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John Carlson makes team history in blowout win

John Carlson makes team history in blowout win

The first two games of the Eastern Conference Final have been anything but quiet for the Capitals, but John Carlson very quietly made team history in Sunday's Game 2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

With two assists on the night, Carlson reached 14 total points for this postseason setting a franchise record for most points in a single postseason by a Capitals defenseman. The previous record of 12 was set by Kevin Hatcher in 1988.

Carlson now sits second among all defensemen in the playoffs, just one point shy of Dustin Byfuglien's 15.

With only three goals, it can be easy to forget about Carlson when players like Lars Eller and Tom Wilson are playing so well, but Carlson currently sits third on the team in points behind only Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

And this is all very good timing.

Carlson, 28, is in the final year of a contract that carries a cap hit of just under $4 million. He was already due a significant raise after a career-high 68 points to lead all defensemen in the regular season. With an impressive postseason to match, his price tag continues to climb.

So what will it take to re-sign him?

Kevin Shattenkirk signed a four-year contract with cap hit of $6.65 million per year on the heels of a 13-goal, 56-point season. For you non-math experts out there, 56 points is fewer than Carlson's 68. Shattenkirk also walked away from longer-term deals to play with his hometown Rangers.

Brent Burns and Victor Hedman both signed new contracts in 2016. Burns' deal was for eight years, $64 million ($8 million cap hit) and Hedman signed for eight years, $63 million ($7.875 million cap hit).

Those are two of the biggest name defensemen in the NHL. Carlson, however, scored more points than either of them this season and defensively, he played a huge role for Washington when Matt Niskanen went down with an injury. Carlson played nearly 30 minutes a night with Niskanen out to keep the Caps' defense from collapsing.

So even if you do not see Carlson as being on par with players like Burns or  Hedman, another team else might. Carlson will be one of the most sought-after free agents this offseason if he makes it that far without re-signing with the Caps and that certainly won't come cheap. A cap hit of $6.5 million seems like an absolute minimum, but this postseason has likely raised that number to the $7-$7.5 million range.

But for now, it doesn't matter. A new contract is a problem for the offseason and for once the Caps don't have to think about that yet because there's still plenty of hockey left to play.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

The Eastern Conference Final is going the distance!

After losing three straight to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals won Game 6 to force a Game 7 in Tampa Bay. Can the Caps beat the Lightning one more time and advance to the Stanley Cup Final?

JJ Regan, Tarik El-Bashir and special guest cameraman Mike D break it all down.

 

PLEASE NOTE: Due to schedule and time constraints, this podcast was recorded by phone and the audio quality is not up to our usual standards.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

As the NHL continues to focus more on speed and skill, the Capitals took a very old-school approach to Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. From the moment the puck dropped until the clock hit zero, it was clear Washington came into Monday with a very physical game plan.

"It made a big difference," T.J. Oshie said. "I think in these games, everyone’s bringing energy and you kind of want to control that and direct it towards some positive play, some momentum building for your team, and tonight I think we handled that and did that pretty well."

"We just wanted to throw everything we had at them," Stephenson said. "It was a do or die game and we don't want our season to end."

It worked.

The scoresheet officially credited the Caps with 39 hits for the game. The Lightning had only 19. The physical play seemed to wear down Tampa Bay as the game went on.

After an even first period, Washington took a 1-0 lead in the second. Then, very fittingly, a physical fourth line extended that lead to 2-0 in the third to finish the Lightning off.

"All of a sudden now we turn a puck over, you’re back in your end, they’re feeling it, they’re being physical, crowd’s behind them and we’re spending way too much time in our D zone," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. "That’s what hurt us."

What made it so effective was the fact that the entire team bought into it. Alex Ovechkin was certainly the most noticeable player as he threw himself around like a wrecking ball against everyone wearing a white jersey. But it was not just his line. Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six hits, Devante Smith-Pelly recorded five of his own while Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had four.

The Lightning faced a constant barrage from the Caps from every line and defensive pair. There was no respite.

The hits also gave the fans plenty to cheer for.

The Caps were playing an elimination game at home and Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was standing on his head. Even with the score locked at 0-0 through the first period, the crowd was still very much into the game. There was no apprehension, there was no quiet tension. There was just a loud crowd cheering on its team.

"[The fans] were loud right from the start, which I think we fed off of and wanted to give them something back," Brooks Orpik said. "We didn't get a goal early. I think some of the physical play kind of helped carry that. They were great for us."

Now in the third round of the playoffs after six intense games between the Caps and Lightning, the hope is that Game 6's physical play will continue to take its toll on Tampa Bay heading into Game 7.

"We need to do that every game," Nicklas Backstrom said. "That's our forecheck. Hopefully, we can keep it going here in Game 7."

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