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5 players who impressed in Capitals' win over St. Louis

5 players who impressed in Capitals' win over St. Louis

After a number of lackluster performances, the Capitals finally looked like their championship selves on Tuesday in a 4-0 blanking of St. Louis. Not only was it Washington’s first win of the preseason, but their first period goal gave the Caps their first lead of the preseason.

Here are five Caps who impressed in a very physical win over the Blues.

Pheonix Copley

Copley got the full game in what is expected to be his final appearance of the preseason and boy did he deliver. He was absolutely brilliant with a shutout, 42-save performance including not one, but two phenomenal highlight reel saves.

In the first period, both Caps defensemen got caught in the corner leaving all of the real estate in front of Copley wide open. After a quick pass, the netminder suddenly faced a 2-on-0, but he came up with the big save to rob Jordan Kyrou as he stretched out the glove.

Copley followed that up with another big save in the second period to deny Ryan O’Reilly. He first denied O’Reilly with the pad, but looked helpless on the rebound. O’Reilly tried to backhand the puck over Copley, but he kicked up his heel in desperation and somehow kicked the puck out.

Backup goalie was one of the few question marks facing the Caps this season. Copley came into camps as the man to beat, but he still had to earn the job or the Caps would look elsewhere for other options. He earned the job on Tuesday. Copley is going to be the backup and if he can continue to play like he did Tuesday, he’s going to be just fine.

Shane Gersich

One of the hardest parts of adjusting to the NHL is the speed of the game. That’s a lesson Gersich seemed to take to heart with his goal on Tuesday.

Riley Barber carried the puck into the offensive zone, but lost it on a sweep check from Colton Parayko. A trailing Gersich wasted no time in firing the loose puck on net where it beat Jake Allen to the top corner.

After getting in five games at the end of last season, there was some buzz surrounding Gersich heading into camp. Up until Tuesday, however, he was having a very quiet preseason. In St. Louis he looked like he was playing with more confidence and had a much more noticeable performance and impact because of it.

Liam O’Brien

Tuesday’s game was a feisty one. The Blues played a physical game that got downright nasty in the third period. While today’s NHL continues to get faster and more skilled, this game felt like an old-school slobber knocker.

That suited O’Brien just fine.

In the second period a puck trickled behind Copley and he laid back to cover it up. Pat Maroon skated in and gave Copley a jab to the back with his stick despite the fact that the puck was covered. A few minutes later, O’Brien made Maroon answer for it and the two dropped gloves in what can only be described as a heavyweight bought.

O’Brien gets extra points for that glove toss.

As the game went on and devolved, the Blues were determined to get the Caps out from in front of the net at any cost, but O’Brien was able to take the physical punishment and doled out about as much as he took.

It was an old-school style game and the old-school O’Brien fit right in.

Madison Bowey

Todd Reirden came out and said he needed to see more from Bowey and wanted him to play to his strengths. Specifically, he wanted him to be more physical in the defensive zone and more assertive in the offensive zone. Bowey checked both of those boxes on Tuesday.

Bowey was noticeably more physical in his own end. While that may have resulted in an ill-advised interference in the second period, it at least showed he was taking his head coach’s words to heart.

That was also evident in the offensive zone where Bowey was much more involved. He finished the game with three shots on goal and scored Washington’s third goal on the night, tipping in a pass from Ovechkin through goalie Chad Johnson.

Did he look like a top-four defenseman? No, but he showed there is an extra gear to his game we have not really seen yet and one he will have to reach if he hopes to take on the bigger role he hopes to have this season.

John Carlson

After a lower-body injury kept him out the first few days of camp, Carlson finally made his preseason debut Tuesday and it looked like there was no rust to his game at all.

The veteran defenseman had an impact on both ends, as he recorded two blocked shots and two takeaways. His defensive positioning was great and he even stopped a St. Louis breakaway by cutting off the breakout pass.

Offensively, Carlson had four total shot attempts, two of which went on net. He also set up a goal by Nathan Walker with the quick hands to send the puck back through the crease behind Jake Allen for the tap-in.

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4 things to watch as the Caps host the Rangers

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4 things to watch as the Caps host the Rangers

The Caps return to action Wednesday as they host the New York Rangers (7 p.m., NBCSN) in a Metropolitan Division clash.

Here are four things you should be watching for in this game.

The schedule finally gives the Caps a break

The early season schedule for Washington has been bizarre to say the least. Finally, they will be catching a break on Wednesday as the Rangers will be playing in the second leg of a back-to-back.

That certainly does not guarantee a victory, but it is something the Caps are very aware of and they hope to take advantage.

“I think speed is a big part of the game and for them to be fatigued off the back-to-back is definitely going to help us whether we move the puck a little quicker than we would in other games just kind of knowing they are coming off that back-to-back,” Nathan Walker said.

“We've got to make them skate, we've got to make their D go back for pucks,” T.J. Oshie said. “I don't feel like they're going to look tired at the start of the game, usually that comes towards the end of the game, second half, and so you've got to work to drain them down a little bit and we've got to take advantage of that opportunity tonight.”

Top-line Stephenson

Stephenson was added to the top line on Saturday with no practice other than the morning skate that day. A few days between games has given him a chance to practice with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov and it should pay dividends on Wednesday.

This game also should be a good opportunity for Stephenson who was added to the top for his speed. Playing a tired Rangers team is something he will need to take advantage of.

“It's always tough to play back-to-back and with the travel and stuff like that,” Stephenson said. “For the most part, I think that that's going to be important and just to play a full 60, that's something that we want to get consistent with and we haven't been so far … But for the most part, I think the start will really help us tonight.”

Nathan Walker returns

The Caps made a change to the lineup for Wednesday’s game as Nathan Walker will be in for Dmitrij Jaskin on the fourth line.

