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Capitals Prospect Report: Connor McMichael is hoping to catch the eye of Team Canada and earn an invite to the World Juniors

Capitals Prospect Report: Connor McMichael is hoping to catch the eye of Team Canada and earn an invite to the World Juniors

Connor McMichael zipped a shot past goalie Daniil Isayev on Thursday to help Team OHL defeat Team Russia 4-1 in the CIBC Canada Russia Series.

Thursday’s game caps off what has been an unreal week of work for McMichael. He played in two games for the London Knights including a six-point performance on Nov. 1 in which he scored the overtime winner in a 7-6 win over Erie. He was named the first star for the game and the second star on Sunday in a 5-1 win over Oshawa. McMichael chipped in a goal and an assist in that game.

That big week earned McMichael OHL On the Run Player of the Week honors for arleady the second time this season. He was also named to the CHL Team of the Week on Thursday.

With McMichael playing so well and seeing him torch a young goalie in a Russia jersey, one has to wonder if the next step is for McMichael to get an invite to the Canadian World Junior team, which opens camp in December.

“It helps I’ve been playing well throughout the season,” McMichael told the Windsor Star. “It gives you confidence coming into one of the biggest games to make the junior team. Since I was little, it would be a dream come true and this is another stepping stone in that direction.”

Other prospect notes

  • It has been a slow start for Shane Gersich this season, but he finally scored his first goal on Saturday against Providence. He was in on a 2-on-1 with Axel Jonsson-Fjallby who fed him with a beautiful pass for the goal. In nine games this season, Gersich has one goal and three assists.
  • Bobby Nardella earned the first two points of his professional career with two assists on Saturday against Providence. He followed that up with a third an assist in Sunday's game against Syracuse. Playing time has been a bit hard to come by for Nardella as the Bears have nine defensemen on the roster. He still seems to be performing well, but even with his three assists over the weekend it still seems unlikely he will see regular time. The Bears' top-four on defense is essentially locked in meaning there are five defensemen left all vying for the two spots on the third pair.
  • Jonsson-Fjallby remains red hot with a goal and an assist over the weekend's trio of games. His goal Friday in Springfield was the fifth straight road game in which he had scored. He is currently tied for third among all AHL rookies in goals with five.
  • Aliaksei Protas leads the WHL in points with 28 (12 goals, 16 assists) in 18 games to start the season. In four games over the past week, he tallied three goals and six assists. He was also named the first star in Prince Albert's 5-1 win on Saturday over Moose Jaw. It certainly looks like the Caps found a player with NHL potential with their third-round 2019 pick.
  • Never has a player had a better nickname with a worse story. Protas ' nickname is the Viper, or the Viper of Vitebsk, a nod to his hometown in Belarus. So what's the story behind the nickname? There is none. I mean, there is literally no story. I asked him about it in the preseason, he wasn't even sure who gave it to him or how it started. Just all of a sudden his teammates started calling him Viper and that's it.
  • Damien Riat was hit in the head with a puck on Saturday and is out for three weeks. There are no reports currently suggesting the injury is anything serious and, from what I can gather, the three-week timetable seems like a precaution. The bad news is that means he could not represent Team Switzerland in the Deutschland Cup, which began on Thursday.

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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.

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