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Regardless of what happens in Game 7, these are not the 'same old Caps'

Regardless of what happens in Game 7, these are not the 'same old Caps'

These are not the same old Caps.

Heading into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Monday, there was a lot of handwringing around Washington and with good reason. The Capitals were facing elimination for the first time this postseason. Of course the fans were on edge; no one wanted this run to end.

But even though the Caps are competing for the conference crown and have gotten past their archrivals to get here, the refrains leading into Game 6 were the same ones we’ve heard from past years.

 “They don’t want it enough.”

“There’s no heart.”

“Totally outcoached.”

“Chokers.”

And perhaps most damning, “Same old Caps.”

Stop it already.

Seriously, how can anyone have watched this postseason and walked away thinking this is the same Caps team?

Does no one remember the start of the season? Some people didn’t even think they would make the playoffs. Others were advocating the team trade Alex Ovechkin and start over. Yet here they are.

Finally, finally they got past the second round hump. They beat the Pittsburgh Penguins—ending their two-year reign as Stanley Cup Champions—and handed Mike Sullivan his first ever series loss as the Penguins head coach.

And no, Mike Wilbon, just because they made it past the second round doesn’t mean it’s OK to lose in the Conference Finals. But considering how they got there, they showed they have at the very least changed the narrative surrounding the Capitals.

Washington lost the first two games of its series against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round and went on to win four straight to advance. In the second round, they faced the two-time defending champions, a team they had beaten only once in the playoffs in franchise history and a team that had not lost a playoff series since 2015.

And they won.

And yet, people are acting like nothing changed with the Caps. Why? Because they lost three in a row to Tampa Bay?

OK, you've got a point. What kind of a team loses three straight in the playoffs? Hard-nosed teams with tough coaches that play the right way like Columbus or Anaheim wouldn’t let that happen to them. Oh, actually Columbus lost four in a row to the Caps and the Ducks got swept in the first round. Never mind.

Well, certainly not a team with a championship history like the Los Angeles Kings. Oh wait, never mind, the got swept by Vegas. Bad example.

Well, surely an original six team with a championship pedigree like the Boston Bruins would never let that happen. Oh yeah, they lost four straight to the same Tampa Bay team.

OK, OK, but were any of those teams really contenders this year? I mean, none of those teams were as good as Winnipeg and they won’t let themselves lose three in a row in the playoffs.

That’s because they lost four straight to Vegas in the conference final.

You see where this is going, right?

It just boggles the mind that anyone could see the game plan Barry Trotz put together in Game 6 in Pittsburgh, without three top-six forwards including Nicklas Backstrom, and win in overtime and still complain that he is always outcoached in the playoffs. He certainly wasn’t outcoached in that game or that series.

It’s baffling that anyone can see how Washington rallied past Columbus after losing Game 1 and Game 2, recovered from a disastrous Game 1 to Pittsburgh and won the first two games in Tampa Bay against a favored Lightning team and complain that this team “doesn’t want it enough.”

Chokers don’t advance to the third round. Chokers don’t beat the two-time defending champions when no one else could. Chokers don’t force seven games against a Tampa Bay team that finished off both of their prior series in just five games.

Just stop. Find a new storyline to push because this one is lazy and played out. It’s been done.

Don’t get me wrong, losing four in a row after winning Game 1 and Game 2 on the road would have really stung. With the history this team has, the fact that they finally got past Pittsburgh gave this team a feel of destiny. If they go on to lose Game 7 and end their run without a Stanley Cup or even a conference crown to show for it, that would be disappointing. No question about it.

But to say these are the “same old Caps” if they lose to Tampa Bay? That’s ridiculous. They have already put those demons to rest. Three straight losses to the Lightning don’t change that and neither will whatever happens in Game 7.

Regardless of what happens on Wednesday, whether the Caps win or lose, no one should come out and say these are the same old Caps. They have already proven that’s not the case.

Those Caps are gone. Now let’s see how far these Caps can go.

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Capitals vs. Flyers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Capitals vs. Flyers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Washington Capitals are facing off against the Philadelphia Flyers in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, March 24 at 12:30 p.m. The Capitals are recovering from a 1-2 loss against the Minnesota Wild, and the Philadelphia Flyers are playing the Islanders at 1 p.m. on Saturday, but beat the Blackhawks 3-1 on Thursday.

Here’s everything you need to know to watch the Flyers play the Capitals on Sunday afternoon.

