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NHL Awards tracker: Russian vs. Russian

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Russian vs. Russian

A week by week look at where the race for the major individual NHL awards stands and which Caps could be in contention.

Alex Ovechkin remains a dark horse for the Hart Trophy because he remains atop the NHL in goals helping to boost a Caps' offense that has been inconsistent this season. But he may not be in the lead for long.

Evgeni Malkin of the rival Pittsburgh Penguins is on a hot streak and has pulled to within two goals of his fellow Russian countryman. In his last five games alone, Malkin has found the back of the net nine times. That's an unsustainable pace, but it has propelled him to second in the NHL with a lot of time left to catch Ovechkin.

Just yet another storyline to watch between the rival teams.

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fourth among all defensemen with 41 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With two rookies on the blue line and an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Braden Holtby

In contention for: Vezina

Holtby sits third in the NHL in wins with 27 in 39 games played. The two goalies who boast more wins, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Connor Hellebuyck, have also played in more games (45 and 44 games, respectively).

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Ovechkin still leads the NHL in goals with 32. Yes, Malkin is hot on his heels, but it should be noted that even with nine goals in a span of five games, Malkin still trails Ovechkin by two. That's how good Ovechkin has been.

Barry Trotz

In contention for: Jack Adams

Let's turn the clock back to before the season. No one knew what to expect from the Caps. Maybe they were a playoff team, maybe they weren't. The fact that Barry Trotz has coached this team to first place in the Metropolitan Division at this point, especially given the injuries the team faced earlier in the season, may be a bigger surprise than it would have been if the Caps were on the outside looking in at a playoff spot. So long as Vegas continues winning, Gerard Gallant is going to win this award, but a case can be made that this is Trotz's best season since coming to Washington.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!

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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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