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Capitals prospect report: After injury scare, is no news good news for Alex Alexeyev?

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Capitals prospect report: After injury scare, is no news good news for Alex Alexeyev?

Alex Alexeyev was taken off on a stretcher during a WHL game on Friday after he suffered a knee-on-knee hit. A spokesman for the Red Deer Rebels told NBC Sports Washington that Alexeyev is considered week-to-week and is not expected back right away. Not surprisingly, he has not played in any of the team’s three games since.

Any other details at this point are scarce.

Here’s what we know: Based on the replay and the fact that Alexeyev was struck in the knee area and was clutching that area afterward, it is reasonable to conclude that he suffered a lower-body injury.

Here’s what we don’t know: Literally everything else.

When I first reported the Alexeyev update, my Twitter was flooded by a number of fans jumping to conclusions over what “week-to-week” meant for the injury’s severity and treatment. That’s a dangerous game to play.

Labeling Alexeyev as week-to-week does not mean he will not need surgery and does not mean the injury is not severe. Let’s not forget that both Brooks Orpik and Christian Djoos were initially labeled as “day-to-day” after their injuries earlier this season.

Both players underwent surgery soon after and were out for several weeks.

Week-to-week means only one thing: That he was not going to return for any of the team’s remaining three games for the week week. Any other conclusions you want to draw are complete speculation.

Alexeyev could potentially be discussing treatment options, he could be getting a second opinion from another doctor or consulting with a specialist somewhere. He could be waiting to see how he feels after a few days to see if he can avoid surgery during the season. Or it could be a relatively minor injury that just needs rest making a “week-to-week” designation accurate. We just don’t know.

This isn’t to say that Red Deer is intentionally being coy or disingenuous about his health, I am simply pointing out that things can change very quickly and no one should draw any conclusions from an update as vague as week-to-week. We still do not know exactly what the injury is or how it will be treated.

As one of the team’s top prospects, the immediate concern for Caps fans is whether the injury could have any long-term effects on his playing ability. Hopefully that is not the case, but there are no conclusions to be drawn from the initial update.

Other prospect notes:

  • Riley Barber is having himself a season. In the last four games, he scored three goals and five points. His 29 goals this season are a career-best and good for second in the AHL. He also leads the team in points with 55 and tied his career-best season from 2015-16. He is at the end of his contract, but it could be possible that he has played his way into an NHL role next season. After all, Andre Burakovsky, Brett Connolly, Nic Dowd, Carl Hagelin, Dmitrij Jaskin, Chandler Stephenson and Jakub Vrana are all on the final year of their contracts. Not all of those players will be back next season.
  • Mason Mitchell was reassigned from Hershey to the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL on Monday in a move that was long overdue. Mitchell played in only 11 games for the Bears and had not played since Dec. 30. He scored twice in his first game with the Stringrays. I have no idea why this move did not come sooner in order to get Mitchell more playing time. I will have to look into this one a little more to find out the reasoning behind keeping him in Hershey until now.
  • Aaron Ness ranks second in the AHL with 42 assists. He registered five apples in Hershey’s last four games.
  • Ilya Samsonov has a new Hershey-themed goalie mask thanks to Dave Gunnarsson. No, this does not say anything about his long-term future and absolutely no one should read anything into this. Getting a new Bears goalie mask means he has a new goalie mask. That’s it.
  • It took 34 games, but Axel Jonsson-Fjallby finally got his first SHL goal of the season. You can see a replay of it here. When speaking to people about Jonsson-Fjallby in the past, Carl Hagelin’s name came up as a comparison. That will likely mean more to Caps fans now that they get to see Hagelin on a nightly basis. Like Hagelin, Jonsson-Fjallby’s strength is his speed. He is not going to be a top-six forward, but getting a speedy, bottom-six forward can have a big impact on the team. That’s the sort of player Jonsson-Fjallby is projected to be.
  • Martin Fehervary got a big shout out from fellow Slovak Marian Hossa. At a recent media event, Hossa was asked who could be a leader for Slovakia’s national team and Hossa named Fehervary.
  • Mitchell Gibson was named the USHL Goaltender of the Week after leading Central Illinois to two wins over the weekend. Gibson stopped 74 out of 75 total shots including a 37-save shutout on Saturday.


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Samsonov shines, the bottom-six was the difference and time to Panik?

Samsonov shines, the bottom-six was the difference and time to Panik?

Ilya Samsonov had his best NHL performance on Saturday in a big 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Capitals got contributions from players all over the lineup in a big win.

Check out a recap of the game here.

Observations from the win

Everyone is pitching in

Look at Saturday's game and Wednesday's game. Whatever the Caps needed, they were able to get. Against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, they needed a key coach's challenge and the video coaches delivered. They needed someone to take over the game and T.J. Oshie delivered. They needed a big night from the penalty kill and Carl Hagelin and Co. delivered. They needed a response to Boston's tying goal and John Carlson delivered.

Now look at Saturday's game. Ilya Samsonov got the start and he delivered when the Caps had a slow start to the game. The fourth line settled everything down and Alex Ovechkin forced a turnover behind the net to give Washington the lead. The bottom-six scored twice to give Washington control, Oshie scored a quick response goal when Tampa Bay tried to battle back and the penalty kill delivered again.

