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Caps overwhelm Lundqvist, Rangers for win in Kempny's return

Caps overwhelm Lundqvist, Rangers for win in Kempny's return

WASHINGTON -- Henrik Lundqvist did all he could, but the Capitals overwhelmed the New York Rangers on Friday for a 5-2 victory to close out a three-game homestand. Michal Kempny returned to the lineup and unexpectedly scored and Braden Holtby was strong in net thus quieting any talk of a goalie controversy.

Observations from the win

Kempny is still great

It is weird to think about how a player who seemed like such a random, grasping at straws trade has become so invaluable to the Caps’ lineup, but that’s where we are with Kempny. He played just 14:24, but the team defense improved drastically.

If you want to know why Kempny is such a great defenseman, watch the last play of the first period. Ryan Strome is streaking down the ice with the puck 1-on-1 with Kempny, a player who has not played a game since March. Strome had a full head of steam, but Kempny sticks with him skating almost stride for stride with him backward. Just when it looked like Strome had a step on him, Kempny turned, swept the stick and forced Strome to wheel around away from the net.

That play looked very similar to the one Jonas Siegenthaler faced against Toronto in which he was torched by Ilya Mikeheyev.

So will he be back on the top pair by Sunday?

“I thought he looked really good tonight and you can expect to see more of him on in Chicago and as we continue to build him up to have a full successful recovery into playing good hockey like you did tonight,” Todd Reirden said after the game.

Hathaway is more the just a fourth-line player

It is not surprising to see Hathaway become a fan favorite. He is a grinder who plays with the type of style fans love. What is surprising is how much of an impact he has had on this team already.

Hathaway was knocked out of the game in the second period with a broken nose after a big hit from Jacob Trouba, came back in the third, drew a cross-check, fought Brendan Smith, the Caps scored on the resulting power play and Hathaway returned to score the empty-netter.

That’s a pretty unbelievable game.

One thing we kept hearing from the team in training camp was that they wanted to be harder to play against. Hathaway is the type of player that makes life miserable for opposing teams, but he is not just a pest. He plays a role on the team and contributes when he is on the ice.

One of the best parts about it? There were two fights in this game and Tom Wilson was not involved in either of them.

The goalie controversy is over...for now

Holtby was great in this game. I wondered if four days between starts would be enough of a reset for him, but it was a really strong game. The Rangers packed players in front of the net and Holtby did a great job tracking it through the traffic and staying square.

Holtby’s 26 saves are 26 more than he managed on Monday.

That quiets the goalie controversy for now and really, there was no controversy. Yes, the Caps would have had to do something if Holtby kept playing as poorly as he did on Monday, but the most games Ilya Samsonov has played in his career is 37 which he played last year with Hershey. To think he was going to simply take over as the Caps’ starter now, in October, was never going to happen.

If we learned anything, it is that it is important to keep the three-game rotation in play. Play Holtby two games, but Samsonov back in for the third. It will be good to try to limit Holtby to 55 games or less and good to get Samsonov as much playing time as possible.

Defense is the best offense?

Kempny scored a goal, Carlson is tied for the league-lead in points, Dmitry Orlov had a breakaway. We didn’t see much of it today, but there have also been moments this season of Jonas Siegenthaler cheating deep into the offensive zone.

Clearly the defense is expected to get more involved in the offense this year. Originally, I thought this was more about getting perimeter shots. I asked Reirden about this and he largely dismissed it saying there has not been any dramatic shift to the offense, but I’m not so sure. The defense looks a lot more involved than I remember in the past.

Turning point

Midway through the third period, the Caps could not shake the Rangers and led by only one goal thanks to the work of Lundqvist in net. Hathaway changed that.

Trouba delivered a big hit to Hathaway in the second period that left him with a broken nose and appeared to end his game. It did not. Hathaway returned for the third period and he was out for blood.

Micheal Haley delivered a clean hit to Orlov and that was pretty much all it took. Hathaway needed to hit someone and that someone turned into Smith.

Hathaway drew a cross-check penalty and dropped the gloves with Smith even though he had a broken nose. By the end of the fight, Hathaaway was bleeding profusely, but the fight gave the Caps the spark they needed. Oshie would score on the resulting power play.

Play of the night

Kempny has scored only 12 goals in his career. No. 12 came on Friday.


Stat of the night

This is some pretty elite company for Carlson.


Quote of the night

Hathaway was asked about the hit from Trouba:

"You are looking right at my nose. It is a little out of place. That's all I should say about that."

Fan predictions

Well, you got the score right.

Close. Holtby had 26 saves on 28 shots, the Caps won 5-2 and they got two power play goals.

Kempny actually scored in his return so this was a pretty damn bold prediction. Congrats.

It was the second.

Miroslav Satan hasn’t played since 2010.

