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Ranking Braden Holtby’s save among the top D.C. Sports plays since 2000

Ranking Braden Holtby’s save among the top D.C. Sports plays since 2000

Once Braden Holtby rejected Las Vegas Golden Knight Alex Tuch’s game-tying attempt, there was no question that his save was going down in D.C. Sports lore.

Holtby’s save in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final gave the Washington Capitals their first-ever Stanley Cup victory. In that one single play, there was a little bit of athleticism, mental awareness, championship glory, and some luck.

The only legitimate inquiry is how deep in D.C. Sports lore does it go? 

Now ranking ALL PLAYS in D.C. Sports history is too hard. There are too many arguments that could be made, plays that were not filmed, and quite frankly I don’t want your great-grandfather to call us out on Twitter. We’re just going to break it down to plays since the turn of the century in 2000.

Qualifications are as follows: a little bit of athleticism, mental awareness, championship glory, and some luck.

#1 Braden Holtby’s ‘The Save’

Alright, here’s why this is the top play in D.C. sports since 2000. Yes, Tuch completely whiffed on the shot. If there are two things you do not do in this situation: miss the net, or keep the puck on the ice. That’s the only chance Holtby has at making that save, and he did.

Throughout the third period, the momentum was building toward a goal. Through the first two periods of Game 2, the Golden Knights and Capitals averaged three goals a period. There was no way it was going to be scoreless, but Holtby ensured that it was.

If he does not make that save it becomes a 2-0 series and we are talking sweep. Now it’s a series and the Capitals are three wins away from a championship.

I also understand that if the Capitals go on to lose this series, this play becomes just another one of the other plays listed below. 

#2 John Wall beats the Celtics in Game 6

Down two, playoff fate on the line, you’re one of the best lane drivers in the NBA and you pull up for a three? Yes John Wall did and yes he delivered.

That took courage and in that moment we found out it was John Wall’s city (we’ve been reminded more times than we can count since). Don’t overlook the series either, that was arguably the best playoff series since 2000 for the Washington Wizards.

The Wizards would go on to lose the series in Game 7 of the Second Round of the 2017 NBA playoffs.

#3 The Werthquake in 2012

Not many plays will ever beat this moment in Washington Nationals history. Another play that happened at home, Jayson Werth’s walk-off home run in the 2012 NLDS tied the series with the St. Louis Cardinals at two games apiece.

If the Nationals did not go on to choke away Game 5, this play definitely is in contention for No. 1 on this list.

I’m still convinced that there are some Nationals fans that never left the park.

#4 ‘The Truth’ calls ‘Game’

Unlike the two series above, this play was not in a win-or-go-home scenario. But Paul Pierce famously calling ‘Game’ to beat the Atlanta Hawks is a quiet the memory.

Sending the Wizards to a 2-1 series lead, Washington would go on to lose three straight to fall in the series 4-2 in the 2015 NBA playoffs.

#5 Steven Sousa’s saves the no-hitter

Talk about a darkhorse. The only game not in the playoffs, no postseason implications on line, the significance clearly is the biggest factor.

On the final day of the 2014 regular season, Jordan Zimmerman was dealing with no hits through 26 outs. The 27th, and final out proved to be the most difficult.

That is when Steven Sousa comes in. He makes the out-stretched catch in left field to give Zimmerman and the Nationals the first no-hitter in Washington Nationals history (the Montreal Expos had four before moving to D.C.).

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Drew Nicholas’ buzzer beater

In the First Round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament, Drew Nicholas makes an off-balance, game-winning shot to send the No. 6 Maryland Terrapins past the No. 11 UNC-Wilmington Seahawks.

Simeon Varlamov save on Crosby

https://youtu.be/01Ow7Kxaqb4

Déjà vu? This was a real tough play to leave out of the top-five and in many ways it is more impressive that Holtby’s No. 1 save. However, the Capitals would go on to lose this series and it was only in the second period.

Gilbert Arenas buzzer-beater vs. the Bulls

One of many buzzer-beaters in Gilbert Arenas’ career with the Wizards, this one was the one with the biggest impact.

Rob Jackson interception seals playoff berth

WATCH CLIP HERE

It wasn’t too athletic, nor was it a walk-off victory, but Rob Jackson intercepting Tony Romo in the fourth quarter clinched Washington the NFC East for the first time since 1999.

The Monday Night Miracle

No playoff implications on the line, although this game proved to be the difference in Washington getting into the playoffs, all D.C. fans remember when Santa Moss became the ‘Cowboy killer.’ Not one, but two touchdowns scored in the final minutes by Moss beat the Cowboys in Texas Stadium for one of the best comebacks in the rivalry.

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Do the Caps have the offense to win the Stanley Cup?

Do the Caps have the offense to win the Stanley Cup?

The bye week and the all-star break are upon us meaning we will have to wait until Jan. 27 for the Capitals to take the ice again for a game. With the season over halfway done and the Feb. 24 trade deadline rapidly approaching, the focus of the season now shifts towards the playoffs.

Washington has certainly done enough at this point to show they are a playoff team, but just how good are they? Are they a true contender or are they destined for an early exit?

Over the next few days, I will examine the team to answer if it is good enough on offense, defense and in net to win a Cup and, if not, what they must do to improve by April.

Today’s question: Do the Caps have the offense to win the Stanley Cup?

Team stats
3.55 goals per game (1st in the NHL)
20.3-percent power play (13th in the NHL)

Goal leaders
1. Alex Ovechkin 34
2. Jakub Vrana 22
3. T.J. Oshie 18

Assist leaders
1. John Carlson 47
2. Nicklas Backstrom 29
3. Evgeny Kuznetsov 26

Point leaders
1. John Carlson 60
2. Alex Ovechkin 50
3. Evgeny Kuznetsov 42

Just in case you forgot about Ovechkin, he just let everyone know that yes, he is still outrunning Father Time with eight goals in the past three games. He remains one of the top scorers in the league, that is beyond dispute and so is this team's the top-six.

