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Handful of Caps challenging for spots in World Cup


Handful of Caps challenging for spots in World Cup

Ask anyone in the Capitals locker room and they’ll tell you their minds are on winning hockey games and getting ahead of the New York Rangers in the Metropolitan Division standings.

But in the back of some of their minds is the idea that a strong 2015-16 could result in an invitation to play in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey next September.

“Sure they do,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who will assist head coach Mike Babcock for Team Canada. “They won’t talk about it, but they know if they perform well they’ll get on everybody’s radar.

“I think every player around the league is looking at that. Some players look at it and say they have a legitimate chance. People who have a good season are going to get noticed. There are a lot of good hockey people watching those guys.”

Through the first quarter of the season it’s pretty evident that Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov will represent Team Russia, Nicklas Backstrom will represent Team Sweden and John Carlson will represent Team USA. Braden Holtby has a very good chance of representing Team Canada, especially with Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price on the shelf for the next six weeks with an apparent knee injury.

RELATED: Jagr asks fans not to vote him into All-Star game

Holtby enters tonight’s game in Montreal (7 p.m. pregame, CSN) leading the NHL in wins (15) and second in goals-against average (1.95) while posting a personal best seven-game win streak, all of which contributed to him being named the NHL’s Second Star for the month of November.

“Braden’s been very steady for us,” Trotz said. “Obviously, he’s getting recognized around the league and that’s great for Braden. He deserves it. He’d be the first guy to tell you it’s a team effort. He’s the eraser when we make mistakes. Some nights we look better than we are because of Braden.”

A big reason is the Capitals’ risk vs. reward approach to the game this season, with defensemen being asked to join and sometimes lead the rush up the ice. That has put additional pressure on Holtby to be sharp.   

“We want our D to be active and there are going to be mistakes and good plays (by the opposition),” Trotz said. “We will give up some odd-man rushes or lose coverage once in a while when we play a team (like Montreal) that activates their D.

“That’s when we need our goalie to be an eraser. Because (Holtby) has played very well it allows us to have the confidence to play the way we do.

“To me, goaltending is all about giving your team an attitude. If you’re unsure about your goaltending you’re always going to be doubting and the trust factor’s not there. It’s like having a bad quarterback. It just doesn’t work.”

Management teams from the eight teams that will participate in the World Cup -- Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden and the United States, Team Europe and Team North America -- must announce at least 16 members of its roster, including at least two goaltenders, no later than March 1, 2016. The balance of each team’s roster must be announced no later than June 1, 2016.

Among the other Caps under consideration for the World Cup are Marcus Johansson (Sweden), T.J. Oshie (U.S.) Dmitry Orlov (Russia), Matt Niskanen (U.S.), Karl Alzner (Canada) and Tom Wilson (North America).

Although final roster decisions are still months away, Trotz said he is aware of a “watch list” that has been circulating around the NHL.

“I do know this,” Trotz said. “All the (World Cup) management teams are putting out notes to the (NHL) management teams and even to the coaching staffs about a watch list, players that are trending.

“Trust me, we’re not going to have a lot of time chasing around looking for a player playing in L.A. I could care less. I’m only worried about our group. But if they ask us about anybody in our group I can tell them what I think and what their strengths and weaknesses are.”

MORE CAPITALS: Vanecek off to a strong start in South Carolina

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

The Washington Capitals had not beaten the Dallas Stars at home since 2006, Alex Ovechkin's second season in the NHL. That streak ended on Tuesday in a 4-3 Caps win.

Here's how the Caps were finally able to down Dallas in Washington.

Oshie still hot

After going 19 straight games without a goal, T.J. Oshie has been red-hot of late with four goals in his last four games. He scored Washington’s first goal in what would become a three-goal period for the Caps as they battled back from a 1-0 deficit into a 3-3 tie through 40 minutes. Oshie also added an assist as he won a power play faceoff that John Carlson fed to Alex Ovechkin for the goal.


Ovechkin victimizing his favorite target

You knew Ovechkin would score given he was playing against one of his favorite targets. With his second period goal, Ovechkin now has 22 goals against Kari Lehtonen in his career, tied with Henrik Lundqvist for the most goals he has scored on any netminder. Lehtonen has not been in the Eastern Conference since the 2008-09 season. When he goes to sleep at night, Ovechkin is who he sees in his nightmares.

The Carlson-Klingberg duel

Carlson and John Klingberg entered Tuesday’s game each with 59 points, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. Carlson downplayed the matchup both before and after the game, but it was clear that both players were playing at another level all game long. While both players tallied two points on the night, you have to give the win to Carlson as he had the most significant point, a game-winning goal in the third period.


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Tarik's 3 Stars: Ovechkin further cements his place in history

Tarik's 3 Stars: Ovechkin further cements his place in history

Alex Ovechkin further cemented his place in NHL history, John Carlson stayed hot and Braden Holtby was good when called upon as the Caps downed the Stars, 4-3, at Capital One Arena on Tuesday night.

The victory was Washington’s fifth in the past six games. It also marked the Caps’ first win over Dallas in D.C. since 2006.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Alex Ovechkin, Capitals

Ovechkin scored his 44th goal of the season and the 602nd of his career in the second period to give the Caps a short-lived 3-2 edge in the second period.

The goal put Ovi back atop the league as he seeks a seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. It also pushed him past Jari Karri and into sole possession of 19th place on the NHL’s all-time list. Ovechkin has now victimized Kari Lehtonen 22 times, which is tied for the most goals he’s scored against a single netminder. (Henrik Lundqvist has also given up 22 goals to No. 8). Ovi also had a couple of secondary helpers.

2-John Carlson, Capitals

Carlson scored the game-winner 4:59 with left to play, blasting a one-timer past Lehtonen to put the Caps ahead 4-3.

Carlson also notched an assist, which allowed him to stay even with Dallas’ John Klingberg. Klingberg had two assists. Both players ended the game with 61 points—tied for the most among all NHL defensemen.    

3-Alexander Radulov, Stars

From his first shift, it was apparent that Radulov was determined to leave his mark on the game. And he did just that, recording a goal, an assist and boarding minor that bloodied Caps defenseman Michal Kempny. Radulov’s goal—a redirection of a John Klingberg shot—was his 26th and it evened the score, 2-2, in the second period.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.