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Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018: The ultimate Capitals-Blue Jackets preview

Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018: The ultimate Capitals-Blue Jackets preview

Round 1: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Schedule

Game 1: Blue Jackets at Capitals. Thursday, 4/12 at 7:30 p.m. ET. (Broadcast on NBC Sports Washington)
Game 2: Blue Jackets at Capitals. Sunday, 4/15 at 7:30 p.m. ET. (Broadcast on NBC Sports Washington)
Game 3: Capitals at Blue Jackets. Tuesday, 4/17 at 7:30 p.m. ET. (Broadcast on NBC Sports Washington)
Game 4: Capitals at Blue Jackets. Thursday, 4/19 at 7:30 p.m. ET. (Broadcast on NBC Sports Washington)
Game 5 (If Necessary): Blue Jackets at Capitals. Saturday, 4/21 at Time TBD. (Channel TBD)
Game 6 (If Necessary): Capitals at Blue Jackets. Monday, 4/23 at Time TBD. (Channel TBD)
Game 7 (If Necessary): Blue Jackets at Capitals. Wednesday, 4/25 at Time TBD. (Channel TBD)

See the full detailed schedule here.

Team stats

Washington

  • 49-26-7, 105 points, first in the Metropolitan Division
  • 3.12 goals per game (9th)
  • 2.90 goals against per game (16th)
  • 22.5-percent power play percentage (7th)
  • 80.3-percent penalty kill percentage (15th)

Columbus

  • 45-30-7, 97 points, first wild card
  • 2.88 goals per game (17th)
  • 2.76 goals against per game (tied for 9th)
  • 17.2 power play percentage (25th)
  • 76.2-percent penalty kill percentage (tied for 26th)

Top Performers

Washington

Goals

  1. Alex Ovechkin – 49
  2. Evgeny Kuznetsov – 27
  3. Nicklas Backstrom – 21

Assists

  1. Evgeny Kuznetsov – 56
  2. John Carlson – 53
  3. Nicklas Backstrom – 50

Points

  1. Alex Ovechkin – 87
  2. Evgeny Kuznetsov – 83
  3. Nicklas Backstrom – 71

Columbus

Goals

  1. Artemi Panarin – 27
  2. Cam Atkinson – 24
  3. Pierre-Luc Dubois – 20

Assists

  1. Artemi Panarin – 55
  2. Seth Jones – 41
  3. Oliver Bjorkstrand – 29

Points

  1. Artemi Panarin – 82
  2. Seth Jones – 57
  3. Pierre-Luc Dubois – 48

Goaltending

Washington

Braden Holtby: 54 GP, 34-16-4 record, .907 save percentage, 2.99 GAA, 0 shutouts
Philipp Grubauer: 35 GP, 15-10-3 record, .923 save percentage, 2.35 GAA, 3 shutouts

Columbus

Sergei Bobrovsky: 65 GP, 37-22-6 record, .921 save percentage, 2.42 GAA, 5 shutouts
Joonas Korpisalo: 18 GP, 8-8-1 record, .897 save percentage, 3.32 GAA, 0 shutouts

Head-to-head record

Capitals won season series 3-1-0

Dec. 2: 4-3 Capitals win

Columbus had won eight of its last nine, but Holtby cooled off the Blue Jackets with 32 saves while Ovechkin scored in the final minute of the second period and Kuznetsov scored in the second minute of the third for a quick two-goal swing.

Feb. 6: 3-2 Capitals win

Holtby was again brilliant with 37 saves and Backstrom’s 200th career goal ended up being the game-winner.

Feb. 9: 4-2 Capitals win

Washington swept a home-and-home against Columbus despite getting outshot 37-17. Jay Beagle broke a 2-2 tie with his 50th career goal.

Feb. 26: 5-1 Blue Jackets win

Played on trade deadline day, the Blue Jackets were energized by the team’s acquisitions of Mark Letestu, Thomas Vanek and Ian Cole. Columbus took advantage of Holtby while he was in mid-slump and chased the Caps' netminder with four goals on 12 shots.

