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Capitals sign heralded Virginia native Joe Snively to entry-level contract

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Capitals sign heralded Virginia native Joe Snively to entry-level contract

With a thin core of forward prospects, the Capitals looked locally and announced the signing of Herndon, Virginia native Joe Snively on Monday to a two-year, entry-level contract beginning in the 2019-20 season.

Snively, 23, is an undrafted free agent who played the last four years for Yale in the NCAA. He led the team in all four seasons. He scored 15 goals and 36 points in 33 games in his senior season. His skillset reportedly caught the eye of several other NHL clubs, but he elected to sign with his hometown team.

Snively is an alum of the Washington Little Capitals, the local youth hockey program based at MedStar Capitals Iceplex. He played junior hockey in the USHL with the Sioux City Musketeers tallying 64 points in 55 games.

“Obviously a unique situation with a local kid, which is phenomenal,” Todd Reirden said. “But it's very competitive to sign those free agents out of college, and we're fortunate to be able to add someone (who's) almost like a free player.”

Snively is not eligible to play with the Caps this season, so do not expect him to suit up in red anytime soon. Washington is at its maximum number of contracts with 50, which is why Snively’s contract is set to start for the 2019-20 season. He could, however, potentially play in Hershey on a tryout agreement.

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What goalie controversy? Why Samsonov is not going to take over as the No. 1 even after a rough start for Holtby

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What goalie controversy? Why Samsonov is not going to take over as the No. 1 even after a rough start for Holtby

You could pretty much see this coming. With Braden Holtby on the last year of his contract and with his assumed successor, Ilya Sasmonov, now serving as his backup in the NHL, all the elements were there for a goalie controversy. All it needed was for Samsonov to play well in his opportunities and Holtby to struggle for murmurs over whether Samsonov should be named the No. 1 to begin bubbling in Washington.

But ultimately there is no goalie controversy for the Washington Capitals because Samsonov was never going to be the No. 1 goalie in the 2019-20 season. That has not and, barring some extreme circumstances, will not change.

Is this because of underlying concerns over Samsonov’s play? A coach and general manager’s stubborn loyalty to Holtby? A reluctance to turn the reins over to a young rising star?

No, no and no.

To figure out why the Caps will keep Holtby as their starter through the regular season, even if it means seeing him walk as a free agent in the offseason, let’s turn the clocks back to 2018. From Feb. 2 to March 6, Holtby suffered the worst stretch of his career. In 11 games, he won just three with a save percentage of .872 and a whopping 4.45 GAA. He was pulled four times in those 11 games.

There’s no sugarcoating it, he was awful.

When discussing the possibility of Samsonov taking over as the No. 1, many fans have brought up this stretch as an example of when Holtby lost his job as the starter to Philipp Grubauer. But there are few important factors that people are forgetting.

First, Grubauer had a lot of starting experience by that time. Being a starter is not just about being able to play well in a single game, it is about being able to handle the grind of playing in multiple games. Grubauer played in 50 total games in 2014-15 (49 with Hershey, one with the Caps), 45 games in 2013-14 (28 with Hershey, 17 with the Caps), 56 games in 2012-13 (26 with the Reading Royals, 28 with Hershey and two with the Caps) and 43 games with South Carolina in 2011-12.

The most games Samsonov has played in a single season? That would be 37 which he played just last year in Hershey. The team had faith in Grubauer’s ability to handle the rigors of being a No. 1 because he had the experience, experience that Samsonov does not yet have.

An NHL season consists of 82 games plus the playoffs. For Samsonov to take over in October, the first month of the season, you would have to think that would mean he would play at least 45 or 50 games, this from a player in his first year in the NHL who has never played that many games at any level in his career. That was never going to happen.

When Holtby was pulled from the game in March 6, 2018, he took time for a reset and did not play again until March 16. When he returned, there were 12 games left in the season. He started six of them.

Even when Holtby was at his absolute worst, he never became the outright backup in the regular season. It was not until the start of the postseason that Grubauer was named the No. 1.

Knowing this, I’m not sure how anyone could reasonably expect Samsonov to take over as the No. 1, especially in the first month of the season. If that stretch in 2018 was not bad enough to relegate Holtby to the backup, a handful of rough performances to start the 2019 season sure is not going to.

Yes, Holtby is a little older, but he’s still just 30 and it wasn’t like the Cup run was five years ago. It was 16 months ago. And, by the way, let’s not forget how that story ended in 2018. If there is any goalie in the NHL who could rebound from a tough start to the season, it seems like the guy who was able to rebound from the worst stretch of his career to lead a team to its first Stanley Cup would be a pretty good candidate.

