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USA Today predicts fewer goals for Ovechkin and a new team for Orlov in 2017

USA Today predicts fewer goals for Ovechkin and a new team for Orlov in 2017

The end of the calendar year is rapidly approaching which means it’s time for New Year’s resolutions and 2017 predictions.

USA Today released 10 NHL predictions for the upcoming year on Monday including some interesting notes on the Caps. Will they prove prescient?

The first prediction deals with rising Winnipeg Jets star Patrik Laine and his quest to become the next Alex Ovechkin:

"Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine will outscore Alex Ovechkin this season and for the calendar year of 2017."

As the article notes, Laine currently holds a four-goal lead over Ovechkin (18-14). What it does not note, however, is that the Jets have played five more games than the Caps this season.

RELATED: 12 Days of Capitals: Day 9

Ovechkin’s goal production declines when the team’s power play is struggling. The team’s struggles with the extra man at the start of the season have been well documented. Now with the power play surging, expect Ovechkin’s goal totals to start climbing.

Laine is an unbelievable talent who has a very bright NHL future, but he is a rookie. Chances are he cannot continue scoring at his current rate over the course of 2017. The other coaches and players get paid a lot of money to find a way to keep players like Laine from scoring. His production will likely decline in 2017 as teams start to get wise to him, especially at the start of the 2017-18 season.

Ever hear of a sophomore slump?

This feels like the type of prediction experts are going to make every year until they’re proven right, much like declaring the San Antonio Spurs are past their prime or Tom Brady can’t lead the New England Patriots to the Super Bowl. Eventually, you’re going to be proven right. What we should keep track of, however, is just how many times you were proven wrong before Father Time eventually wins out.

I’m not saying Ovechkin will definitely surpass Laine in goals for either the season or the calendar year, I’m just saying it may not be as obvious a prediction as it may seem.

The second predictions dealing with the Caps had to do with defenseman Dmitry Orlov and former Cap Mathieu Perreault:

"Mathieu Perreault, Dmitry Orlov and Jonas Brodin will be among the most noteworthy Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural season."

For those who have been trying to project who from the Caps may get snagged in the expansion draft, Orlov has always seemed a likely candidate. Teams will be able to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie.

It’s easy to see why Orlov would be a target for Vegas general manager George McPhee. McPhee drafted Orlov in 2009, he is only 25 years old and has top-four skill. Among players on the team, he will likely be near the top of McPhee’s wish list. But this prediction is also dependent on one very large factor: Karl Alzner.

What this ultimately says is that Washington will protect Alzner, Matt Niskanen and John Carlson from the expansion draft, which they will...if they can re-sign Alzner. If not, however, most likely they will protect Orlov over Nate Schmidt, Brooks Orpik and Taylor Chorney.

Ultimately, I think this will be correct. Some have floated Philipp Grubauer's name out there, but with so many teams in the NHL utilizing a two-goalie system, I believe McPhee will have his choice of plenty of netminders who have already established themselves as top starters. Orlov would be my prediction as of now.

Having said that and with all due respect to Orlov, if he is among the "most noteworthy" players on the new Vegas team, it may be a rough first few years for the Golden Knights.

MORE CAPITALS: 3 bold predictions: Playoff rematch in Philadelphia

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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.