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Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov suffered injury prior to camp, will not travel with the team to Toronto

Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov suffered injury prior to camp, will not travel with the team to Toronto

The biggest question of the Capitals training camp has been answered and the news is not good.

Goalie Ilya Samsonov, who has not taken part in any practice during training camp, suffered an injury prior to camp and will not travel with the team to Toronto, the team announced to the media on Saturday. The Caps will travel to the hub city of Toronto on Sunday taking with them only Braden Holtby, Pheonix Copley and Vitek Vanecek.

Samsonov will remain in Washington for treatment and is expected to be healthy for the 2020-21 season.

In order to protect the privacy of players in terms of illness and the coronavirus, the new policy for the 2020 season is that teams do not have to disclose any information regarding player absences for health reasons other than labeling them "unfit to play." Because of that, the status of Samsonov has been unknown throughout camp.

And so the Cup hopes of Washington will once again fall squarely on the shoulders of Holtby.

RELATED: OBSERVATIONS FROM CAPS SCRIMMAGE

For much of the season, Holtby was outplayed by Samsonov as shown by Samsonov's superior numbers (.913 save percentage vs. Holtby's .897, 2.55 GAA vs. Holtby's 3.11). Samsonov, however, struggled as the team's defensive play deteriorated with a 0-4-1 record, .869 save percentage and 4.34 GAA heading into the season pause. That allowed Holtby to reassert himself as the No. 1. Heading into training camp Todd Reirden had already declared that the No. 1 job was Holtby's to lose.

With Samsonov out, Copley is expected to be the primary backup. As the team's backup in 2018-19, Copley went 16-7-3 with a .905 save percentage and 2.90 GAA.

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Why this year is different than 2018, Ovechkin's big game and the Caps are in trouble

Why this year is different than 2018, Ovechkin's big game and the Caps are in trouble

The Capitals find themselves in a 2-0 series hole after an ugly 5-2 loss in Game 2 against the New York Islanders on Friday.

Check out a recap of the game here.

Observations from the loss

This is different than 2018

You are going to hear a lot of talk about 2018 until Sunday's game. With the Caps down 2-0 in the series, the comparisons are inevitable.

In 2018, Washington lost its first two games of the first round series to the Columbus Blue Jackets and rallied back to win it 4-2.

The problem is that in 2018, the Caps were the better team in both games. They had confidence they could win because they should have won both of those games, plus they got a confidence boost from starting Braden Holtby in Game 3. Philipp Grubauer had started Games 1 and 2. In 2020, they just look bad. Both losses were bad losses and, unless Nicklas Backstrom is ready to go for Sunday, they don't have anyone waiting in the wings that they can plug into the lineup to provide the same kind of spark.

Don't be fooled by the 2018 comparisons. This team is not going anywhere unless it dramatically improves its play from the first two games.

Coming unglued

If you wanted to encapsulate this game in a single moment, it was in the second period when Garnet Hathaway was called for boarding just 21 seconds after Washington gave up a breakaway, go-ahead goal to Brock Nelson in the second period. Hathaway was hauled off to the box by the linesman with his gloves off looking for someone to fight. It was one of five power plays Washington gave up on the night.  Jakub Vrana continued his rough postseason with an early slash and Tom Wilson hit Ryan Pulock before giving him an unnecessary elbow, which sent him to the box. The team also took two too many men penalties. In addition, New York's second goal came off a defensive zone turnover as Lars Eller was attacked by two forecheckers behind the net and no one reacted to give him a target to pass to. The game-winner was scored on a breakaway as Vrana tried to corral the puck at the offensive blue line with his back turned to the pressure. Brock Nelson stole it away to launch himself on the breakaway.

The Islanders deserve credit for the way they have played, but all of these are self-inflicted mistakes by the Caps who look like they have completely lost their composure.

RELATED: CAPITALS WERE THEIR OWN WORST ENEMY IN 'SELF-INFLICTED' 5-2 LOSS

They have to change something

After how badly the team has played in the first two games, you cannot come back with the same lineup for Game 3. Something has to change beyond just Backstrom returning - if he does in fact return. Whether this means changing lines, defensive pairs or putting in the black aces, the Caps cannot take a wait-and-see approach as they already trail 2-0.

Turning point

Alex Ovechkin had just scored his second of the game to tie it at 2. With the Caps in the offensive zone, Vrana grabbed the puck at the blue line and, with his back towards the goal, tried to swing around and pass the puck off. But with his back turned, Vrana did not see Brock Nelson coming. Nelson stole the puck away and was off to the races, scoring the breakaway goal just 15 seconds after Ovechkin tied the game.

That goal proved to be the game-winner. It was horrible puck management from Vrana who did not play again in the second period.

Play of the game

Ovechkin deflected in a shot from Brenden Dillon to tie the game at 2 in the second period, Ovechkin's second goal of the game.

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Stat of the game

Another milestone for Ovechkin who deserved one as he tried to single-handedly carry the team on his back.

Quote of the game

Despite how bad this game looked, Ovechkin very nearly tied it at 3 in the third period with an open net opportunity on a power play. He won't miss many of those, but this time he hit the side of the net. When asked about the miss after the game, he was blunt.


Fan predictions

Score was off, but you were right about Ovechkin and the Caps still losing.

Close. Let's hope you're right about the second part.

Three people sent me this exact same GIF so kudos to you, Ryan, for getting there first. And, unfortunately, you were right....

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Brent Johnson calls for rookie Vitek Vanecek to replace Braden Holtby in goal for struggling Capitals

Brent Johnson calls for rookie Vitek Vanecek to replace Braden Holtby in goal for struggling Capitals

After the 5-2 Game 2 loss to the New York Islanders Friday night in a Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series, Rob Carlin asked the Caps Postgame Live crew how they would fix Washington's error-ridden performances seen in the first round so far. 

Brent Johnson knows the pressures that comes with playing in net during the Stanley Cup playoffs, but that doesn't mean he'll sympathize with the end results. As a goaltender for the Capitals for four seasons in the mid-2000s, Johnson has vast experience with the ups and downs that come with the position. But he had a pretty radical answer to Carlin's question: Bench veteran goalie Braden Holtby, the man who helped Washington win a Stanley Cup in 2018, for a rookie who has never played in a regular-season NHL game: Vitek Vanecek. 

"I know how they can shake it up. I know how they can shake it up. Right?" Johnson said. "Vitek Vanecek. Right there. That’s it. Hey. You know what? Bold decision. Bold decision. Do something bold. You never know. I’ve seen it happen in the playoffs thus far."

To call for Washington's veteran netminder to take a seat on the bench for a rookie who hasn't even played in the NHL yet is more than bold. Johnson's proclamation left Carlin yelling "Whoa!" and fellow panelist Al Koken saying he didn't know how to top that one. Alan May simply smiled and shook his head. 

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The Capitals wouldn't be in this position at all had rookie Ilya Samsonov never gotten injured during the long NHL break back home in Russia in an off-ice incident. The 23-year-old had a breakout season for Washington to get in the rotation in what's been an up-and-down year for Holtby. Samsonov had a .913 save percentage and won 16 of his 26 games in net this season. Vanecek, on the other hand, just got called up for the postseason after playing all season for the AHL's Hersey Bears.  

Nonetheless, the Caps have to figure out something to get a spark going for Game 3 against the Isles at noon Sunday. Johnson's solution was by far the most radical suggested, but everyone agreed changes needed to be made or the season could end far sooner than anyone anticipated. 

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