Washington Capitals Heating Up

Washington Capitals - Ribeiro and Carlson

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s of this morning, the Washington Capitals were 10th place in the Eastern Conference. They sat two points behind the Rangers in 8th, but have played an extra game. Only five points separate them from the Winnipeg Jets, however, who sit in 3rd place as the Southeast Divison leaders.

Despite not currently being part of the playoff picture, the Capitals have their eyes fixed on that number three position. In fact, the Caps have been winners of three straight games, including back to back dominating wins over the Jets. In those two games, Washington outscored Winnipeg 10-1 and captain Alex Ovechkin contributed three goals and two assists.

Just like the team as a whole, Ovechkin has been red hot recently. His contributions have helped the team not only win three straight, but four of their past five as well. In those five games, Ovechkin has responded to critics by posting six goals and adding three assists. He’s on a five game goal streak, and has goals in six of his past seven games to boot.

While this team is still learning to play well together under first year coach Adam Oates, the addition of a guy like Mike Ribeiro certainly has not hurt the cause. Ribeiro has been the offensive leader of this team since the season kicked off, and has done a tremendous job filling the void left by the loss of Alexander Semin. Ribeiro’s 34 points lead the team currently, and he’s contributed nicely on the power-play with five goals and twelve assists.

Despite his success, Ribeiro has been mentioned as potential trade bait for the Capitals. The 33-year-old center is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and could allow the Capitals to add some depth at other positions. However, Ribeiro will be crucial in helping to lead this team down the stretch, so the Capitals next four games could tell a lot.

More than that, the Capitals will need a strong showing from their blue line units to ensure a good playoff position. While Mike Green isn’t the same point producing defenseman he used to be, he has been getting the job done when he plays. Green has struggled with injury problems over the past few years, but his health will be important down the stretch. Strong contributions from Karl Alzner and John Carlson will be equally important to this teams success.

The Capitals are indeed heating up, and should be counted on to jump into playoff position shortly. Six of the next seven games for the Capitals are against teams with the same or fewer points. The real battle will start in the final three weeks of the season. During this time, the team will battle Eastern Conference leaders like the Bruins, Canadians, Maple Leafs, and Senators. If the Capitals can earn tough points during these games, don’t be surprised to see them crowned Southeast Division champs at the end of April.


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