Capitals

Quick Links

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

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

Two Capitals were on the Metropolitan Division roster for the All-Star game as released Tuesday by the NHL. Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby will be the team’s two representatives on the ice for the All-Star Game that will take place on Jan. 29.

Did the NHL get it right?

It’s hard to argue with Ovechkin getting the nod. With 19 goals, he is currently on pace for about 39 goals this season, which would be his lowest total since he scored 32 in the 2012-13 season...a lockout-shortened season. Clearly, he is not scoring at his usual phenomenal pace, but Ovechkin still has the second-most goals in the Metropolitan Division behind only Sidney Crosby.

Holtby, meanwhile, has again established himself as one of the top netminders in the league. Among Metropolitan goalies with at least 10 games played, Holtby is second in wins, tied for first in save percentage, first in goals against average and first in shutouts.

Good luck leaving him off your All-Star ballot.

RELATED: Pair of Caps named to All-Star game

With two players from Washington on the roster, that means there are another 20 who are not.

There are really only two players who stand out as possible “snubs.” Debating whether Nicklas Backstrom should be an All-Star is almost an annual exercise at this point considering he has only been selected once (while still being selected to Sweden’s Olympic team twice and to the 2016 World Cup team, but I digress). Backstrom actually leads the Capitals in points this season with 34, one more point than Ovechkin.

There is also T.J. Oshie who has arguably been the team’s best player this season. His impact was pretty noticeable when he missed seven straight games with a shoulder injury he suffered against the Detroit Red Wings.

After missing eight of the team’s first 40 games, it’s hard to argue for Oshie despite how good he has been this year. With only half a season to judge the players, Oshie’s All-Star resume is 20-percent incomplete. He would need more than 20 points to really earn a spot in this year’s tournament.

As for Backstrom, per usual, he has certainly done enough to warrant inclusion in this year’s All-Star festivities. The problem isn’t if he deserves to get in, however. The problem is who would he replace?

As much as it may pain Caps fans, you can’t argue with either Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Both are in the midst of incredible seasons and there’s no way to justify putting Backstrom in before either of them. 

The other Metropolitan forwards, besides Ovechkin, are Taylor Hall, Wayne Simmonds and John Tavares. You can make a legitimate case for Backstrom over all three of those players.

Hall has missed 10 of New Jersey’s 42 games this season with a knee injury. Simmonds is the third-leading scorer on his own team behind Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Tavares, meanwhile, is on pace for his worst season since 2009-10, his rookie year, showing even he is not immune to how horrible the New York Islanders are.

Backstrom’s 34 points are also higher than all three — Simmonds has 32, Tavares has 27 and Hall has 25. And, although this is a three-on-three tournament in which defense is largely optional, Backstrom’s defensive acumen is widely underrated. He is one of the top shutdown players on the team and is a major reason why the Caps boast the lowest goals per game average in the NHL.

But Hall, Simmonds and Tavares all have something in common that Backstrom does not. All three players are the lone representatives of their respective NHL clubs.

Despite the injury, Hall is the only bright spot in what is quickly becoming a dismal year for the New Jersey Devils while Tavares is the best player in the dumpster fire that is the Islanders. Simmonds has been one of the top players on the power play in the entire NHL this season which is what I believed earned him the nod.

What’s more, if the Metro needed to find a replacement forward, I’m not so sure Backstrom would be the next man up.

Phil Kessel’s career resurrection continues in Pittsburgh and he is clearly the best forward on that team not named Crosby or Malkin. Cam Atkinson is the leading scorer on a Columbus team that currently holds the league’s best record. Both players are producing at a point-per-game pace through the first half of the season, well above Backstrom’s 0.85 per game.

It stinks that Backstrom never seems to get the recognition he deserves for being one of the NHL’s top centers, but with the Metropolitan Division having an incredible season, it’s hard to put him or any other Caps in over the players who did make the cut.