Holtby already looks like a different goalie after just one game off and has rebounded in his last two starts, both wins, making 67 saves on 72 shots for a .931 save percentage.

When you get to the playoffs, all bets are off. If Samsonov has been the better goalie at that point, it would not be shocking at all to see him take over as the starter. But even if he is brilliant this season, at the most he is going to split time with Holtby, he is not going to start getting a bulk of the starts.

Obviously, an injury to Holtby would change things as would the team completely bottoming out this season. If it becomes clear that the rebuild is upon us, Holtby suddenly becomes obvious trade bait. As long as the Caps remain a Cup contender, however, there is no reason to trade away the goalie that got you there in 2018, especially if doing so would mean throwing Samsonov to the wolves and playing him in more games than you know he can handle. It is not good for the team’s Cup chances and it is not good for Samsonov’s development. It is just not going to happen.

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Braden Holtby, special teams deliver Caps a win in Chicago

Braden Holtby, special teams deliver Caps a win in Chicago

The Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks exchanged five goals in the third period, but it was the Caps who came out on top on Sunday in a 5-3 win. The game is the first of a five-game road swing for the Caps who have now won three straight.

Observations from the win

Another strong game for Holtby

The brief reset seems to have done the job for Braden Holtby who made 41 saves. He was also very good on Friday against the New York Rangers. He looked mad after giving up the third goal, but that was a tough shot from one of the most lethal scorers in the game.

Patrick Kane came in on a 2-on-1 and Holtby did not for one second think he was going to pass. Usually you can see a goalie start to cheat over in anticipation of the pass, butHoltby stayed square with Kane the whole way. I watched the game with former goalie Brent Johnson who noted the puck began to roll when Kane shot it. It looked like it was going high, but instead went through the 5-hole which may be why Holtby was annoyed.

Regardless, that was a tough shot to save and he was good overall for the night. Stringing a few solid games together should keep the talk of a goalie controversy at bay.

That’s what Carl Hagelin brings

It was a slow start to the season for Hagelin, but this was one of his better games of the season. He was especially brilliant on the penalty kill and his play to start the breakout and assist Dowd on the shorthanded goal was the turning point of the game (spoiler alert!).

Adjust your expectations when you evaluate Hagelin. He is not a big point producer, that’s not why they got him. Brian MacLellan traded for Hagelin for performances like we saw Sunday.

Nic Dowd needs to stay in the lineup

Dowd now has two goals in two games, but it’s not just about that. The fourth line just looks better with him on it, as does the penalty kill. This should not be a guy having to fight for his spot in the lineup. He’s earned it in my mind.

Turning point

Drake Caggiula tied the game at 1 in the second period and suddenly the momentum was all on Chicago’s side. Just one minute later, Chandler Stephenson was given a double-minor for high-sticking Kirby Dach. This was Chicago’s moment to take control of the game. Instead, it proved to be the turning point for Washington.

Patrick Kane turned the puck over on the power play and Hagelin picked it up and was off to the races, sparking a 2-on-1 with Dowd. Hagelin made the pass to Dowd who beat Corey Crawford glove-side for his second goal in as many games.

Chicago was given the double-minor power play exactly one minute after tying the game. Just 28 seconds after that, the Caps retook momentum with the shorthanded goal. The Blackhawks’ power play, which had looked dangerous to that point, completely fizzled through the rest of the double-minor.

Play of the night

Alex Ovechkin from the office? Been there, done that. It’s a great shot from the Great 8, but what makes this play so darn pretty is the pass from John Carlson.

A slap shot from Michal Kempny went wide of the net and curled around the wall back towards the blue line. Carlson collected it and immediately fired it on the first touch cross-ice to perfectly feed Ovechkin for the one-timer.

Stat of the night

As hot as Carlson is, this category can just be dominated by him considering the elite company he is keeping these days.

So as not to be monotonous, I’ll give you a bonus stat.

The Caps may have given up three goals on the night, but don’t let that fool you. This was a really strong game for Holtby who faced 44 shots.


Quote of the night

Tom Wilson on the netminder's performance.

"I think Holts had his calm demeanor back, for sure."

Fan predictions

Bold...but not quite.

You got the score right. Kuznetsov and Carlson both had assists, Ovechkin had one goal. Well done.

It was a relatively high-scoring game and Chicago did manage 44 shots on goal, but the Caps also blocked 31 of those shots and were perfect on the penalty kill with five kills.

He doesn’t like taking penalties either, but he took a double-minor on Sunday. That is four more PIM than he had all of last season.

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