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ESPN projects Holtby to make Canadian WC team but not start

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ESPN projects Holtby to make Canadian WC team but not start

The World Cup of Hockey will be played this summer and you can expect the Caps to be well represented considering they are currently the best team in the NHL. One of the most competitive rosters will no doubt be Team Canada. The list of of superstar players who don't make this team could make a more formidable roster than several other teams in the tournament.

You know about the Capitals' Russian superstars, but they also boast one of the best goaltenders in the NHL who happens to call Canada home.

Braden Holtby, from Lloydminster, Saskatchewan has put together a Vezina-caliber season and will certainly be in the running for make the World Cup roster. What are his chances? Pretty darn good according to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun.

In a roster projection for Team Canada, LeBrun puts Holtby among the three goalies to make the team, but not as the starter with a projected depth chart of Montreal's Carey Price as No. 1, Holtby as the backup and Chicago's Corey Crawford as the No. 3.

We'll come back to Holtby, but let's first take note of the goalies not on this list. Roberto Luongo, Marc-Andre Fleury and Devan Dubnyk are three goalies with a legitimate resume to make the roster who LeBrun says will come up short. This just goes to show you how stacked the Canadian team is when a goalie playing as well as Luongo is right now could end up on the outside looking in.

Luongo has a .928 save percentage this season and is a major factor in how well the Florida Panthers are playing. Despite how poorly Pittsburgh started the season, Marc-Andre Fleury has been consistently great throughout. While the Minnesota Wild have hit a rough patch, consider where that team would be without Dubnyk, the runner up for the Vezina Trophy in 2015.

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Still, it's hard to argue with LeBrun's list. Don't be fooled by the fact that Crawford was not invited to the All-Star game this season. Had the game been played in any city other than Nashville, Crawford would have been in over Predators goalie Pekka Rinne. Crawford continues to battle this misconception that he is not an important factor in Chicago's success and he continues to be overshadowed by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Make no mistake, Crawford is fantastic and he is having the best season of his career.

Holtby, of course, has been the best goalie in the NHL this season and if the season ended today, he would be the near unanimous choice to win the Vezina. So why would he be No. 2 to a goalie who has played in just 12 games this season?

It's been a tough year for Price, but considering what he did last season, he has earned the benefit of the doubt.

Price not only won the Vezina for the 2014-15 season, he also won the Hart Trophy as the NHL MVP, the first goalie to do so since Jose Theodore did it in 2002. His season numbers were unreal as he posted 44 wins with a .933 save percentage and 1.96 goals against average.

To compare, Holtby currently has a .928 save percentage and 2.08 GAA in what has thus for been an unquestionably tremendous season.

If you're still not convinced, just take a look at what Montreal is doing without him. Last season, Montreal won the Atlantic Division with 110 points in the regular season. As of now, the Canadiens sit three points out of a wildcard spot.

Holtby is arguably the best goalie in the NHL right now. When healthy, Price is the undisputed best goalie in the world.

But f you're a Caps fan, would it really be a bad thing for Holtby to be second to Price? Do you even want Holtby playing in the World Cup?

Holtby has established himself as a workhorse for the Caps. He played in 73 games in the 2014-15 season and, even with a more dependable backup in Philipp Grubauer this season, He has already appeared in 43 of the Caps' 52 games. Add in what should be a long playoff run and you're talking about a whole lot of games for the team's star netminder.

Maybe spending a preseason tournament on the bench behind Price wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for Holtby.

MORE CAPITALS: How will Capitals make room for return of Orpik?

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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."

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

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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>>