Sans Ovechkin, Caps will fall to Flyers 

March, 22, 2011

First things first, I have to give a shout-out to the NHL for slapping a significant suspension on repeat offender Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised the ban will extend through the first round of the playoffs. To me, that's sending a message.

Perhaps Cooke will learn something during his time off. For his own sake -- and for the safety of others around the league -- he'd better.

Going forward, it'll be interesting to see if the league gets more aggressive with its supplementary discipline. In many cases, I'd like to see it push the envelope. In the future, maybe the garden-variety, two-game suspension gets doubled to four games. I suspect the players would react to that changing standard. Of course, if the league doesn't make the effort, we'll never really know, will we?

For now, let's move on to my Tuesday puck prognostications. The last two weeks have been quite unpleasant, and I'd like to get back on the right side of things this week. I still have a nice cushion (over the .500 mark) for the season, but I have to sharpen up for the playoffs.

Here are the Hradek selections for another busy 10-game Tuesday slate:

Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers

I like the way the Capitals have been playing in recent weeks, going 12-2 in their last 14 games. They'll be without star Alex Ovechkin for the next 7 to 10 days, as he tries to get totally healthy for the playoffs. In the short term, the Caps have survived without No. 8 in the past. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Washington is 8-5-1 in the 14 career games the captain has missed. On the Flyers' side, they'll still be without stud defenseman Chris Pronger. Despite his absence, the Flyers are 4-0-2 in their last six. If the Caps win tonight, they'll have as many points as the Flyers (96). I'll say they don't get it done on the road tonight. The Flyers are the pick.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.