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Was Alex Ovechkin the right choice for the Conn Smythe?

Was Alex Ovechkin the right choice for the Conn Smythe?

Just before he hoisted the Stanley Cup, Alex Ovechkin was awarded the Conn Smythe as the playoff MVP.

Ovechkin was certainly a worthy candidate, but was he truly the team's most valuable player in the postseason?

Evgeny Kuznetsov's 32 points are five more than Ovechkin's 27. That marks the most points in a single postseason since 2009 and the second most since 1997.

There is also Braden Holtby to consider. Holtby did not start Game 1 or Game 2 of the playoffs and the Caps lost both. He took over as the starter in Game 3 and the Caps never looked back.

Plus, who could forget The Save?

So was the Conn Smythe awarded to the right player? Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan debate who the real MVP of the Capitals' Cup run truly was. 

El-Bashir: Evgeny Kuznetsov led the postseason with a whopping 32 points in 24 games. He also scored the OT goal that finally pushed the Caps past the Penguins.

Braden Holtby had the lowest goals-against average (2.16) and second-best save percentage (.922) of any goalie who made at least a dozen appearances in the postseason. He also made The Save, quite possibly the biggest stop in franchise history and certainly one of the most memorable saves ever in the Final.

A strong argument could have been made for either player to claim the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

I gave my vote to Alex Ovechkin. Why? On a game-by-game basis, he had the biggest impact.

The hardest thing to do in hockey is score goals. And Ovi did it 15 times, tying him with Sidney Crosby (2009) for the most in a postseason since 1997.

The last-minute winner in Game 3 vs. Pittsburgh? Ovi batted it out of midair.

That Kuzy goal that eliminated the Pens? Ovi had the primary assist.      

The Game 6 win over Tampa Bay? Ovi didn’t record a point, but he set the tone with his physical play. His teammates took note.

How about Game 7 vs. the Bolts? Ovi scored 62 seconds in, and the Caps never looked back.

In the Final, he racked up three goals and two assists in five games. He also led his team in emotional GIFs.

Then there were the blocked shots. Ovi is known for putting pucks into the net, not putting body parts in front of them. In these playoffs, he happily threw himself in front of shots. Why? His commitment level was never higher.

For two months, with no days off, the captain was all-in. And the Caps followed his lead.

Regan: Holtby had the signature moment of the entire series with "The Save" in Game 2 and the playoffs certainly turned around for the Caps when he took the starting job back from Philipp Grubauer. Washington lost both games in which Holtby did not start, but went 16-6 after with him between the pipes.

Despite all of that, Holtby would have been a distant third on my ballot.

A hot goalie can steal a series in the playoffs, but the Caps never needed Holtby to do that. Even against the Tampa Bay Lightning, when the team faced elimination and he recorded back-to-back shutouts, the Caps so thoroughly outplayed the Lightning in both of those games you couldn't really say Holtby stole either one. He absolutely was a major factor in those wins as he was throughout the playoffs, but was not the MVP of the playoffs.

Kuznetsov's production through the postseason was absolutely incredible, but that does necessarily make him the team's best player. No game better illustrated that face than Game 6 against the Lightning. Ovechkin did not record a single point in that game, but he was undeniably the best player on the ice to everyone who was watching. The team fed off his emotion in what was one of the most impressive performances of the entire postseason.

And that's why Ovechkin deserved to win. His impact throughout the playoffs was about so much more than just points. Obviously Ovechkin's 15 goals and 12 assists were important, but the emotional lift he gave to the team was even more so. He played like he was not going to be denied the Stanley Cup this year and the team believed it too.

In my mind, there was a clear moment in which Ovechkin sealed the Conn Smythe. In the Cup-clinching Game 5 against Vegas, Nate Schmidt tied the game at 1 in the second period. Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty off the ensuing faceoff and scored on the resulting power play to put the Caps back ahead just 34 seconds after Schmidt's goal.

Kuznetsov's numbers put him in a separate class from everyone else, but the effort and emotion Ovechkin played with this postseason put him in a separate class as well. If you had to pick who had the greater impact, it's no contest. This was Ovechkin's playoffs, Ovechkin's Stanley Cup, Ovechkin's time.

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Everything you need to know as Backstrom is declared out for Wednesday and Caps make flurry of roster moves

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Everything you need to know as Backstrom is declared out for Wednesday and Caps make flurry of roster moves

Dealing with a number of injuries and the possible suspension of Garnet Hathaway, the Capitals made a flurry of roster moves on Wednesday. Carl Hagelin was placed on LTIR and Nic Dowd was played on IR. Both players are dealing with an upper-body injury and acre considered day-to-day. Hagelin will be eligible to return to the roster on Dec. 2 and Dowd on Nov. 21. Goalie Vitek Vanecek was reassigned to Hershey. The resulting cap space allowed the team to recall forward Beck Malenstyn, Mike Sgarbossa, defenseman Tyler Lewington and goalie Ilya Samsonov, which the team announced earlier on Wednesday.

In addition, it was announced that Nicklas Backstrom will not play Wednesday against the New York Rangers. due to an upper-body injury. He is considered day-to-day and remains on the active roster.

The team continues to insist both Hagelin and Dowd are day-to-day, but they had no choice but to place one of them on LTIR in order to get enough cap room to call in some reinforcements. The team does not get relief from Dowd going to IR other than an extra roster spot, nor will Hathaway's salary come off the books if he is indeed suspended.

It was clear from the start that calling up Vanecek was a temporary move and that the team wanted to get back Samsonov as quickly as possible. These moves allowed them the cap space to do so. It also allowed them the cap space to recall a seventh defenseman in case of injury, hence the Tyler Lewington move. The salary cap gymnastics the team had to go through last week show why keeping the bare minimum number of players on the roster can quickly turn into a problem. With all the injuries upfront, however, and the possible Hathaway suspension, the bare minimum may be exactly what the Caps will be left with in terms of forwards.

With no Backstrom, Hagelin or Dowd, we are going to see some line shuffling at the morning skate in preparation for Wednesday's game against the New York Rangers (8 p.m., NBCSN). Lars Eller will move up to the second line with Backstrom out and both Sgarboss and Malenstyn will be inserted into the bottom six. If this is in fact what happens, then Wednesday will be Malenstyn's first career NHL game. He clearly caught the eye of head coach Todd Reirden in the preseason with his strong play.

No announcement has yet been made regarding Hathaway's suspension.

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

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NBC Sports Washington

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

Washington trounced Anaheim on Monday, with its 5-2 victory. Now, the Capitals head up to New York's Madison Square Garden for a Wednesday Night Rivalry Night against the Rangers. 

With Washington leading the all-time series record, and veteran defenseman John Carlson having a career season (including a seven-game point streak), New York better be ready for a challenge.

Here is everything you need to know about the rivalry night matchup, including how to watch.

CAPITALS at RANGERS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals at New York Rangers, Game 24 of the 2019-2020 NHL Regular Season

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York

When: 8:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Capitals at Rangers game will be broadcast on NBCSN (Channel Finder Link)

Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals at Rangers 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 RANGERS TV SCHEDULE

7:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live (NBC Sports Washington Plus)

7:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live (NBC Sports Washington Plus)

8:00 PM: Capitals at Rangers (NBCSN)

10:00 PM: D.C. Sports Live

10:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live (NBC Sports Washington Plus)

11:00 PM: Caps Overtime Live (NBC Sports Washington Plus)

CAPITALS at RANGERS INJURY REPORT

Capitals:

Carl Hagelin, upper body, day-to-day

Nic Dowd, upper body, day-to-day

Rangers:

Marc Staal, ankle, week-to-week

Mika Zibanejad, upper body, day-to-day

CAPITALS at RANGERS PLAYERS TO WATCH

John Carlson, D, Capitals (8G, 27A, 35 Pts): Back in October, when the Caps and Rangers first met this season, Carlson put up a team-high three points. Now, the defenseman has a seven-game point streak and is tied for the third-most points in the league (35).

Artemi Panarin, C, Rangers (9 G, 14A, 23 Pts): Since joining the Rangers as a free agent this summer, Panarin has shown his offensive prowess and now leads New York in goals (9). He also has nine points in the Rangers' last five games, though he's only scored twice in that period.  

Alex Ovechkin, LW, Capitals (15G, 10A, 25Pts): An offensive powerhouse for Washington, the captain is once again providing numbers up front. Ovechkin also has six goals and five assists over the Capitals' last 10 games. 

CAPITALS at RANGERS SERIES HISTORY

Number of all-time Meetings: 273 (55 postseason)

All-Time Series Record: Capitals lead 131-117-18

Regular Season Record: Capitals lead 103-90-18

Playoff Record: Capitals lead 28-27

Last Meeting: Caps win 5-2 (10/18/19)

Last 10: Capitals lead 9-1

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