Caps fans hoping for an escape from the misery of another early playoff exit won't find one in Hershey. The Capitals' AHL affiliate Hershey Bears saw their season end in similar fashion to their NHL counterparts on Wednesday as they fell 4-2 in Game 7 of their second round series to the Providence Bruins on Wednesday.
The Bears returned to Hershey for Game 6 and 7 with a 3-2 series lead and a chance to return to the Eastern Conference Final for the second straight season but were unable to close out the series losing both games. Riley Barber and Chandler Stephenson both scored in the Game 7 loss.
You can see the highlights of the game here:
Much like the Capitals, the Bears now face some tough questions heading into the offseason. Tom Gilbert, Garrett Mitchell, Christian Thomas, Paul Carey, Chris Bourque, Stanislav Galiev and Pheonix Copley are all unrestricted free agents while Chandler Stephenson, Christina Djoos, Travis Boyd, Nathan Walker and Liam O'Brien are unrestricted free agents.
Plus, there are several players who could be ready for a jump to the NHL. For a Capitals team facing cap constraints, a cheap way to bolster the roster would be to promote prominent prospects to the NHL lineup. One such prospect is forward Jakub Vrana who struggled at points in Hershey this year.
In addition to Vrana, Copley, Djoos, Boyd, Stephenson, Riley Barber and Madison Bowey all are players who could get serious looks with the Capitals next season.
As tumultuous as this summer may prove to be for the Caps, the Bears may face even more turnover to their roster. Questions as to how good this team may be next season make this year's Game 7 loss to Providence sting all the more.
It also leaves Washington sports fans bemoaning yet another Game 7 loss.
The Capitals head into Thanksgiving on a high note after a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.
Here's why they won.
Barry Trotz surprised everyone by changing up the lines and reuniting Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom despite coyly telling the media that he would use the same "group" just two hours before the game. The move worked, however, as an energized Caps team took the ice. The moves were not just felt on the top line, there was a boost all throughout the lineup to start the game and the energy the team played with was evident.
The Caps’ best offensive players looked like their best offensive players
Much has been written in recent days about the Caps’ top-six and its offensive struggles, but they seemed just fine against Ottawa. Ovechkin (1 goal), Backstrom (1 assist), T.J. Oshie (2 assists), Evgeny Kuznetsov (1 goal, 2 assists) and Jakub Vrana (2 goals) all had big nights.
Ovechkin's late first period goal
Multi-goal leads have been hard to come by for the Caps of late. Despite a strong first period, Washington held only a 1-0 lead as the first frame drew to a close. Instead of having a chance to regroup in the locker room, Ottawa found itself suddenly down by two as Ovechkin scored with just five seconds left. That goal set the tone for the start of the second period where Washington was able to tack on another two goals to take the 4-0 lead. Does that momentum carry over to the second without Ovechkin's late tally? I'm not so sure.
Killing a 5-on-3 power play in the second period
Despite the 4-0 deficit, the Senators hung around and scored in the second period to make it 4-1. Then Ovechkin was called for a high-stick and Backstrom got into a bit of a tussle with Ben Harpur after getting a high-stick from him. The ref sent Ovechkin, Backstrom and Harpur to the box. Just 44 seconds later, Tom Wilson joined them after getting called for a slash giving the Senators 1:16 of a two-man advantage power play. One goal would have pulled them within two with over a period left to play. This game was not over. This was a critical moment for Washington and the penalty kill delivered by killing off both penalties. After that, the game really was no longer in doubt.
On the eve of Thanksgiving, the Caps gave the home crowd something to be thankful for with a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators.
Barry Trotz elected to shake up the offensive lines before the game and it seemed to work. The Caps took control of the game from the drop of the puck and took a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period and never looked back.
Here are the three stars of the game.
1. Jakub Vrana
Vrana opened the scoring by crashing the net and was in perfect position for the rebound off of a shot from Evgeny Kuznetsov. His second goal came off a perfect shot, and I do mean perfect. This was the first multi-goal game of his NHL career and his third multi-point game.
2. Evgeny Kuznetsov
This is why Kuznetsov should shoot more. Vrana's first goal came off a rebound from a shot by Kuznetsov. It was his first even-strength point since Nov. 6. On a power play in the second period, a loose puck came to Kuznetsov's stick. Rather than look for the pass as he has been his tendency, he did not hesitate. He shot it and the result was his third power play goal of the season. Kuznetsov finished with one goal and two assists.
3. Alex Ovechkin
Despite how dominant the first period looked for Washington, they still held only a 1-0 lead. What really set the tone for the game was Ovechkin's first period goal. A quick passing play from Nicklas Backstrom to Alex Chiasson to Ovechkin found the Great 8 behind Ottawa's defense. He finished off the play with the goal to put Washington up 2-0 with just five seconds left in the period. That turned a good period into a dominant one and really set the tone for the start of the second in which the Caps were able to put up another two goals.