MORE CAPITALS: Prediction recap: Holtby stays hot in win over Montreal

Quick Links

The Caps will win Game 6 if they win, or at least survive, the first period

The Caps will win Game 6 if they win, or at least survive, the first period

The last three games have been pretty awesome if you're a Caps fan. For one minute, however, let's consider what it must feel like for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Columbus has seen a 0-2 series lead evaporate, they have lost both of their home games and now they face elimination after three straight losses including two overtime games and in two of those games, the Blue Jackets outplayed the Caps.

Oh, and head coach John Tortorella kinda, sorta guaranteed the Blue Jackets would force a Game 7.

As the series shifts back to Ohio for Game 6 on Monday, do you think the Blue Jackets may be a tad motivated when they take the ice in front of their home fans?

"We’ve got a chance in front of our home crowd to push this thing to seven games and we’re excited about it," Columbus forward Matt Calvert said Sunday. "... Got home last night and I was here a little earlier, got a chance to watch the news and they’re interviewing fans and how they’re pumped up, already saying it’s going to Game 7, so I can’t wait. The atmosphere’s going to be great. I know they’re going to give an all-out effort and so are we.”

In the third period of Game 5, the enormity of their situation began to set in for Columbus. Down 3-2 and facing their third straight loss, the Blue Jackets made a tremendous push to try to win the game. They tied the score at 3 early in the period and ultimately outshot Washington 16-1. If not for the tremendous effort of Braden Holtby in net to force overtime, the roles of this series could easily be reversed with Washington facing elimination in Game 6.

Now imagine that effort, plus the home crowd plus the desperation of a team facing elimination. An early lead for the Jackets could start a snowball effect in which their momentum and the crowd carry them through the rest of the game. But the longer the Caps can survive, the more doubt will begin to creep into Columbus, the antsier the fans will become and the more confident Washington will play.

The Caps better be ready.

The good news for Washington is that its been here before. Just last season, the Caps went to Toronto in Game 6 with an opportunity to close out the Maple Leafs. Toronto outshot Washington 14-10 in the first period, but they could not get the early goal and the game was scoreless through the first 20 minutes. Auston Matthews scored in the third period to break a scoreless tie, but Marcus Johansson scored five minutes later and then again in overtime to close out the series.

After experiencing last year's series in Toronto, the Caps know what they are going to be up against in Columbus.

"It's the toughest game to win because the other team is desperate," head coach Barry Trotz said Sunday on a conference call with the media. "Their backs are against the wall. They're there. They're going to give their absolute max effort tomorrow, and we've got to make sure that we have a max effort. If we do that, then we have a chance to win in Columbus."

RELATED LINKS:

Quick Links

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: The West is set while the Caps still have work to do

usatsi_10791342.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: The West is set while the Caps still have work to do

There are only two series left in the first round that have yet to be decided. The Caps just so happen to be playing in one of those series.

After falling into a 0-2 hole to start, Washington has rattled off three straight wins and now sits just one away from putting away the Columbus Blue Jackets and advancing to the second round.

Should the Capitals advance, they will play the Pittsburgh Penguins for the third consecutive season.

<<NHL POWER RANKINGS: STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS>>

The Penguins ended their series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday in Game 6. Jake Guentzel scored four goals in the effort proving once and for all that yes, goaltending is important in the playoffs. Head coach Mike Sullivan has still yet to lose a playoff series as the head coach of Pittsburgh as he led the Penguins to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons.

In the Atlantic, the Tampa Bay Lightning await the winner of the Boston Bruins - Toronto Maple Leafs series after dispatching the New Jersey Devils in five games. After a strong regular season, the Maple Leafs looked poised to take the next step, but Auston Matthews has only two points in five games and Toronto faces elimination at the hands of the Bruins Monday in Game 5.

<<NHL POWER RANKINGS: STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS>>

All four series in the West, meanwhile, have already been decided. Both the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks managed four-game sweeps in the first round and will face one another in the second  The miraculous season of the Golden Knights continues and it would be hard to argue at this point that they are not legitimate Stanly Cup contenders considering all they have accomplished in both the regular season and the playoffs.

Wins by the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets now sets up a second-round battle between the top two teams in the league from the regular season.

<<NHL POWER RANKINGS: STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS>>