Caps Cruise To Win, Eye Playoff Possibilities

The Capitals wrapped up their home schedule for the regular season Wednesday night with a 5-2 victory over the Panthers.

There's just one more game left on the docket -- a road tilt with these same Cats on Saturday -- and not much left to play for.

Sure, there's that little issue about who will get the top seed in the conference. If the Caps win Saturday, it's theirs. And there's that looming question about who the Caps will play in the first round -- you still need some sort of math degree to figure that one out. Unfortunately most journalists lack those essential skills.

But with all of that said, the Caps have turned focus to the goal they had at the beginning of the season -- going deep in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Coach Bruce Boudreau said there's a feeling of anticipation as that grueling second season looms.

"Sometimes the most exciting part of your life is two months long, and sometimes it's only two weeks long," he said. "We hope it's longer than it was last year."

There were times Wednesday night when the Caps looked to be uninterested in this regular season stuff. Heck, they were outshot 18-6 in the first period. Matt Hendricks called it a "big hiccup."

"We gave up way too many opportunities, but we had Varly in net, and he did a great job of keeping us in the game," Hendricks said. "After that, I think we took over and controlled it."

Had this effort been put forth earlier this season, there may have been some panic and calls for blood from those who Rock the Red. But these are different times for the Caps. The offensive production, which at one point could have been called a trickle, is now flowing freely.

One difference -- the power play. Even without enough healthy defensemen to man the point on the power play the entire game, the Caps were still able to go 2 for 4 with the man advantage. Both power-play tallies were scored with no defensemen on the blue line.

Boudreau enjoys seeing that production once again.

"That's what we're accustomed to," he said. "That was the great thing about last year. We could put in that fear and the other team wouldn't want to play a physical game because our power play was good. ... That gives you another element."

Those of you watching at home may have tried to adjust your set when you saw Brooks Laich manning the point on the power play. No need, that really was him back there. And yes, it's a little weird for him, too.

"It's entirely different for me, because I'm seeing the entire play in front of me," he said after the game. "I enjoy it back there. It's nice not to get cross-checked and slashed and whacked and touch the puck a little bit more."

Boudreau said he was pleased with what Laich did back there.

"Brooks is such a responsible person that I thought he could get back there and do it," Boudreau said. "He has done quite a fine job."

Laich may not have much more time to enjoy the freedom of roaming the blue line, as Mike Green is expected back in the lineup on Saturday. And he should take his rightful place on the point.

Something tells us Laich won't be disappointed as long as it means his team is healthy headed into the postseason.

"We fee [like] we have a very good hockey team," Laich said. "We've shown it in the past few years in the regular season, but now we have to take the next step and that's playoff success."

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