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Ovechkin, Caps ready to embrace expectations


Ovechkin, Caps ready to embrace expectations

Click on just about any NHL preseason prediction piece and you’ll find them, right there among the teams expected to win the Stanley Cup in June.

So how do the Capitals feel about being this season’s popular choice to bring their first Stanley Cup to the District of Columbia?

“There’s a saying,” said Justin Williams, who’s had his name etched on the Stanley Cup three times: “With great expectations come great responsibilities. They don’t mean anything to us. The hardest part is getting in. A lot of great teams do not make the playoffs and that is Step One.

“Just because media people are giving you props and saying you’re going to be a great team doesn’t necessarily mean that. You’ve got to earn it. You’re not anointed anything.”

The pieces, everyone seems to agree, are there. A Vezina Trophy-caliber goaltender in Braden Holtby. A superstar talent in Alex Ovechkin. A very solid top four defense corps in John Carlson, Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner. And enough workers (Tom Wilson, Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle, Michael Latta, Brooks Laich) to win close games.

"I’m expecting us to do well," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. "We have a solid base. With the culture change last year, everybody's familiar with the systems. So we should be better. We’ve added a couple guys that make us a more skilled team. I think from the coaching staff to the players to the management I think everybody expects us top build on what we did last year – to be a better team than last year."

Head coach Barry Trotz says the Capitals have something else that may be needed to win it all – battle scars. The Caps were 101 seconds away from finishing off the New York Rangers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinal when, well, you know how that turned out.

“It sucks when you lose in Game 7,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said. “Or when you lead (a series) 3-1 and you lose in the second round. It’s very disappointing. After that, you don’t want to play hockey at all.”

Until October.

Like the Capitals, T.J. Oshie learned in St. Louis what it’s like to fall short of expectations. The Blues have been to the playoffs four straight seasons but never advanced past the second round.  

“TJ has his own scars from St. Louis, just as we as Caps have our scars,” Trotz said. “We don’t want to forget the hurt. But I think that leads to hunger. Talk to Justin Williams. He’s won three (Cups) and he’s as excited as anyone to win another one.”

Williams said the Caps have everything to win on paper. But they also have a few other ingredients he believes are necessary to win in June.

“It’s what you feel within your dressing room,” Williams said. “I like the closeness of this team. I like the skill of this team. And I also like the work of this team. So if we keep our heads and everyone gets better every day, we’re going to have a great squad.”

Trotz says he wants his players to talk about winning the Stanley Cup all season long. And he wants them to take others’ expectations and turn them into motivation.

“Guys who have won recognize groups of players or teams that have a legitimate chance,” Trotz said. “They’re talking about the Caps having a really good chance.

“Are we trying to shy away from being one of the contending reams? No. I think we should look at ourselves as a team that can contend. But there’s probably eight or nine other teams that can contend. Whoever can get through the gauntlet of good contenders is going to be successful and there’s  a lot of good teams out there.”

Ovechkin agreed.

“We don’t have to listen to you guys,” Ovechkin said. “We just have to be a team and stick together. Of course, everybody wants to win. Thirty teams want to win the Stanley Cup and only one team is gonna get it. I hope we’re going to be that team.”

MORE CAPITALS: Schmidt, Grubauer prepare for a full season in the NHL

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Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal


Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

Defenseman Jakub Jerabek is really happy about the opportunity to play with the Washington Capitals, but it could have come at a better time. The trade came with his parents already on their way from the Czech Republic to visit him.

“It was crazy days past three days because I had my parents on the way to Montreal and they didn't know so it was a big surprise for them,” Jerabek told reporters Saturday after his first skate with the team.

A native of the Czech Republic, Jerabek signed his first NHL contract with the Montreal Canadiens in May 2017. After spending some time in the AHL and struggling to consistently earn a spot in the Canadiens’ lineup, he knew a trade was possible.

“My family, maybe we expected some trade. When its come with Caps and it was Washington, I was really happy.”


Jerabek said he came into the NHL with no expectations and was simply happy for the opportunity, but it is fair to wonder if he was not just the least bit frustrated with how he was utilized by Montreal.

For a player with experience playing for the national team, the Czech league and the KHL, getting only 25 games with a bad Montreal team seems a bit low.

“In first two weeks, I didn't know what's going on because the coaches just told me that I played well, but we just make some competition between the [defensemen] and that I have to wait for my next chance,” Jerabek said. “It was hard, but now I'm happy down here.”

Washington now offers a very different opportunity. In need of help on the blue line, Jeraebek has the chance to earn consistent playing time for a team on pace to reach the postseason.

Jerabek will not play in Saturday’s game against Buffalo, but he was hopeful he would be in the lineup for Monday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.


For now, Jerabek and head coach Barry Trotz are unclear as to what his ultimate role on the team will be. With eight defensemen now on the roster, Trotz cautioned any lineup decision could not be rushed because of the trickle-down effect it will have on the other players.

“You always look at chemistry and all that with your group depending how high that player goes up the lineup, it affects different people,” Trotz said. “In a forward group, if you get a guy that you all of a sudden stick on the first line, there's four other guys that are bumped down and one guy's bumped out.”

The addition of Jerabek, however, offers the Caps another defenseman who can quickly move the puck out of the defensive zone, something the team has struggled with immensely throughout the season. Though he shoots left, he also said he is comfortable playing on the right said and has played there regularly over the past few years. That provides the lineup with some flexibility on the third pair behind Matt Niskanen and John Carlson.

As for Jerabek’s parents, they will be arriving in Washington on Saturday.

“I tried to figure out the situation with them to get them to here and they will come today,” he said. “So I'm really happy.”

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Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread


Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres

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

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

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

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


The Capitals (34-20-7) take on the Sabres (18-32-11) Saturday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Capital One Arena.


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


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

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

Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Michal Kempny

Philipp Grubauer starts with Braden Holtby as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek


The Capitals-Panthers 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.


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.