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The Washington Capitals are the league’s best team and lead the Eastern Conference by 16 points halfway through the season. They are dominating for a lot of reasons. You could point to the Caps’ league-leading power play and fifth-rated penalty kill, Braden Holtby and Alex Ovechkin being Braden Holtby and Alex Ovechkin, the rise of Evgeny Kuznetsov, or Brian MacLellan’s ace offseason acquisitions of Justin Williams and TJ Oshie.

I think one thing that sets this Caps team a part is the selfless brand of hockey they play.

We got another glimpse of this Tuesday during the second period of the Caps-Blue Jackets game. With the Caps up 5-2, future Lady Byng candidate Marcus Johansson forechecked in the corner with Blue Jackets defenseman Justin Falk. Falk, potentially trying to spark his terrible team in a hopeless game, began mauling the peaceful Swede. Then suddenly, Falk’s gloves were off. He wanted to fight Johansson. I’m not sure why. Johansson has zero career fights.

And that’s when fourth liner Michael Latta sprung into action.

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“Here, You Take the Puck!” Rangers beat Caps 2-0

Greg Fiume

Photo: Greg Fiume

Wednesday night’s bout between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers was billed as “Rivalry Night.” I’m not so sure. While the recent Rags and Caps teams have certainly made like Crystal Lake camp counselors– hooking up every May– the games have been as trite as an overcooked slasher flick. Both teams grew more neanderthal and conservative in the last few years, making for some really stifled hockey. Under Adam Oates’ increasingly offensive system and Alain Vigneault’s canuckley deployment, I hold out hope this will change, but nothing about Caps-Rangers gets me excited.

Those feelings, it turns out, were justified. The Capitals put up maybe their worst game of the year.

Scoreless through the midway mark, the Rangers broke through with a sneaky far-off wrister by John Moore and then a close-up skill move by Ryan Callahan.

That was it. Yuck.

Rangers beat Caps 2-0.

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