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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Flyers

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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Flyers

The Capitals (37-9-4, 78 points) will take on the Flyers (23-18-9, 55 points) today in a Super Bowl matinee beginning at noon (NBC). Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:

Where the Caps stand: The Caps are coming off Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Devils, maintaining their Metro Division lead over the Rangers at 15 points. The Caps remain the only team in the NHL without back-to-back losses in regulation.

Where the Flyers stand: The Flyers are coming off Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Rangers and are 3-0-1 in their last four games, including a 4-3 overtime win at Verizon Center on Jan. 27, the final game before the All-Star break. With 55 points the Flyers are four behind the Devils for the eighth and final payoff spot and would need to climb the Carolina Hurricanes (56 points), Islanders (58 points) and Devils (59 points) to get there.

Who’s in goal for the Caps: Braden Holtby (32-5-3, 2.06, .928) will make his third straight start for the Caps. He is 24-1-3 in his last 28 decisions and is 2-0-0 in the second half of back-to-back games this season, allowing two goals in each of those starts. 

Who’s in goal for the Flyers: With Michael Neuvirth sidelined with a lower body injury, Steve Mason (12-12-7, 2.68, .916) will get the start today rather than give rookie callup Antony Stolarz his NHL debut against the NHL’s No. 1 team.  Mason has played the tail end of back-to-backs twice this season and is 2-0-0 with two goals against. Mason has not lost in regulation since Jan. 21 (2-0-1).

Super Caps: The Caps are 15-8-2 all-time and 15-7-1 at home on Super Bowl Sunday. The Caps are 3-0-0 on Sundays this season, outscoring opponents 19-6. 

Bura-cuda: Andre Burakovsky became the eighth player in Caps history to play his 100th game before his 21st birthday on Saturday. (Burakovsky turns 21 in Nashville on Tuesday). Burakovsky has a goal in five straight games and points in six srtraight (5 goals, 2 assists).  

Simmonds in: Despite a match penalty taken when he took a gloved swing at Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh on Saturday Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds (18-16-34) did not have a hearing and will not be suspended, allowing him to play today. Holtby said Simmonds might be the best player in the NHL at screening goalies and tipping in shots from the perimeter.

Ghost be here: Flyers rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere has been a revelation this season. Sonce being called up in November the 22-year-old blue liner has nine goals and 17 assists in 32 games. He had a pair of assists against the Caps in the Flyers’ last visit to Verizon Center. Gostisbehere is on a seven-game scoring streak (2-8-10), three short of Mikael Renberg’s rookie record set in 1993-94. 

Power outage: The Caps are 0-for-15 on the power play in their last four games.

Here are projected lineups for both teams:

CAPITALS

Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams

Jason Chimera - Mike Richards - Tom Wilson

Paul Carey - Brooks Laich - Michael Latta

Defense pairs

John Carlson  - Nate Schmidt

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen

John Carlson  - Nate Schmidt

Dmitri Orlov - Taylor Chorney

Goaltenders

Braden Holtby (starter) – Philipp Grubauer

FLYERS

Forward lines

Jake Voracek - Claude Giroux - Wayne Simmonds

Sam Gagner - Nick Cousins - Brayden Schenn

Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Ryan White

Michael Raffl - Scott Laughton - Matt Read

Defense pairs

Michael Del Zotto - Shayne Gostisbehere

Nick Schultz - Mark Streit

Evgeny Medvedev - Radko Gudas

Goaltenders

Steve Mason (starter) – Anthony Stolarz

Injuries 

Michal Neuvirth (lower-body injury, 1 week) 

Sean Couturier (lower-body injury, 4 weeks)

MORE CAPITALS: Holtby: 'The only stat I care about is wins'

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Alex Ovechkin takes home ESPY for Best Male Athlete Award

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Alex Ovechkin takes home ESPY for Best Male Athlete Award

Alexander Ovechkin's offseason continues to be one for the books. 

Just a week removed from celebrating with the Stanley Cup in Moscow, Ovechkin was named Best Male Athlete Wednesday night at the 2018 ESPYs. 

The 32-year-old is the first NHL player to win the award since it was first introduced in 1993. 

"The Great Eight" beat out Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros, James Harden of the Houston Rockets and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. 

Ovechkin was not in Los Angeles to accept the award.

 

RELATED LINKS: 

Can Alex Ovechkin still challenge for another Rocket Richard Trophy? 

Inside Alex Ovechkin's Weekend Party with the Stanley Cup in Russia

 

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Braden Holtby’s save in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup wasn’t even nominated for an ESPY

Braden Holtby’s save in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup wasn’t even nominated for an ESPY

On Wednesday night ESPN hosts their yearly sports award show, the ESPYs, to celebrate the best of the last 365 days in sport. 

One thing they will not be celebrating, or did not even consider celebrating, was Braden Holtby’s save in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final

This year there were 16 plays nominated to be the “Best Play” and were seeded into a bracket. For the past month fans have been voting in each head-to-head matchup culminating in four pretty outstanding plays:

All of those plays can be viewed here

Three of those four were in a championship game, the other was a just a once in a lifetime play from a teenager. 

But the ESPYs are saying that there are 16 plays from this past year that were better than Holtby’s save… Can we really believe that? Everyone loves buzzer beaters, but they accounted for six of the 16 plays. One of them could have easily gotten bumped. 

And aside from the three listed above there were only two that were in the championship event for each sport. Holtby could have rounded it out for six.

We’re not saying that Holtby’s play was the best in the past year, or even in the top four. Heck, there should be no one that tops Ogunbowale’s incredible heroics. But arguably the best play in D.C. sports history not making the top-16 for best plays in a 365 day period? 

It must have been one heck of a sports year.  

For those that are nominated, Alex Ovechkin is a finalist for Best Male Athlete and Best NHL Player. The Capitals are in the running for Best Team.

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