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It's Labor Day. Who's the hardest-working Capital?


It's Labor Day. Who's the hardest-working Capital?

Happy Labor Day, the official end of summer and the unofficial start of 2015 NHL training camps. By the end of this week the Capitals should have nearly an entire roster on the ice at Kettler, with captain Alex Ovechkin expected to arrive a week from today on Monday, Sept. 14, three days before his 30th birthday.

In honor of Labor Day, we thought we’d ask your input on who you think are the five hardest-working players on this year’s roster. Feel free to throw in some of the hardest-working players in Caps history in the Comments section below. (Dale Hunter? Scott Stevens? Rod Langway? Steve Konowalchuk?)

Again, this is purely subjective and open for debate:

Jay Beagle

Ask just about any player, coach or trainer in the organization about hard-working players and Beagle’s name comes up. Whether it’s on the ice at practice, in the weight room or during games, Beagle’s boundless energy has been a benchmark for his teammates.

“Beags is the hardest-working player I’ve ever been around,” former Caps veteran Eric Fehr said at the conclusion of last season.

Undrafted, Beagle, 29, signed with the Caps in 2008 and has been a full-time NHL center/winger the past four seasons. One of Dale Hunter’s favorite players in 2011-12, Beagle is coming off a career-high 10-goal, 10-assist season and was one of the most sought-after Capitals at last year’s trade deadline. The Caps rewarded him with a three-year, $5.25 million contract and he’ll challenge for the third-line center spot in camp.

Brooks Orpik

On the ice, Orpik is the fearless leader of the Caps’ blue line. Approaching 35 years of age, he is still one of the NHL’s most respected and physical defensemen, capable of shutting down some of the NHL’s top scorers.

Off the ice, Orpik is completely dedicated to keeping his body in optimal condition, monitoring his diet like a hawk and encouraging his teammates to do the same. For a player who throws so many body checks (team-high 306) and blocks so many shots (192) Orpik is extremely durable, missing just four games last season.

With four more years and $22 million remaining on his deal with the Caps, Orpik appears to have enough left in his tank to be a top-four blue liner for at least two or three more seasons.

RELATED: Alzner hopes new Caps make up for loss of 'key' players

John Carlson

While his name may not be at the top of every fan’s list, Carlson’s dedication to his craft was evident last season. He was on the ice before nearly every practice working with assistant coach Todd Reirden on every aspect of his game.

Carlson carried that same dedication into the offseason, working on his upper- and lower-body strength to make him harder to play against in front of the net and in the corners. Carlson led the Caps with 200 blocks last season but was credited with just 74 hits.

At just 25, Carlson is coming off a career year (12 goals, 43 assists) and his best hockey is ahead of him. If he can continue to build off last season, the Caps could have a franchise blue liner on their hands.

Nicklas Backstrom

It’s not always the case when a team’s most talented players are also its hardest working, but for years Backstrom has been recognized by teammates as the Caps’ quiet de facto captain, more comfortable skating in the shadows of Ovechkin than basking in the limelight.

Now 27 and approaching his eighth NHL season, Backstrom brings a businesslike approach to every practice and every game. He is attentive and extremely serious about his practice habits and quietly leads with his words and actions in the dressing room.

Having played in every Caps regular season game the past three seasons, Backstrom is coming off the most challenging offseason of his career, rehabbing from May 27 hip surgery. His ability to return to full health will be perhaps the biggest factor in the Caps’ quest for a Stanley Cup this season.

Alex Ovechkin

Let me explain. Yes, the Caps’  captain has been criticized up, down and sideways about his “gliding” and disdain for defense. And yes, there are still times that Ovechkin is caught with his stick resting on his knees in the defensive zone.

But …

No one can tell me a player can score 50-plus goals a season for virtually an entire career without working hard in the offseason. Whatever Ovechkin does during his summers in Russia, it’s enough to make him the NHL’s most lethal goal scorer, not to mention one of its most intimidating hitters.

It was clear from the first day of fitness testing under Barry Trotz that Ovechkin would be treated like every other member of the Capitals, and it was equally clear that by midseason Ovechkin’s play away from the puck and willingness to backcheck was vastly improved.