Three keys of the series for Washington

1. Goaltending: The Caps are still in need of a starter between the pipes as a midseason swoon by Braden Holtby opened up a goalie competition in the latter weeks of the season. Barry Trotz could start Holtby, the Vezina Trophy winner who came into the season as the undisputed No. 1, but who struggled immensely during the month of February. He could also pick Grubauer, the untested backup who has been statistically the NHL’s best goalie since Thanksgiving. Regardless of who Washington starts, the Blue Jackets are going to want to get in his head early and cause doubt. Columbus’ season offensive numbers are low, but no team in the NHL has scored more goals since the trade deadline than Columbus. If the floodgates open early for them, the Caps may not have an answer in net. As for the Jackets, Columbus knows who their goalie is, but how will he perform? The Capitals have been a thorn in the side of Bobrovsky who has managed only a very pedestrian 7-10-4 record with a .900 save percentage and 3.02 GAA against them. No one will care about his past against Washington if he plays well at the start of the series and builds up his confidence. If the Caps get to him, however, it won’t be long before doubt begins to creep in his mind as he desperately tries to figure out what it is about this Washington team that always seems to get the better of him.

2. Taking advantage of the special teams: Special teams tend to be less important in the postseason as the referees put the whistles away. If penalties do become a factor in this series than it is an advantage the Caps must absolutely utilize. Washington has a distinct advantage over Columbus who ranks near the bottom in both power play percentage (25th) and penalty kill (26th).

3. Limiting Panarin: Panarin led the Blue Jackets in goals (27), assists (55) and points (82) over the regular season. He is the most important offensive player on the ice for Columbus. Yes, Cam Atkinson was limited to only 65 games this season, but the 25-point gap between Panarin and Jones, who is the team’s second-leading scorer despite being a defenseman, shows you how much the Blue Jackets rely on him offensively. Limiting Panarin will be easier said than done, but if the Caps find a way to do so, Columbus may not have enough offensive weapons to keep up.

What are people saying about this series?

From NHL.com: “The Blue Jackets will focus on Ovechkin, whose 49 goals represented 19.1 percent of the Capitals' total of 256. Washington will need others to produce, particularly the second line of [Andre] Burakovsky, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. Defending the net front will also be a key.”

From Sportsnet: “Though the Capitals outshine Columbus when it comes to offensive star power, the Jackets are coming in hot, having ranked as the league’s highest-scoring club over the past month. If they can exploit the Caps’ goaltending issues, they’ll have a chance to knock off the Metropolitan Division champs. On Washington’s end, the key could come on special teams, where their seventh-ranked power play has the potential to overwhelm the Blue Jackets’ 26th-ranked penalty kill.”

From TSN: “Columbus had the fourth-best regular-season record in 2016-17. Their reward? A first-round matchup with the No. 2 Pittsburgh Penguins. The Blue Jackets bowed out in five games, victims of the NHL's divisional playoff format. This year's test against Washington won't be any easier after Columbus grabbed the East's first wild-card spot. Alex Ovechkin's 49 goals led the league for the seventh time. The Capitals have not made it out of the second round in 20 years. Will Washington finally takes that next step in the Ovechkin era? The Capitals will have to get past the Blue Jackets first.”

Expert picks

Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals Insider: Capitals in 6

JJ Regan, Capitals Correspondent: Capitals in 6

Joe Beninati, Capitals play-by-play announcer: Capitals in 6

Craig Laughlin, Capitals color commentator: Capitals in 6

Al Koken, Capitals on-ice reporter: Capitals in 6

Alan May, Capitals analyst: Capitals in 5

Rob Carlin, host of Capitals GameTIme and Capitals Extra: Capitals in 6

Ryan Billie, Capitals producer: Capitals in 6

Grant Paulsen, host of Capitals FaceOff and Capitals Overtime: Capitals in 7

Courtney Laughlin, Capitals FaceOff and Capitals Overtime panelist: Capitals in 6

Brent Johnson, Capitals analysts and former NHL player: Capitals in 6

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Capitals at Kings: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Capitals at Kings: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Washington Capitals head to Los Angeles to take on the Kings on Monday at 10:30 p.m. ET. The Caps are second in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 32-19-7, while the Kings are scraping along the bottom of the Pacific Division with a record of 23-29-6. The Caps also beat the Kings (quite recently) 6-4 on Feb. 11.

