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Another ill-advised Tom Wilson penalty cost the Caps big in Game 2

Another ill-advised Tom Wilson penalty cost the Caps big in Game 2

With the Caps holding on to a 3-2 lead, Tom Wilson took an ill-advised penalty and the Columbus Blue Jackets scored on the resulting power play to tie the game at 3. No, I am not talking about what happened in Game 1, though I can see why you would think that.

For the second consecutive game, Columbus was able to tie the game off a power play from a bad Wilson penalty.

In the second period of Sunday's game, a scrum broke out in front of Philipp Grubauer. Wilson dove in and grabbed an already engaged Seth Jones and took him down to the ice. Wilson was given two minutes for roughing on the play. He was the only player given a penalty on the play. Whether you agree with the call or not, this came just one game removed from Wilson taking a charging call in the third period that allowed the Blue Jackets to tie the game.

RELATED: OVECHKIN BELIEVES CAPS WILL TIE THE SERIES BEFORE GAME 5

You can watch the play here.

Some may watch this play and think it was a definite penalty. He came late into the scrum and was overly aggressive in taking down a player who was already engaged with another. Others may watch and think it was a bad call. Scrums happen every game, it’s not fair to pick out Wilson and give him the only penalty.

Wilson has certainly had his fair share of “reputation” calls in the past in which it seems his physical reputation has influenced calls against him. But this was not one of them.

Wilson was the last player in the scrum, he grabbed Jones, who Evgeny Kuznetsov already had a hold of, and took him down onto the ice.

At best, it was unnecessary.

“Tom's a bright young man and he gets that, but it was unnecessary on the couple of the plays,” Barry Trotz said after the game.

He added, “It's so hard to sometimes get momentum and then get it back, you just got to understand the moment. The moment and your actions have results. … It's the timing that's hurt us a few times here in the first two games."

Whether you agree with the penalty or not, ultimately it doesn’t matter. The point is, Wilson should not have put himself in that position because there was no reason to.

Let’s assume the worst, that NHL referees are specifically targeting Wilson because of his reputation and are calling bad penalties against him. What do you do in that situation? You don’t give them a reason to call you for anything.

MORE CAPITALS: BOBROVSKY TURNED ASIDE 52 SHOTS TO DOWN CAPS IN GAME 2

I can hear the complaints already. “Oh, you’re saying that because you don’t play. If you ever played the game, you would know you stand up for your teammates.”

But you have to know the situation. The Caps had a one-goal lead in a critical playoff game and You have to know when you need to walk away and not risk getting called for a penalty especially if you are the player the referees are always looking for a reason to send to the box. Wilson gave them a reason.

If you watch enough hockey to know those scrums break out all the time, you also should know they also dissolve as quickly as they come. Jones had a hold of Dmitry Orlov, so what? There was no need for Wilson to inject himself there and when he did, he did so far too aggressively.

What do you think Orlov would have appreciated more, Wilson throwing Jones to the ice and taking a penalty or Wilson staying out of the box and not giving Columbus a chance to tie the game?

In Game 1, a bad Wilson penalty at the very least contributed to the loss. On Sunday, a bad Wilson penalty yet again was a factor. With the Caps down 0-2 heading into Columbus, that cannot happen again.

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Braden Holtby’s save in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup wasn’t even nominated for an ESPY

Braden Holtby’s save in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup wasn’t even nominated for an ESPY

On Wednesday night ESPN hosts their yearly sports award show, the ESPYs, to celebrate the best of the last 365 days in sport. 

One thing they will not be celebrating, or did not even consider celebrating, was Braden Holtby’s save in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final

This year there were 16 plays nominated to be the “Best Play” and were seeded into a bracket. For the past month fans have been voting in each head-to-head matchup culminating in four pretty outstanding plays:

All of those plays can be viewed here

Three of those four were in a championship game, the other was a just a once in a lifetime play from a teenager. 

But the ESPYs are saying that there are 16 plays from this past year that were better than Holtby’s save… Can we really believe that? Everyone loves buzzer beaters, but they accounted for six of the 16 plays. One of them could have easily gotten bumped. 

And aside from the three listed above there were only two that were in the championship event for each sport. Holtby could have rounded it out for six.

