Capitals

Quick Links

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

Quick Links

Was Columbus' travel a factor in the Caps' series comeback?

Was Columbus' travel a factor in the Caps' series comeback?

Whenever a playoff series ends, the analysis begins soon after. Why did this team win? Why did this team lose? Why did this player perform while this one did not?  This is an exercise performed by media, players and coaches alike, especially for teams that walk away from a series believing they let an opportunity slip away.

The Columbus Blue Jackets fell to the Washington Capitals in six games despite taking a 2-0 series lead by winning both opening games in Washington. Head coach John Tortorella will have all summer to think about what he could have done differently and what went wrong for his team, but it sounds like he already has at least one theory as to why they lost.

In a series that featured four overtime games, Game 4 stands out as being far more one-sided than the others. Washington turned in the most dominant performance of the series in a 4-1 win that knotted the teams at two wins apiece.

That game stood out to Tortorella too and he thinks he knows why the Blue jackets laid an egg that night: Travel.

"I think we should’ve stayed in Washington after that second overtime game, the second game there," Tortorella said. "I think that comes back and gets you later on in the series. We should’ve stayed in Washington and let them get a good night sleep. They got in here so late. I don’t think it affected us in Game 3. It comes the next days, so that falls on me."

When analyzing why the Caps won the series, chances are travel is not going to be a reason many people consider. Perhaps there is some merit to this. After all, as the father of an infant, I can certainly vouch for how much of a difference one good night of sleep can make.

But perhaps there is another message being sent here by Tortorella.

Tortorella is a master at using the media to his advantage. He uses the media to send messages to his team or draw attention on himself and away from the players.

Tortorella just saw his young team give up a 2-0 series lead and lose four straight games. Those are the kind of losses that can stick with a player and create doubt in the mind of a team the next time they reach a tough spot in the postseason.

So what did Tortorella do? He came out and put the worst loss of the series on his own shoulders. Why was it his fault? Uh...travel? Yeah, let's go with travel.

The Blue Jackets are not the first team to play overtime on the road or the first team to deal with travel concerns. To hear a coach say it was a reason they lost a game and not even the next game after the travel? Well, that's a first.

RELATED LINKS:

Quick Links

Alex Ovechkin's evolution as a player was on full display in Game 6

Alex Ovechkin's evolution as a player was on full display in Game 6

We all know that Alex Ovechkin is a world-class goal scorer. He is the best goal scorer of his generation and perhaps the best of all time.

He tallied another two goals Monday in the Capitals' 6-3 victory Game 6 over the Blue Jackets, but that’s not what really impressed head coach Barry Trotz.

While Ovechkin's career is full of highlight reel goals, it was the ugly plays that really caught Trotz's eye on Monday.

"[Ovechkin's] evolved in areas of his game," Trotz said after the game.

"He’s not just at that dot. He’ll go to the front of the net, he’s not scared to do that. It’s just adding layers to his game."

Ovechkin's first goal of the game was not pretty. It won't make any Top 10 lists, it won't be shown throughout the U.S. and Canada. It was an ugly rebound goal...and it was beautiful.

Just four minutes after Nick Foligno tied the game, Ovechkin put the Caps back ahead with a rebound goal. He parked himself in front of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and was in perfect position when Bobrovsky made a kick out save to backhand the rebound into the empty net.

Those are the type of plays we did not always see from "The Great 8." But his performance on Monday did not stop there.

As Washington attempted to shut the door on the game and the series, Ovechkin did what veteran leaders do, laying out to block a Ryan Murray shot with less than three minutes to go.

"I’m probably as proud of him right at the end of the game blocking shots and doing that type of thing," Trotz said. "That’s full commitment. When that was necessary, that’s where you get your street cred with your teammates. You’ve got to block a shot when it’s necessary and get a puck out when it’s necessary. I’d probably give him more props on that than even scoring goals because that’s what you really expect of him."

Few expected a 32-year-old Ovechkin to rebound from a 33-goal season, but he did just that with 49 goals in 2017-18 to win his seventh Rocket Richard Trophy as the league-leader.

The reason why was on full display on Monday. His game has evolved, as cliche as it sounds.

Instead of relying just on the quick rushes, pretty one-timers and incredible dekes, Ovechkin has committed more to getting to the contested areas. He's altered his game. He is scoring the type of ugly, dirty goals the Capitals desperately need in the playoffs.

That commitment on offense seemed to translate to the defense as well on Monday night, putting his body is a dangerous position laying out for blocked shots.

"Those are the necessary things, those necessary details that allow you to win," Trotz said. "If you don’t have them, then you’re not going to win."

MORE CAPITALS: Pens again: Capitals to face Penguins in NHL Playoffs for third consecutive year