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JJ vs. the fans: Can the Caps' defense keep it going?

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USA TODAY Sports

JJ vs. the fans: Can the Caps' defense keep it going?

It’s a busy hockey weekend for the Caps. After a 4-3 win in Detroit on Friday, Washington returns to Capital One Arena for the quick turnaround against the Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Washington).

Let’s get bold and make some predictions!

RELATED: HOW DID OVECHKIN GET SO WIDE OPEN IN OVERTIME?

Fan predictions:

Let’s simplify this one to say Alex Ovechkin will score at least twice. A very bold prediction even for a player already with 10 goals in just eight games.

The Capitals’ defense is a concern, but the past two games give hope that perhaps the team has turned things around. After holding Toronto to only one goal plus an empty-netter, they followed that up with a fairly solid effort allowing three goals to the Red Wings on the road in Detroit. With this game in Washington, the Caps will get the second line change, but they also will be going up against a Florida team scoring 3.33 goals per game, tied for ninth in the NHL.

Yes, Lisa. Yes it is. Love it.

MORE CAPITALS: HOW TO WATCH CAPS-PANTHERS

JJ’s predictions:

The Caps will score at least two power play goals

The Panthers are dead last in the league on the penalty kill with a paltry 68-percent. Penalties matter a lot in today’s NHL with referees calling penalties for…pretty much anything. The Caps will get their opportunities and they will make them count.

There will be a fight

Roberto Luongo was injured in Friday’s game, the Panthers are on the road playing the second leg of a back-to-back and have won only two of their first six games. Tempers will flare at some point Saturday. Whether it is because someone gets too close to goalie James Reimer, there’s a hit they don’t like or they are just plain grumpy, someone on Florida is going to want to drop the gloves and will find a willing partner in red.

Philipp Grubauer will log a save percentage of over .900

Grubauer established himself as one of the top backup netminders in the league and a possible budding starter with a dominant 2.04 GAA and .926 save percentage last season. In two games this season, Grubauer has posted save percentages of .900 and .784. He will look a lot more like last season’s Grubauer against Florida.

Season results:

Fans
Correct: 0
Wrong: 5
Push: 1

JJ
Correct: 2
Wrong: 4
Push: 0

Want to see your tweet among the fan predictions for the next game? Tweet your prediction to @JJReganNBCS every game day! Remember, we don’t just want to know who will win or the score, we want to see specifics. Be bold!

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Lightning

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USA TODAY Sports

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Lightning

The Caps started a daunting back-to-back on a high note with a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday. Tampa scored first, but the Caps would score the next three goals to earn the win.

Here's why Washington won.

A good response to Tampa’s early goal

When Alex Ovechkin tied the game at 1 late in the first period, it felt inevitable. Tampa Bay took an early 1-0 lead off a power play goal by Vladislav Namestnikov. Rather than spark the Lightning, however, it seemed to wake the Caps’ up from their turkey coma. When Tampa scored, they held an early 3-0 shots-on-goal advantage over Washington. For the rest of the period, the Caps outshot the Bolts 16-4. Ovechkin was a man on a mission as he was all over the ice. In recent weeks, we have seen the Caps at times lack energy at the start of games, but their response to Tampa’s early goal was impressive.

RELATED: TARIK'S 3 STARS IN CAPS' WIN OVER BOLTS

Caps gave Philipp Grubauer a lead to protect

It's been rare this season for Grubauer to protect a lead. So rare in fact that it has not happened since his first start of the season on Oct. 9 which also came against the Lightning. When you are playing from behind, the skaters have to take more chances offensively which can sometimes leave goalies out to dry. Grubauer knows all about that from some of his recent games. When the Caps took a 2-1 lead on Friday, defense became the priority and Grubauer played with a level of confidence we have not seen since his strong performance in a 2-1 loss to Calgary.

Philipp Grubauer

While the Caps could afford to give Grubauer more defensive help as they protected the 2-1 lead, Grubauer himself made some top-notch stops to earn his first win of the season. After a shaky start in which he failed to freeze the puck on two opportunities allowing Tampa to keep the puck in play and score the power play goal, Grubauer was dominant in the crease. He made two especially key saves as he stoned Ondrej Palat in the second period on a one-timer from the slot and denied Vladislav Namestnikov in close midway through the third when a blue line shot from Anton Stralman was deflected behind the defense right to Namestnikov's stick.

MORE CAPITALS: THE CAPS' PRESENCE WAS FELT AT THE REDSKINS' THANKSGIVING GAME

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Tarik's 3 stars: Caps beat the NHL-leading Bolts, 3-1

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Tarik's 3 stars: Caps beat the NHL-leading Bolts, 3-1

If Friday’s game against the NHL-leading Lightning was the barometer many considered it to be, the Caps’ 3-1 victory certainly proved this much: Despite an uneven recent stretch, Alex Ovechkin and Co. are still capable of beating any team in the league on any given night.

Washington has won two games in a row, three of the last four overall and seven of the last eight on home ice. The Caps now head to Toronto for a Saturday showdown with the Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1- Alex Ovechkin, Capitals

The Caps’ captain had some good chances early but passed them up. Then, late in the first period, he called his own number. On an odd-man rush, Nicklas Backstrom moved the puck to Tom Wilson on the right wing, and Wilson fired a perfectly-placed setup to Ovechkin, who drilled a one-timer past Andrei Vasilevskiy. The goal was Ovechkin’s second in two games and moved him into a tie with Mike Bossy for 21st on the all-time goals list (573). Next up is Mark Recchi at 577 and Jari Kurri at 601.

2-Philipp Grubauer, Capitals

After a rough start—he allowed a power play goal just 82 seconds into the game—the Caps’ backup rebounded and had an excellent game. A bunch of big stops in the second period, highlighted by a point blank save on Ondrej Palat, likely was the difference for the home team. The victory was Grubauer’s first in seven starts this season. Grubauer (25 saves) is now 4-0-1 all-time against the Bolts.

3-Jay Beagle, Capitals

The fourth line center finished with a goal, a primary assist and a dominant percentage in the faceoff circle. Beagle’s goal was scored, backhanded, into an empty net late to clinch the win. The assist came on a shot that kicked off of Vasilevskiy’s pads right out to Devante Smith Pelly, who buried the rebound for a 2-1 lead. Beagle also won 13 of his 17 draws (82-percent). With a pair of points, Beagle now has 101 career points.  

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.