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Comeback Capitals

The Washington Capitals have 98 points, two behind the conference-leading Philadelphia Flyers. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

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The Washington Capitals have 98 points, two behind the conference-leading Philadelphia Flyers. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Washington Capitals weren’t ready for their HBO close-up in the middle of the 2010-11 NHL campaign, but they’re firing on all pistons as the regular season draws to a close and nearing the very top of the THN.com Power Rankings.

Although Alex Ovechkin has missed the Caps’ past three games nursing an undisclosed but minor injury, Washington has won two of those three games and 12 of its past 14. The Caps are getting solid goaltending as Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby have both posted shutouts over the past 10 days and the team has posted an impressive 11-2-0 mark in March.

Even better, Washington’s final six games appear to be as close to a cakewalk as it gets in the NHL these days. Only one comes against a team currently in a playoff position (Buffalo), while the rest - single games against Carolina, Columbus and Toronto and a pair of matchups against Florida - will not require Herculean efforts from the Caps.

They won’t repeat as Presidents’ Trophy winners, but the Caps still can overtake the Philadelphia Flyers for first in the Eastern Conference. In any case, that’s not the Capitals’ ultimate concern - and with their recent hot streak, they’ll have time to focus on that ultimate concern: the Stanley Cup.

THE HOCKEY NEWS POWER RANKINGS
RK.
TEAM
LW
OVERALL
P10
THE SCOOP

1

Vancouver Canucks

1

50-17-9

9-1-0

Nucks have first 50-win season in franchise history, but it won’t mean a thing if they’re not as dominant this spring

2

Washington Capitals

2

44-22-10

8-2-0

With or without Alex Ovechkin, Caps are rounding into peak form for playoffs

3

Philadelphia Flyers

4

45-20-10

5-1-4

Inconsistent Flyers have managed just a pair of two-win streaks since mid-February

4

San Jose Sharks

5

44-23-9

6-1-3

Stellar Sharks have just two games this week, but both against playoff-desperate teams (Dallas on Thursday, Anaheim on Saturday)

5

Pittsburgh Penguins

7

45-23-8

8-2-0

Coach Dan Bylsma has worked wonders without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin

6

Detroit Red Wings

3

44-22-9

5-3-2

Wings went 0-2-1 against Preds, Pens and Canucks last week

7

Phoenix Coyotes

9

41-25-11

7-2-1

Stingy Yotes have allowed just 14 goals in their past nine games

8

Los Angeles Kings

11

43-26-6

7-1-2

Injuries to Justin Williams, Anze Kopitar will test Kings’ depth

9

Boston Bruins

10

42-23-10

4-4-2

Five of Bruins’ final seven games come against non-playoff teams (Leafs, Thrashers, Isles, Sens and Devils)

10

Nashville Predators

13

41-25-10

8-1-1

Does anyone want to face Pekka Rinne in the first round of the playoffs? Didn’t think so

11

Anaheim Ducks

12

42-28-5

7-3-0

Corey Perry now leading the NHL in goals (44), fifth in points (85)

12

New York Rangers

15

41-30-5

8-1-1

After struggling all season, Rangers finally learning how to win at home, taking four of past five at MSG

13

Chicago Blackhawks

6

40-26-8

5-3-2

Hawks have dropped five of their past eight games, still no lock for playoffs

14

Tampa Bay Lightning

14

40-24-11

3-3-4

Bolts stumbling toward regular season finish line with just three wins in March (3-6-4)

15

Montreal Canadiens

8

40-29-7

4-6-0

Four losses in past five games have Habs fans gnawing on their cuticles

16

Buffalo Sabres

17

38-28-9

6-3-1

Sabres haven’t lost two straight games or more since three-game skid in mid-February

17

Dallas Stars

16

38-26-10

4-3-3

If Stars didn’t go 3-8-1 in February, they wouldn’t be in dogfight for one of West’s final playoff berths

18

Calgary Flames

18

38-28-11

4-4-2

Flames should be commended for rebounding from disastrous start, but they look out of gas

19

Carolina Hurricanes

21

35-30-10

4-5-1

Only two of Canes’ final seven games are against non-playoff teams (Isles and Thrashers)

20

Toronto Maple Leafs

20

34-32-10

5-4-1

James Reimer for rookie of the year? Sorry Leafs fans, but Messrs. Skinner, Couture and Grabner have something to say about that

21

New Jersey Devils

19

34-36-5

4-5-1

Despite heroic comeback, Devils will miss playoffs for the first time since 1995-96

22

St. Louis Blues

25

34-32-9

6-4-0

Chris Stewart has 11 goals, 15 points in 19 games since trade from Avs

23

Atlanta Thrashers

26

32-31-12

6-3-1

Thrashers playing better, but at this point in the season it’s simply too late

24

New York Islanders

22

29-35-12

4-3-3

Looks like Rick DiPietro will have to beat Al Montoya for Isles’ starting goalie job next season

25

Columbus Blue Jackets

27

33-31-11

2-5-3

Jackets were 31-24-6 at the end of February, but their March record (2-7-5) was final nail in their disappointing season’s coffin

26

Minnesota Wild

23

35-32-8

1-7-2

Have to think big changes are coming for disintegrating Wild

27

Ottawa Senators

28

29-37-10

6-3-1

Senators went 8-5-1 in March, but is that a case of playing well without any pressure?

28

Florida Panthers

24

29-36-11

3-5-2

Panthers have won just seven of 27 games since the end of January

29

Edmonton Oilers

29

23-41-11

1-6-3

Canucks have more road wins this season than Oilers have total wins

30

Colorado Avalanche

30

28-38-8

2-8-0

Brutal Avs have one regulation time win (and three wins in total) since Jan. 26

The Hockey News ranks the teams 1-30 each Monday based on a combination of last week’s play and a squad’s overall outlook.

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