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NHL 20 Caps simulation: Penalty kill saves Washington in sloppy win over Detroit

NHL 20 Caps simulation: Penalty kill saves Washington in sloppy win over Detroit

The NHL's season may be on hold, but the Hiatus Hockey League (HHL) is in full swing! The idea is a simple one, with the NHL season suspended due to fears over the coronavirus, let's play out each Capitals game on the scheduled days with the EA Sports game NHL 20 and see what happens. The first game Washington officially missed came on Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings.

Here we go...

Lines

For this first game, I stuck with the lines head coach Todd Reirden looked like he was going to use based on Wednesday's practice:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Ilya Kovalchuk
Richard Panik - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Brenden Dillon - Dmitry Orlov
Jonas Siegenthaler - Nick Jensen

Braden Holtby started.

The computer Orlov seemed about as comfortable playing on the right side as the real Orlov. Dillon ended up playing on the right side so much I had to double-check to make sure I had put him at left defenseman and not the right. I doubt we are going to see much of Orlov playing on the right side for the rest of the HHL.

Result: Caps 4, Red Wings 2

1st period

No goals

2nd period

1-0 Caps goal: Lars Eller from Tom Wilson and Carl Hagelin

2-0 Caps goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov from John Carlson

3-0 Caps goal (shorthanded): Lars Eller from Carl Hagelin and Jonas Siegenthaler

3rd period

3-1 Red Wings goal: Dylan Larkin, unassisted

3-2 Red Wings goal (power play): Brendan Perlini from Filip Hronek and Gustav Lindstrom

4-2 Caps goal (empty net): Nic Dowd from Brenden Dillon

How the Caps won

1. The penalty kill

I wondered how realistic this would actually seem and then Kuznetsov was called for a trip in the first minute of the game. Given the team's recent penalty struggles, that felt about right.

The Caps had only one power play, but gave up six opportunities to the Red Wings. Things really got off the rails in the third period when Washington, trying to hold onto a 3-1 lead, took three penalties in short succession giving Detroit a lot of 5-on-3 time to work with. Wilson was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for trying to fight Larkin who had caught Ovechkin with a high hit to the head. Siegenthaler was called for tripping 27 seconds later and Eller was also called for tripping just 17 seconds after that. It was at that point that Reirden tore into the refs about the tripping calls (meaning I went into the settings and adjusted the sliders for fewer trips).

Perlini would score on the two-man advantage but that was Detroit's lone power play goal as the Caps killed off the other five opportunities.

2. Lars Eller

The Tiger would score twice including a shorthanded goal that proved to be the game-winner. Off a neutral zone draw, Siegenthaler aggressively carried the puck into the offensive zone rather than clearing it and passed to Hagelin. Three Red Wings got caught puck watching and converged on Hagelin as Eller went to the net. Hagelin found him all alone and he deked the puck past Jonathan Bernier.

3. Braden Holtby

Finding a way to play defense in a way that would not result in a tripping penalty proved difficult so Detroit found a lot of open opportunities in high-danger areas, but Holtby was able to save 23 out of 25 shots. His best came in the second period when a puck hit off Siegenthaler to the goal line and Holtby got a glove on it and pulled it back to safety.

Other notes

Computer refs can be just as confusing as the real ones

This game is so realistic, it comes with its own controversial calls. Larkin delivered a hit to Ovechkin that replay shows hit him square in the head and there was no call on the play.

Come on, ref. He gets Ovechkin right in the head!

Larkin even knocked Ovechkin's helmet off with the hit.

There's no word yet on whether Larkin will face a hearing from the Department of Player Safety for the hit.

Don't blame me

Eller wasn't on the ice when Dowd scored the empty-netter so that's why I didn't get him the puck for the hat trick.

Next game

Washington was scheduled to play the Chicago Blackhawks at home on Sat. March 14.

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How to watch Evgeny Kuznetsov's best games with the Capitals

How to watch Evgeny Kuznetsov's best games with the Capitals

Over the past six seasons, forward Evgeny Kuznetsov has been one of the biggest reasons for the Capitals' success.

