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3 bold predictions for Game 1: Here we go again

3 bold predictions for Game 1: Here we go again

The Caps and Penguins renew their postseason rivalry on Thursday (7:30 p.m., NBCSN). Here are three bold predictions for Game 1.

1. Washington will score first

It’s always hard to tell how teams will react to a long layoff. Sometimes they come back rusty, sometimes they look even better than before because of the rest. Six days between games, however, is a long time. When the Penguins returned from their bye week, they did win their first game back, but they lost their first three games on the road each by three goals. I am not going to come out and predict a win or a loss, but the layoff will be evident at the start of the game, especially against a Capitals team that was at its best at the end of Game 6 on Sunday.

RELATED: Holtby jokes that he'd play like Hornqvist if he were a forward

2. Patric Hornqvist will draw a penalty

One frequent topic of conversation leading up to this series has been Hornqvist and how he likes to plant himself in front of the net. Barry Trotz even said of him, “He conveniently will fall on your goalie many times.” If the Caps are talking about it, they are aware of it. The first game of the series is not just about winning and losing, teams often try to send messages to the other team too. Washington is going to tell Hornqvist he will be punished for standing in front of Braden Holtby and they are not going to use their words. That someone could even be Holtby himself who was caught slashing Nazim Kadri in Game 2 of the Caps’ first-round series against Toronto.

3. Sidney Crosby will not get a point

Crosby was held to two points in six games in last year’s series. With home-ice advantage, Barry Trotz will be able to get the matchup he wants, namely Nicklas Backstrom on Crosby. It worked last year and he is likely to go with it again. If you are Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, you could try to avoid the matchup, but you probably trust that no one in the NHL can stop Crosby forever and you still won the series despite Crosby getting only two points. If you can occupy the Caps’ top shutdown center, still produce and free up the rest of your lineup, why wouldn’t you? If Sullivan has to re-evaluate after Game 1 he will, but for Thursday I anticipate primarily seeing Washington’s best vs. Pittsburgh’s best.

MORE CAPITALS: Alzner is not yet ready as Caps prepare for Penguins

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

DALLAS—The Caps are “really close” to signing star defenseman John Carlson to a long-term extension, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday night.

“We’re getting closer,” MacLellan said following the first round of the NHL Draft. “Hopefully we can get it done here over the next few days. We’re really close.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps cleared significant space under the salary cap ceiling by trading Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round draft pick (47th overall). 

That space will now be used to lock up Carlson, who could become the best defenseman on the open market if he were to reach it.

MacLellan met with Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, here on Thursday night.

MacLellan did not divulge any figures, but it’s expected that Carlson’s new contract could come in at eight years and $8 million per—or perhaps a bit more. 

He earned $4 million last season.

Carlson had a career year in 2017-18 and was critical during the Caps' run to the Stanley Cup. He led all defensemen in the regular season with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists). The 28-year-old also skated a career-high 24:47 per game.

MacLellan has long said that re-signing Carlson was the Caps’ top priority this offseason. And now it looks like that could happen within days, assuming the talks do not hit any snags.

“We’re going to do our best to sign John,” MacLellan said. “We’ve said it all along. We waited until the end of the year. We’ve had discussions. We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

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Capitals go to the WHL again, select defenseman Alex Alexeyev with first-round pick

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Capitals go to the WHL again, select defenseman Alex Alexeyev with first-round pick

The last time the Washington Capitals had a first-round draft pick, they selected a WHL defenseman. They did not go off script on Friday.

With the last pick of the first round, selecting for the first time as defending Stanley Cup champions, the Capitals selected Alexander Alexeyev, a left-shooting, two-way defenseman from St. Petersburg.

Alexeyev, 18, certainly boasts NHL size at 6' 4", 196 pounds. He currently plays for Red Deer in the WHL, a junior league that has become a major pipeline for the Capitals. In his second season with Red Deer, he tallied 37 points in 45 games.

The NHL Central Scouting's rankings list Alexeyev as the 22nd best North American skater of the draft. TSN projects him to be a top-four, two-way defenseman.

Analyst Craig Button described Alexeyev as a "Smart, effective defenceman who moves the puck, plays with a calm and doesn't make things complicated for himself."

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