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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Reirden asked about Walker said he wanted him as extra (someone gets injured/sick you're not plugging in Backy/Oshie) and wanted him to know he could still be part of the playoffs like last year. He wants him to play in HER unless Caps need him but wanted him to get that message— JJ Regan (@JJReganNBCS) April 6, 2019
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?
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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