The Caps are not being carried by Ovechkin, it's not a hot goalie or a dominant blue line, it is a complete team effort and it is extremely impressive to watch.

Samsonov had his best NHL game

We knew Samsonov and Braden Holtby were going to split the weekend's games for the dad's trip. I expected Holtby would get the tougher game in Tampa Bay, but instead Todd Reirden went with Samsonov. The rookie had three brilliant saves in the first five minutes of the game. Tampa Bay was the better team for the first two periods and Samsonov only gave up one goal in those 40 minutes. This was a big boy offense and some big boy hockey. Samsonov was up to the task.

Good penalty kill, too many penalties

The Lightning entered this game with the second-best power play in the NHL. Limiting penalties was a big key to the game for Washington and...they did not do that. The Caps gave up five power play opportunities to Tampa Bay, just daring the Lighting offense to take fire. Tampa Bay was only able to cash in only once.

On the one hand, it's great that the penalty kill is playing so well. On the other hand, the Caps must stop taking so many penalties.

Time to Panik?

I have stressed the importance of patience for Richard Panik who is not only adjusting to a new team, but who had an injury and missed 10 games on LTIR. Now, however, it seems like patience is starting to run out.

Panik played a team-low 8:10 on Saturday. Players who get that little ice time are usually either fourth line players or players who do not contribute to special teams. Panik is supposed to be a penalty killer, but despite five penalty kill opportunities, he registered only 14 seconds of shorthanded ice time.

Panik's offensive struggles have been well documented (he had an assist on Saturday), but if he is not contributing on the penalty kill either...well, that's an issue.

Turning point

Tampa Bay looked like the better team for the first 40 minutes. Thanks to Samsonov, the game was tied at 1 at the start of the third. These two teams boast some of the top offensive stars in the NHL, but it was Washington's bottom-six that gave them the edge as Lars Eller scored early in the third and Garnet Hathaway added a second goal just 45 seconds later.

Suddenly the Lightning were on their heels after looking in control for the majority of the game.

Play of the game

Just when the Caps took the one-goal lead, Hathaway came swooping in to make it 3-1.

Stat of the game

The Caps' PK had a success rate of only 78.9-percent last season. This is a dramatic improvement.

Quote of the game

John Hathaway, father or Garnet, stole the show between the first and second period:

"I think as parents, we try to teach them like two lessons as kids growing up. It's like, if you can dream it, you can do it and never, never, never give up. The dads are here tonight and I think they're not only so proud of their sons, but they're happy for their sons because they know that they had big dreams, they dared to dream big and they never gave up."

Fan predictions

Hey, two for two.

No Ovechkin goal, but you got the score right.

Eller with a big goal tonight assisted by Panik.

Backstrom had only two, but just a few games removed from returning from injury, he looks like he hasn't missed any time at all out there.

This bit will never get old to me.


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Samsonov weathers the Lightning in shutdown performance

Samsonov weathers the Lightning in shutdown performance

Ilya Samsonov got the difficult assignment on Saturday of playing on the road against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He proved to be up to the challenge with a brilliant performance in net, leading the Capitals to the 5-2 victory, their second win over the Lightning in 16 days.

Here is how Washington won.

Ilya Samsonov

There's no question who the player of this game was. Samsonov was brilliant in this game. He had an immediate impact as the Lightning came out firing. Samsonov robbed Alex Killorn, Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev all in the first five minutes of the game.

Samsonov did not fade down the stretch either. Tampa Bay dominated in the second period and Samsonov turned aside 10 of the 11 shots he faced. For the game, he stopped 26 out of 28.

The fourth line and top line team up

The Lightning were all over Washington at the start of the game and Samsonov was the only reason Tampa Bay did not take advantage. A really strong shift by the fourth line for Washington seemed to settle everything down. Soon after, the Caps were celebrating a 1-0 lead.

Defenseman Jan Rutta had the puck behind the net. Ondrej Palat came wheeling around for the handoff and Alex Ovechkin saw him coming. As Palat wheeled one way, Ovechkin came charging the other. That forced Rutta to flub the pass and the puck bounced right in front of the net to a wide-open Nicklas Backstrom who fired it into the net.

Incidental contact

Tampa Bay thought they had the tie early in the second when Carter Verhaeghe finally got one past Samsonov, but the goal was immediately waved off for goalie interference.

Mathieu Joseph and John Carlson were battling in the defensive zone when Joseph was skated into Samsonov. He was not necessarily pushed, but he and Carlson battled their way into the Caps' netminder, which did not allow Samsonov the chance to defend against Verhaeghe's shot.

You never know what can happen with a goalie interference call, but in this case the referee got it right. It was no goal for incidental contact and no penalty for goalie interference.

The bottom-six

These two teams boast some of the top offensive stars in the NHL. But that's not all it takes to win in the NHL and the Caps' showed off their depth in the third period, which really proved to be the difference.

With the game tied at one, Dmitry Orlov made a great play at the offensive blue line to get the puck over to Richard Panik despite the immediate pressure he faced. Panik set up Lars Eller who one-timed it past Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Just 45 seconds later the fourth line came streaking down the ice and Brendan Leipsic teed up Garnet Hathaway, who took it in on net and chipped it through Vasileskiy.

Those two quick goals suddenly turned the game on its head. To that point, the Lightning had been the better team. After that, the Caps were dominant.