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Capitals on the cusp of second ever season sweep of Flyers

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Capitals on the cusp of second ever season sweep of Flyers

WASHINGTON – The Capitals entered the NHL when the Philadelphia Flyers were at the height of their powers. 

The "Broad Street Bullies" pummeled Washington in the 1970s. It took the Capitals seven years to even win a game in regulation against their I-95 rivals. Even when they finally built a consistent winner in the early 1980s, the Flyers were almost always good, too. 

Philadelphia made the Stanley Cup playoffs 34 times in 43 years, reached the Cup Final eight times and has won it twice. So only once before has Washington done what it has a chance to do Sunday when the two teams meet at Capital One Arena: sweep the season series. 

The Capitals (43-24-8, 94 points) lead the Metropolitan Division by one point and need a win to maintain that position after consecutive losses at home. The game is at 12:30 p.m. on NBC. 

The one and only time Washington swept Philadelphia came in 2006-07 – Alex Ovechkin’s second season in the NHL. That was a particularly bad year for the Flyers, who went 22-48-12 and with 56 points finished with the worst record in the NHL. The organization had made the Stanley Cup playoffs 28 times in the previous 33 years. It wasn’t used to losing and certainly not that often to the Capitals. 

Washington went 4-0 that season against the Flyers and outscored them 20-9. Ovechkin had six goals and five assists in those games. This year’s version is nowhere near that bad. Philadelphia is 36-31-8, but after Saturday’s loss to the New York Islanders they are stuck on 80 points, which is five out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with just seven games to go. 

If they do miss, as expected, the losses to the Capitals will hurt. The Flyers are 0-3-0 and have allowed 15 goals to Washington. And that is despite holding Ovechkin to a goal and two assists. Here are other things to watch for in Sunday's game: 

Capitals recall Lewington

With defenseman Michal Kempny out indefinitely, Washington recalled Tyler Lewington from AHL Hershey on Saturday. But will he have to play? Maybe not on Sunday. Christian Djoos took Kempny’s spot in the lineup in Friday’s loss to Minnesota and is expected to remain in the lineup. But Lewington's presence provides insurance on a team where illness has struck in recent days. This is Lewington’s second call-up this season. He made his NHL debut on Dec. 22 and in a Dec. 29 game at Ottawa had a Gordie Howe hat trick with a goal, an assist and a fight. 

Kuznetsov’s health

One of those players who have fallen ill is Evgeny Kuznetsov, who missed practice Saturday with an illness and was sent home. If he isn’t able to play then Lars Eller would bump to the second line to play center with Carl Hagelin and T.J Oshie. Hagelin was on the ice on Saturday, but the veteran winger was a late scratch with an illness against the Wild on Friday. The third line could be Jakub Vrana and Brett Connolly with Travis Boyd taking over for Eller.  Keep an eye on Kuznetsov’s energy level if he does play. Capitals coach Todd Reirden didn’t rule him out. 

Ovechkin’s chase for 50

The chase continues for Ovechkin, who sits at 48 goals to lead the NHL. Ovechkin has two assists in the past three games, but no goals. Washington is 1-1-1 during this stretch. Ovechkin is seven points away from his first 90-point season since 2009-10. 

Scoreboard watch

With the lead over the Islanders down to one point with seven games to go, keep an eye on New York’s home game Sunday against the Arizona Coyotes. That is a 3 p.m. start. The Capitals are seeking their fourth consecutive Metropolitan Division crown. 

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How to watch the IIHF World Championship Finals: Date, Time, TV Channel, Lineups

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How to watch the IIHF World Championship Finals: Date, Time, TV Channel, Lineups

The 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship is coming to a close this Memorial Day weekend.

After two weeks, the sixteen team field has been narrowed down to four with the world championship now on the line in Slovakia. 

The two group winners, Canada, the top-ranked team in the world and 26-time IIHF Champions, and Russia, who rolled through the group stage with a 7-0 record and a +29 goal differential, are the favorites. Russia overwhelmingly has played like the best team in Slovakia, outscoring its opponents 40-10 behind Nikita Kucherov's 16 points in eight games.

The Russian/ Soviet Union team is the only team with more titles than the Canadians with 27 (five as Russia, 22 as the Soviet Union). 

Washington Capital Alex Ovechkin is playing for Team Russia. In eight games he's scored two goals and recorded an assist. 

Canada will face off against the Czech Republic, whose only loss came against the Russians in group play, with a spot to the Finals on the line. Russia will play Finland for the last spot in the gold medal match.

Three of the four teams remaining (Russia, Canda, and the Czech Republic) are the winningest teams in the IIHF's history. The four semifinalists have combined to win 67 of the 82 IIHF World Championships.