We’re not saying that Holtby’s play was the best in the past year, or even in the top four. Heck, there should be no one that tops Ogunbowale’s incredible heroics. But arguably the best play in D.C. sports history not making the top-16 for best plays in a 365 day period? 

It must have been one heck of a sports year.  

For those that are nominated, Alex Ovechkin is a finalist for Best Male Athlete and Best NHL Player. The Capitals are in the running for Best Team.

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Key Caps questions: Can Alex Ovechkin still challenge for another Rocket Richard Trophy?

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Key Caps questions: Can Alex Ovechkin still challenge for another Rocket Richard Trophy?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: At 33 years old, can Alex Ovechkin challenge for another Rocket Richard Trophy as the league's top-goalscorer?

Tarik: By scoring 49 goals last season, Alex Ovechkin didn’t just defy Father Time, he also did something historic: at 32 years old, the Caps’ captain became the oldest player to lead the league in scoring since Phil Esposito did it at 33 in 1974-75.

Which brings me to today’s question.

I see more reasons Ovechkin will challenge for a record eighth goal-scoring title rather than reasons he won't. (By the way, he’s currently tied with Hall of Famer Bobby Hull, who led the league in goals seven times).

Consider:

  • No. 1—Ovechkin, who turns 33 on Sept. 17, has shown no signs of breaking down physically, despite logging some hard miles over the course of 13 seasons. And if you’re going to lead the league in goals, you’ve got to play, and play a lot. Last season, in fact, he averaged nearly two minutes MORE per game (20:09) than he did the previous year.
  • No. 2—Something tells me that now Ovi has done a keg stand from the Stanley Cup, he’s more determined than ever to take another swig next summer. I don’t have any stats to back up this bullet point. It’s just a hunch from someone who’s covered a lot of his career.
  • No. 3—From an Xs and Os standpoint, not much is expected to change in 2018-19. His line will be centered by Evgeny Kuznetsov. If things go stale, new head coach Todd Reirden will have the ace-up-the-sleeve option of reuniting Ovechkin with Nicklas Backstrom. Meanwhile, the power play—where No. 8 does so much of his damage—will have the same structure and pieces.

To me, the only thing that could prevent Ovechkin from challenging Patrik Laine, Evgeni Malkin, Connor McDavid and Co. for another goal scoring title will be complacency. And I just don’t foresee that being an issue.

Ovechkin has an opportunity to help the Caps make up for some lost time. But there’s no way they’ll be contenders if their best player isn’t at, or near, the top of the league in goals once again.

And he knows it.

JJ: Ovechkin has shown people throughout his incredible career that you should never doubt him. He only scored 32 and 38 goals in 2010-2012. Think he's not going to reach 50 again? Well, he did it three times. Think Ovechkin's 33-goal season in 2016-17 shows he's on the decline? Well, he just led the NHL in goals for the seventh time in his career. Think Ovechkin can't lead his team to a Stanley Cup? Well, we all know how that turned out.

Ovechkin was challenged at the end of the 2016-17 season by Brian MacLellan who noted Ovechkin would have to change the way he trained in order to keep up with the quicker NHL. He took those words to heart and showed up for training camp a little earlier and little lighter than usual.

After his day with the Stanley Cup, Ovechkin sent it off with the words, "See you next year." He knows what it takes to be successful and he will be extra motivated to once again come into camp ready for a big season.

Having said all of that, Father Time will always be undefeated.

As Tarik noted above, the 32-year-old Ovechkin was the oldest player to lead the league in scoring since Esposito in 1974-75. It's hard to do. Plus, there are a lot of young players like Laine and McDavid who are only getting better. While they're hitting thier prime, Ovechkin is fighting a losing battle with time.

That does not mean I expect Ovechkin's production to fall off a cliff. I still think he can surpass 40 goals, but the league's offense is trending up with the league average for goals per game per team climbing all the way up to 2.97 last season. That's the highest it has been since 2005-06. I am of the opinion that the offense is going to continue trending upward and it is going to take more than 49 goals to win the Rocket Richard this year.

Can Ovechkin score 40+ goals this season? Absolutely. Can he score more than that? I'm not so sure.

The Great 8 will remain a great goal-scorer and the Capitals' best offensive weapon, but I do not foresee him earning his eighth Rocket Richard Trophy or even finishing in the top three among the league's goal scorers.

Other key questions

How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?
Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?