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Key questions for the 2020 Caps postseason: Will the round-robin help or hurt?

Key questions for the 2020 Caps postseason: Will the round-robin help or hurt?

The 2020 postseason will be unlike any other and, as a result, there are a lot of unknowns. As the July 10 start to training camp approaches, let's look at the biggest unknowns facing the Capitals.

Today's question: Will the round robin help or hurt?

Out of 24 teams that have qualified for the 2020 postseason, only eight are guaranteed to make it to the first round. As one of the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference, the Caps are one of those eight, but no one is quite sure how teams will look when the season resumes and with that uncertainty comes the possibility that the bye past the play-in round might not actually be a positive.

Obviously a bye is not a bad thing, the issue is more about what the round robin that those top four teams will have to play is going to look like.

The top four teams from each conference will play in a round-robin tournament to determine playoff seeding for the first round. It is expected that each of the 24 teams will only be able to play one exhibition game before the postseason begins. This means that most teams will go from one exhibition game straight into a do-or-die best of five play-in series while the top seeds like the Caps will get three round-robin games before starting the playoffs.

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After so much time away from the ice and away from the team, everyone is going to look rusty when they return to play. No one wants to go straight from an abbreviated training camp into a do-or-die playoff series so the fact that Washington will have three extra games to play and a spot in the first round of the playoffs is a huge advantage. But what happens in the second round?

When Washington gets its first chance to step onto the ice in the postseason it won't be against teams coming off exhibition games. Instead, the Caps will be playing a team that battled through a legitimate playoff series. While Washington will be trying to dial up the intensity to playoff levels, their opponent will already be there.

RELATED: CAN DILLON AND KOVALCHUK PERFORM AFTER RESTART?

The round robin is completely unchartered territory.  Maybe the bye-in round will see teams suffer a number of injuries as they ramp up the intensity after several months off and allowing the top seeds breeze past their weakened opponents in the first round. Maybe three round-robin games will be all it takes to get the Capitals back up to game speed and ready for the playoffs. Or maybe teams coming off of a playoff series will be better prepared than an opponent coming off three glorified exhibition games in which case the Caps will find themselves back on their heels very quickly.

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New initiatives allow Capitals fans to stay connected to the team virtually

New initiatives allow Capitals fans to stay connected to the team virtually

Even though Caps fans cannot be in person to support their team on the road to the Stanley Cup this season, the Capitals organization and NHL found creative ways to keep the fan base involved in the team’s playoff run.

Through a number of virtual initiatives, Caps fans are now able to stay connected to their team and show their support from a distance while Washington competes at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. 

The team first encouraged fans to share personalized good luck messages and cheers for the players, which can be submitted at WashCaps.com/RallyCaps. A Capitals theme will be applied to the video, and fans will receive the video for personal use. They will also be featured on Caps’ social media channels.  

Next, it’s not Capitals hockey without Unleashing the Fury. Capitals fans can record themselves doing their best reenactment of the Unleash the Fury montage showed during games, and the videos will be used during playoff games and on social media. Videos can be submitted at WashingtonCaps.com/FanFury

The NHL also hopes to keep the tradition alive of fans showing their support with signs during warmups, so if Capitals fans make a handmade sign and tweet a photo with the hashtag #NHLWarmups with @Capitals tagged, the photo may be shown in the arena during warmups. 

In addition to these initiatives, there will also be a virtual gameday pregame show, behind the scenes footage and special digital content on the team’s social media channels, a virtual pep rally with radio play-by-play broadcaster John Walton, hockey ambassador Haley Skarupa and anthem singer Sgt. Major Bob McDonald, a Stanely Cup Playoff Bracket Challenge, special offers at the team stores at Capital One Arena and Medstar Capitals Iceplex, the chance for Club 365 members to submit photos of how they represent #ALLCAPS and matchup graphics and broadcast info featured on the video screens outside Capital One Arena.

The Capitals will begin their first-round playoff series with the New York Islanders on Wednesday at 3:00 p.m., so it’s time for fans to start showing their support virtually!

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John Carlson is 'making some steps in the right direction' in his recovery

John Carlson is 'making some steps in the right direction' in his recovery

Capitals defenseman John Carlson took part in the team's optional practice on Monday and head coach Todd Reirden said he would continue to take his status going forward day-by-day. Having said that, Reirden also sounded hopeful that Carlson was progressing.

"John Carlson was on the ice and we'll continue to take that day-by-day," Reirden said. "He seems to be making some steps in the right direction here."

Carlson was injured in the team's lone exhibition game against the Carolina Hurricanes prior to the round robin. He was tangled up with a Hurricanes player behind the goal line, fell and skated off to the bench under his own power. He did not play the remainder of the game, nor did he appear in any of the team's three round-robin games which, at the time, seemed like just a precaution. While the round robin games were not meaningless, they ultimately had no bearing on the team's postseason chances as Washington had already qualified as one of the top four teams in the conference. Now that we are into the playoffs, however, every game is incredibly important. Should Carlson miss any time, that will show his missing the round robin was not a precaution and he is dealing with an injury more serious than was previously thought.

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If Carlson cannot play in Game 1 on Wednesday, he would be replaced by either Radko Gudas or Martin Fehervary. Gudas is a right shot, like Carlson, but he gave up a bad turnover in the round robin game against Philadelphia. Fehervary, meanwhile, is a left shot, but played on the right side against Boston and was impressive with a game-high seven hits. His minutes were not sheltered either so he may well be the leader to get into the lineup if needed.

Game 1 between the Caps and Islanders is on Wednesday at 3 p.m.

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