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4 keys to a Game 5, Stanley Cup-clinching win for the Capitals

4 keys to a Game 5, Stanley Cup-clinching win for the Capitals

If the Capitals can claim the Stanley Cup with a Game 5 win. Here's how they can close out the Vegas Golden Knights.

The first period

A desperate Vegas team will be back home playing in front of its home crowd where the Golden Knights have been extremely formidable all season long. The crowd is going to be pumped and Vegas is going to come out swinging.

The Caps won’t face a tougher push this series than they will at the start of Game 5.

Let’s not forget how Game 4 started. Washington may have ultimately taken a big lead in the first, but the start of that period was all Vegas. If not for the goal post and James Neal’s inexplicable miss on an open net, the Golden Knights could have very easily jumped out to a one or two-goal lead.

It may sound crazy for a period the Caps ultimately took a 3-0 lead in, but they have to play better to start Game 5 than they did in Game 4.

Discipline

When Michal Kempny and Brett Connolly put Game 4 out of reach in the third period, things devolved quickly. Both teams combined for 42 penalty minutes in the third period alone.

Vegas is going to try to bait the Caps into taking penalties, especially Tom Wilson for obvious reasons and T.J. Oshie who has risen to the bait at times in this series. If frustration starts to mount, things could get nasty.

Time and time again we see in hockey that it’s not the first guy who gets the penalty, it’s the guy who reacts. The Caps need to be careful not to react. They need to know when to walk away and when to take a hit and let the refs sort it out from there.

Counterattacks

Vegas is at its best playing a fast game and committing to a five-man forecheck. Considering they are facing elimination and how Braden Holtby has been able to stifle their offense for three straight games, do not be surprised if the Golden Knights are a bit over aggressive.

While most people equate the neutral zone trap to boring hockey, it does generate odd-man breaks when the opposing team is too aggressive, especially when the defensemen get caught pinching too far up.

The opportunities for odd-man rushes are going to be there for the Caps. They need to take advantage.

Game 7 mentality

Game 5 is not a must-win for Washington. The Caps have built a two-game series lead and have some cushion to work with, but they should not approach Thursday’s game with that mentality.

When Washington faced elimination in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final, the team turned in one of its best performances of the postseason in a 3-0 win. After the game, the Tampa Bay Lightning players lamented the fact that the Caps played like a desperate team and the Lightning played like a team that had a game to give. Instead of closing it out in Game 6, Tampa Bay gave up its series lead and ended up losing in Game 7 at home.

This series against Vegas sure felt over in the second half of the third period as frustration boiled over for the Golden Knights. Given all the history of the Stanley Cup Final, a 3-1 lead seems insurmountable. A 3-2 lead, however, does not.

The Golden Knights have no reason to believe they can win this series at this point. That could change if they win Game 5. Washington should not allow them back into the series by approaching Thursday like a team with a two-game lead.

Don’t think about Game 6 or Game 7. Just win Game 5.

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Sergei Ovechkin meets baby brother Ilya

Sergei Ovechkin meets baby brother Ilya

Where would we be through this pause in the NHL season without baby news? Alex Ovechkin is now a father of two with the birth of his son Ilya on Wednesday. After a few years of Sergei stealing the hearts of Capitals fans, no doubt Ilya will be as cute and fans can't wait to meet him...but we'll have to get in line.

Before we can meet Ilya, he first had to meet big brother Sergei. Luckily, the moment was captured on camera and shared on Instagram.

It's as adorable as you would expect.

Let's get these kids on the ice!

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Report: NHL training camps won't start before July 10

Report: NHL training camps won't start before July 10

Tuesday's announcement of the NHL's return to play plan was a step in the right direction towards resuming the 2019-20 season, but we are still a long way off from that point. According to a report from TSN's Pierre LeBrun, NHL training camps will not start before July 10.

That does not mean July 10 is now the set return date, it simply means training camps will not begin before then.

The NHL has organized its return to play plan into four phases. Opening training camps is considered Phase 3 of that plan. The league is still in Phase 1, which is self-isolation.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday he was hopeful Phase 2, players returning to team facilities for voluntary activities, could begin in late June. Even if that were the case, an early July return for training camps would have been ambitious. Given that, the report that camps would not be able to return until at least mid-July should come as no surprise.

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As for how this will affect the 2020-21 season, the NHL has been adamant that it intends to hold a full 82-game season, even if it means pushing the start back into December and cutting out both the All-Star game and bye weeks. For now, there is no reason to think that plan will change based on LeBrun's report.

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