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Tarik's 3 Stars: Caps win again to close out the regular season

Tarik's 3 Stars: Caps win again to close out the regular season

Alex Ovechkin tallied goals No. 48 and 49, Nicklas Backstrom chipped in with a beauty and Shane Gersich notched his first career point for the Caps, who closed out the regular season with a 5-3 victory over the Taylor Hall-less Devils on Saturday in D.C.

For the better part of a month, the Caps talked about finishing off the regular season with purpose and entering the postseason with momentum. And with the win—their 12th in the final 15 games—Ovechkin and Co. have done just that.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Alex Ovechkin, Capitals

Ovechkin scored goals in the first and third periods and took a legitimate run at 50, finishing with 18 shot attempts.

Alas, he wasn’t able to get there (despite a late breakaway and a couple of power plays) and wrapped up just a goal short of an eighth 50-goal season. No. 8 did, however, seize his seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy while also becoming only the second player at 32 or older to lead the league in goals. (Bobby Hull also led the NHL in goal seven times.)   

2-Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals

Backstrom roofed a sweet pass from Brett Connolly late in the first period to put the Caps ahead 2-1.

After a slow start to the season, Backstrom finished the season with 21 goals and 70 points. Backstrom’s final 15 games? How about five goals and 16 assists.

3-Michal Kempny, Capitals

Kempny put the Caps ahead 3-1 in the second period with a point blast that was set up by Gersich. The goal was Kempny’s third of the season and second since joining in February.

The Czech blue liner, however, wasn’t done. In the third period, he pinched in deep and slid a deft pass to Andre Burakovsky, who stuck the puck past Cory Schneider to put the game away, 5-3.

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

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Burakovsky will miss the first round, but Caps won't rule him out for remainder of the playoffs


Burakovsky will miss the first round, but Caps won't rule him out for remainder of the playoffs

Andre Burakovsky will be sidelined for the remainder of Washington's first-round series vs. Columbus, but he isn’t necessarily out for the remainder of the playoffs, Coach Barry Trotz said on Friday.

Burakovsky suffered an undisclosed upper-body injury in the Capitals' Game 2 overtime loss and has not been on the ice since.

Trotz said the 23-year-old top-six winger needs “minor” surgery.

That procedure, however, will not preclude Burakovsky from returning to the Caps’ lineup in subsequent rounds, should Washington advance.

“That's why I said minor surgery,” Trotz added, asked if Burky might return at a later date.

This latest surgery is the second for Burakovsky this season. In late October, he had a procedure to repair a broken left thumb and missed the next 20 games.

Since his departure in Game 2, Jakub Vrana and Chandler Stephenson have taken turns replacing Burakovsky on the second line with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie.


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Will the Caps be able to take advantage of home ice in Game 5?

Will the Caps be able to take advantage of home ice in Game 5?

There's a saying in sports that goes, "A series doesn't start until a team loses at home." For the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets, their series won't start until someone wins at home.

Four games into the series, the road team has won every game. Columbus took Game 1 and Game 2 from Capital One Arena and the Caps answered back by winning Game 3 and Game 4 in Ohio.

"We came [to Columbus] to try to get the first one," Barry Trotz said after Thursday's win. "Did that. We came here to get the second one. Did that. All we've done is just got on even terms."

Now the series is a best of three with two of those final three games in Washington, but how much of an advantage does that really give the Caps?

"We've got to make sure that we're ready to go," Trotz said. "I think we have been since we got here. We've just got to do it at home."

The various playoff struggles the Caps have suffered in the Alex Ovechkin era have been well-documented to this point. One particularly maddening issue is the team's struggles to win at home. Since 2008, the first year the Ovechkin-led Caps made the playoffs, the team is just 28-25 in home playoff games. Since 2015, Trotz's first season as head coach, the Caps are 12-10 in Washington.

Part of that is just the nature of hockey. Upsets are prevalent in the playoffs in the NHL and home-ice advantage does not mean as much as it does in other sports. But it should mean more than 28-25.

Besides having the crowd on your side, home ice also provides matchup advantages. The home team gets the second line change at home, meaning during a stoppage in play the home coach gets the opportunity to see who the opponent puts on the ice before making his own change. For the Caps, this means getting Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen on the ice against Artemi Panarin.

Trotz has matched his top shutdown pair against Columbus' top line all series long. According to Natural Stat Trick, when Niskanen was on the ice in Game 4 he held Panarin's Corsi For percentage to 36.36. When Niskanen was not on the ice, Panarin's percentage shot up to 71.43. 

Theoretically, it should be much easier for Trotz to get those favorable matchups at home. Now all the Caps have to do is take advantage.

"Our home record hasn't been really great in the last little stretch at the end of the season here and obviously the first two games of the playoffs," Trotz said. "We owe it to our fans, we owe it to ourselves to take advantage of that."