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3 bold predictions: Alex Ovechkin looks for a big night against rival Penguins

3 bold predictions: Alex Ovechkin looks for a big night against rival Penguins

The rivalry is renewed Wednesday as the Pittsburgh Penguins come to Washington (8 p.m., NBCSN). Here are three bold predictions for the game.

1. Pittsburgh will lead Washington by at least five shots on goal and 10 shot attempts after the first period

Remember what happened last time these two teams met? The 7-1 shellacking the Caps laid on the Penguins? You can bet Pittsburgh does. Washington should expect to see the Penguins’ best shot in the first period.

RELATED: Caps re-assign O'Brien, Carey to AHL and what that means for Oshie

2. Sidney Crosby will score a goal

Crosby leads the NHL in goals with 26, four more than second-place Jeff Carter despite playing in eight fewer games. He missed the season opener against Washington and did not score in the November blowout. Crosby has only been held scoreless in three consecutive games once this season. He has not scored in the past two games. Essentially, he’s due.

3. Alex Ovechkin will get point No. 1,000

Frustration began to overtake Ovechkin last season when he attempted to pass Sergei Fedorov’s mark for the most goals by a Russian-born player in NHL history. That was a record that really seemed to matter to him and it affected his play, as it took him five games to finally break the record after tying it. While he recognized that scoring 500 goals was a big deal, the gravity of the accomplishment did not seem to weigh on his mind the same as heavily as it did when he approached Fedorov’s mark. As a result, Ovechkin scored goal No. 500 the very next game after scoring goal No. 499. Ovechkin feels much the same way about his 1,000th point as he did about goal No. 500. He knows it’s a big deal, but it’s not weighing on him. He’ll be more focused on beating the Penguins than on if he can get to 1,000. That will make it come all the easier.

MORE CAPITALS: Who from the Caps did the NHL look over for an All-Star bid?

Prediction Results for 2017: The streak is over thanks to a clean sweep. Finally, the new year is off on the right foot.
Correct: 3
Wrong: 12
Push: 0

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Caps work on team building by fighting each other in FBI training

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@Capitals Twitter

Caps work on team building by fighting each other in FBI training

How much better would your work environment be if you had a chance to pin a coworker or get them in a chokehold? Probably a lot. That's what the Caps are banking on.

The team visited the FBI Academy on Wednesday in a team building exercise that included raming doors and, of course, hand to hand combat.

Let's break down some of these wrestling matchups.

Braden Holtby appears to be thanking John Carlson for playing 27:33 on Tuesday.

It seems dangerous to pit a goalie against a defenseman. Carlson spends all of his time on the ice trying to protect Holtby. Just how hard was Carlson really trying to take down Holtby?

It's no surprise seeing Tom Wilson enjoying himself with the hand to hand combat. Whoever went up against him (it looks like Jay Beagle) certainly drew the short straw.

And then there's this.

Nicklas Backstrom is having way, way too much fun. Maybe Andre Burakovsky was getting a bit chesty in the locker room after his first NHL fight. Well, it seems Backstrom certainly put him in his place.

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There are no moral victories, but Caps see a defensive effort they can build on in Tuesday's loss

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USA TODAY Sports

There are no moral victories, but Caps see a defensive effort they can build on in Tuesday's loss

The Capitals probably deserved a better result on Tuesday than a 2-0 loss at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Coming into that game, the Leafs were averaging 5.20 goals per game and had scored no fewer than three in any of their five games to start the season. Yet, a Capitals team fresh off an 8-2 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers managed to hold Toronto’s offense to only one goal, the second coming only after Braden Holtby had been pulled for the extra attacker.

“There's a lot of improvements from our game in Philadelphia, that's for sure,” Barry Trotz said following the game.

Aside from a flurry of chances from Toronto early in the first, the game was largely even between the two sides until Connor Brown put the Leafs up 1-0 in the third period.

RELATED: EVGENY KUZNETSOV COULD HAVE CHANGED TUESDAY'S GAME, HERE'S HOW

Despite their effort, however, do not take this game as proof that Washington has solved all of its blue line issues. Tuesday was just merely a step in the right direction.

“We did some things better [Tuesday],” Braden Holtby said. “The outcome could have been a little worse if luck wasn't on our side today on a few plays. We've got to keep a realistic mindset on that too.  But we did a lot of good things [Tuesday]. Our defense did a really good job at handling their speed and their size.”

Surprisingly, it was not the defense that cost Washington the game, but the offense. When the Caps needed a goal, they simply could not generate one against goalie Frederik Andersen.

Yes, the team needs to find more of a balance and get a full 60-minute effort on both ends of the ice, but there was also hope in the locker room on Tuesday that if they continue to improve in their own zone, it will ultimately lead to more offense in the other end.

“Everything is developed from the defensive zone,” Holtby said. “That's the way we've always had success scoring goals. If you're taking risks offensively, that's not a consistent way to play. You might win some games, but you're not going to win games consistently. That's what our foundation of our team is built around, our breakout, especially on our goal line and that what creates a lot of our offense.”

MORE CAPITALS: WHO STOOD OUT IN TUESDAY'S DEFENSIVE BATTLE?

What the first seven games of the season has shown is that the Capitals’ fate rests on its blue line. Yes, they need more depth scoring from their third and fourth line, but this team’s weakness is its defense. How they respond to their early struggles will determine the fate of the season.

“We'd be kidding ourselves if we're not going to have some growing pains along the way,” Holtby said of the team. “It's just how we handle them and what we do with them. How do we fight through them and get better?”

Tuesday’s game may have ended in a loss, but it was an effort the defense can build around. That is the silver lining. If they do build on this game, the Capitals still have a playoff caliber roster. If they do not, well, there is no telling how far Washington can sink.