The Capitals may have spent much of the season making you wish the NHL lockout never ended, but there are plenty of other teams out there, and some are playing unusually great hockey.

The abbreviated season is well past its midway point, and as improbable as it seems, the stretch run toward the playoffs is upon us.

The Blackhawks and their season-opening unbeaten streak grabbed most of whatever attention national media gives to hockey, meaning Anaheim’s 22-4-4 start and the Penguins’ 11-game winning streak, both through Friday, have gone mostly unnoticed.

If Harvard busted your NCAA tournament bracket, if you’re tired of meaningless baseball games on the interminable slog toward opening day, and if you find the top-heaviness of the NBA unfulfilling, maybe give the NHL a chance this week: Some of the league’s best teams will go head-to-head in nationally televised games.

The Caps’ playoff hopes might be dicey, but the slate of games at right may remind you that the Stanley Cup will still be awarded this season, and some really strong teams will still be playing for it.

If these games can’t pique your interest, then you’ll just have to settle for opening day saving you next week.