The Washington Capitals' fragile playoffs took another big hit last night with a 2-1 loss in New Jersey, allowing the Devils to leap them in the chase for the East's wild card spots. Washington is four points behind Columbus, but given the Caps' low number of regulation/overtime wins (the first tiebreaker), they're essentially five points out with five games to go.
For them, tonight versus the New York Islanders is critical.
It's an early start (5 p.m. EDT) at the Coliseum, with enough narratives swirling around the Capitals to make this an ugly day for them if things go awry. To wit:
- The whole "Ovechkin isn't a leader" thing, characterized most recently by the "he quit on that play" line from his coach, which fed an eager media.
- Speaking of the coach, is Adam Oates even right for this job?
- And in goal, what happened to Braden Holtby, and are the Caps to blame?
After losing 2-1, the #Caps are now 1-41-8 when scoring two or fewer goals under Adam Oates.— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) April 5, 2014
So yeah, tonight could be fun. The Caps are just about done already, but if the Isles beat them and they go 0-for-2 on this New York swing ... well, two of their remaining opponents are the Blues and Blackhawks.
- Jaroslav Halak played for Washington last night, stopping 29 of 31.
- No Jack Hillen reunion. He's out hurt.
- Michael Grabner is nearing a return after practicing yesterday, though it would seem to be unnecessarily quick to put him in tonight.
UPDATE: The docs say play. The coach has him in. Grabner returns to the lineup, lining up with Brock Nelson and Cal Clutterbuck, replacing Johan Sundstrom. (Also: Evgeni Nabokov starts. You know, he was a Cap killer in a former life.)
- Of course, if and when he returns, one of the six rookie forwards is likely to sit out. However, both Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck sat out practice Friday with "maintenance."
- You know it won't be Ryan Strome sitting out. He's really come along nicely with his latest recall -- he's shown impressive defensive tenacity, which has helped set up transition. Here's a Q&A with the official site.
- FIG Picks: Leave your picks for the First Islanders Goal here.
- An update on the reported franchise sale talks, with the recently named bidder attempting to come up with more money.
- Recalling Mattias Weinhandl, the unfortunate former Sedin winger and Islanders draft pick.
- The NHL's Sunbelt Franchises: Why the Hate? Part 1 - Litter Box Cats
- Infograph: How the Winnipeg Jets buying out Ondrej Pavelec is the safest way to go - Arctic Ice Hockey
- From Larry Kwong to Brad Kwong, celebrating hockey’s rich Asian legacy | TheColorOfHockey
- And finally, some stats posts that are concise and well done: Why Stats Guys Conflate PDO With Luck - mc79hockey.com | Hockey Analytics is a Method, Part 1 - The Copper & Blue