Caps Top Six: Welcome Back to the Top (of the Southeast)

By Reed S. Albers

Two earth shattering events happened this week in Caps Land.

First, Alex Ovechkin was seen rapping in a music video (here). Second, the Caps are back in first place in the Southeast Division powered by their recent three game win streak.

Sunday night’s 2-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes puts the team back in control of the division for the time being and jumps them from the No. 8 playoff seed to the No. 3 seed.

Now that’s something to rap about.

So if you’re looking to name drop any players in your upcoming Ovech-raps, here’s the Top Six players who deserve a shout-out. #Thuglife.

1. Tomas Vokoun – three wins, one shutout

When a team is on a win streak, there are a few factors to glance at before suggesting where it begins. Goaltending is one of those attributes and in the past three games it has been spot on.

Vokoun has allowed only four goals in three games and finally looks like the elite goalie hockey fans know him as.

His defense hasn’t always been there for him (see Friday night’s near-collapse), but the Czech is certainly there for his team (see his shutout versus the Penguins) and the No. 1 job might as well have his name permanently inked next to it for the time being.

2. Troy Brouwer – first career hat trick

Hat trick + calendar shot holding puppies = instant stud. Brouwer has both this month. Clearly, it’s the equation of success for a first/second line player in the NHL.

Joking aside, who better to get the team’s first hat trick of the season than one of its hard-working, non-spotlight players? Brouwer isn’t a point a night player, but little spurts of offense from the mid-tier guys are always a welcome surprise.

3. Marcus Johansson – two goals, two assists four points

With Nicklas Backstrom still sidelined after an elbow to the head from Calgary’s Rene Bourque, “JoJo” has stepped up as the team’s premier Swedish center (OK, he’s the only other Swedish center…) and is adequately filling the empty skates left by No. 19.

Backstrom’s presence is dearly missed, but if Johansson can continue to be a capable Band-Aid — like he was this week — the Caps can survive until his countryman is healthy again.

4. Alexander Semin – one goal, two assists three points

It came down to Ovechkin and Semin for this spot on the list, but the fact that Semin finished with more points and picked up his first penalty minutes in five games on Monday (follow by a PIM-less rest of the week) says something about Sasha Semin.

Ovechkin’s corner has already been turned, so is it too soon to predict Semin is almost back to his old self again? Earning a grand total of nine points in the past eight games, along with his PIM-less play, seems to say he’s back – and possibly more responsible than ever.

5. Jason Chimera – one goal, game winning goal

Fan boy reasoning: He scored the only goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins resulting in a 1-0 win over a hated rival.

Journalistic reasoning: After cooling off from his surprising 13 goal start and going goalless for seven games, Chimmer potted a clutch goal in a tight, defensive game versus a rival.

Yup, that seems fair enough to me.

6. Dmitry Orlov – one goal (game winning goal)

The great thing about the No. 6 spot is that you can use it to reward a guy who sticks up for his teammates or goes above the call of duty (Karl Alzner earning his first NHL fight fits here), or someone’s whose work ethic may not have yielded points, but has been key in recent wins (see any number of Caps ranging from Matt Hendricks to Roman Hamrlik).

This week, let’s give it to an up-and-coming rookie defender for scoring his first NHL goal and making it the most important one of the night to boot. Orlov hasn’t succumbed to the usual slump call-ups go through after a few games and has cemented himself as a mainstay on the Caps’ blue line.

Congrats on your first NHL tally Dmitry.

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