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See where Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson ranked in NHL's top 50 players

See where Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson ranked in NHL's top 50 players

Earlier this offseason, Washington Capitals top-line center Nicklas Backstrom was ranked as the 18th best center in the NHL, while John Carlson was ranked as the sixth-best defenseman.

Now, we know where they stand as the top 50 players right now: Backstrom ranks 48th, while Carlson ranks 36th.

Carlson and Backstrom were ranked as the ninth and 10th best players in the Metropolitan Division, respectively. The only other Caps player ranked higher was Alex Ovechkin, who ranked second behind the Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby.

The combination of Carlson, Backstrom and Ovechkin are joined by Evgeny Kuznetsov and Braden Holtby in the NHL's position rankings. Kuzy was ranked as the 17th best center, just ahead of Backstrom, and Holtby was named the seventh-best goalie.

Where could we see Ovi, Holtby and Kuzy in future rankings? Ovechkin likely ranks in the top 10, but Kuzy and Holtby are harder to pinpoint. Given that neither Holtby nor Kuznetsov were ranked as top 10 players in the Metro Division, it's possible one or the other could be left out of the top 50 entirely. We'll just have to wait and see.



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Capitals' victory celebration halted as a win suddenly turns into a loss

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Capitals' victory celebration halted as a win suddenly turns into a loss

WASHINGTON — The Capitals bounced up and down in celebration. They yelled. They screamed. They lost. 

Call it the win that wasn’t. Washington stole two points from the Arizona Coyotes on Monday night at Capital One Arena when T.J. Oshie scored in overtime. The up-and-down first two periods, all those big saves from Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta, a 3-0 deficit, all erased as the crowd roared and the players exalted. 

But old baseball writers have a term for what happened next: “Or so it seemed.” 

It’s the perfect phrase to describe a story that’s been written and now has to be deleted: You’re on deadline. One team is about to close out a win. Just waiting to hit send on the story. Then someone walks and then there’s a bloop hit and, oh my god did the third baseman just throw the ball into left field? Suddenly what seemed certain no longer is. Time to rewrite. 

That’s where the Capitals were when Oshie’s apparent game-winner was overturned on replay. Teammate Lars Eller had actually slipped and entered the offensive zone too soon. The play was deemed offside. 

“A bit of a buzzkill there,” Capitals forward Tom Wilson said. 

Somewhere, a guy sprinted from his seat after Oshie’s goal and was halfway to the Metro before they announced the goal didn’t count. Hopefully he finds out what happened. If not, then he’s going to be confused when the ticker says it was a 4-3 shootout loss. 

“Like coming back from the dead,” said Arizona coach Rick Tocchet.

Dmitry Orlov knocked Coyotes winger Clayton Keller off the puck a little over two minutes into 3-on-3 overtime. Orlov found Oshie streaking toward the middle of the ice, he gave it to Eller, who lost his balance, but pulled up inside the blueline when the linesman ruled he was onside and passed to Oshie.

 Arizona defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, one of the NHL’s best skaters, had no chance after an Oshie head fake. Neither did Raanta. Oshie went down to one knee in the slot and ripped the shot home. The crowd exploded. The Capitals poured off the bench to celebrate. The Coyotes skated off the ice. Washington had won. 

Or so it seemed. The Coyotes coaching staff started looking at the play on the tablets kept on the bench. Players started pointing up at the scoreboard, which was replaying the goal. Then the officials made their way over to the scorers’ box and referee Jake Brenk held out his hand. Linesman Darren Gibbs put the headset on to talk with the video review officials in Toronto. The Capitals figured their work might not be done.  

After a review that took almost four minutes, officials in Toronto decided Eller really was offsides. Halt the celebration. The game wasn’t over yet. It would be only after Arizona won in the shootout. The Capitals would settle for one hard-earned point, instead of two and that was probably a just result.    

“That was unfortunate, because it was a great move and it's a goal. But T.J. is pretty on top of things,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “He had a strong feeling it was gonna be offside."


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Kuznetsov looks like vintage Kuzy, the win streak comes to an end and Oshie goes offside

Kuznetsov looks like vintage Kuzy, the win streak comes to an end and Oshie goes offside

The Capitals' win streak came to an end in a wild game against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday, but Evgeny Kuznetsov rallied the Caps to earn at least a point.

Observations from the loss

2018 Kuznetsov

In the 2018 Cup run, Kuznetsov played at such an insane level, an argument could be made that he was one of the best players in the world. He set the bar. We know what his ceiling is because we saw him play at that level for 24 games. He continued to play at that level for the first month of the 2018-19 season, but the Caps have been searching for that player ever since. The way he has played of late is the closest we have seen to 2018 playoff Kuznetsov and that continued on Monday.

Even before he scored twice, Kuznetsov established that he was the best player on the ice with a brilliant first period. The only reason the Caps were not ahead 4-0 in the first 20 minutes was because of the heroics of Antti Raanta.

In 16 games this season, Kuznetsov now has eight goals and 10 assists. That puts him on pace for 88 points for the season.

Stretching out the defense

The Coyotes tried the stretch pass again and again and again, looking for breakaway opportunities. Clearly they scouted this and saw something in the defense they liked. This is something the Caps will have to face against fast teams. The defense is playing aggressively and fast teams will try to take advantage with those stretch passes. Samsonov made a few big saves to make up for it when Arizona did manage to get in behind the defense, but the Caps need to be aware of who they are playing and when they are trying to use their speed to get in behind the defensemen.

Bringing it every night

It would be fair to say Monday’s game was not the Caps’ best. They admitted as much. You can’t be at your best for 82 games, but I wonder, how many games we will see the Caps at their best in the near future.

This team is not without its flaws, but the first 19 games have shown that it is a great team and should be considered one of the Cup contenders. Part of the reason for that is how they play. The Caps are winning with a physical, all-in style of effort that includes delivering hits, blocking shots, winning board battles and doing the sorts of things that are really, really hard to sustain over 82 games. Playing that style will bring a team more success in the playoffs, but I would not be surprised to see this point streak end and the Caps go through a bit of a lull, especially in December-January when you really hit the dog days of the season. On a random Tuesday in January, a player really begins to think about whether they really want to dive in front of that slap shot and go for the block.

When they hit those low points, try not to freak out. I know this is easier said than done, but we are seeing how good this team is over this stretch. They are going to be fine this season and they are set up well for a postseason run.

Turning point

T.J. Oshie scored in overtime, the Caps completed the comeback from 3-0, the game was over, there was much rejoicing and we all lived happily ever after...and then the goal was reviewed showing Oshie was offside.

Play of the night

Beating a goalie on the backhand is impressive. Doing it on a one-touch shot from a sharp angle the way Kuznetsov did was pretty incredible.

Stat of the night

The Caps have been a team of hot hands this season. When one player has a good game, they get rewarded on the scoresheet.

Quote of the night

The Caps battled back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game and extend their point streak to 12 games. It felt like the game was over when Michael Grabner made it 3-0, but Kuznetsov never lost hope.

“What’s the point of playing the game if you feel like you’re going to lose? No, you always believe in the next shift, the next shift and the guys next to you, you are going to get momentum and we are going to come back in the game.”

Fan predictions

Besides the score, this was pretty much 100% accurate. Tip of the cap for this one.

This is impressive...but wrong.

He could have. Ovechkin had seven shots on goal and another shot blocked. He just could not buy a goal in this game.

Yeah, this is pretty bold. The fact that Samsonov started makes it even bolder.