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Caps rookie Jonas Siegenthaler ready for playoff debut

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Caps rookie Jonas Siegenthaler ready for playoff debut

RALEIGH — Jonas Siegenthaler’s friends and family back in Zurich should take a long nap today and drink plenty of coffee. 

The rookie Swiss defenseman makes his Stanley Cup playoffs debut when the Capitals play the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4 of their first-round series at PNC Arena on Thursday. 

The 7 p.m. puck drop will be at about 1 a.m. in Switzerland due to the six-hour time difference, but it’s a dream for the 21-year-old. He replaces Christian Djoos in the lineup. The Capitals still lead the series 2-1. 

“Not everyone is able to play a Stanley Cup Playoff game,” Siegenthaler said. “Next to my debut this year, I think it's probably one of my biggest days in life.”

Siegenthaler will skate with veteran Brooks Orpik to start. That will help calm any nerves. But Siegenthaler is in for two reasons: His ability to take physical contact and still make a play (he’s 6-foot-3, 206 pounds) and his poise under pressure. He isn’t the skater that Djoos is, but the Capitals hope he can withstand Carolina’s intense forecheck pressure better.

Just do that and they’ll be fine with it. It’s unlikely Siegenthaler plays much more more than 10 minutes anyway. Djoos never broke 8:40 in his first three games and had a bad turnover in the first period of Game 3 that led to a goal and opened the floodgates for the Hurricanes. 

One added bonus: Siegenthaler can kill penalties. That was something he showed during 26 games with Washington as a rookie. He spent the first 14 games in the minors with AHL Hershey. Then he was in and out of the lineup from his recall on Nov. 9 until Feb. 7 when a numbers crunch on the blueline sent him back to Hershey. Siegenthaler was back in the NHL on March 26, but has only played once since: The regular-season finale on April 6 against the New York Islanders. 

“The guys here kept me in shape on the ice, off the ice,” Siegenthaler said. “I didn't play the last two weeks, but I don't think it should be too bad. I feel ready. My body feels ready and my mind feels ready too.”

The Capitals hope so because they need everyone working together to get the puck out of their defensive zone. That didn’t happen near enough in Game 3, a 5-0 loss. A video session that Orpik called “kind of trash” made that obvious. But it gives Siegenthaler an opportunity. 

Reirden said Siegenthaler could move around some as the Capitals continue to try to find a fix without Michal Kempny (torn hamstring) available. It’s a different look. It remains to be seen how he handles it. 

“It's pretty physical. It's a lot faster,” Siegenthaler said. “I think it's going to be a challenge from the first minute on, for me. I've got to match the pace and everything so I know I'm capable to do that and I've just got to be ready.”

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T.J. Oshie doesn't believe shootouts should dictate results in the Stanley Cup Playoffs

T.J. Oshie doesn't believe shootouts should dictate results in the Stanley Cup Playoffs

T.J. Oshie is no stranger to success in shootouts, especially in big games. Namely, his performance in the 2014 Sochi Olympics against Russia earned him that reputation.

If the shootout style was ever brought to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the NHL, there's a chance that Oshie's name would once again be called upon. However, the Capital isn't set on that scenario becoming a reality. 

As of now, playoff matchups head into as many overtimes as needed rather than a shootout. While that can be draining for players, Oshie believes it is a more genuine way to determine results in the postseason. Hockey is a sport that forces a team to come together as a whole, and he feels that shootouts take that away.

“Selfishly I’d love to see it. But I just look back and see some of the games that went to five overtimes and played past midnight," Oshie told NHL on NBC during a re-airing of his performance in the 2014 Olympics. “In the playoffs you need everyone on the ice, everyone doing their job. The shootout just feels a little bit more one-on-one.”

"So I don’t think it has a place in playoffs," he added.

As Oshie noted, he could see the fun and excitement in having shootouts in the playoffs due to his personal success experiences in those moments. Yet, his time in postseason runs, including Washington's 2018 championship has given him a larger perspective on the grind that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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The Capitals' Stanley Cup run was filled with grueling moments, but the success came from the team's effort altogether. Individual performances sparked big moments, but the Capitals were only as good as the sum of all their parts. To take that away in the biggest of moments is something that Oshie sees as wrong for the sport and the players who worked hard to get there.

“It’s just, after winning, I think you realize how much you need everybody playing well and so I think everyone deserves to play in those big moments," Oshie said.

So, while Oshie loves participating in late-game heroics, he'll take his chance at an overtime goal rather than a shootout. He does, however, understand that the continuation of the golden goal format could lead to more games with multiple extra periods. Though he is okay with those happening in place of a shootout, he also knows that he probably just talked himself into a lot more of those situations in the future.

“Watch I’ll go to like a five-overtime game and be dying an need an IV," Oshie joked. "And maybe change my tune.”

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T.J. Oshie had no nerves entering shootout with Russia in 2014 Sochi Olympics

T.J. Oshie had no nerves entering shootout with Russia in 2014 Sochi Olympics

As the United States and Russia entered the shootout period of the 2014 Olympic Games preliminary matchup tied 2-2, there was plenty of tension and nerves in Sochi.

T.J. Oshie, who was sent out for the first attempt, had the right to be as nervous as anyone. Skating on to the ice, he had the weight of a nation on his shoulders in a game that carried a history stemming from the Miracle on Ice. Yet, Oshie was as cool as the ground he was on. Rather than thinking about any outside noise, his only focus was on what he was going to do with the puck.

“Just my move. There probably wasn’t a time I was more confident than my first shot. I knew off the hop that I wanted to go five hole and that’s really all I had my mind made up for," Oshie told NHL on NBC during the re-airing of the infamous game on Saturday. "The first shot I was ready to go. I was excited to go out there and shoot first and put us up one.”

Oshie did just that on his first shot, giving the United States early momentum in the shootout. He would once again have his name called upon for the fourth attempt of the period. Though he was no longer setting the tone for the entire period, this is where Oshie more pressure.

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It wasn't solely because of the situation, but rather because he didn't want to lose the opportunity to shoot again down the line.

“I was most nervous for my second one because I felt if I missed I wouldn’t be going anymore," Oshie said.

He did miss the shot, but it was not the end for him. Rules allowed the U.S. to send the same player out there for each of the following rounds if they wanted, and head coach Dan Bylsma opted to stick with Oshie.

The rest is history, as in the eighth round Oshie's ability to find the back of the net ended up being the game-winner for the United States.

Despite the circumstances, Oshie never felt too nervous throughout the shootout period. Remaining calm and focusing on what he needed to do with his stick, he helped etch a spot for himself in the most memorable moments the sport of hockey has had to offer.

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