The Hurricanes went through 65 minutes of hockey and a shootout without putting a single puck past Cristobal Huet with their sticks and yet somehow came away with a point that likely seals the deal on a Southeast Division title.
On the plus side, of course, the Caps banked another two points. But with both Philly and Boston winning and Carolina's lead at four points with five games to play, the reality is that the Caps gained next-to-nothing of value last night - they treaded water in the Conference and got one point closer in a Division that the 'Canes can wrap up with any combination of six points gained by them or not gained by the Caps with five games remaining for each team (in other words, if the Caps go 4-1 and Carolina goes 2-3, the 'Canes clinch).
As for that eighth spot, the Flyers have a magic number of seven with respect to the Caps with the same number of games left. Boston has a magic number of nine, but the B's have a game in hand on the Caps.
In summary (and if my math is correct), if the Caps finish 5-0, Carolina finish 3-2, Philly finishes 3-1-1 and Boston finishes 4-1-1, the Caps are out; if the Caps finish 4-1, Carolina finishes 2-3, Philly finishes 2-2-1 and Boston finishes 3-2-1, the Caps are out, and so on. Here's what each team has left:
- Washington: @ TB, @ FLA, CAR, TB, FLA
- Carolina: ATL, @ TB, @ WSH, TB, FLA
- Philadelphia: @ NJ, @ NYI, @ PIT, NJ, PIT
- Boston: TOR, OTT, @ BUF, @ NJ, @ OTT, BUF
Back to last night, some quick thoughts on the game:
- Huet has had a season's worth of fluky goals against in his month in D.C. And not to kick a man when he's down, but if I had a dime for every time I said to myself "Olie doesn't make that save," I'd have a buck or so.
- The team has been playing tight for a while now, with no one wanting to make a mistake. This is especially apparent in the conservative play of the defense, which hasn't scored a goal in March, but Boudreau's Flying Circus has been more or less reduced to an unreal first line, a very good power play, and any occasionally strong forecheck. They now have one non-empty net goal from someone other than a first-liner in their last five games (Matt Bradley's tally against Nashville).
- My guess is that Nicklas Backstrom won't win the Calder, in large part because people haven't watched the Caps enough to move past an "anyone could score on a line with Ovechkin" mentality, but the fact of the matter is he's as complete and mature a player as there is in this year's rookie class. His play on the Ovechkin goal - taking a bad drop pass from Viktor Kozlov and eventually putting it on a wide open AO's stick - was superb.
- Sergei Fedorov took 30 faceoffs (the most he's taken in a game since January 14, 2006 when he was a Blue Jacket and took 36 draws in a game against Florida), winning 16. On the night, the Caps won 59% of the faceoffs (it's nice to have Rod Brind'Amour and Matt Cullen out, eh?).
- Scott Walker ought to learn how to play the game under control.
- Sure, David A. Jensen played for D.C., but I think Joe B. was referring to Al Jensen when he noted that 'Canes forward Joe Jensen is no relation to the former Cap with the same last name.
- The Caps were out-hit 41 to 21. That's a bit of home-cookin', but there's no question Carolina carried the physical play.
- I hate Erik Cole, and by that I mean I respect him and wish he was on my team. I don't hate Eric Staal quite the same way.
- Thanks, Comcast - I didn't want to see the first shot of the shootout anyway.
- Cam Ward was fantastic.
- What are we going to do with Alex Semin? The guy's on a 40+ goal pace over his last 41 games (half a season) and has all the skill in the world, but has the hockey sense of a rabbit.
- Oh yeah, Alex Ovechkin scored Number 61, with no asterisk.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Happy Birthday to my little brother Pooh.... The Leafs and Sabres bloggers have called it a season. If the Panthers had bloggers, they would too. That leaves only one team on the outside looking in in the East, and we all know who that is.... Joe Finley + Bucky + haiku = awesome.
- Hart: Joe Thornton (3G, including two in the third period to send the game to OT, A)
- Ross: Joe Thornton (4 points)
- Norris: Anton Volchenkov (Game-winning goal, 2A, +3, 2 SOG, 2 Hits, 2 BkS)
- Vezina: Marc-Andre Fleury (31-save shutout win)
- Richard: Joe Thornton (3G)
- Calder: Nicklas Backstrom (2A, +1, 4 SOG, 67% faceoffs won)
- Aiken: Vesa Toskala (L, 5 goals allowed on 29 shots against)