When asked why he made the change, Reirden said, “Just a different look. A team that's on a back-to-back, we wanted to really come at them with some speed, tenacity and intensity that we know we always get from Nathan so thought it was a good add into tonight's lineup.

The Caps have got to get more offense from their bottom six and adding the speedy Walker to the bottom six could provide a boost. He has had trouble playing within the system in the past and his play has been more frenzied than controlled at times, but with Tom Wilson still suspended, there’s definitely an opportunity for Walker to earn more playing time depending on how he plays Wednesday.

King Henry remains on his throne

In addition to a tired Rangers team, the Caps are also expected to face a tired goalie.

Henrik Lundqvist started New York’s game on Tuesday and is expected to start again on Wednesday against Washington. That is not confirmed as the Rangers did not have a morning skate because of the back-to-back, but it is believed Lundqvist will play again.

There was a time when Lundqvist was considered the best netminder in the NHL and he is off to a phenomenal start this season with a 1.99 GAA and .939 save percentage in five games thus far.

But how will the 36-year-old goalie handle a back-to-back?

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Caps vs. Rangers: A look back at playoff heroes from the past

Caps vs. Rangers: A look back at playoff heroes from the past

The Washington Capitals and New York Rangers will meet for the first time this season on Wednesday at Capital One Arena (7 p.m., NBCSN). There’s a lot of history between these two teams.

The Caps and Rangers have met nine times in the playoffs, producing a good number of memorable postseason moments and heroes.

Here’s a look back at some of the more memorable playoff heroes between these two teams.

1990: John Druce’s monster postseason

Before Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Devante Smith-Pelly’s 2018 postseason heroics, there was John Druce. In the 1989-90 season, Druce scored eight goals and 11 points in 24 games for the Capitals. No one could have possibly predicted what he was going to do in the playoffs that year.

Druce became unstoppable in the playoffs in 1990, scoring 14 goals and 17 points in 15 games, but it took him a while to get going.

Washington defeated the New Jersey Devils in six games of the first round setting up a second round matchup against the first place Rangers. Druce had three goals against the Devils, but exploded against the Rangers for nine goals and 11 points in just five games, including a hat trick performance in Game 2. The Caps went on to cruise to a 4-1 series win over New York. It was the first time in franchise history the team advanced past the second round.

1991: Alan May’s first playoff goal

Local legend May scored only one playoff goal in his career, but it was a big one. It came in 1991, Game 4 against the Rangers. Washington trailed the series 2-1 at that point, but in the third period May managed to whack the puck through the five-hole of Mike Richter to give the Caps a 3-1 lead. The goal would prove to be the game-winner and tied the series at 2 games apiece. Washington would not lose again in that series.

2009: Sergei Fedorov scores the Game 7 winner

In Alex Ovechkin’s fourth season, the Caps made the playoffs for the second consecutive year. After finishing first in the Eastern Conference, expectations were higher for Washington than the year prior. Their first round opponent was the Rangers who proved to be a tougher out than most had expected.

New York stunned Washington by winning three of the first four games of the series. The Caps battled back to win the next two to force a Game 7. With the score tied at 1 late in the third period, 39-year-old Fedorov, who was acquired at the trade deadline the year before, took the puck from his own zone, streaked down the right side of the ice, pulled up at the faceoff dot and fired a wrister that beat Henrik Lundqvist to the top shelf.

The goal would prove to be the series winner giving Washington its first playoff victory in the Ovechkin era and the first since 1998.

2011: Jason Chimera scores in double OT

Meeting in the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, the Caps took a 2-0 series lead on the Rangers in 2011. New York hoped to even up the series when play shifted to Madison Square Garden. The Rangers won Game 3 and the two teams battled to a 3-3 tie through 80 minutes in Game 4. Finally in double overtime, Chimera finished off the blue shirts.

Chimera tried to shoot on net, but the puck was blocked Bryan McCabe and headed towards Lundqvist who was poised to cover it up and stop play. Marian Gaborik got his signals crossed, however, and swept the puck away from his own goalie and right to Chimera who had followed up his shot. With the puck behind Lundqvist, Chimera had an easy tap in for the winner.

2013: Mike Green’s one-timer wins it in OT

As a defenseman, Green was a player with some flaws to his game in his own zone. When he was in his prime, however, there were few blue liners as clutch offensively.

In the brief Adam Oates era, the Capitals made the playoffs only once and faced the Rangers in the first round in 2013. Washington took Game 1 and looked to take a commanding 2-0 series lead. Both teams battled to a scoreless draw through 60 minutes in Game 2, forcing overtime.

Steven Oleksy took a delay of game penalty early in the overtime for the Caps. Washington killed it off and Ryan McDonagh returned the favor with a delay of game penalty of his own five minutes later. That was the wrong team to give a power play to.

Dmitry Orlov faked a slap shot then passed it to the point for a Green one-timer. The shot deflected off Derek Stepan, off the post and into the net.

2015: Joel Ward scores the game-winner with one second left to go

Ward pulled off perhaps the most remarkable finish to a playoff game in Caps history. After dispatching the New York Islanders in Round 1 in Barry Trotz’s first season behind the bench, Washington faced the Rangers in the playoffs yet again for the fifth time in seven years.

Both teams traded goals in Game 1 at Madison Square Garden and it looked like the game was headed to overtime. With just five seconds left, Nicklas Backstrom hit Dan Boyle in the corner to free up the puck. Ovechkin snatched it and skated behind the net. The Rangers got caught watching Ovechkin and lost track of Ward who was by himself in front. Ovechkin fed Ward who scored with just 1.2 seconds left on the clock to give Washington the improbable win in regulation.

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