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Washington Capitals top 5 goals of the 2019-20 NHL season

Washington Capitals top 5 goals of the 2019-20 NHL season

With the NHL hitting pause on the 2019-20 season, NBC Sports Washington is looking back at the highlights from the first 69 games of the regular season. We’ve been counting down the top 20 games of the season and will recap multiple other categories over the coming weeks. Today we look back on the best goals of the season. 

#5 (tie) – Oshie Dangles Through Bruins Defense – December 11, 2019 

 

Our countdown starts with a tie for the fifth spot between T.J. Oshie’s marvelous dance through the Bruins in December and Tom Wilson’s wicked backhand sauce across the crease to cap off Alex Ovechkin’s hat trick against the Devils in January.  

Let’s start with Oshie’s goal, which highlights his ability to make defenders look silly.

It started with a great breakout by the Caps leading to a risky pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov through three defenders right to the tape of Oshie. Most players don’t think to make that pass, but not only does Kuzy think it, he executes it to perfection.

Take an extra moment to appreciate how Oshie uses the pass and his body to lead the puck away from Charlie McAvoy and essentially render him useless. Oshie then guides the puck to his right, turning Connor Clifton inside out. Despite just a foot or so of space, Oshie sees the pocket between the two defenders and pushes the puck past the out-of-position Clifton to set up a 1-on-1 with Jaroslav Halak.

Feeling the pressure from McAvoy’s backcheck (and the hook across his arms), Oshie does the only thing he can do, take the puck to his backhand. Halak must have been happy to see Oshie take away many of his options only to watch as the Caps right-winger roofed the puck over his shoulder. The individual brilliance from Oshie probably should have pushed this up our list, but it’s a tough competition. 

#5 (tie) – Wilson Backhand Sauce Completes Ovechkin Hat Trick vs Devils – January 16, 2020 

 

After Ovechkin’s two tallies in the first period buoyed the Caps to an early lead, we fast forward to the third period for our 2nd #5 of the countdown. It starts at center ice as Ovechkin tips a John Carlson pass into the zone past Will Butcher. As Butcher misses the bouncing puck, it allows Wilson to race into the zone and win the footrace to the loose puck in the corner. As Wilson circles behind the net, he spots an on-rushing Ovechkin at the back post and whips a backhand pass right through the legs of Damon Severson on the near post and right onto the blade of Ovi for the tap-in hat trick. The pass highlights the maturation of Wilson from 4th-line grinder to Top Line Tom and earned Ovechkin his 31st goal of the season. 

#4 – Vrana Finishes Tic-Tac-Toe Forecheck against Canadiens - January 27, 2020 

 

This goal is less about the finish and more about the set up by Evgeny Kuznetsov. Shea Weber, one of the best defensemen in the league, goes back to retrieve the puck in the corner of the Caps’ offensive zone. He is pressured by Kuznetsov on the forecheck – yes, you read that right – and turns over the puck. Both players over skate it and Kuznetsov falls after a push as he tries to readjust for the puck. Even on his backside, however, he gets the puck and passes it to Oshie who drops it off for Vrana in the slot.

Tic-Tac-goal. 

#3 – Ovechkin’s Diving Backhand Off the Islanders - January 18, 2020 

 

Exactly the opposite of the Vrana goal above, this one is all about one man: Alex Ovechkin. A vintage rush up the left wing. A curl-and-drag through a defenseman. A diving shot that ricochets off a defenseman in front to cap it. A fitting goal for Ovechkin to move him past Mario Lemieux on the all-time goals list and catapult himself into the Top 10 scorers in NHL history. The only slight knock on this one is that it goes off a defenseman in front, but as The Great One said, you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. This was a perfect example of Ovechkin willing a goal into existence and set the stage for one of, if not the best comebacks of the season. 

#2 – Ovechkin Splits Four Panthers for Finish – November 27, 2019 

 

Can Ovechkin still be an elite goal-scorer at 34 years old? If you found yourself asking that question, this goal gives you the answer: Yes. Yes, he can. 

Kuznetsov picked up a neutral zone turnover and took it into the offensive zone where a wall of three Florida defenders awaited him. Trying to beat three defenders would be silly, so he dropped it off to Ovechkin who, thanks to the backcheck, found himself with the puck in the middle of four Panthers. That would have been the end of the play for almost anyone, but not for Ovechkin. He fought off the back pressure from the two trailing Florida players, deked past Mark Pysyk into the slot and fired a shot through the 5-hole of Sergei Bobrovsky. 

#1 – Vrana Channels Inner Datsyuk in Shootout vs Bruins – November 16, 2019 

 

OK, so we cheated. This one isn’t technically a goal as it came in a shootout, but it was just so darn pretty it belongs in the top spot. 

