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Capitals get the bounce-back win they needed in thrashing of Sharks

Capitals get the bounce-back win they needed in thrashing of Sharks

The Capitals needed a confidence boost after an ugly loss in Columbus. They got one on Thursday with a 5-1 win over the San Jose Sharks in a dominant effort over one of the West's top teams. 

All five of Washington's goals came from its top two lines as the stars came out to play in the team's second game of a season-long six-game road trip.

Here are three reasons the Caps won.

1. A quick response

Kevin Labanc gave San Jose the lead just 2:06 into the game. Considering how Tuesday’s game in Columbus went for Washington – an ugly 3-0 loss – you could be forgiven for thinking Thursday’s game was headed for a similar outcome. T.J. Oshie scored on the power play just 1:32 later to tie the game at one.

Joe Pavelski was called for tripping and 11 seconds later, Oshie had Washington on the board. Martin Jones made a save on an Alex Ovechkin shot and the rebound went behind the goal line. Oshie grabbed it and threw it in front of the net looking for the bank-in. He got it as the puck hit off defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and in.

It was the type of response the team sorely needed. Instead of having to play from behind, the Caps essentially reset the game.

2. The forecheck

The Sharks scored seven goals the last time these two teams met, but this time, the defense was ready for Washington and it started with the offense.

San Jose really struggled to break out of their own zone thanks to a stifling forecheck from the Caps’ forwards who applied tons of pressure at the offensive blue line. It generated multiple turnovers and stopped the Sharks’ offense before it could really get going.

Behind the blue line, the Caps also mucked things up in the neutral zone in an all-around stifling defensive effort. It all started, however, in the offensive zone thanks to the great forecheck.

3. Jakub Vrana and T.J. Oshie

Washington’s big-name players came to play on Thursday as both Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson scored a goal and an assist, Nicklas Backstrom had two assists and Evgeny Kuznetsov had an assist of his own. No one was better, however, than Jakub Vrana and T.J. Oshie.

Vrana had the jets going and was all over the ice, giving the Sharks fits with his speed. He gave the Caps their first lead of the night thanks to some quick thinking. He tried a pass on the quick rush and it was blocked by defenseman Brent Burns. The puck went right back to Vrana who had Jones beat as Jones had already committed to the pass. Vrana fired the shot past the helpless Jones for what would prove to be the game-winner.

Vrana also recorded an assist on Oshie’s second goal of the game as he pounced on a San Jose turnover in the offensive zone and knocked it to Oshie who netted the short breakaway.

Oshie’s second goal was his 500th career point.

He and Vrana are tied for second on the team with 18 goals.

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Capitals potential trade deadline target: The case for and against Gustav Nyquist

Capitals potential trade deadline target: The case for and against Gustav Nyquist

The Washington Capitals are the defending Stanley Cup Champions and are all-in on going for the repeat. Does that mean we could see a trade before the trade deadline?

With the NHL trade deadline rapidly approaching on Feb. 25, there are a number of players believed to be available. But who makes sense for the Caps?

This week, we will be exploring a possible trade deadline target from Monday through Friday and look into why they do and do not make sense for Washington to pursue.

Today’s target: Forward Gustav Nyquist, 29, Detroit Red Wings

Why it makes sense

Detroit isn’t making the playoffs and it makes no sense for them to hold onto a very productive player who will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

Nyquist is currently second on the Red Wings in points with 47. He has top-six skill, but what really jumps out when you watch him play is how opportunistic he is. If the puck is in the offensive zone, he is going to the front of the net for rebounds or deflections and seems to find himself in the perfect position to pick up those high-danger chances. He is also good in his own end of the ice and smart with the breakout whether it means a quick pass out to start the rush or taking it himself.

Why it doesn’t make sense

Nyquist has a no-trade clause. Not a modified no-trade clause, but a full no-trade clause. If he doesn’t want to come to Washington, that’s the end of the discussion. The deal would also mean Detroit would have to retain quite a bit of his salary even if Andre Burakovsky is part of the deal as Nyquist’s cap hit is $4.75 million.

Nyquist may not be the same level of player as an Artemi Panarin, but he is one of the best players available at this year’s deadline and Detroit knows it. This team managed to get a first, second and third round pick last season for Tomas Tatar and he had fewer points when he was traded than Nyquist has now. There is going to be a long line of suitors for Nyquist and that will make this a very, very expensive deal to make for a Caps team that is already without its fifth and sixth round draft picks for 2019.
 

