Believe it or not, the Toronto Maple Leafs could have actually clinched a playoff spot last night with a victory over Washington and a Winnipeg Jets loss in regulation. Neither happened, however, and the Leafs, who were playing the second of a back-to-back, were thoroughly dismantled by the Caps 5-1.
Toronto got Joffrey Lupul back after missing five games with a concussion and he looked a little sluggish. He went minus-1 and was held without a point. Perhaps holding him out another couple of days would have made sense, but then again, I’m sure Carlyle wants to get any rust out before the playoffs.
It will be interesting to see how Jake Gardiner is used come the post-season. The young defenseman is still walking that fine line between being confident and just far too casual with the puck. He had a couple of bad giveaways tonight and a few shifts that were quite lengthy.
The Capitals have now won eight straight and are quickly becoming the team you don’t want to see in the first round of the playoffs. Alexander Ovechkin had a goal and an assist, and now has 14 points during this Capitals win streak. Mike Green also chipped in with two helpers and is starting to show some glimpses of the player he was in 2009-10.
Staying with Washington, if you are looking for a defenseman on the waiver wire to add to your roster late in the season, look no further than Jack Hillen. He’s posted six points and gone plus-7 in his last five games.
The Islanders picked up a big two points with a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers. Mark Streit had a goal and an assist, while Michael Grabner found the back of the net twice. Streit is a UFA at season’s end and with the Islanders looking like they are turning a corner here, not being able to re-sign him would be a huge loss.
Tomas Fleischmann has had a solid year and with two helpers last night he is now up to 30 points on the campaign. He has picked up 10 points in his last nine games and has been one of the only bright spots for the Panthers this season.
Steve Mason appears to be enjoying a change of scenery with the Philadelphia Flyers. Although he picked up his first win last night with his new team, he has played great in three prior appearances. The Rangers threw 40 shots his way and Mason turned away 38 of them in the 4-2 victory.
Kimmo Timonen had a goal and an assist in the win to go along with a team leading four shots. That’s now four points in his last two games and Timonen is up to fourth among defenseman in NHL scoring. Norris Trophy candidate?
The Rangers are having an up and down year and appear to be doing their best not to make the playoffs, but Derek Stepan is enjoying a nice stretch. He now has 10 points in his last eight contests and sports a plus-17 rating on the season. If only he could improve that face-off percentage slightly.
Jared Cowen played his first game this season for the Senators in their 3-2 win over the Hurricanes. After delivering a legal hit on Jeff Skinner, Cowen was forced to fight twice because of it. Skinner left the game and has a history of concussions, so hopefully the injury isn’t serious. I understand Carolina standing up for their player, but as someone who doesn’