Backstrom, Wilson, Vrana, Kuznetsov and Oshie round out one of the best top two lines in the NHL. There are only a few minor concerns with this group.

Vrana and Kuznetsov have proven to be streaky performers. When they are hot, they are among the top offensive players in the NHL. Vrana is actually tied with David Pastrnak for third in the NHL in even-strength goals with 21. He is as dangerous a goal-scorer as just about anyone in the league. And everyone knows how good Kuznetsov can be at his peak. Just look at the 2018 Cup run.

You just have to cross your fingers and hope Vrana and Kuznetsov don’t get cold in the postseason because when their production tapers off, it craters.

Moving on to the bottom-six, let’s start with the fourth line because it is easier. Brendan Leipsic, Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway is one of, if not the outright best fourth line in hockey. They are able to hem opponents into the offensive zone and allow very little in the way of scoring opportunities. If you put any credence into things like Corsi, Nic Dowd is the best on the team with a Corsi-For percentage of 57.22 while Leipsic is 54.04 and Hathaway is 54.43. In a nutshell, what that means is this line is generating a heck of a lot more offensive opportunities than it is allowing which is a huge asset to have for a fourth line.

What’s more, these guys are the kind of players you hate to play against. Hathaway and Leipsic both play with an edge and Leipsic has a fair amount of speed as well. They have to make sure they limit the penalties they take, but otherwise this line is a huge asset.

That brings us to the third line.

While the offense is starting to pick up slightly, overall the numbers have just not been there. Lars Eller is doing fine with 11 goals and 16 assists, but Richard Panik is having a tough first year with five goals and five assists while Carl Hagelin has only three goals and eight assists and that’s including the two goals he scored in the past week.

Even as the line continues to improve, I do not think at its peak it is going to prove to be as good offensively as once hoped.

The third line has definitely found a role as a shutdown line, however, which is how Reirden has been utilizing them of late, using them to shut-down one of the opposition’s top lines both to limit their offense and also to free up Ovechkin’s line by getting it away from that matchup.

That’s easier to do at home, now Reirden has to figure out just how to best utilize the third line one the road where it is tougher to get the matchups you want.

Overall, however, this line is trending in the right direction. The power play, however, is not.

Though it ranks 13th in the NHL, that percentage is being propped up by a good start. Since Dec. 1, the power play ranks 30th in the NHL at 14.1-percent. The offense has just been non-existent. The struggles have clearly gone to the head of the players because it becomes a comedy of errors on the ice every time the team gets the man advantage. Reirden has tried Vrana on the top unit in Kuznetsov’s spot, but that spot is not well suited for Vrana as he is a sniper and Kuznetsov plays primarily around the goal line where shots are hard to come by. Kuznetsov on the second unit is largely wasted as there is not enough scoring talent on that unit for him to set up.

The result is two power play units playing without confidence and not producing while also allowing far too many shorthanded goals.

The verdict: Yes, the Caps have the offense to win the Cup.

In terms of the personnel, it is hard to get better than what the Caps have. The top two lines are loaded with talent and the fourth line is the best at what it does. The offense is lacking on the third line, but Reirden has found a role for it in which it can still have a positive impact on the game and its offensive production seems to be improving.

The only real concern is the power play, not only because it is completely ineffective but because the team is pressing so hard it has allowed five shorthanded goals, tied for the most in the league. As bad as it is, however, I think this is a case of frustration making things worse. With the personnel this team has, there is no reason for it to be producing at only 14.1-percent. Once they string a few goals together, things will turn around. I don’t think it will be among the most potent in the NHL, but I do think this is a low point and a natural progression will occur.

After the power play, however, it is hard to find a more potent offense than the one assembled in Washington.

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Capitals hosting Rock The Rink skate and watch parties around DMV

Capitals hosting Rock The Rink skate and watch parties around DMV

The Capitals may not be participating in Stadium Series this year, but the team is embracing outdoor hockey around Washington for spirited game day fun.

The Caps are hosting Rock The Rink skates at The Wharf, Penatgon Row, Rockville Town Square and The Avenue at White Marsh on select game days from January to March 2020. Fans attending these events can wear Capitals jerseys or gear to get either $5 off admission or free skate rentals.

The Wharf

Jan. 18 at 1 p.m., Jan. 31 at 6 p.m., and Feb 17. at 1 p.m.

Transit Pier will boast a Capitals-paneled ice rink with an ice resurfacer, trivia contests, giveaways, along with a DJ. The Capitals Campire will also boast Adirondack chairs around a fire to roast marshmallows for smores in front of a 14-foot jumbotron screen to watch the Capitals games. 

Pentagon Row

Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. and March 9 at 6 p.m.

These skates will feature Slapshot, giveaways, a DJ and Capitals-centic specials at local restaurants. The Caps games will also be on at surrounding bars. 

The Avenue at White March

Feb. 7 at 6 p.m.

This event will feature Slapshot, giveaways, a DJ and Capitals-centic specials at local restaurants.

Rockville Town Square

Jan. 31 at 5:30 p.m. and March 5 at 6 p.m.

In addition to the above fun, Rockville native and Capitals hockey ambassador Haley Skarupa will be there on Jan. 31. You can watch the Capitals game at local bars as well. 

Fans attending these events or using local outdoor rinks this season are encouraged to post about it on social media by tagging @capitals and using the hashtag #RockTheRink to enter themselves for a chance to win prizes.

Caps slept through the first 40 minutes, they did not give Holtby much help though he was bad in his own right and Vrana sure did show something with the game-winning goal.

As for no penalties...not so much.

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