When is the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals?

The 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals will take place at 8:15 p.m. local time (2:15 p.m. ET) on Sunday, May 26. The bronze medal match will precede the gold medal match at 3:45 p.m. local time (9:15 a.m. ET). 

2019 IIHF World Championship Schedule:

There are only four matches left in the 2019 IIHF World Championship. The two semifinals, the bronze medal match, and the gold medal match.

SEMIFINALS:
No. 3 Russia vs. No. 5 Finland, 9:15 a.m. ET, May 25
No. 1 Canada vs. No. 6 Czech Republic, 1:15 p.m. ET, May 25

BRONZE MEDAL MATCH:
Loser of Semifinal No. 1 vs. Loser of Semifinal No. 2, 9:45 a.m. ET, May 26

GOLD MEDAL MATCH:
Winner of Semifinal No. 1 vs. Winner of Semifinal No. 2, 2:15 p.m. ET, May 26

How to watch or stream the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals:

All games at the IIHF World Championships will be broadcast on NHL Network.

Who is playing in the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals?

The 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals will be played between the winner of Russia (8-0-0)/ Finland (7-0-1) and Canada (7-1-0)/ Czech Republic (7-0-1).

Lineups for the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals:

Lineups for the 2019 IIHF Championship Finals will be announced on the morning of May 26. 

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The Blues turnaround from last place to the playoffs began with a blowout win over the Caps

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The Blues turnaround from last place to the playoffs began with a blowout win over the Caps

When the St. Louis Blues woke up on Jan. 3, they were in dead last in the NHL. A 15-18-4 record gave them 34 points, less than teams like the Los Angeles Kings and the Ottawa Senators who would go on to finish the season as the two worst teams. Yes, St. Louis had played in only 37 games to that point, the fewest in the league, but finding a way to climb back into the playoff hunt seemed daunting and unlikely.

Now the Blues are the Western Conference champions and stand just four wins away from the Stanley Cup.

The Blues have been one of the best stories of the NHL season climbing from last place to the Stanley Cup Final. When looking back at St. Louis’ season, there are several moments one can point to as key moments in the turnaround. Craig Berube replaced Mike Yeo as head coach on Nov. 20 and goalie Jordan Binnington got his first start with the Blues on Jan. 7 and never gave back the crease.

But the turnaround really started on Jan. 3. On that morning, the Blues were in last place. That would be the last day they would find themselves there.

And it all started with a 5-2 win against the Washington Capitals.

On Jan. 3, St. Louis and Washington looked like two teams headed in opposite directions. While the Blues were in last place, the Caps were rolling with a 24-11-3 record, first in the Metropolitan Division. Washington came into St. Louis on a five-game road winning streak. As if that wasn’t enough, the Blues were also without sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.

And yet, what looked like an easy win for the Caps turned into anything but. Robert Thomas scored a deflection just four minutes into the game. Washington managed to take a 2-1 lead early in the second, but St. Louis rattled off four straight goals for the 5-2 win. With Washington down only 3-2 heading into the third period, the Blues but on a possession clinic outshooting Washington 14-2 in the final frame.

"We stayed aggressive," Alex Pietrangelo told reporters. "When we're playing in the O zone, the best way to play defense is to play in their end. We kept the puck, we moved the puck, we worked. Forwards were great tonight, protecting the center of the ice. It kind of took their playmakers out of the game."

The Caps’ first shot came 13 minutes into the third. By then, the Blues already had 12 shots and two goals.

Over the course of an 82-game season, teams will lose games against teams they shouldn’t. This felt different. Watching this game, you did not come away thinking the Caps played down to an inferior team. The Blues dominated that game and the Caps knew it.

“They were skating, competing harder, won races, more determined than we were,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “If we’re being honest about it, we didn’t have a very good game, and they played a pretty darn good game.”
More importantly, St. Louis realized it as well. They knew following the game that this was a win and a performance they could build on.

“I think we out-chanced them, so we're building here at even strength,” Pietrangelo said. “It's just a matter of keeping it at even strength and scoring goals. Tonight the goals weren't necessarily pretty but we created a lot of chances."
That night proved to be the first night of the turnaround. From Jan. 3 on, no team in the NHL earned more points than St. Louis’ 65, not even the Tampa Bay Lightning who won the Presidents’ Trophy with an incredible 128 points.

St. Louis was not expected to be bad this season. The team made a number of offseason moves to bolster the roster and many thought they could be real contenders, but they sure did not play like it through the first half of the season. It took a big win over the defending Stanley Cup champs to show them and everyone else just how good they really were. From that point on, they never looked back.

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