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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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3 players who stood out in playoff rematch against the Hurricanes: Samsonov gets the full game and the win

3 players who stood out in playoff rematch against the Hurricanes: Samsonov gets the full game and the win

WASHINGTON -- In a reversal of last season’s playoff, the Capitals dominant forecheck suffocated the Carolina Hurricanes for much of the game on Friday in a 3-2 preseason win. The game was the final preseason game in Washington as the Caps’ three remaining contests all will come on the road.

Here are three players who impressed in the home preseason finale.

Ilya Samsonov

Samsonov faced only 15 shots from a clearly outmatched Hurricanes roster, but he looked impressive in the few times he was tested. The save of the night came in the second period when he denied Julien Gauthier on a breakaway.

Gauthier attempted the old Peter Forsberg move and skated to his right while trying to craftily tuck the puck in to the left. Samsonov slid with Gauthier, but stuck out his stick to deny the shot and make the tremendous save.

Samsonov continued to demonstrate his comfort playing the puck with his stick as he also denied a scoring opportunity with a well-timed poke check and was always quick to play the puck when it came behind the goal line.

One area in which he was not comfortable was the glove. There were multiple occasions in which he was able to get a glove on the puck, but was not able to catch it creating dangerous opportunities for Carolina’s offense.

The Hurricanes managed only seven shots on goal through the first two periods, but managed some more pressure in the third. The shutout bid was ended in the third when Brock McGinn followed up his own rebound to score Carolina’s first goal of the game. The second goal came on a fluky bounce off the backboards that Janne Kuokkanen was able to whack behind Samsonov before he could get a glove to it.

While Todd Reirden likely hoped Samsonov would be more tested than he was, he was up to the task with 13 saves.

Brian Pinho

The Caps recorded three goals on the night and Pinho had two of them.  In the first period, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby created a turnover on the forecheck. Feeling the pressure, Fredrik Claesson tried a hopeful clear that was cut off at the blue line by Pinho who skated in and tucked the puck through the 5-hole of goalie Anton Forsberg. He scored again in the third period on the power play when his shot deflected off of Jake Bean and took a favorable bounce up before dropping into the net.

Pinho led the Capitals with five points in three games at the 2019 Prospect Showcase, but at 24 years old, he would be expected to play well. He faced slightly better competition on Saturday and still was able to produce with two goals on the night.

Richard Panik

One of the newest Caps, Panik has looked extremely comfortable in both of his preseason games thus far. He was again strong on the penalty kill where he logged 1:35 of ice time. He also looked strong offensively.

Panik played very heavy below the goal line which suits the Caps’ offensive cycle the team likes to utilize. He also showed good vision as, in the third period, he was able to fight off a check and literally kicked the puck out to a wide-open Tavis Boyd in the slot.

With Panik and Carl Hagelin together, the Caps should have a much more formidable penalty kill this season.


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How to watch: Capitals vs. Hurricanes preseason Game 3

How to watch: Capitals vs. Hurricanes preseason Game 3

The Washington Capitals remain undefeated in preseason play, thanks to Tom Wilson's clutch overtime goal and a Nicklas Backstrom bouncing saucer-pass-turned-shot

Saturday night, the Caps will get their first crack at the Carolina Hurricanes, who knocked them out in the first round of the playoffs last season. This game is also the first one that comes after the Caps whittled their roster down after the first round of cuts, which included Caps 2019 draft picks Connor McMichael and Aliaksei Protas.

The Caps will face the Hurricanes in the regular season on October 5 at Capital One Arena in their home opener.


What: Washington Capitals vs. Carolina Hurricanes

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: Saturday, September, 21, 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Capitals-Hurricanes preseason game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Hurricanes preseason game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7