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Friday Six-Pack: Time to panic?

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Friday Six-Pack: Time to panic?

Our Friday six-pack has reached the end of the regular season. Thanks for all of the great questions this year. Let’s crack open this week’s: 

Of the 3 teams in the race for the playoffs (Bruins, Flyers, & Red Wings), who would you prefer the Caps to play 1st round? @Zack_Arts

For sheer entertainment value, I’ll take Caps-Flyers. If the Flyers win both of their final two games against the Penguins and Islanders, they will clinch the eighth spot and face the Caps in Round 1. Honestly, I don’t see that happening. The Flyers are not only running out of time, they’re running out of gas and are being forced to overuse Steve Mason, who is expected to get both ends of back-to-backs this weekend. (Although Michal Neuvirth is now cleared to play). Philly and Washington have not met in in a playoff series since 2008 and that was a barn burner, with Joffrey Lupul scoring in overtime of Game 7. Mike Richards chased Alex Ovechkin like a rabid dog in that series and now the two are teammates. Only one Flyer (depth forward R.J. Umberger) and two Capitals (Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom) remain from both of those playoff teams. If there is a downside to facing the Flyers it is that they would take a physical toll on the Caps if the series gets to a sixth or seventh game. There will be carnage. But if you ask me if I’d rather face Tuukka Rask, Jimmy Howard (or Petr Mrazek) or Steve Mason (or Michal Neuvirth), I’ll take that last duo.

any reasons to be/not to be worried in post season? @CottonEyeJones

I was on the “not worried” side of the fence for 78 games and carried the responsibility of talking nervous Caps fans off the ledge. But these last two games were a pair of red flags. First the Caps blow a two-goal third-period lead and fall to the Islanders in overtime, blowing a chance for Braden Holtby to get a taste of NHL history. It was the first time they had blown a two-goal lead in a third period since January of last year. And on Thursday they seemed one step slower than everyone on the Penguins, who raced out to a 3-0 lead. Granted, the Capitals proved they are never out of a game by roaring back to tie, but the fact it took them nearly two full periods to find their game concerns me. It’s also a concern that since clinching a playoff spot the Caps have lost six of 11 games and are dealing with their first three-game losing streak (0-1-2). Do I think the Capitals will beat any of their possible first-round opponents? Absolutely. Do I think they stand a good chance of beating their second-round opponent? If that’s the Islanders or Rangers, yes. If it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins, I’m a little worried.

RELATED: Penguins fans take over Smithsonian steps after OT win over Caps

what are the odds (Braden Holtby) gets the net vs the ducks if caps beat STL? @jaredbc

Zero. It was determined weeks ago that Holtby and Philipp Grubauer would split this weekend’s games and that’s not changing. It remains to be seen whether Holtby will start in St. Louis, where he could tie Martin Brodeur’s wins record (48) in front of Brodeur, who is an assistant general manager of the Blues. Ironically, Brodeur broke Bernie Parent’s record (47 wins) with Parent in the building in Philadelphia in 2007. In my opinion, considering the fact Holtby has lost consecutive attempts to tie the record with overtime losses, the Caps might look to avoid the sideshow in St. Louis and save Holtby for Sunday’s home game against the Anaheim Ducks.

When would the Caps begin the playoffs? Do you think they benefit or get hurt if any back-to-back games are scheduled? @terpinyc

Since the Caps’ season was extended an extra day because of the January snow storm and since the Wizards play Wednesday night at Verizon, the Caps will start no earlier than Thursday night. They could also get Friday-Sunday dates, depending on which games NBC would like to feature. Back-to-backs are unusual in the playoffs but I have seen them. The Caps have had 14 sets of back-to-backs entering this weekend. They are 12-2 in the front end of those back-to-backs and 9-4-1 in the back ends.  

what's the plan for Orlov in the playoffs? He can be great but can also be a tremendous liability. Weber time? MrESQ_VT

A lot depends on how things look this weekend. Since Mike Weber practiced with Dmitry Orlov on Friday and Taylor Chorney was with Nate Schmidt, my guess is that we’ll see one of those pairs on Saturday and one on Sunday. Since there seems to be a commitment of keeping John Carlson and Brooks Orpik together, there could be some concern about having Orlov and Schmidt as a third pair in the playoffs. That’s why we could see Weber and Orlov together as a pair in Game 1 of the playoffs, especially if the Caps face a physical team like the Flyers. I do think Orlov will start the playoffs regardless and that Schmidt MIGHT be a healthy scratch.

Hey Chuck, in a potential PHI vs WSH series, deep down, will you be cheering for the orange and black? (you can be honest) on a more serious note, who should get the lions share of credit for the caps success the past two yrs, GMBM or Trotz? @OV3CHK1NG

Thanks for the opportunity to answer the first part of this question because I’m asked it all the time. Yes, I covered the Philadelphia Flyers for 23 years and yes, I’ve gotten to know many of the players who played there over the years, including Justin Williams and Mike Richards. But as I tell everyone who asks, I am a fan of the game. I root for good games, not wins and losses. And I root for people that I like. When Justin Williams won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes, I was happy for him. When Richards and Jeff Carter won a Cup with the Kings, I was happy for them. And if the Caps win the Cup this season, I will be happy for everyone in the organization. So, in all honesty, I am rooting for an entertaining first-round series, regardless of the Caps’ opponent. As for who I think deserves more credit, Brian MacLellan or Barry Trotz, that’s hard to say because they work so closely together. That said, if Barry Trotz is not the coach of the Capitals, Brian MacLellan has a far more difficult task of convincing Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen to come to a team that missed the playoffs two months earlier. Orpik told me that he simply could not say no to Trotz when it came to signing with Washington. The same can be said for Justin Williams signing in D.C. Hockey players talk to one another around the league and Williams did his homework last summer, wisely choosing Trotz and the Caps over Michel Therrien and the Montreal Canadiens. The Capitals did the right thing by cleaning house two years ago and they were fortunate to have someone willing to say what needed to change (MacLellan) and someone capable of bringing about that change (Trotz).

MORE CAPITALS: Flyers, Bruins, Red Wings still in mix for Caps

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Game 60: Capitals vs. Lightning Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 60: Capitals vs. Lightning Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

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

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

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

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

You can also stream the game online with no cable TV subscription on fuboTV (try for free!).

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME?

The Capitals (34-18-7) take on the Lightning (39-17-3) Tuesday, February 20 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Washington.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME ON?

The Capitals-Lightning 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. Lightning
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME?

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

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

Defensemen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Taylor Chorney

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME?

The Capitals-Lightning 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.

The game is also available to stream, along with all the pregame and postgame shows, on fuboTV (try for free).

CAPITALS-LIGHTNING OPEN THREAD

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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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE