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Stanley Cup Playoffs 2019: The ultimate Capitals-Hurricanes series preview

Stanley Cup Playoffs 2019: The ultimate Capitals-Hurricanes series preview

Round 1: Washington Capitals vs. Carolina Hurricanes

Capital vs. Hurricanes Schedule:

Game 1: Hurricanes at Capitals. Thursday, 4/11 at 7:30 p.m. ET. (Broadcast on NBC Sports Washington)
Game 2: Hurricanes at Capitals. Saturday, 4/13 at 3:00 p.m. ET. (Broadcast on NBC)
Game 3: Capitals at Hurricanes. Monday, 4/15 at 7:00 p.m. ET. (Broadcast on NBC Sports Washington)
Game 4: Capitals at Hurricanes. Thursday, 4/18 at 7:00 p.m. ET. (Broadcast on NBC Sports Washington)
Game 5 (If Necessary): Hurricanes at Capitals. Saturday, 4/20 at Time TBD. (Channel TBD)
Game 6 (If Necessary): Capitals at Hurricanes. Monday, 4/22 at Time TBD. (Channel TBD)
Game 7 (If Necessary): Hurricanes at Capitals. Wednesday, 4/24 at Time TBD. (Channel TBD)

See the full detailed schedule here.

Capitals vs. Hurricanes Stats that Matter:

Washington Capitals Team Stats:

- 48-26-8, 104 points, first in the Metropolitan Division
- 3.34 goals per game (5th)
- 3.02 goals against per game (16th)
- 20.8-percent power play percentage (12th)
- 78.9-percent penalty kill percentage (24th)

Carolina Hurricanes Team Stats:

- 46-29-7, 99 points, first wild card
- 2.96 goals per game (16th)
- 2.70 goals against per game (tied for 7th)
- 17.8 power play percentage (20th)
- 81.6-percent penalty kill percentage (8th)

Washington Capitals Top Performers:

Goals: 1) Alex Ovechkin: 51, 2) T.J. Oshie: 25, 3) Jakub Vrana: 24
Assists: 1) John Carlson: 57, 2) Nicklas Backstrom: 52, 3) Evgeny Kuznetsov: 51
Points: 1) Alex Ovechkin: 89, 2) Nicklas Backstrom: 74, 3) Evgeny Kuznetsov: 72

Carolina Hurricanes Top Performers:

Goals: 1) Sebastian Aho: 30, 2) Justin Williams: 23, 3) Teuvo Teravainen: 21
Assists: 1) Teuvo Teravainen: 55, 2) Sebastian Aho: 53, 3) Justin Williams: 30
Points: 1) Sebastian Aho: 83, 2) Teuvo Tervainen: 76, 3) Justin Williams: 53

Washington Capitals Goaltending:

Braden Holtby: 59 GP, 32-19-5 record, .911 save percentage, 2.82 GAA, 3 shutouts
Pheonix Copley: 27 GP, 16-7-3 record, .905 save percentage, 2.90 GAA, 1 shutout

Carolina Hurricanes Goaltending:

Petr Mrazek: 40 GP, 23-14-3 record, .914 save percentage, 2.69 GAA, 4 shutouts
Curtis McElhinney: 33 GP, 20-11-2 record, .912 save percentage, 3.34 GAA, 2 shutouts
Scott Darling: 8 GP, 2-4-2 record, .884 save percentage, 3.34 GAA, 0 shutouts
Alex Nedeljkovic: 1 GP, 1-0-0 record, .923 save percentage, 2.00 GAA, 0 shutouts

Capitals vs. Hurricanes Head-to-head record:

Capitals won season series 4-0-0

Dec. 14: 6-5 Capitals win (shootout)

Alex Ovechkin scored his second hat trick in as many games to help the Caps overcome a 4-1 deficit and force a shootout. Jakub Vrana scored the winner in the sixth round.

Dec. 27: 3-1 Capitals win

Washington completely locked it down on defense and Braden Holtby did the rest, turning aside 28 out of 29 shots for the win.

March 26: 4-1 Capitals win

After battling to a 1-1 tie through 40 minutes, Washington broke the game open in the third period with three goals.

March 28: 3-2 Capitals win

The Caps swept both legs of a home-and-home with the Hurricanes, rallying back from a 2-1 deficit in the third period in Raleigh. Washington scored twice in the final frame with Nic Dowd deflecting the game winner past goalie Curtis McElhinney.

Three keys of the series for Washington:

1. Goaltending: Petr Mrazek is one of the hottest goalies in the NHL since the trade deadline. In that time, he has gone 9-2-0 with a .943 save percentage and 1.72 GAA. If that goalie shows up in the playoffs, the Caps are in trouble.

But will he?

Mrazek is on his third NHL team in two seasons. He was even left exposed in the Vegas expansion draft and was not taken. This is not a goalie many teams look at as a starter. He has done well in a goalie tandem with McElhinney this season, but can he handle being the No. 1 for playoff series? He is a sink or swim goalie and Carolina’s hopes for a first-round upset will likely sink or swim with him.

2. Physical play: The Capitals can play a number of different styles, but they are really at their best when they are physically wearing down opponents.

The Hurricanes are not a heavy team. Will they be able to keep track of Ovechkin while Wilson is throwing his weight around? Will their defense be able to withstand the grinding cycle Washington employs in the offensive zone? Will their offense be able to withstand the physical beating the Caps’ blue line imposes on opponents at the blue line?

If the answer is no, Carolina is going to get worn down very quickly.

3. Figuring out the defense: The injury to Michal Kempny is a big blow and it was made worst by the fact that it happened so close to the end of the regular season. As a result, head coach Todd Reirden really has not had much time to figure out what the ideal defensive lineup looks like without Kempny in it.

Is playing Carlson on the left, his off-side, really the best solution? Can he find chemistry with Nick Jensen?

If Carlson has to go back to the right, who plays on the top pairing with him? Will it be just one player or a platoon? The Hurricanes most likely do not have the offensive depth to keep up with Washington, but if the top defensive pairing proves to be a weakness Carolina is able to exploit, that will greatly mitigate Washington’s advantage in offensive depth.

Capitals vs. Hurricanes Expert Picks:

Craig Laughlin, Capitals color commentator: Capitals in 5
Ryan Billie, Capitals producer: Capitals in 6
Brian McNally, Capitals beat writer: Capitals in 7
JJ Regan, Capitals beat writer: Capitals in 5
Brent Johnson, on-air analyst: Capitals 6
Alan May, on-air analyst: Capitals in 5
Al Koken, Capitals game reporter: Capitals in 6
Rob Carlin, host of Caps Pregame Live and Caps Postgame Live: Capitals in 5
Joe Beninati, Capitals play by play commentator: Capitals in 6
Grant Paulsen, host of Caps FaceOff Live and Caps Overtime Live: Capitals in 6
Courtney Laughlin, on-air analyst: Capitals in 6


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Caps vs. Penguins: Washington in desperate need of a win against rival

Caps vs. Penguins: Washington in desperate need of a win against rival

The Capitals (37-18-6) return home from New Jersey with 700 goals for Alex Ovechkin, but also with a loss. They will meet the rival Pittsburgh Penguins (37-17-6) on Sunday in a battle for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Catch the game on NBC with pre and postgame coverage on NBC Sports Washington. Pregame coverage begins at 11 a.m. with Caps FaceOff Live followed by Caps Pregame Live at 11:30 a.m. The game will be broadcast on NBC, but tune back into NBC Sports Washington for postgame coverage. Caps Postgame Live is on immediately following the game followed by Caps Overtime Live.

Here's what you need to know for Sunday's game.

700 and counting

Ovechkin finally reached the 700-goal milestone on Saturday. You could tell after the game that he was relieved to have finally gotten there so hopefully the flood gates open for him again after being limited to just two goals in the past seven games. It should also be good for the offense which looks like it has been forcing the puck to Ovechkin frequently the past few games.

When last we met

The Caps and Penguins have played only once this season, meeting on Feb. 2 at Capital One Arena on Super Bowl Sunday. Washington was handed a 4-3 loss, but played fairly well in a close game. To jog your memory, you can read more about that game here.

Saturday's game will be the last meeting between these two teams in Washington with two more matchups coming in Pittsburgh in March.

Holtby starts

How much has Braden  Holtby turned things around? The last time these two teams played, Ilya Samsonov got the start as he was clearly outplaying the veteran netminder. Since then, Holtby has seemingly regained his spot as the No. 1 and will get the start.

In his last five appearances, Holtby has a .919 save percentage and 2.52 GAA.

Line changes?

As Sunday's game is coming off a back-to-back, we won't know if Todd Reirden will be making any line changes until his pregame availability. if there is a change, it will most likely come on defense which again struggled in Saturday's loss.

Here is a look at the lines from Saturday's game:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Brenden Dillon - John Carlson
Michal Kempny - Dmitry Orlov
Jonas Siegenthaler - Nick Jensen

About yesterday

Sunday's game will be the back-end of a back-to-back for both teams. The Caps lost 3-2 in regulation to the Devils. The Pittsburgh Penguins, meanwhile, dropped a surprising loss at home, falling 5-2 to the Buffalo Sabres. Tristan Jarry started that game for Pittsburgh so expect Matt Murray to play against Washington.

Standings watch

Since both teams lost on Saturday, both remain tied for first in the Metro with 80 points, though Pittsburgh holds a game in hand. Washington is really struggling with four straight losses and six losses in seven games. The Penguins, meanwhile, have lost two straight by a combined score of 9-2.

Oh, and by the way, the Philadelphia Flyers are quietly creeping on both teams with 77 points, just three behind the division lead.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.


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Can Ovechkin really catch Wayne Gretzky?

Can Ovechkin really catch Wayne Gretzky?

Alex Ovechkin joined the elite 700 club on Saturday and further cemented his legacy as one of the greatest players to play the game.

For most, the 700-goal milestone represented the pinnacle of their career. Only seven players before Ovechkin have reached 700 and only two of those players have made it to 800. Reaching 700 goals was more of a lifetime achievement for the other five players, something reflective of the kind of goal-scorer they used to be.

Ovechkin, however, is different.

Saturday was a day to celebrate and reflect on a milestone reached only seven times before. But with Ovechkin’s continued goal-scoring prowess and remarkable durability, 700 hardly feels like a journey nearing its end. Instead, it has made the impossible seem reachable. Suddenly, Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894, long thought to be untouchable, seems not only possible for Ovechkin but realistic.

Ovechkin scored goal No. 700 in career game No. 1,144, the second-fastest in NHL history. Only Gretzky did it faster in just 886 games. Gretzky, however, only had one 40-goal season once he turned 30. He scored 41 goals in 1990-91 at the age of 30 and that would be the last time he would hit that mark.

Ovechkin is 34. He already has 42 this season and is on pace for 56. If he gets there, it will be the most goals scored by a player over the age of 33 ever.

Gretzky played nine more seasons after he hit 30 from the 1990-91 season to 1998-99. In that time, he scored 217 goals. Since turning 30, Ovechkin already has 225 goals. It should then come as no surprise that no one has ever gone from 600 to 700 goals faster in history. It took Ovechkin just 154 games to do it. Not only is that the fastest ever, but it’s also faster than he went from 500 to 600 (189 games). In fact, only once has Ovechkin gone from one milestone to the other faster in his career, when he went from 100 to 200 goals in just 129 games.

Those are the kind of numbers that begin to make you believe that catching Gretzky is a real possibility. What Ovechkin is doing at his age is unprecedented.

With every goal Ovechkin scores, the math for catching Gretzky becomes more and more realistic. If he continues on his current pace for 56 goals, he will finish the season with 714. If he plays four more seasons, he would need to average 45 goals per season to tie Gretzky. Again, that’s just if he plays four seasons. If he plays five seasons, then he would only need to average 36 goals. Even with a moderate drop off, a 36-goal average hardly seems outside of the realm of possibility for the Great 8.

At 34 years old, Ovechkin is still the best goal scorer in the game and is showing no signs of slowing down. Gretzky’s record does not seem impossible for him to reach because Ovechkin is already doing the impossible.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.