Ovechkin absence gives the Bruins even more to play for down stretch

Ovechkin/By S. Bradley

They really shouldn’t need any added outside motivation, but the Bruins still should take some from the news today out of Washington.

Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin will miss the next seven to 10 days to rest an undisclosed ailment, according to Mike Vogel of the Caps’ Web site.

Vogel quotes head coach Bruce Boudreau on the matter:

“He’s been bothered by this nagging ailment for a couple of months. We just thought we’d take care of it now. His body needs a little bit of rest. We thought this was a good time to rest his body for a week to two weeks so he’s fresh come April.”

With 94 points, the Capitals are just six points ahead of the Bruins with 88 for second place in the Eastern Conference, with the Bruins holding two games in hand. Amazingly, the loser point has allowed the slumping Bruins — 1-3-3 in their last seven — to pad their points total and stay in range of a loftier perch for the playoffs. The Tampa Bay Lightning, who have played one more game than Boston, are also in range of the Capitals with 89 points. So the Bruins would have to keep their eyes on the Bolts as well.

The Caps were 13-3 in their last 16 games with Ovechkin in their lineup. Without him, they might not be able to sustain their torrid pace and hang onto the second seed. This move shows the Caps have really wised up about how to succeed beyond April. This season, they’ve focused on learning how to play a better defensive game. And now they’re proving that they realize regular-season success doesn’t always precede a great playoff run. They found that out the hard way last season when they lost in the first round as the East’s top seed. So sitting Ovechkin shows they’re not valuing the regular season as much as they are the postseason.

Second place in the East is very much up for grabs. The Bruins, however, need to get back on track to have a shot at it and take advantage of a shorthanded Washington team down the stretch.

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