Sunday, April 11, 2011 12:51 p.m.
By Joe Beninati
Having already clinched the top-seed position in the East for the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Capitals didnt have much at stake in their regular season finale against Florida. A 1-0 loss to the Panthers ended the campaign on a sour note, and both teams played a lackluster game.
It was not pretty by any stretch. The Panthers had lost 10 straight outings prior to this evenings contest and were playing for pride and for their fans on Fan Appreciation Night inside Bank Atlantic Center.
Bruce Boudreau contemplated dressing his full Game 1 postseason line-up, but nagging injuries kept Jason Arnott and Marco Sturm on the sideline. Both of them, along with Mike Green who did not make the trip to Florida, are expected to be on the ice when the playoffs begin.
Michal Neuvirth played a very solid game in goal in his final tune-up before the chase for the Cup begins. He is going to have a leading role at Verizon Center and appears to be in good working form. He made a few sparkling glove saves tonight, and that catching glove has served him extremely well all season. Neuvirth says he will go through as many as 10 different gloves from the start of training camp through the end of the playoffs. Lets hope he has one that he is fond of to face the New York Rangers.
The only goal of the game came past the midway mark of the third period and was a very strange-looking one. Floridas Bill Thomas swatted a puck out of the air (that was close to being a high-stick) that travelled some 20 feet before squeezing between the pads of Neuvirth.
That was all the offense Tomas Vokoun would need. The Panthers ace blanked Washington for the second time this year, and did not lose to the Caps in any of his three decisions against them. The question is whether or not the Panthers will be willing to satisfy his contract demands as he heads into free agency this summer. I wouldnt mind seeing him land outside the Southeast Division; hes pretty tough to beat.
While Florida goes back to the drawing board and into the NHL draft lottery, the Caps will be studying up on the Rangers. New York survived a final weekend of the season scare from Carolina to nail down the 8th spot. The Hurricanes lost decisively to Tampa Bay Saturday night and blew a chance to meet Washington in round one with that loss.
Check out csnwashington.com for the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals playoff schedule. The best-of-seven series with the BlueShirts is most likely to begin Wednesday or Thursday at Verizon Center.