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3 stars of the game: Caps' stars outshine the Lightning

3 stars of the game: Caps' stars outshine the Lightning

Few gave the Caps a chance of beating the Tampa Bay Lightning, but after two games in Florida the Caps now own a two-game stranglehold in the 2018 Eastern Conference Final after a 6-2 Game 2 win on Sunday.

Two bad penalty calls against Washington gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period, but it was all Caps after that.

Washington scored three times in the second period to take a 4-2 lead and added two more in the third period. From there, the blowout was on.

Here are the three stars of the game.

3 Stars of Capitals vs. Lightning Game 2

1. Evgeny Kuznetsov: The most frustrating aspect of Kuznetsov’s game is his reluctance to take shots. He is always looking to setup a teammate rather than call his own number even when he is so clearly the best option.

Well, that wasn’t a problem in Game 2.

Kuznetsov had a very quick trigger finger on what was a three-point night as the Caps tried to keep Andrei Vasilevskiy on his toes. He finished with four shots on goal. An early missed shot by Kuznetsov actually turned into the game’s first goal as it hit off the boards and back to the blue line where Matt Niskanen fired it on net for a Tom Wilson deflection goal.

Kuznetsov also fired a quick pass from the corner very late in the second period that deflected off of Vasilevskiy’s stick into the net with just three seconds left on the clock.

2. Lars Eller: When you first learn to play hockey, one of the things you are always taught is to keep your stick down on the ice. That way you’re ready if the puck comes in your direction. Luckily, Eller was listening and was ready when Jakub Vrana zipped a pass to the slot.

Eller also recorded an assist on Kuznetsov’s goal. Had Vasilevskiy not deflected the puck into his own net, Eller very well could have gotten that goal as he was waiting in the crease for the pass.

3. Alex Ovechkin: There was a lot of talk about Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov coming in, but Ovechkin has overshadowed both superstars in the first two games. He was a big factor again in Game 2 with a goal, an assist, four shots on goal and five hits.

Ovechkin fired a one-timer to finish off a 2-on-1 from Kuznetsov who curled the puck around a diving Anton Stralman.


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Capitals draft pick admits he is...a Flyers fan


Capitals draft pick admits he is...a Flyers fan

Say it ain't so.

Mitchell Gibson is the first goalie the Capitals have drafted since Ilya Samsonov in 2015, but they may be thinking twice about their selection after a recent shocking interview.

Gibson spoke with a local Philadelphia CBS station and revealed that both he and his family...are Flyers fans.

Insert dramatic music.

"I think my family will always be Flyers fans in their hearts and I guess I will be a little bit," Gibson admitted, hopefully with guilt in his voice.

Gibson was selected by the Caps in the fourth round of the 2018 draft, but clearly the scouts did not do their homework. It's as if Gibson grew up a hockey fan in a place like Phoenixville, Pa. (about an hour outside of Philadelphia) without anticipating the future that he may one day be drafted by a rival team like Washington.

Shame, shame.

The young netminder tried to make up for his horrifying admission later in the interview.

"The Capitals are definitely treating me well right now so I would like to be their goalie," he said.

A likely story.

Gibson is only 19 and set to begin his first collegiate season at Harvard in 2018 so at least there is still time for Gibson to overcome his shameful past. And hey, it could always be worse. At least he's not a Penguins fan.


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Key Caps questions: How will Samsonov look in his first season in North America?

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Key Caps questions: How will Samsonov look in his first season in North America?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals correspondent JJ Regan is here to help you through the offseason doldrums as he discusses key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: How will Ilya Samsonov play in his first season in North America?

What else is there to say about Samsonov's time in the KHL? In the limited action he saw playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, he looked every bit the starting goalie the Caps hoped he would one day be when they drafted him in the first round of the 2015 draft. Now, finally, he is ready to start his North America career.

What makes the transition from Europe to North America difficult?

First, Samsonov is adjusting to a new country and a new language. Second, the workload in North America is much larger, even in practice.

"He probably saw more shots today than he saw in a month of practice in Russia and this was nothing," director of player development Steve Richmond said during development camp. "For me, that's the biggest thing for him is to learn how to practice in North America."

And then there's the rink size. The game is faster for goalies in North America because of the smaller rink. Scoring chances develop much more quickly and Samsonov will also be dealing with different angles. It also means dealing with a lot more traffic in front of the net. He is going to have to learn more how to track the puck through a screen and to react much more quickly.

I tried to watch Samsonov closely in development camp. His size definitely stood out. He takes up a lot of the net, but is still very athletic and very quick in and out of the butterfly. As big as he is, however, he seems to play very low to compensate for his size which leaves him vulnerable up high at times. He would make a handful of very good saves, then let in a soft one glove side or in the corners because he was playing too low.

Those areas of his game can be improved on with practice so long as you have the skill and Samsonov certainly has that.

Samsonov has been elite at every level he has played and there is no reason to think that won't continue in the AHL. Having said that, there is just too much he needs to adjust to expect him to be ready for the NHL at this point. He needs as much playing time as possible at the AHL level before he is ready. As long as that's where he spends the season, I expect him to put up similar numbers to the 2.31 GAA, .926 save percentage he managed last season in the KHL.

Other key Caps questions: