The NHL season has finally reached the home stretch to the playoffs. Several teams have already clinched a spot – Washington, Minnesota, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Chicago – while others like New York, Montreal and San Jose are all but guaranteed a spot. On the other side of the equation, many teams are close to mathematical elimination: notably Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.

As the playoff picture is becoming clearer, some early season contenders have been experiencing serious slumps. San Jose is now on a seven-game losing streak, while the Minnesota Wild have been 3-10-0 since the trade deadline. The Washington Capitals, on the other hand, have been forced to practically play at playoff level intensity to retain their No. 1 spot in the Metropolitan. They have also been making a lot of noise as of late.

First line forward T.J. Oshie made headlines in the Capitals’ 4-2 victory over Calgary this past Tuesday, scoring his 30th goal of the season. In doing so, not only did Oshie set a personal record — being his first season ever to reach the 30 goal mark — but he also joins an elite group of only 17 players to do the same so far this season, including Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid and Patrick Kane. He currently is tied for the Caps’ lead in goals scorer with Alex Ovechkin.

This is good news for Oshie, but bad news, however, for Caps fans that are feeling bittersweet about Oshie having his best season right before becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer. With every beautiful goal, his new contract goes a few dollars further out of reach for the Capitals front office, if they seek to resign him after the playoffs.

Speaking of scoring 30 goals, Alex Ovechkin also reached that milestone this week Saturday night in a 4-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. But this is nothing new for the Capitals’ captain; in fact, this is the 12th time he’s done it in his 12-year career. By scoring over 30 goals each season for his first 12 seasons in the NHL, he joins only two other players to ever achieve such a feat: Mike Gartner and Wayne Gretzky.

By Ovechkin’s standards, this seems to be a down season compared to several 50-goal seasons and one 65-goal season. But this accomplishment is truly remarkable nonetheless. With his power-play goal, he also reached his 400th career power play point, making him the 28th player in NHL history to do so. He is also now one goal shy of being 26th in the list of all-time goal scorers — just another average night for the Russian Machine.

And finally, Washington’s win over Arizona marked its 31st victory on home ice this season – a franchise record for most wins at home. Washington currently leads the NHL for most wins at home with a 31-6-2 record and still has two home games left to further its advantage. It has been an exciting and memorable run for the Capitals in their fight to keep their advantageous playoff spot.

Meanwhile, their first-round opponents remain as up in the air as ever. Currently, the Bruins hold the wild card spot after falling from third in the Atlantic to out of the playoffs entirely. The Islanders are now two points behind the Bruins in their fight for the coveted wild card spot, and the Bruins are only one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for third in the Atlantic. It should be a wild ride to the finish, and I could not be more excited to watch it play out.

Kyle Parisi is a sophomore in the College.  Between The Pipes appears every Tuesday.


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