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4 reasons the Caps lost Game 1 to the Golden Knights

4 reasons the Caps lost Game 1 to the Golden Knights

Las Vegas is a city all about entertainment and Game 1 certainly delivered on Monday night.

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights opened the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final with a wild, back-and-forth contest that saw the Caps fall 6-4.

Here's why the Caps fell in the first game of the series.

4 Reasons Why the Capitals lost Game 1 to the Golden Knights

1. Burakovsky’s penalty

Andre Burakovsky took an unnecessary penalty early in the first when he boarded Cody Eakin in the offensive zone. The play not only ended what was the Caps’ best offensive shift of the game to that point, it also gave Vegas a power play.

The Golden Knights took advantage as Colin Miller fired a slap shot past Braden Holtby for the first goal of the series.

2. Vegas’ quick responses

The Caps had the lead twice in this game and both times it was short-lived.

Despite giving up the first goal, Washington battled back to take the lead in the first period with two goals in a 42-second span. Williams Karlsson scored just 2:56 later, however, to tie the game back at two.

The Caps had a great start to the third period taking a 4-3 lead just 70 seconds in thanks to a Tom Wilson goal. Again, Vegas responded with a game-tying goal 91 seconds later from Ryan Reaves.

Vegas was never deterred after giving up the lead and did not allow Washington to build any momentum or take control of the game.

3. An uncalled cross-check

Speaking of Reaves’ goal, it never should have counted. Reaves scored right from the top of the crease as he managed to find a little window with which to shoot.

How did he get open? By blatantly cross-checking John Carlson to the ice right before he got the puck.

We know how referees put away the whistles in the playoffs, but on a blatant penalty that creates a goal that’s a call you have to make.

4. Vegas’ fourth line

The Golden Knights matched their fourth line primarily against Washington’s fourth line and it was not a favorable matchup for the Caps. At all.

Vegas dominated play when their fourth line of Tomas Nosek, Pierre-Edourd Bellemare and Reaves was on the ice and that resulted in three critical third-period goals. Reaves scored the game-tying goal in the third period and Tomas Nosek scored the game-winner and added an empty-netter to put the exclamation point on the win.




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

Scout Pruski

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:

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Oddsmakers give three Capitals the chance to win MVP in 2018-19

Oddsmakers give three Capitals the chance to win MVP in 2018-19

There are no signs of Alex Ovechkin slowing down heading into his first season after winning a Stanley Cup. Bovada just released their latest odds for the Hart Memorial Trophy (the NHL’s Most Valuable Player Award) and Ovechkin was tied with the third-best odds to win in all of the NHL at 10/1.

He was joined by two other Washington Capitals, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov both at 50/1 odds. 

Here are all the odds for the top 11 players:

Connor McDavid          10/3
Sidney Crosby              13/2
Auston Matthews        10/1
Alex Ovechkin               10/1
Jon Tavares                   10/1
Taylor Hall                     15/1
Nikita Kucherov            15/1
Nathan MacKinnon      15/1
Mark Scheifele              15/1
Anze Kopitar                  18/1
Evgeni Malkin                18/1

The only two players ahead of ‘The Great 8’ are the 21-year-old McDavid and dreaded rival Crosby.

Even with the immense amount of alcohol that has been consumed in the past two months, Ovechkin is still commanding respect in Vegas. It is hard not to when he turns around these intense offseason workouts. At 32, Ovechkin led the NHL in scoring with 49 goals a year ago, the seventh such time he has done so. 

Already the 2018 Conn Smythe winner has three MVP trophies to his name (one more than Crosby) and there is no telling what to expect now that the 11-time All-Star has a Stanley Cup title. 

In his 11 years in the league, Backstrom has never received any votes for the Hart Memorial Trophy. Kuznetsov only has done so once and that was in the 2015-16 season.