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New York Rangers land No. 1 pick in 2020 NHL Draft Lottery

New York Rangers land No. 1 pick in 2020 NHL Draft Lottery

Just a few days ago, the New York Rangers were competing for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Now, they are the owners of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

New York landed the first pick during Phase 2 of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery on Monday, as they were the lucky team to have their ping pong ball sitting at the top of the order. 

The league switched it up this season, as teams that fell in the qualifying round of the NHL restart were all eligible for the first pick. This was decided during Phase 1 of the NHL Draft Lottery when "Team E" ended up in the top spot. Here's how the draft shakes out now, before other teams are added after playoff results:

  1. New York Rangers
  2. Los Angeles Kings
  3. Ottawa Senators (from San Jose)
  4. Detroit Red Wings
  5. Ottawa Senators
  6. Anaheim Ducks
  7. New Jersey Devils
  8. Buffalo Sabres
  9. Minnesota Wild
  10. Winnipeg Jets
  11. Nashville Predators
  12. Florida Panthers
  13. Carolina Hurricanes (from Toronto)
  14. Edmonton Oilers
  15. Pittsburgh Penguins (optional to Minnesota)

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There was an interesting moment leading up to the selection, as the ball with the Rangers logo was dropped prematurely before commissioner Gary Bettman was able to confirm that it was the correct ping pong ball. Twitter immediately went into conspiracy mode, given that the Rangers had the second pick last year, but the fact of the matter is New York is now on the clock.

For the Rangers, that most likely means the addition of Alexis Lafrenière, an 18-year-old Canadien winger who is considered to be the bell of this year's ball. While Lafrenière is certainly talented, he's not yet viewed as a franchise-altering selection such as Alexander Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby.

Still, there is reason for excitement in New York. A team that contended for a playoff spot in 2020 will now add another important piece for next season. 2019 first-round pick Kaapo Kakko, who struggled at times during his rookie season, is another talented scorer that carries lofty expectations. On paper, the future is bright for the Rangers.

However, dominating the lottery doesn't guarantee instant success. Dating back to 2015 when phenom Connor McDavid was selected by the Edmonton Oilers, the owner of the No. 1 pick has only made it past the first round of the playoffs once. That includes the New Jersey Devils, who have picked first overall in two of the last three years.

In terms of how this impacts the Capitals, it does potentially make Washington's matchups with the Rangers more challenging in the future. It's never ideal to see a division foe pick up another talented individual. Yet, the Rangers winning the lottery means the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were eligible, did not. That's always good news for the Capitals.

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Capitals could sit Lars Eller even if he is cleared in time for Game 1 against the Islanders

Capitals could sit Lars Eller even if he is cleared in time for Game 1 against the Islanders

The Capitals may be without forward Lars Eller in Wednesday's Game 1 against the New York Islanders even if he is cleared by the NHL in time to play. That was the thought of head coach Todd Reirden on Monday who expressed he would have to make a decision to avoid any possible injury that could keep him out longer.

Eller left the bubble in Toronto for the birth of his second child. He is now back in Toronto under quarantine in his room and cannot leave until he tests negative four times over a four-day period, per NHL protocols. It is unclear when Eller took his first test. If it was Monday, he will not be ready in time for Wednesday's game. If it was on Sunday, there's a chance he could be cleared to play by Wednesday.

"The NHL will be the ones that decide that, have the overall final call on it," Reirden said.

But even if Eller just manages to clear before the 3 p.m. game time on Wednesday, there's a chance he still may not play.

While under quarantine, Eller is not allowed to leave his hotel room at all.

"He’s not allowed to leave his hotel room, so he hasn’t been doing any exercise outside of his room and until we’re told differently that will be how it is," Reirden said.

That could be a problem.

RELATED: CARLSON MAKING STEPS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Eller first left the bubble on Aug. 5. By Wednesday, he will have gone a week without being on the ice or being able to exercise, beyond whatever he can do in his room. Typically in these situations, players get a practice in before getting back into the game lineup and Reirden made it clear on Monday that he may have to consider sitting Eller for Game 1 to prevent any sort of injury after missing a week.

“I think it’s something you have to consider is the player hasn’t been on the ice," Reirden said. "He obviously plays a huge role on our team and if you remember a few years ago the success and kind of the X factor that he was for our team when we won against Vegas. So I think it’s important that we handle this situation and make the proper the decision to give this player the best chance to be able to, if it’s not Game 1, then he’s ready to go for Game 2 and he’s as close to healthy in terms of conditioning-wise, he’s ready to go on the ice and be able to add the things he can add and do it safely so that we can have him for an extended time here in this playoffs because he is definitely a big factor in our team success.”

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If Eller is out, Travis Boyd will likely play in his place. Boyd centered the third line in Eller's absence in the last two round robin games.

Luckily, that is the only real question mark down the middle for Washington. Nicklas Backstrom, who missed a practice last week but played against the Boston Bruins on Sunday, said Monday that he had "no concerns" in terms of his status heading into the playoffs.

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