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Will Pens try to get away from Ovi-Sid matchup?

Will Pens try to get away from Ovi-Sid matchup?

Former Capitals coach Dale Hunter liked to say that “video don’t lie” and after Game 1 of the second-round playoff series between the Capitals and Penguins, neither, apparently, does the scoresheet.

The Capitals’ top line of Alex Ovechkin (4 shots, 1 assist, plus-3), Nicklas Backstrom (2 shots, plus-2) and T.J. Oshie (3 goals, 5 shots, plus-3) completely dominated the Penguins’ top unit of Conor Sheary (2 shots, minus-3), Sidney Crosby (1 shot, minus-3) and Patric Hornqvist (4 shots, minus-3) in the Caps’ 4-3 overtime victory on Thursday night.

Or did it?

"You don't like being on for goals, definitely not,” Crosby said on Friday after practicing at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “I don't think you ever like being on for them. But I've had a lot worse games and didn't end up (minus) three. As a line you have those nights where it just feels like a line dominates and you could easily be dash three. That didn't feel like one of those nights. I thought we had some good chances and ended up getting scored on a few times. We've gotta move on." 

All season, Capitals coach Barry Trotz has not shied away from his top line going head-to-head with opponents’ top offensive players and, at least from a statistical viewpoint, it’s hard to argue with the results. Ovechkin (50 goals, plus-21), Backstrom (20 goals, plus-17) and Oshie (26 goals, plus-16) combined for 96 goals and a plus-54 rating during the regular season.

So far in the playoffs, they’ve combined for nine goals in seven games with a plus-12 rating.

“I think it’s a good challenge with a couple of superstars going head-to-head,” Trotz said. “Everybody knows what I think of Nick Backstrom. Crosby’s had a fantastic offensive year, just a complete year. I thought it was a good challenge for them to go head-to-head.

“You try to outplay them every game. That’s the expectation. Sid’s a proud (guy). His line was proud. I know Patric Hornqvist very well. They’ll respond as true pros. That’s the great thing about the matchup is that they’re two good lines that’ll go head-to-head.”


Hornqvist played six seasons under Trotz in Nashville before both left the Music City in the summer of 2014. The 29-year-old Swede didn’tr mince words when asked about the Game 1 matchup. 

“They scored three goals, so obviously they won that matchup,” Hornqvist said. “There’s no question about that. But tomorrow’s our turn to change that and obviously we’re ready to do that because we have to have a good game.”

It will be interesting to see if Penguins coach Mike Sullivan will try to get away from the Crosby-Backstrom matchup in Game 2, something Sullivan called a “possibility” on Friday. If so, would the Penguins like to see Crosby against the Caps’ second line of Evgeny Kuznetsov, Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson?

Crosby dominated the faceoff circle in Game 1 by winning 19 of 28 draws (68 percent). Backstrom won just seven of his 27 faceoffs (26 percent), while Mike Richards  (71 percent) and Jay Beagle (63 percent) were excellent. Richards and Beagle often went up against Crosby on defensive zone draws in Game 1.

"We think Sid can play against anybody,” Sullivan said. “I think he really takes pride in it. We think he's an elite player. He plays at both ends of the rink. He's got a complete game. He's a great faceoff guy. I really think Sid's game for most of the time that I've been here has been a real complete goal line to goal line game. If he does play against another team's top line he has the ability to force them to have to play defense. He has the ability to make plays and put those guys under pressure away from the puck. Sometimes that can be advantageous for our team." 

While Trotz seemed comfortable with the Backstrom-Crosby matchup he also alternated between the defense pairings of Brooks Orpik (25:56) and John Carlson (29:49), and Karl Alzner (27:56) and Matt Niskanen (32:13), pretty much splitting their time between the Penguins’ top three lines.

Orpik spent nine seasons as Crosby’s teammate in Pittsburgh and has learned many of his tendencies as a passer and a shooter.

“Henrik Zetterberg always did a really good job against him,” Orpik noted. “I think just being aware of where he is on the ice helps. With that being said, every time people write him off or doubt him, he finds a way to prove people wrong. Just like this year when he had a slower start and then finished second or third in the league in scoring (third with 85 points). It’s one of those guys that you key on, but he always finds ways to make adjustments.”


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Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

When Mike Babcock essentially dismissed any concern over the impact Tom Wilson could have on a series, Wilson responded. In the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017, the Caps' forward scored the overtime winner in Game 1 and saved the series in Game 3 with a sweep of the puck off the goal line followed by a goal of his own soon after.

If you dismissed Wilson after Game 1 and Game 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Barry Trotz believes you can expect a similar answer this year after how he played in Game 3.

"I think his game was really good and that will maybe give some trust and confidence in him going forward," Trotz said Wednesday on a conference call with the media.

Wilson's impact in the first round against Toronto was immediate. As a top-line winger this season, expectations for him were high heading into the playoffs. His start to the series, however, left a lot to be desired.

Through the first two games, Wilson did not record a single shot on goal. What's worse, he took a critical penalty in each game that allowed the Blue Jackets to tie the score on each resulting power play.

You can't compare Wilson's impact on the Caps to that of a player like Alex Ovechkin, but a top-line player has to have some sort of positive impact or, at the very least, not be a detriment to his team.

In Game 3, postseason Tom finally delivered.

Wilson recorded six shots on goal and scored Washington's first goal of the game, deflecting in a shot from Matt Niskanen.

"[Wilson's] taken a lot of criticism for his first two games and some of the penalties and the effect it's had on the game," Trotz said. "I think it's given him some confidence. He's a bright young man, he's a leader, he's an all-in guy."

The key now will be for Wilson to build on that confidence.

Columbus has a number of star players such as Artemi Panarin, Seth Jones and Sergei Bobrovsky. What they do not have, however, is the scoring depth to match the Caps. Getting key contributions from players like Wilson in addition to the top playmakers like Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov will make it very hard for the Blue Jackets to keep up.

"[Wilson] had a big effect last year in the first round," Trotz said. "I think he can have a big effect in this series, in this first round."


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Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

With a thrilling double-overtime victory in Game 3, the Capitals are right back in the series. Trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1, the Caps will look to even up the series at 2-games apiece before returning to Washington for Game 5.

As the Caps take the ice for Game 4, you can be certain that Braden Holtby will be the man to lead the team in net. His stellar performance in Game 3 resolidified him as the team' starter and ended whatever goalie tandem there was between him and Philipp Grubauer.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 4

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.


The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 4 on Thursday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Columbus currently leads the series 2-1.


Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30


Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4, 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.


Here are the Caps' projected lines:

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

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

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek


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.