I’ve been to this season. When Alex Semin finished off a seemingly eternal puck possession with his 14th goal, it looked like another comeback from 2-down was on the way. Not to be, but this thing is far from over.
It’s probably inevitable, given the logjam that is the Southeast division, that we’ll see plenty of lead changes over the last 26 games of the season. But there’s a key difference amongst the competitors.
There are four teams in this tight division race that have been playing poor to mediocre hockey all season. They are named the Hurricanes, Panthers, Thrashers, and Lightning. The Capitals, on the other hand, have been playing above average to elite hockey in the two-plus months since the definitive turning point of the rise of Bruce II. That all spells Caps division title, regardless of the jockeying we see from here until mid-April.