Greetings from Washington, where the Cherry Blossom Festival is in full swing, which means I couldn’t get into a hotel room to get a nap after my 7 a.m. flight from Ft. Lauderdale. I type this from the eighth floor of a mall in the Virginia suburbs, where the Capitals have a practice rink that is gorgeous.
The drama here is Alex Ovechkin’s pursuit of Evgeni Malkin for the scoring title. Ovechkin has 104 points to Malkin’s 108, and Malkin has a game in hand. There’s also a team race: The Capiitals are in second place in the conference, two points ahead of New Jersey, and New Jersey has the more-victories tie-breaker.
“Alex wants to be No. 1 in everything, so it wouldn’t surprise me [if he is focused on the scoring title],” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said about 15 minutes ago. “As long as it doesn’t affect the way he plays. We don’t want guys staying out longer shifts. If it comes to that, we’ll stop him. But as far as the extra drive, I don’t think you’ve seen his overdrive yet. That will come in 10 days or two weeks, whenever the playoffs start, because his goal, like ours, is to win the Stanley Cup.”
The Thrashers play the Capitals Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. and then Tuesday night at Philips Arena. I would bet Ilya Kovalchuk would like to outshine his buddy Ovechkin in those two games. The Thrashers obviously don’t have a playoff-related goal left, but that hasn’t seemed to stop them the past several weeks. My story to be posted later today will give you more details on that. Here’s a teaser: The Thrashers are, statistically, in the midst of a franchise-record run of success on the ice.
As I wrote in the headline for this blog post, Sunday is the Thrashers’ final road game. Here is an interesting stat: They’re 17-19-4 on the road, which ties them for the 15th best road record in the NHL. If they also had the 15th-best home record (Vancouver does, at 22-11-5), they would have 13 more points than they do now and they’d be in the thick of the playoff hunt, tied with Florida for ninth in the Eastern Conference. One of the Thrashers’ many problems this season is the way they played in front of those empty seats at Philips Arena, where they are 17-19-2. Only Tampa Bay has been worse at home.