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4 reasons why the Capitals beat the Sharks

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USA TODAY Sports

4 reasons why the Capitals beat the Sharks

The San Jose Sharks have had the number of the Washington Capitals over the years, but that was not the case on Monday. The Caps were finally able to beat San Jose and they did so in convincing fashion with a 4-1 win.

Here’s why they won

Alex Ovechkin does it all

With the Caps leading by one in the second period, Ovechkin was able to pounce on a flubbed shot by Brent Burns and was off to the races. Ovechkin took the breakaway from the defensive zone, avoided the sweep check from Brenden Dillon and backhanded a shot past Martin Jones for the highlight reel goal. The second period was a sloppy one for Washington and the Sharks were retaking the momentum. Ovechkin’s goal was critical in re-establishing control of the game.

Brett Connolly restored the Caps’ two-goal lead. Or did he? Yes he did. Did he really? Yes. He did.

A bizarre sequence unfolded late in the second period. After Brenden Dillon was called for high-sticking and T.J. Oshie left the game after a hit from Joe Thornton, Connolly found himself playing with the top power play unit. He took advantage with a top-shelf goal to beat Jones. Or did he? The Caps thought he scored, but the puck was in and out so fast the referees let the play continue. After the next stoppage, the play was reviewed and Connolly was correctly awarded the goal. Or was he? At that moment, the Sharks decided to challenge the goal as offside. After another review, the goal was still upheld and Connolly was mercifully awarded the goal. The Sharks were also given a delay of game penalty for the challenge.

Philipp Grubauer’s third period

Through 40 minutes Grubauer looked good, but not great. That changed at the start of the third when Grubauer made a number of fantastic saves to ensure the Sharks could not make a game of it. His best save sequence came with 15:25 remaining in the third. Jannik Hansen hit Marcus Sorensen on the cross-ice pass to the right, but Grubauer was there with the pad to deny him. The Sharks were able to control the rebound and Sorensen fed it back to a wide-open Hansen on the left who was again denied by a sprawling Grubauer. Hansen and Sorensen kept digging for the puck but were ultimately unable to solve the German netminder. Grubauer faced nine shots in the third, the most he faced in any period on Monday, and he turned aside all nine.

The Sharks devolving in the third

At the start of the third, Tom Wilson called Thornton to account for his hit on Oshie. The two fought, then went to their respective penalty boxes. Issue over, right? Not for the Sharks. Whether they were upset by Wilson fighting Thornton, they were frustrated by the direction the game was going or they were just plain crazy, San Jose went nuts for most of the period. In all, the Sharks were assessed 37 penalty minutes (six minors, three majors and one 10-minute misconduct) in the final frame compared to Washington’s 18. It’s hard to mount a comeback when you are constant shorthanded.

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

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Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

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