Verdict

For me personally, I would never trade a first round pick for a rental. Ever. For a team like Detroit that is rebuilding, you would think a first round draft pick would be the starting point for any deal for Nyquist so that’s a non-starter for me.

Having said that, if there is some way to talk the price down, this would be a great move. Nyquist’s skill level would allow Washington the flexibility to plug him onto the second line to play with fellow Swede Nicklas Backstrom. Then you could move T.J. Oshie down to the third line which would decrease his minutes and allow him to play with Lars Eller who he has chemistry with.

The asking price will be prohibitive and I do not see it happening, but if there’s any way to get it done without having to sell the farm – perhaps a deal similar to the one San Jose made for Evander Kane last season – this would be a heck of a pickup for Washington.

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Encouraged by his wife, Braden Holtby continues actively championing the LGBTQ community

Encouraged by his wife, Braden Holtby continues actively championing the LGBTQ community

ARLINGTON – For Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and his wife, Brandi, it was a small gesture, but one they hope has an outsized impact because of who he is and the sport he plays. 

Speaking at the annual Human Rights Campaign dinner in Washington on Sept. 18, the Holtbys continued their support of the LGBTQ community when he introduced figure skater Adam Rippon, the first openly gay skater to win a medal at the Winter Olympics. That support is crystalized during Hockey is for Everyone month, a time of added attention to initiatives that foster social change through and in the sport.

The Holtbys have long been part of that work – and not just during February. Hockey is a sport where diversity is lacking. That’s changing at the grass roots level as it takes off in bigger American cities and it’s there the Holtbys figure they can make a difference.

“You can definitely see there’s changes being made to people’s mindset and the main thing is you want to impact the youth,” Braden Holtby said. “You want to hit that ground level so there’s respect paid from Day 1 for a person’s life and realize the importance of it. Don’t do something you don’t understand and will regret later.”

It’s something Brandi has always keenly felt growing up and helped her husband understand. On a trip to San Francisco for their honeymoon, the couple walked into an HRC Action Center and Store in a house once owned by Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in California as a member of the San Francisco board of supervisors. Milk, whose home and camera shop were located in the heart of the Castro District in San Francisco, was assassinated in 1978.  

The Holtbys spent a few hours talking with volunteers and learning about the organization. You might have seen the ubiquitous blue stickers with yellow stripes signifying an equals sign on cars throughout the D.C. region and the country. HRC is the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group in the country.    

“I’ve never really been a guy for the spotlight or anything like that,” Holtby said. “I didn’t do enough early on in my career and my wife has been the one to push me to use that a bit more because you can use that for good.” 

The Holtbys showed their support in other ways. They have twice marched in the Capital Pride Parade and three times attended the Capital Pride Festival, which it is a part of. Last year Holtby was celebrating the Capitals’ Stanley Cup victory and couldn’t make the parade, but he was at the national dinner in September at the Washington Convention Center. It’s all part of starting a conversation in the sport about LGBTQ issues.  

“Especially with LGBT rights and everything it’s not a weird thing any more, people understand it better,” Holtby said. “That shows through in inclusion and it shows through in the way people live their lives. Having that empathy, it’s something you may not have thought of, especially if you grow up and play hockey your whole life and there’s one way to do things. We want people to think on a broader spectrum.”

Holtby said that trip to San Francisco early in their marriage was just the introduction to HRC, but that Brandi had always thought the issue of LGBT rights merited her support.   

“You know different people, you meet different people, whether family or otherwise, and you hear stories that you didn’t think actually happened and you don’t think is right,” Holtby said. “And that’s a big reason why she wants to push those the right way so people have a little more kindness and empathy. It’s just a small part, but hopefully if you can effect a couple people – especially the way the world is today – I think it’s good.” 

If reaching young hockey players is the main goal, the topic of LGBTQ issues can still come up organically in an NHL dressing room, too. Holtby was proud that three Capitals teammates – Brett Connolly, Chandler Stephenson and Nathan Walker – came to the HRC dinner where he made the introductory. They all had a preseason game the next day, but made the effort anyway to support Holtby and support the cause. There is strength in numbers. 

“I feel like we’re just doing our part. But it means a lot to people, especially when you see us marching in the parade here and the support that the Capitals have given, too,” Holtby said. “It means a lot for fans, especially, to know that they’re included and they’re included in our team as well no mater what their circumstances are. We’re all a family and a hockey community and we want to see that out.” 

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