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Eastern Conference preview: How far can the Caps go?


Eastern Conference preview: How far can the Caps go?

We are just one day away from Capitals hockey which means it's time for the most sacred of all preseason traditions: predictions. Today, we'll tackle the Eastern Conference. Saturday, we will take a look at the West and come up with a Stanley Cup winner.

Chuck Gormley previewed where teams would finish in both the Atlantic and Metropolitan divisions. Here's how that looks in terms of the playoffs:

Atlantic Divison

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning
  2. Montreal Canadiens
  3. Detroit Red Wings

In the playoffs we saw a breakout performance from the Tampa Bay Lightning that should translate into a strong regular season. Not only do I believe they will finish first in the division, I believe they will finish first in the conference. The only quibble I have with Gormley's prediction is Detroit. Mike Babcock is gone and Pavel Datsyuk can't stay healthy. I think there is a real chance the Red Wings snap their postseason streak and are passed by Florida, a team with a lot of young talent and a strong supporting cast of veterans such as Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo.

Metropolitan Division

  1. Washington Capitals
  2. Pittsburgh Penguins
  3. New York Rangers

Most predictions have these teams as the top three in some order. I would not have the Caps in the top spot, but I also wouldn't be surprised if they finished the season there.

Wild cards

  1. Columbus Blue Jackets
  2. New York Islanders

The Blue Jackets had a roster good enough to reach the playoffs last season, but they were destroyed by injuries. Now that roster is even better with the addition of Brandon Saad and, most importantly, they are healthy. They should be a playoff team this season. Based on Gormley's predicted order of finish, the second team will either be the Islanders or the Panthers. I know I just got done saying Florida would make it in over Detroit, but that's not the question now. If given the choice between the Islanders and Panthers, I think the Islanders are the better team so I will give John Tavares' squad the nod.

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Conference Quarterfinals

1. Tampa Bay vs. 4. New York Islanders (2nd wild card)

Can Jaroslav Halak survive the offensvie onslaught of the Lighting in a best of seven series? I doubt it.

Winner: Tampa Bay

2. Montreal vs. 3. Detroit

Considering I don't think the Red Wings will even make it this far, it may seem odd that I could think they can beat Montreal, but the Canadiens are vulnerable. With Price having a historic season last year, Montreal still only made it to the second round. The Canadiens are bound to take a step back because they did not do enough to address their offensive woes and because Price will be hard-pressed to replicate last season's numbers. I like an upset here.

Winner: Detroit

1. Washington vs. 4. Columbus (2nd wild card)

This is a scary matchup for the Caps, especially with Sergei Bobrovsky in net and the Stanley Cup winning Saad. Let's give the Caps credit, however. Their roster is loaded and full of experience. The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, have made the playoffs once in the past six seasons and failed to advance out of the first round.

Winner: Washington

2. Pittsburgh vs. New York

The Penguins got the top-line forward they were so desperately seeking last season in Phil Kessel. With Kessel, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, how could this team lose? The Penguins will be the regular season, but I have questions about their defense and their head coach. Mike Johnston bungled his way into the playoffs last season as the Penguins did everything they could to try and miss out on the playoffs altogether. They did eventually make it as a wild card team, only to be dispatched in five games by the Rangers. In this rematch, I have to go with New York.

Winners: New York Rangers

Conference Semifinals

Tampa Bay vs. Detroit

The best team in the conference against a Detroit team I do not think will make the playoffs. Hmm, tough choice. It's Tampa and it's not close.

Winner: Tampa Bay

Washington vs. New York Rangers

Because of course these two teams would meet again in the playoffs. It's almost required at this point. The Rangers peaked in 2014 when they reached the Stanley Cup Finals whereas the Caps have an even stronger team than the one that had the Blueshirts on the ropes with a 3-1 series lead last season. This is the year the Rangers realize they can't keep giving away first-round draft picks for mid-season trades and this is the year the Caps beat New York.

Winner: Washington

Conference Finals

Tampa Bay vs. Washington

The Caps will make the Conference Finals for the first time since the magical 1998 season, but they will have to face a potential juggernaut in Tampa Bay. We all know how important it is for teams to build through the draft and focus on their young talent. When a team scouts and drafts really well, they can develop a superstar team of young stars who fit under the cap because of their cheap contracts. That is what has happened in Tampa. It can be hard to keep those rosters intact in the long-term as those superstar players all want to get paid, so Tampa's championship window may be smaller than many believe. In the short term, however, this team is loaded. The Caps have one of the best rosters in team history, but I'm not sure they have enough to beat Tampa in a best of seven series.

Winner: Tampa Bay

So no, I do not have the Caps going all the way this year, but fear not Caps fans. These are preseason predictions which means I am bound to be wrong.

Be sure to check back on Saturday for a look at the Western Conference and a Cup prediction.

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Game 73 Capitals vs. Stars Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread


Game 73 Capitals vs. Stars Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Dallas Stars

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Stars will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Stars game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.


The Capitals (41-24-7) take on the Stars (38-27-8) Tuesday, March 20 at 7:00 p.m. ET at Capital One Arena.


The Capitals-Stars game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Stars
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30


Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Islanders game:

Alex Ovechkin -  Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Travis Boyd - Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Michal Kempny - Jakub Jerabek

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body injury), Alex Chiasson, Brooks Orpik (lower body injury)


The Capitals-Flyers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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Can Pittsburgh's past be a goalie rotation blueprint?


Can Pittsburgh's past be a goalie rotation blueprint?

It’s happened. The Caps no longer seem to have a No. 1 goalie anymore, they have a No. 1 and 1a.

That’s right, we have a goalie rotation in Washington.

“There's no sense riding one,” Barry Trotz said after practice on Monday. “[Braden Holtby] is coming back and looking better every game and [Philipp Grubauer] played pretty well for a long stretch so why not have both of them going?”

Grubauer got the start Sunday in Philadelphia and Holtby is slated to get the start Tuesday against the Dallas Stars. After that we will have to wait and see.


Trotz has no layout for which goalie he wants to start and when in the remaining ten games. He is not thinking about each goalie splitting five games or which one he wants to use more.

Nope. Trotz has just one thing on his mind. It is all about who starts the next game, that’s it.

“I think you just go with a guy that's hot at the time and your team feels comfortable with and go from there,” Trotz said.

So where does this leave the goaltending situation when it comes to the playoffs? A goalie rotation is all well and good in the regular season, but he has to have one starter for the postseason, right?

Not necessarily.


When Trotz was asked if he philosophically believed in having one starter for the playoffs, Trotz initially said he would not answer, but then said, “Why don't you ask Mike Sullivan what he thinks.”

Sullivan, of course, is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins who has led his team to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons despite turning to both goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in both seasons.

While Pittsburgh’s goalie rotation was largely based on injury, however, it still provides an example of how using both goalies can work in the playoffs and that seems to be the path the Caps are headed on at the moment.

Said Trotz, “You just have to go with your gut who you think is going to get the job done.”