Vrana skated the puck slowly in on Halak, but as he neared the net poised for the wrist shot, he suddenly pulled off the toe drag move that Pavel Datsyuk made famous. Instead of shooting it, Vrana suddenly dragged it to his right keeping it on his forehand. Halak was down in anticipation of the shot as Vrana deftly tucked the puck into what was suddenly an empty net. 

Datsyuk couldn’t have done it any better himself. 

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In a sport in which silence is the norm, Braden Holtby continues to be a voice for change

In a sport in which silence is the norm, Braden Holtby continues to be a voice for change

The phrase "stick to sports" is one often uttered by angry fans who don't want politics to bleed into their past time, who want sports to remain an escape from every day life. No sport has taken those words to heart in recent years more so than hockey where players very rarely come out and discuss political or social topics. Braden Holtby, however, has been a notable exception.

With the country locked in political unrest after the senseless murder of George Floyd, Holtby tweeted out an impassioned statement on Wednesday with his thoughts.

"I don't think this time is a time to sugarcoat anything," Holtby said Friday in a video conference. "I think it's a time to look at ourselves in the mirror and really find how we can be better and how we can take responsibility for the past and learn from that to move forward."

Holtby has been an outspoken advocate for human rights, particularly those of the LGBTQ community, for several years. Many hockey players have been outspoken in the wake of the protests currently gripping the country representing a shocking shift from the norm of silence we typically see in hockey from such issues.

Holtby, however, has never been shy about giving his thoughts.

"I don’t know why it’s been kind of taboo to speak your mind or stand up for what you believe in," Holtby said. "Obviously, there’s always this divide from sports to social issues. You want to be educated, you want to make sure that you know what you’re talking about [and] you’re not just using your platform to try and be popular or something like that."

RELATED: HOLTBY, WILSON MAKE STRONG STATEMENTS IN SUPPORT OF BLACK LIVES MATTER

Quick reactions on social media are easy and often without substance. Holtby, however, who professed that he actually dislikes social media and does not like to use it all that much, stressed the need for everyone, including himself, to educate themselves on the important issues facing the country before and in addition to speaking out.

"It wasn't until I moved here that you really understand what racial injustice is in this country," Holtby said, who is originally from Lloydminster, Saskatchewan. "In Canada, we have indigenous rights and racism that way. I grew up around that, but this is different so I needed to educate myself and still need to. I believe how my parents did the right thing in teaching us in our situation. I learned a lot from them and Brandi as well and now we're just trying to take our knowledge we've learned in a different culture and try to teach our kids that way."

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But not everyone is open to hearing Holtby's thoughts on the matter.

When you speak out on these types of issues, you are bound to get plenty of backlash. Holtby has gotten such reaction from many who have decided that because he is a professional hockey player, he is for some reason no longer entitled to have a voice. There are also those who do not want to hear the opinion of a Canadian on America despite the fact that Holtby has been living in America since 2009.

"I think we all have our professions," Holtby said. "Everyone does. I don't know if any of us have -- unless your job is to fight racial inequalities or any sort of social issues that way, we're all just trying to be humans. And we just happen to have a following based on our job where people see us and it's easier to see us. It's crazy to think that that's an argument. We play hockey on the ice. We live our lives just as humans off of the ice and try to do our part that way. The second part about the Canadian thing is I've lived here for over 10 years now, so we call this home. This is my kids' home. My kids are both American. I feel like I'm fortunate to have been in both countries and be a part of both countries. I've said this a long (time): Canada follows America in a lot of ways. If you go from Canada to America, you don't see a ton of difference. The northern part of the states are very similar to Canada, and I believe when you try to make changes in one [it affects the other]."

But when the issues are important enough, it's easy to tune out the naysayers.

"I'm just trying to learn how I can do my part and my family's part to help people out," Holtby said. "I'm really hoping and I really believe that this is going to change the world in a lot of ways."

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Watch Alex Ovechkin’s son Sergei work on his slap shot

Watch Alex Ovechkin’s son Sergei work on his slap shot

The future looks bright for the Capitals with Alex Ovechkin’s son Sergei as an up-and-coming star.

Ovechkin’s wife Nastya captured an adorable moment on her Instagram story Thursday afternoon when Sergei practiced his shot and found the back of his miniature net on six consecutive attempts – just like his father would.


Nastya praised her 1-year-old, saying “Bravo!” after every goal scored, before he celebrated in classic Ovechkin fashion.

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While Ovi's eldest son has been occupied with his new role as a big brother as of late, he makes sure to leave plenty time to work on his slap shot and practice his celly, too, of course.

It looks like the young star is already on track to catch his father at 700 and make his debut in the 2038 NHL season.

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