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Prospect Report: Three prospects impressing at World Juniors

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Prospect Report: Three prospects impressing at World Juniors

Hershey update: 16-11-1-5, 4th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 1-3-0-0

It was a tough week for Hershey as the Bears lost three of four games and dropped to fourth in the division. Goals proved hard to come by after a 5-0 win on Saturday. Hershey managed only five goals in their next three games. Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey each contributed two points.

Jakub Vrana's continued absence continues to hurt Hershey offensively, but the Bears need more from players like Nathan Walker and Riley Barber, both of whom were held without a point in those four games. Zach Sill, Aaron Ness and Connor Carrick are all currently up in the NHL as injuries continue to mount for the Caps so the pressure is on for Boyd, Walker, Barber and Bowey to step up in their absence.

RELATED: What went wrong for the Caps in Carolina?

Other prospect notes:

The IIHF World Junior Championship opened in Finland on Saturday with three Caps prospects participating. Things did not go as Jonas Siegenthaler would have hoped for Switzerland as his team finished last in Group A. The good news is that Siegenthaler established himself as one of the Swiss' top defensemen. He was a physical presence on the blue line and was one of the few bright spots in what was a rough tournament for the Swiss.

Given how much playing time he had, however, and how key he was for the teams' breakouts out of their own zone, you would have liked to see that translate into points. Siegenthaler finished with 0 points for the tournament. His skill set is as a defensive player, he's not expected to be a Mike Green, but clearly the offensive end of the ice is what needs the most work.

Ilya Samsonov was expected to be Russia's top netminder for the tournament but the Russians have largely relied on Alexander Georgiev instead. Samsonov has appeared in only one game, a 4-1 win over Belarus in which he turned aside 17 of 18 shots.

Vitek Vanecek has proven to be the most impressive of the Caps' three representatives as he has carried the Czech Republic to the quarterfinals with a 2-1-1 record. Vanecek has stopped 81 of 91 shots he has faced, showing dramatic improvement from last year's tournament in which he manged only a .829 save percentage and allowed 4.31 goals per game. This year, his GAA has improved to 2.46.

Both Russia and the Czech Republic will get back on the ice for the quarterfinals on Saturday. Russia will face Denmark while the Czech Republic will take on the United States.

Switzerland will play three games against Belarus in the relegation round starting Saturday.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps close out 2015 with first loss in 10 games

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The Caps will win Game 6 if they win, or at least survive, the first period

The Caps will win Game 6 if they win, or at least survive, the first period

The last three games have been pretty awesome if you're a Caps fan. For one minute, however, let's consider what it must feel like for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Columbus has seen a 0-2 series lead evaporate, they have lost both of their home games and now they face elimination after three straight losses including two overtime games and in two of those games, the Blue Jackets outplayed the Caps.

Oh, and head coach John Tortorella kinda, sorta guaranteed the Blue Jackets would force a Game 7.

As the series shifts back to Ohio for Game 6 on Monday, do you think the Blue Jackets may be a tad motivated when they take the ice in front of their home fans?

"We’ve got a chance in front of our home crowd to push this thing to seven games and we’re excited about it," Columbus forward Matt Calvert said Sunday. "... Got home last night and I was here a little earlier, got a chance to watch the news and they’re interviewing fans and how they’re pumped up, already saying it’s going to Game 7, so I can’t wait. The atmosphere’s going to be great. I know they’re going to give an all-out effort and so are we.”

In the third period of Game 5, the enormity of their situation began to set in for Columbus. Down 3-2 and facing their third straight loss, the Blue Jackets made a tremendous push to try to win the game. They tied the score at 3 early in the period and ultimately outshot Washington 16-1. If not for the tremendous effort of Braden Holtby in net to force overtime, the roles of this series could easily be reversed with Washington facing elimination in Game 6.

Now imagine that effort, plus the home crowd plus the desperation of a team facing elimination. An early lead for the Jackets could start a snowball effect in which their momentum and the crowd carry them through the rest of the game. But the longer the Caps can survive, the more doubt will begin to creep into Columbus, the antsier the fans will become and the more confident Washington will play.

The Caps better be ready.

The good news for Washington is that its been here before. Just last season, the Caps went to Toronto in Game 6 with an opportunity to close out the Maple Leafs. Toronto outshot Washington 14-10 in the first period, but they could not get the early goal and the game was scoreless through the first 20 minutes. Auston Matthews scored in the third period to break a scoreless tie, but Marcus Johansson scored five minutes later and then again in overtime to close out the series.

After experiencing last year's series in Toronto, the Caps know what they are going to be up against in Columbus.

"It's the toughest game to win because the other team is desperate," head coach Barry Trotz said Sunday on a conference call with the media. "Their backs are against the wall. They're there. They're going to give their absolute max effort tomorrow, and we've got to make sure that we have a max effort. If we do that, then we have a chance to win in Columbus."

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NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: The West is set while the Caps still have work to do

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NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: The West is set while the Caps still have work to do

There are only two series left in the first round that have yet to be decided. The Caps just so happen to be playing in one of those series.

After falling into a 0-2 hole to start, Washington has rattled off three straight wins and now sits just one away from putting away the Columbus Blue Jackets and advancing to the second round.

Should the Capitals advance, they will play the Pittsburgh Penguins for the third consecutive season.

<<NHL POWER RANKINGS: STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS>>

The Penguins ended their series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday in Game 6. Jake Guentzel scored four goals in the effort proving once and for all that yes, goaltending is important in the playoffs. Head coach Mike Sullivan has still yet to lose a playoff series as the head coach of Pittsburgh as he led the Penguins to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons.

In the Atlantic, the Tampa Bay Lightning await the winner of the Boston Bruins - Toronto Maple Leafs series after dispatching the New Jersey Devils in five games. After a strong regular season, the Maple Leafs looked poised to take the next step, but Auston Matthews has only two points in five games and Toronto faces elimination at the hands of the Bruins Monday in Game 5.

<<NHL POWER RANKINGS: STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS>>

All four series in the West, meanwhile, have already been decided. Both the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks managed four-game sweeps in the first round and will face one another in the second  The miraculous season of the Golden Knights continues and it would be hard to argue at this point that they are not legitimate Stanly Cup contenders considering all they have accomplished in both the regular season and the playoffs.

Wins by the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets now sets up a second-round battle between the top two teams in the league from the regular season.

<<NHL POWER RANKINGS: STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS>>