The Kings are hoping to break out of their season slump and put an end to their four-game losing streak against the Capitals during Monday evening’s 10:30 p.m. ET game.

Here is everything you need to know about Monday’s late-night matchup, which will begin at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington.


CAPITALS at KINGS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals at Los Angeles Kings, Game 60 of the 2018-19 NHL Regular Season
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, Calif.
When: Monday, Feb. 18, 10:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: The Capitals at King game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder Link)
Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals at Kings 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 at KINGS TV SCHEDULE

9:30 PM: Caps Faceoff Live
10:00 PM: Caps Pregame Live
10:30 PM: Capitals at Kings

CAPITALS at KINGS INJURY REPORT

Capitals: 
Lars Eller -- lower body as of Feb. 1

Kings: 
Alec Martinez -- upper body as of Feb. 15
Sean Walker -- face as of Feb. 15
Jonny Brodzinski -- shoulder as of Sept. 20

CAPITALS at KINGS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Evgeny Kuznetsov, F, Capitals (15 goals, 39 assists, 54 points): Last time the Caps faced the Kings (which was only one week ago), Kuznetsov contributed two goals and two assists to the Caps’ 6-4 victory. His timely goal finished out the game, essentially securing the Caps’ victory, NBC Sports Washington’s J.J. Reagan reported. In the two games that have happened since, Kuznetsov has given the Caps one assist and one point. 

Alex Ovechkin, F, Capitals (39 goals, 27 assists, 66 points): Ovi is just shy of 40-goals and played a key role in the Caps’ latest game against the Kings. He led the team with eight shots on net, and the team captain gave the Caps the first point of the game.

CAPITALS vs. KINGS SERIES HISTORY

Number of all-time Meetings: 111
All-Time Series Record: Kings lead 60-38-13
Last Meeting: Caps win 6-4 (2/11/19)

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The Capitals head to Anaheim looking to avenge their most shocking loss of the season

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USA Today Sports Images

The Capitals head to Anaheim looking to avenge their most shocking loss of the season

December was a pretty good month for the Capitals. Out of 13 games, Washington won nine of them. Of the four games the team lost, however, the worst of those losses by far was the Dec. 2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.

Five different Caps players scored as Washington jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the second period. It looked like the Caps were going to cruise to the easy win…until Anaheim rattled off five straight goals to hand Washington a stunning 6-5 loss.

Wait, are we talking about the same Anaheim team that has lost 20 of its last 23 games? Well, technically yes, but for a brief period, they were one of the hottest teams in the league. The win over the Caps was one of 11 wins in a 13-game stretch for the Ducks.

That, of course, is of little comfort to the Caps.

Anaheim is now struggling considerably. Head coach Randy Carlyle was fired and general manager Bob Murray has taken over behind the bench.

Sometimes when an opponent is struggling, a team may take its foot off the gas and play down to the competition. Given what happened the last time these two teams met, however, Washington likely is not going to be looking past the Ducks when they meet on Sunday (9 p.m., NBC Sports Washington).

Game notes

One away

Alex Ovechkin sits one goal away from No. 40 on the season. Once he scores, it will be the 10th time in his career he has reached 40 goals in his career. That puts him in pretty incredible company.

Ten seasons of 40+ goals would tie Ovechkin with Marcel Dionne and Mario Lemieux. Wayne Gretzky is the only player with more 40-goal seasons as he did it 12 times. That’s it. That’s the entire list.

Back-to-back

With the Caps playing in Anaheim on Sunday and Los Angeles on Monday, expect to see both Braden Holtby and Pheonix Copley in these two games. Whoever starts on Sunday, the other netminder is likely to go on Monday. With no morning skate scheduled in Anaheim, it’s anybody’s guess who will start for Washington, but there is at least a chance Copley gets the nod so that Holtby can get what will presumably be the tougher matchup against the Kings.

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