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Why Capitals say they're not as worried as their fans

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Why Capitals say they're not as worried as their fans

If you want to make enemies inside the Capitals locker room, bring up Jaroslav Halak and the 2010 Montreal Canadiens. Or Derek Stepan and the 2015 New York Rangers.

Both of those Capitals teams squandered 3-1 series leads en route to heart-crushing playoff exits. 

Those weren’t the only ones, of course. Since the start of the Alex Ovechkin era the Caps have blown two-game leads in a playoff series four times and since 2013 they are a combined 1-8 in series-clinching scenarios.

Fair or unfair, those thoughts of playoff failures have come rushing back for Caps fans, whose sense of panic is nearly off the charts following Friday night’s 2-0 loss to the Flyers in a game the Capitals outshot Philadelphia 44-11.

“I don’t think this team has any playoff history,” Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said when asked about the inevitable comparisons to other Caps teams that broke their fans’ hearts. “This is our first playoffs together. So, in my opinion, no. Sorry to be cheeky, but that’s the truth, I think.”

When it was mentioned to Braden Holtby that the Flyers believe all of the pressure has been placed squarely on the shoulders of the top-seeded Capitals, the Caps goaltender bristled.   

“They’re grabbing at straws with that,” Holtby said. “They’ll find out we’re a confident group, a different group than in the past. We’re focused on playing seven good games if we need it. We believe we can win four of seven every single series and it doesn’t matter how we do it.”

MORE CAPITALS: ONE CAPITAL 'SICK AND TIRED' OF TALKING ABOUT FLYERS

That’s not exactly what Caps fans want to hear. They wanted to see that killer instinct that has been lacking in years’ past. In many ways, they saw that on Friday night. The Capitals did everything within their power to send the Flyers home for a long summer. 

But Michal Neuvirth had fans flashing back to visions of Halak stoning the Capitals and leading the eighth-seeded Canadiens to a seven-game upset.

“Everybody talks about the past, the past, the past,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said. “The only pressure we’ll have is on ourselves. We’ll go into Philadelphia and play really well and get a win there. If we don’t accomplish that, we go to Game 7. I thought tonight we played excellent. What are you going to say? You just keep playing that way and it’ll turn.”

In theory, it should. When you get 82 attempts at the net (44 shots, 19 blocked, 19 misses) and hold your opponent to 27 (11 shots, 6 blocked, 10 misses) you should win the hockey game.

But because the Capitals didn’t, their fans are fearing the absolute worst – that they could become just the fifth team in Stanley Cup history to blow a 3-0 series lead by losing four games in a row. 

“You can’t be too upset with a good game,” Alzner said. “Just be upset with the result and keep truckin’ along.”

Holtby was singing a similar tune.

“If we play our game it’s going to go our way sooner or later,” he said. “The last two games we haven’t gotten any lucky bounces. We haven’t had luck go our way and if we just keep our composure and keep pushing forward there’s no way we won’t win one of the last two games.”

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

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USA TODAY Sports

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.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

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.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME ON?

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

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

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

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

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

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

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.

CAPITALS-SABRES OPEN THREAD

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.

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Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

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NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

Alan May knows a thing or two about the trade deadline.

Over the course of his NHL career, May was traded five total times, four at the trade deadline. He sits down with Rob Carlin on a special edition of the Capitals Extra Podcast to tell stories from his playing days about what it was like getting traded.

This one's a can't miss for hockey fans. You can listen to the episode here on the Capitals Extra page or with the player below.