Would Ovechkin benefit from spending a few minutes before or after practice working on the finer aspects of his game? Every player would. But from a production standpoint, no one can do what Ovechkin does every year without putting in the long hours of training every offseason.

Honorable mention: Braden Holtby, Karl Alzner, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Laich, Jassson Chimera, Dmitry Orlov.

Now, it’s your turn.

MORE CAPITALS: With Green in Detroit, who will fill the void?

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

The Caps put together their best performance of the series Thursday in a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 4 of their 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs first-round series.

he win pulled Washington even with Columbus in the series 2-2.

Here's how the Caps got the big win.

4 Reasons why the Capitals beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

1. Tom Wilson factors in the offense

Wilson’s hands are good for more than just punching.

He proved that again on Thursday as he scored the first goal for the second consecutive game. Chandler Stephenson and John Carlson provided the pressure on Sergei Bobrovsky. With Bobrovsky scrambling in the crease, Evgeny Kuznetsov passed the puck back to Wilson who fired the one-timer past the Columbus netminder.

In the first two games of the series, Wilson had no points and no shots. In the last two games, he has two goals and 13 shots on goal.

2. A great keep-in by John Carlson

We saw how dangerous it was when penalty killers fail to clear the puck in Game 1 when the Caps failed to clear in the third period leading to the game-tying power play goal.

In Game 4, the roles were reversed. Trying to kill off an Artemi Panarin penalty, Cam Atkinson attempted to clear the puck with the backhand. Carlson skillfully corralled the puck out of the air at the blue line to keep it in the zone.

The power play was able to reset and T.J. Oshie scored the rebound goal soon after.

3. Braden Holtby closes the door to finish the second period

After the Caps took the 2-0 lead, the Blue Jackets made a late push to try to pull one back.

In the last 10 minutes of the second period, Columbus had 13 shot attempts, five of which were not net. Several of those shots were high-quality opportunities, but Holtby came up with the big saves that the team was not getting earlier in the series.

His play ensured the Caps took the 2-0 lead to the locker room.

4. Alex Ovechkin extends the lead to three

Washington entered the third period up 2-0. In each of the first three games, the Caps held a two-goal lead and allowed the Blue Jackets to battle back and tie the score. Even with a two-goal lead, it still felt at the start of the third that the next goal would decide the game. If Columbus pulled within one and got the crowd back on their side, we have seen what that momentum can do for them.

This time, however, Ovechkin struck first. After a board battle behind the net, the puck trickled out to the faceoff circle. Ovechkin grabbed it and quickly snapped the puck past Bobrovsky before anyone could react.

The goal gave Washington their first three-goal lead of the series and shut the Blue Jackets’ comeback down before it could begin.


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Tarik's 3 stars: Ovechkin said Caps would even the series, on Thursday, he helped them do it

Tarik's 3 stars: Ovechkin said Caps would even the series, on Thursday, he helped them do it

COLUMBUS — Alex Ovechkin confidently predicted earlier this week that the Caps were going to win twice at Nationwide Arena and take their first round series back to Washington knotted, two games apiece.

And, on Thursday night, that’s exactly what Ovechkin made sure his team did.

No. 8, who was playing in his franchise-record 101st playoff game, scored his third goal of the playoffs early in the final frame and the Caps beat the Blue Jackets 4-1 in Game 4.

Tarik’s Three Stars of Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4

1. Tom Wilson, Capitals

After a slow (and penalty-plagued) start to this series, Wilson has become a force. Yes, he took another minor, but the good is far outweighing the bad these days. Big Willy recorded a goal, an assist and a team-high seven shots. 

2. Braden Holtby, Capitals

Holtby had his best game in, well, a long time. He stopped 23 shots, including all eight he saw in a contentious second period.

The goal he surrendered was a nearly unstoppable tip-in by Boone Jenner.

3. T.J. Oshie, Capitals

Osh just plays the game so dang hard.

So it should come as no surprise that he delivered in his team’s biggest game of the season to this point. Oshie, of course, scored the game-winning goal on the power play midway through the second period.

It was No. 77’s second tally of the series. He also directed six shots at the Columbus net and made a couple of hits...all from a player who's been fighting through injury the past few weeks.

Agree? Disagree?

Let us know what you think in the comments.