Caps inch closer to Flyers; NHL ruling shows flaws

    TORONTO _  Don’t look now, but the streaking Washington Capitals have climbed within striking distance of the first-place Flyers in the Eastern Conference.

    The Capitals moved into second-place in the East by trouncing Edmonton on Wednesday. It was the sixth straight victory for the Caps, who are two points behind the Flyers. Washington has played two more games.

    Even though teams have inched closer to the Flyers, defenseman Chris Pronger said he is not doing any scoreboard-watching.

      “I don’t think we need to. We still hold the keys to the camper,” he said after the Flyers ended a four-game losing streak with a less-than-inspiring 4-1 win over Edmonton on Tuesday. “We’re still in first place. We control our own destiny. For me, personally, it’s not necessarily about us getting points. It’s about how we play.”

    On Thursday, the Flyers will play at sizzling Toronto, which scored a 3-2 win at the Wells Fargo Center a week ago.

     Based on the way he has used his goalies lately, coach Peter Laviolette figures to start Sergei Bobrovsky, who was excellent in Tuesday’s win. Then again, Brian Boucher is 2-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average and .935 save percentage against the Leafs, while Bobrovsky was the loser in last Thursday’s 3-2 setback.

   Who would you start?

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     Mike Richards (six points) and Danny Briere (three goals) have been the Flyers’ top offensive performers in the three games against the Maple Leafs this season.

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     The NHL, again showing its inconsistency, did not suspend Boston’s Zdeno Chara for his hit on Montreal’s Max Pacioretty on Tuesday.

     Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion and a non-displaced fracture of the fourth cervical vertebra in his neck after being hit into a glass partition.

      The 22-year-old forward remained hospitalized Wednesday. He had 11 goals in the last 20 games.

       "I could not find any evidence to suggest that, beyond this being a correct call for interference, that Chara targeted the head of his opponent, left his feet or delivered the check in any other manner that could be deemed to be dangerous,” said Larry Murphy, the league’s senior vice president of hockey operations. “This was a hockey play that resulted in an injury because of the player colliding with the stanchion and then the ice surface. In reviewing this play, I also took into consideration that Chara has not been involved in a supplemental discipline incident during his 13-year career.”

     The implication: If he had been suspended before, he would have been suspended again.

     That's no way to run things. It's either a suspendable offense, or it's not.

     My two cents: If Pronger had thrown the hit, he would have been suspended for three or four games. Or more.

    One last thought: Colin Campbell, the NHL's dean of discipline, did not rule on the matter because his son plays for Boston and it was a conflict of interest.

     But do you think Murphy felt some pressure to rule in the Bruins' favor?

     (P.S. Alex Ovechkin was suspended for two games last year for what the NHL called a "reckless" hit as he crunched Brian Campbell into the boards. As I said, there's no consistency in the NHL's decisions.)

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