Kuzy has been extremely durable for the Capitals, playing in at least 76 games over the past six seasons, excluding the 2019-20 shortened season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The winger has been one of Washington's best attacking players during that span, splitting time between both Washington's first and second lines. 

No. 92 has also found a knack for playing his best hockey on the sport's biggest stages. Kuznetsov netted arguably the most important goal in Capitals history, scoring the game-winning goal in Game 6 of the 2018 Eastern Conference semi-finals in overtime to eliminate the Pittsburgh Penguins, "exorcising the demons" for a franchise that previously could not get past the second round. We all know how that story ends, with the Capitals hoisting the Stanley Cup just over a month later.

On Sunday, NBC Sports Washington is airing four of Kuznetsov's best regular-season performances. At 9 a.m., tune in to watch the Caps 6-5 overtime thriller over the Tampa Bay Maple Leafs from January 3, 2017. In that contest, Kuzy totaled four points, netting one goal and notching three assists, including one that set up Alex Ovechkin's game-winning goal.

Following that, we travel back to October of 2018, when Kuznetsov turned in another four-point performance in a 5-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in a rematch of the 2018 Stanley Cup. Kuzy started the scoring in the first period with a power-play goal and would tally three assists later on in the match as the Caps cruised to a dominating win.

At 2 p.m., the Caps 6-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings from February 11, 2019, will re-air. In this matchup, Kuznetsov finished with four points once again, this time finding the back of the net twice to go along with a pair of assists. To close out the day, tune in to see Kuznetsov net two goals in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes at 4:30 p.m.

A trip down memory lane that highlights Kuznetsov's greatest games is the perfect way to spend a Sunday.

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When:

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Where:

Broadcast Schedule:

9:00 a.m.: Toronto Maple Leafs @ Capitals from January 3, 2017

11:30 a.m.: Vegas Golden Knights @ Capitals from October 10, 2018

2:00 p.m.: Los Angeles Kings @ Capitals from February 11, 2019

4:30 p.m.: Arizona Coyotes @ Capitals from November 11, 2019 

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Ever Wonder: Why the Capitals' jerseys have three stars on them

Ever Wonder: Why the Capitals' jerseys have three stars on them

The current Washington Capitals jersey design — the red home sweaters with the white away ones — has been the defining look for the team throughout much of the Alex Ovechkin era.

During the summer of the 2007 season, the Caps rebranded. The franchise changed its colors from black and blue back to the organization's original design scheme of red, white, and blue. The jerseys that followed were similar to Washington's old-school look, having plenty of similarities with the uniform they wore from 1974-1994.

However, when the Caps unveiled their new look in 2007, there was one big difference from their old uniforms. The new-look had three stars on the front, compared to the six stars that had been across the top of the old sweaters.

Capitals assistant general manager Don Fishman spoke with NBC Sports Washington and explained why the franchise chose to go with just three stars, and it's because each star has a specific meaning.

"The three stars on our current Capitals jersey represent the three jurisdictions: Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.," Fishman said.

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While cutting the number of stars from six to three on the front of the sweater was a big change, Fishman explained that the new uniform was designed to be a modernized version of the franchise's original look.

"It was sort of meant to update and modernize the original Caps jersey, beautiful, old-school, 1970's work hard," Fishman said. "That jersey had six stars and was even on the jerseys in the 90s with the blue and black jersey. So we wanted to keep that concept of the stars, but we didn't want to keep that exact same look. So instead, we redid three stars right on the wordmark. The three stars seemed perfect."

The uniform change also marked the beginning of an incredible postseason run the Capitals have gone on since.

In 2007, the team's first year with the new look, the franchise made the playoffs for the first time in the Ovechkin era. Since then, they've made the postseason 11 of the past 12 seasons and won their first Stanley Cup in 2018.

For Fishman and many Caps fans, the red and white uniforms will always remind them of Washington's first championship and the franchise's biggest star.

"I think it's neat how this redesign will always be linked to Ovechkin and the Capitals' first Stanley Cup," Fishman said.

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