Last night, the world of professional hockey changed for the Washington Capitals. Last night, their division rivals - the Florida Panthers took the control of leadership of the Southeast Division from the Carolina Hurricanes and handed to the red hot Caps.
Today's challenge facing the Capitals is retaining control of their destiny and clinching the division from those same Florida Panthers. The Caps have been RED hot the past three weeks and are 9-1-0 in their last 10 games. Caps goalies - Christobel Huet and Olaf Kolzig have been very good, indeed almost flawless since the trade deadline deal that brought Huet to the Caps; in the last 17 games they have a combined GAA of 1.71. Unfortunately, the Florida Panthers have been playing very well recently as well, have a very good, hot goaltender in Tomas Vokoun who played superbly last night in Raleigh, and the Panthers are riding the emotional high that comes with breaking an 0-14 streak at Carolina last night. The Panthers are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. Vokoun is 30-29-8, has a Save % of 0.919, and his GAA is 2.68 for the season, he left last nights game after the first period with back spasms. However, last night Vokoun and backup Craig Anderson jointly had a save percentage of 93.5% stopping 43 of the 46 shots the 'Canes threw at them. The Panthers also blanked the Hurricanes' power play on NINE (9) occasions. Clearly, the Panthers are playing for something as dear to them as the playoff spot is to the Capitals - RESPECT. While no one need tell Coach Boudreau and the Capitals it would be a mistake to look past the Panthers; it would be a mistake to look past Florida tonight. Another "Biggest Game of the Season" and another RED OUT at Verizon Center tonight. If the Caps win - as the saying goes they're in. If they lose - well that isn't worth talking about. No predictions other than the Caps will be flying tonight, and as long as they do that and play their game, in a variant on a quote from "Any Given Sunday" they will be great. No predictions other than it will be a great end to a really great season no matter what. Unfortunately, it'll take 93 points, not the conventional wisdom 92 points, to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference this year. LETS GO CAPS!!!!