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5 players to watch as the Hershey Bears move on to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs

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5 players to watch as the Hershey Bears move on to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs

The Capitals season may have ended in the first round of the playoffs, but the Hershey Bears are moving on to the second round. Hershey defeated the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 3-2 in overtime on Saturday, winning their first-round series 3-2. Brian Pinho scored the overtime winner.



With the win, Hershey now advances to the second round to face the Charlotte Checkers, the AHL affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes. That series begins on May 3 in Charlotte.

Now that Washington’s season is over, an extended playoff run for Hershey allows Caps fans a chance to get a glimpse of the team’s prospects. Here are some of the players that fans should be watching.

Jonas Siegenthaler

It is not official that Siegenthaler will be headed to Hershey. He said Friday at the Caps’ last media availability that a decision had not yet been reached over whether he would be going back to the AHL for the remainder of the playoffs. With the team advancing to the second round, however, that seems like a realistic possibility.

Siegenthaler went from a healthy scratch for Washington at the start of the series against Carolina to playing on the top-pair with John Carlson at the end. This postseason could very well be Seigenthaler’s last run with Hershey as he will likely start next season in the NHL.

Ilya Samsonov

Long assumed to be Washington’s future starter in net, Samsonov has been brilliant thus far in the postseason. In three starts, he has a 1.61 GAA and .945 save percentage. With Braden Holtby entering the last year of his contract, the Caps may find themselves forced to choose between the veteran netminder who led them to a Stanley Cup or the young Russian with superstar potential. Will the Caps sign Holtby to a new long-term contract which will probably mean moving on from Samsonov or will they bet the farm on a player who has yet to play a single second of NHL hockey?

Make no mistake, this may be Samsonov’s first season in North America, but he needs to perform well and show Washington he is every bit the goalie he was projected to be when drafted in the first round.

Riley Barber

Barber has enjoyed a career year as he has set career highs in both goals (31) and points (60). He also has two goals and two assists in five games this postseason. He hs struggled throughout his career to establish himself as an NHL player and has only three games of NHL experience.

The Caps, however, look like they may have a bit of a salary cap crunch next season. Should the team lose players like Brett Connolly, Carl Hagelin and Andre Burakovsky, general manager Brian MacLellan may be in the market for cheap depth scoring. This postseason could be a final chance for Barber to showcase his talent to  Washington or any team for that matter given that he is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Nathan Walker

Always a fan favorite, Walker is also set to become a UFA. He has 12 games of NHL experience plus one playoff appearance where he recorded an assist in the series-clinching Game 6 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2018. Walker’s skill set is more suited for a fourth-line role and, as it seems players like Dmitrij Jaskin and Devante Smith-Pelly could be moving on, the Caps are going to need someone to play a role on that bottom line.

Walker was recalled as a precaution by Washington for the last game of the regular season in a move that was more about sending a message than it was filling a need.



Head coach Todd Reirden wanted Walker to know he could be in the Caps’ plans for the playoffs. Now that the playoffs are over, could Walker play his way into being in the team’s plans for next year?

Liam O’Brien

O’Brien is largely known among Caps’ fans for his penchant for dropping the gloves. His offensive skills are often overshadowed as a result, but he is a deceptively skilled player. O’Brien scored 15 goals and 28 points this season alone for Hershey.

At 24, however, you have to wonder if Washington has stopped looking at him as a young prospect and more as a career-AHLer. He is rapidly approaching an age where it will be hard to overcome that label and will need a good showing this postseason just to prove to Washington to re-sign him as a restricted free agent.

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How does Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov get ready for a Game 7? He watches TV

How does Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov get ready for a Game 7? He watches TV

Everyone remembers Evgeny Kuznetsov's series-clinching overtime goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2018. That goal now overshadows another series-clinching goal Kuznetsov had in 2015. In Game 7 against the New York Islanders, Kuznetsov scored what would prove to be the winning goal to break up a 1-1 tie. Clearly he knows how to get ready for a big game. His secret? Television.

Kuznetsov appeared on NBC Sports Washington's Capitals Greatest Hits show on Monday to talk about his 2015 performance and the topic of the locker room came up. Both teams went into that game knowing their season was on the line and Kuznetsov was asked if the feeling was any different in the locker room before the game, a question he did not know exactly how to answer.

"I'm never in the locker room," Kuznetsov said. "I'm always by the TV watching TV shows."

Yes, when Kuznetsov arrives at the arena, he apparently likes to watch TV before the game and said he is not in the locker room until only about 30 minutes before warmups. He enjoys watching soccer, but also likes a good movie.

"It's usually soccer games," Kuznetsov said. "If it's not the soccer game, it's whatever the movie's going."

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He went on to say he was thankful for the team subscribing to whatever channel it was that he watches movies on.

If this seems odd to you, there is a method to the madness.

"Usually it's movie because that way I'm not thinking about hockey," Kuznetsov said. "I like to be loose before games."

Hey, if that's what he was doing before Game 7 in 2015 and before Game 6 in 2018, it's hard to argue against it.

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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Capitals Greatest Hits: How to watch Evgeny Kuznetsov's series-winning goal

Capitals Greatest Hits: How to watch Evgeny Kuznetsov's series-winning goal

In need of Memorial Day plans? Look no further as NBC Sports Washington presents the fifth and final edition of Capitals Greatest Hits on Monday, May 25, at 7 p.m. 

For this holiday edition of Capitals Greatest Hits, NBC Sports Washington will reair Game 7 of the 2015 Eastern Conference First Round playoff series between the Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders. 

As a special treat, Evgeny Kuznetsov, who delivered the series-winning goal for the Caps, will make a special appearance on the broadcast to talk about his Game 7 heroics from the win-or-go-home showdown.

What better way to cap off a holiday weekend than by reliving some Caps playoff glory with The Birdman himself?

How to Watch: Capitals’ Greatest Hits

Who: New York Islanders @ Washington Capitals — April 27, 2015

When: May 25 at 7 p.m.

Where: NBC Sports Washington (channel finder), stream on the NBC Sports MyTeams app

Guest: Washington Capitals star Evgeny Kuznetsov

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Broadcast Schedule

6:00 PM Capitals Greatest Hits Capitals vs Thrashers from March 21, 2008 (R)

7:00 PM Capitals Greatest Hits Capitals vs Islanders from April 27, 2015 (P)

8:00 PM 2018 Stanley Cup Championship Films: Washington Capitals (P)

10:00 PM #HockeyAtHome: The Great One & The Great Eight (R)

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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