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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Puckmania Weekly Blog: Ovie on Fire

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Puckmania Weekly Blog: Ovie on Fire
By Wild on Sports Analyst Josh Tarr

Game of the Week: Tuesday, April 9th. Capitals (3) @ Canadiens (2)

This was a big game for the Washington Capitals, who are suddenly the hottest team in hockey coming down the stretch. With an impressive road goal for Alex Ovechkin and a second consecutive solid performance in goal for Michal Neuvirth, the Capitals seem to be coming together at the perfect time. Until now, the Capitals have been criticized for not playing well on the road against good teams. Likewise, Ovechkin had been ridiculed for not scoring on the road against playoff teams. With a 3-2 Capitals win against one of the best teams in the East AND in one of the hardest buildings to play in across the league, the Capitals put both those criticisms to bed.

But what’s most impressive about Washington and their playoff bid?

Is it the fact that the Capitals we’re surely on the decline at the beginning of the season? Lingering around the bottom of the Eastern conference for the first month and a half of the season and having Adam Oates immediately fight for his job?

Is it the fact that they’re doing it with nearly an identical starting lineup as posted on opening night?

Could it be the increase of quality starts by the Holtby-Neuvirth tandem?

Or is it their sudden explosive production coming off of the first line?

Speaking of which, I would like to know where all the Alex Ovechkin haters have gone?

Up until the beginning of March, fans and experts around the league we’re beginning to claim that Ovechkin was washed up and a burden to the Capitals salary. Boy, has he proved them wrong. After scoring just 10 goals in his first 27 games, he now is tied for first in the league with 26 goals, only 13 games later, including 8 this past week and his two assists. His recent success, along with Crosby’s absence has put him back on top of the hockey world and has helped put the Capitals back on top of the Southeast Division. If Ovechkin and the Capitals remain this hot come May, watch out for this team as a potential Stanley Cup Champion.

Three Stars of the Week:

3: Cory Schneider & Brian Elliot (Van/Stl G)
In the last week, both of these Goaltenders went 3-0-0 with two shutouts. As impressive as those numbers are, two forwards on the Washington Capitals have put up even better numbers in the last 7 days.

2: Nicklas Backstrom (Wsh C)
When somebody is scoring all the goals on your line, somebody has to assist. In the case for the Washington Capitals first line, that guy would be Nicklas Backstrom. He played as good of hockey as anyone possibly can being in a top-3 without scoring a goal. He tallied 9 assists and a plus 5.

1: Alexander Ovechkin (Wsh RW)
I cannot believe how much switching to RW has paid off for Ovechkin and the Capitals. In five games this last week he has 8 goals, 2 assists and is a plus 7.  
Big Weekend Showdowns:
Saturday, April 13th - New York Rangers  vs.  New York Islanders  7pm
Huge playoff implications on the line in this one. If the playoffs started today they would both be in but with just 4 points separating 6th thru 10th in the East every game is a must win from here on out.
Sunday, April 14th - Detroit Red Wings  vs.  Nashville Predators  7:30pm
Can you imagine the NHL playoffs without the Detroit Red Wings? Right now they hold on the the #8 seed in the West but that race is even tighter than the East. Six teams are vying for the final playoff spot, with both the Red Wings and Predators very much in that mix. Nashville is on the outside looking in after four straight losses. Both teams desperately need this game. Should be a fun one to watch.

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