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A qualifying-round team won the NHL draft lottery, why this could be a disaster for the Caps

A qualifying-round team won the NHL draft lottery, why this could be a disaster for the Caps

The NHL draft lottery took place on Friday with the chance to select top prospect Alexis Lafreniere on the line and the winner was...a team to be named later.

The NHL changed its lottery process for the 2020 season and opened it up to the seven teams that missed the 24-team cutoff for the postseason plus the eight losers of the qualifying round. As luck would have it, one of the qualifying-round teams won the No. 1 overall pick.

The Detroit Red Wings had an 18.5-percent chance of getting the top pick after a disastrous season. The Ottawa Senators, who had two lottery picks with their own plus San Jose's, had a combined chance of 25-percent. And yet, neither team walked away with either of the top two picks. Here is the order of the top eight picks as determined by the lottery:

  1. Qualifying round loser
  2. Los Angeles Kings
  3. Ottawa Senators (from San Jose)
  4. Detroit Red Wings
  5. Ottawa Senators
  6. Anaheim Ducks
  7. New Jersey Devils
  8. Buffalo Sabres

So what does this mean? It means we will not know who has the No. 1 overall pick until Phase 2 of the draft lottery which will take place after the qualifying round. All eight teams that lose in the qualifying round will have a 12.5-percent chance of winning the top pick.

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As one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference, the Capitals have a bye past the qualifying round and are not eligible for the top pick, but here is why Phase 2 of the draft lottery still matters. Among the teams in the qualifying round are several Metropolitan Division teams: the Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. If any of those teams lose, they will have a 12.5-percent chance of getting the top pick which would mean bringing Lafreniere into the Metro Division.

When the NHL paused its season, the Penguins were in third place in the Metropolitan Division and had a six-point cushion over the Islanders who were the first team out of playoff position. Had the season finished out, Pittsburgh would have made the playoffs and would not have had a lottery pick. Now it is conceivable they could get walk away with the top pick.

The NHL draft lottery is set up to reward bad teams. Bad teams get the chance to win the best players because those are the teams in need of the most help. Thanks to the NHL's tweaked system for 2020, chances are that a pretty decent team is going to get the top pick. Instead of helping a team like Detroit turn things around, Lafreniere will instead be plopped into a much better roster like an up-and-coming Carolina or even a Penguins team that still features Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

RELATED: WILL THE ROUND ROBIN HELP OR HURT THE CAPS

Lafreniere is a left wing who scored 112 points in 52 QMJHL games in 2019-20 for Rimouski Oceanic. His combined numbers in three seasons in the QMJHL are 294 points in 173 games. As good as he is, the impact he could have on teams like Detroit or Ottawa would have been initially limited considering their respective rosters. But adding a player like that to a roster like the Rangers with Artemi Panarin, the Islanders in desperate need of offense, the Penguins who are getting older, that is a big boost to a team that does not need it nearly as much as the seven teams who are already out of the postseason and who were hoping their name would be called on Friday.

This now begs a very difficult question for Caps fans in terms of what they want to see happen in the qualifying round.

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Ovechkin's 2 goals aren't enough as Caps fall in Game 2 to Islanders

Ovechkin's 2 goals aren't enough as Caps fall in Game 2 to Islanders

The Capitals got two goals from Alex Ovechkin, but did not get much from anyone else and were dominated 5-2 by the New York Islanders in Game 2 on Friday. Washington now trails 2-0 in the series.

Here are four reasons why the Caps lost.

No composure

At the start of Game 1, the Islanders had no composure, took too many penalties and the Caps took advantage. This time it was the other way around with the Caps completely losing their composure over the course of the game.

Jakub Vrana was given an early slashing call (more on him later). Tom Wilson hit Ryan Pulock then gave him an unnecessary elbow after the hit which sent him to the box. Just 21 seconds after the Caps gave up a breakaway, go-ahead goal to Brock Nelson, Garnet Hathaway was called for boarding Matt Martin and was hauled off to the box by the linesman with his gloves off looking to fight someone. The team also took two too many men penalties.

Giving up five power-play opportunities in a playoff game is playing with fire and the Caps' perfect penalty kill was finally pierced by Nick Leddy early in the second. The penalty kill had killed off 14 straight power plays to start the postseason prior to Leddy's goal.

It wasn't just the penalties as mistakes were rampant throughout the game. Washington just seemed to become unglued as the game went along while the Islanders kept their composure, kept their system and kept their lead in the series.

A defensive zone turnover

While the Islanders are a team known for their defensive, they can be aggressive in the offensive zone when they see an opportunity. With the game tied at 1 in the second period, Lars Eller picked up a rebound from Braden Holtby and retreated behind the net. While there were three red jerseys in front of the net, none reacted as two Islanders pressured Eller. With nowhere to go, Eller tried to swing the puck along the boards. Defenseman Scott Mayfield pinched down into the offensive zone to pick up the puck and he fed to Matt Martin on the doorstep for the goal. The defensive zone turnover caught Washington's defense out of position and Martin was by himself in front of Holtby ready for the puck.

A mistake at the blue line

It has not been a good postseason for Jakub Vrana, and it got worse on Friday. Ovechkin had just scored his second of the game to tie it at 2. With the Caps in the offensive zone, Vrana grabbed the puck at the blue line and, with his back towards the goal, tried to swing around and pass the puck off. But with his back to the play, Vrana did not see Brock Nelson coming. Nelson stole the puck away and was off to the races, scoring the breakaway goal just 15 seconds after Ovechkin tied the game.

You have to be very careful with the puck at the offensive blue line because there is no one behind you. All five players are in the offensive zone at that point so as soon as Nelson stole it, it was an easy breakaway. That was horrible puck management from Vrana who did not play again in the second period.

A suffocating 3rd period

Washington entered the third period down 3-2. The start of the period was promising as the Caps drew two penalties and generated some pressure, but the Islanders really took over as the period went along and completely and utterly dominated.

New York plays a completely suffocating style and that was on full display late in the third when Washington, still trailing by one, could not get it out of their own zone. I'm not saying that to be dramatic, I mean they could not get the puck out of their own zone. The Islanders won every puck battle and put on a clinic keeping the puck away from Washington, eventually leading to an insurance tally from Cal Clutterbuck and an empty-netter from Anders Lee.

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Alex Ovechkin passes Sidney Crosby for most playoff goals since 2008

Alex Ovechkin passes Sidney Crosby for most playoff goals since 2008

Alex Ovechkin’s first-period goal didn’t just give the Capitals an early 1-0 lead over the Islanders – it knocked Sidney Crosby off his throne too.

Ovechkin’s score became his 66th career playoff goal. Since his postseason debut in 2008, the Great Eight now ranks first in the league in playoff goals and passed Crosby with 65.

Just 56 seconds into Game 2 of the Capitals’ first-round playoff series with the Islanders, Ovi controlled a loose puck that bounced off his skate, setting up an unassisted backhander that slipped past Semyon Varlamov for the early lead. 

The goal was his first of the playoffs, and he loved every bit of it.

In all-time playoff goals, Ovechkin now ties for 20th in the NHL with Joe Nieuwendyk and Denis Savard and trails Crosby who ranks 19th overall with 68 goals. Ovi didn’t make his playoff debut until the 2007-2008 season while Crosby had the edge with a 2006-2007 appearance and racked up two more career tallies. 

However, with the Penguins now eliminated from the playoffs, Ovechkin has a shot at passing Crosby once again.

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