CAPITALS vs. FLYERS PRESEASON HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.
When: 12:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals vs. Flyers on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.
Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS vs. FLYERS TV SCHEDULE

10:00 AM: Capitals Championship Parade 
11:00 AM: 2019 Caps Journey to the Cup Part 1
11:30 AM: Caps FaceOff Live
12:00 PM: Caps FaceOff Live [NBC Sports Washington Plus]
3:00 PM: Caps Postgame Live
3:30 PM: Caps Overtime Live
3:30 PM: Caps Overtime Live [NBC Sports Washington Plus]

CAPITALS vs. FLYERS INJURY REPORT:

CAPITALS: 
Michal Kempny, lower body injury as of March 19

FLYERS: 
Michael Raffl, undisclosed injury as of March 20
Samuel Morin, illness as of March 18
Michal Neuvirth, lower body injury as of Jan. 3

CAPITALS vs. FLYERS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brett Connolly (20 goal, 22 assists, 42 points): Connolly was the only Capital to put a point on the board during Friday’s game against the Minnesota Wild. He scored in the second period, tying the game going into the third. He’s scored three goals in the team’s last five games and has contributed with three assists.

Christian Djoos (1 goal, 7 assists, 8 points): Djoos played against Minnesota on Friday following Michal Kempny’s “indefinite” injury leave. Djoos didn’t contribute to the Caps with any key stats, though he played for almost 17 minutes and had two shots on goal. 

CAPITALS vs. FLYERS SERIES HISTORY 

Number of all-time Meetings: 247 games
Regular Season Record: Flyers lead 127-101-19
Last Meeting: Capitals won 5-2 on March 14

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An emotional hangover leaves Capitals flat in 2-1 loss to Wild

An emotional hangover leaves Capitals flat in 2-1 loss to Wild

WASHINGTON – The Capitals were not quite ready to play on Friday against the Minnesota Wild and maybe you can’t blame them. 

Coming off one of the season’s most intense games, a wild 5-4 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday, one of three games this month against the Presidents’ Trophy winners, Washington didn’t have it for a Wild team it had beaten eight times in a row. That 2-1 defeat offered a lesson they need to carry forward for the final two games of this homestand at Capital One Arena. 

The Capitals (43-24-8, 94 points) couldn’t match the desperation of a Minnesota team that entered the day one point out of a playoff position in the Western Conference. The Wild had to win. Washington would have liked a win. The difference showed on the ice.

“It was obviously a different game that way. I think you could tell they got more desperate as the game went on,” goalie Braden Holtby said. “They don't give up much, they're pretty stingy defensively. After coming off some emotional games lately I think we didn't ramp it up enough for this one, for their situation, how they were playing. It was a close game. It was one that we'd like to play a bit better, but we still did a lot of good things."

They just didn’t do enough of them consistently. The Philadelphia Flyers (80 points) are on the fringe of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference and down to their final gasps of breath. Expect a similar effort from them on Sunday afternoon when they visit Capital One Arena. For the Capitals, who lead the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders by three points (93), they need a win on this four-game homestand.

Another loss will suddenly put the Metropolitan Division back in play for multiple teams. The Islanders also have an extra game remaining and know they play in Washington on the final day of the regular season April 6. 

“We can use this and learn from it,” defenseman Nick Jensen said. “These teams are desperate for points and we still need to be, too.”

The Capitals weren’t bad; they just didn’t match Minnesota’s level. They were 0-for-3 on the power play, and on two of those attempts, didn’t generate any shots on goal. A couple of mistakes – a Brooks Orpik misplay late in the first period and a Matt Niskanen turnover in the neutral zone – led directly to goals by Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin. Holtby stopped 25 of 27 shots.

But it never felt like enough. Brett Connolly tipped home a shot from Jensen in the second period. But there weren’t enough puck battles won, there weren’t enough pucks sent behind the Minnesota defensemen. It was an average game and that was never going to be enough tonight. The Wild moved into sole possession of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Capitals stayed where they were in the standings.  

“That was a very intense game [against Tampa Bay], three games in four days for us, but that's a game that they deserved to win more than us,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “Our execution level and desperation wasn't as high as theirs was and they were able to convert on a couple more of their chances than we did.”

Added captain Alex Ovechkin: "Everybody needs points right now, and it doesn't matter who you play against, it's not going to be an easy one, especially a team who fights for a playoff spot. It's playoff hockey. I don't think we were ready tonight, and the blame's on us."

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