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AAA Keys to the Game: Caps vs. Lightning


AAA Keys to the Game: Caps vs. Lightning

The Capitals (19-6-2, 40 points) will look to reward their fathers with a victory at Amalie Arena when they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning (14-12-3, 31 points) at 7 p.m. Live coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on CSN. Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:

Holtby vs. Bishop: After a night off in Sunrise, Caps goalie Braden Holtby (17-4-1, 1.95 GAA, .928 SP) will return to the nets. Among active goaltenders, Holtby has more wins in his first 200 games (118) than any goalie in the NHL. He is 6-2-1 in 10 career appearances against the Lightning. 

Ben Bishop (12-8-2, 1.95 GAA, .931 SP) gets the call for the Lightning. In seven career games against the Caps he’s 1-4-1 with a 3.96 GAA and .884 GSP.

Dominance: The Caps are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games against the Lightning, including a 4-2 home win on Black Friday in which Alex Ovechkin, Jason Chimera and T.J. Oshie struck for power-play goals. The Caps are also 13-6-1 in their last 20 visits to Tampa.

Win one for pops: The Caps began their fathers’ trip with a 3-2 shootout win at home over the Red Wings on Tuesday, but were outplayed in a 4-1 loss to the Florida Panthers on Thursday. Since their first dads and mentors trip back in 2008, the Caps are 9-5-0 in front of their fathers.

Ovi vs. Stammer: Snipers Alex Ovechkin (14 goals, 11 assists, 25 points) and Steven Stamkos (11-10-21) have faced each other 32 times. The Capitals are 23-7-2 in those games, with Ovechkin scoring a goal in 16 of those 32 games and registering 45 points (20 goals, 25 assists). Stamkos has recorded 25 points in those games (13 goals, 12 assists). The Capitals have won each of the 16 games in which Ovechkin has scored a goal with Stamkos in the lineup. Ovechkin has nine points in his last 10 games and his 14 goals are six off the pace being sret by Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn.

Special teams: The Caps rank third in the NHL on the power play (23.9 percent) and sixth in penalty killing (84 percent). The Lightning rank 23rd on the man-advantage (17 percent) and 24th on the kill (77.5 percent).

Trending: The Caps are 7-0-0 following losses this season. The Caps are 12-0-0 when leading after two periods; the Bolts are 10-0-0. But when trailing after two periods the Caps are 3-3-1 while the Lightning are 0-8-0.

Saturday Night Fever: The Caps are 6-0-1 on Saturdays this season, outscoring opponents 26-12. In his career, Holtby has a 33-11-6 record with eight shutouts, a 2.10 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage on Saturdays. Holtby has more wins and shutouts and his lowest goals-against average on Saturday than any day of the week. Alex Ovechkin has 208 points (109 goals, 99 assists) in 188 career games on Saturday.

Roster news: Look for forwards Stan Galiev and Andre Burakovsky to return to the lineup after being healthy scratches on Thursday. That means defenseman Aaron Ness is the only player who won’t get into the lineup during the dads’ trip. Ness’ father is not believed to be on the trip.  The Lightning will be without forward Ryan Johnson, who is sidelined by an undisclosed injury.

Here are the projected starting lineups for tonight:


Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams

Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Stanislav Galiev

Andre Burakovsky - Brooks Laich - Tom Wilson

Defense pairs

Nate Schmidt - John Carlson

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen

Dmitry Orlov - Taylor Chorney


Braden Holtby (starter) - Philipp Grubauer

Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body)

Scratches: Aaron NessChris BrownMichael Latta


Forward lines

Jonathan Drouin - Steven Stamkos - Alex Killorn

Ondrej Palat - Valtteri Filppula - Nikita Kucherov

J.T. Brown - Brian Boyle - Ryan Callahan

Vladislav Namestnikov - Jonathan Marchessault

Defense pairs

Anton Stralman - Victor Hedman

Matthew Carle - Jason Garrison

Braydon Coburn - Andrej Sustr

Nikita Nesterov


Ben Bishop (starter) - Kristers Gudlevskis

Injured: Erik Condra (lower body), Cedric Paquette (upper body), Tyler Johnson (undisclosed)

Scratched: Mike Blunden

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Who are the Caps' award winners this season?


Who are the Caps' award winners this season?

There won't be any suspense for the Capitals on Wednesday night during the NHL Awards show (8 p.m., NBCSN). Alex Ovechkin will receive the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league's top goal scorer, but no other Caps are up for any other hardware.

Instead, let's give out some of our own.

If the NHL awards were reserved just for the Capitals, here's who would be getting each trophy for the 2017-18 season:

Calder Memorial Trophy (best rookie): Jakub Vrana

The Caps had nine players play for the team this season who qualified as rookies according to the NHL: Vrana, Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek, Nathan Walker, Shane Gersich, Travis Boyd and Liam O'Brien. Each of the first four were certainly worthy of consideration.

Vrana gets the nod with his 13 goals and 27 points. His game did suffer some inconsistencies throughout the season, but each rookie experienced that as well. Djoos and Bowey played major roles for the Caps this season as both were called upon to be regular blue liners, but they were largely protected by how they were utilized by Barry Trotz.

The deciding factor for me was this: Who was a better fit this season, Vrana when he played in the top six or Djoos when he played in the top four? The answer for me was Vrana.

Lady Byng  Memorial Trophy (sportsmanship combined with high standard of play): Chandler Stephenson

Stephenson recorded 18 points and proved to be a valuable member of the bottom six, but what really stood out was how clean his game was.

Here's a look at the players with the fewest PIM for the Caps this season: Jerabek (0 PIM), Gersich (0), Boyd (2), Tyler Graovac (2), Walker (4), Anthony Peluso (4), O'Brien (5), Stephenson (8), Taylor Chorney (8), Aaron Ness (8).

Excluding Stephenson, Chorney played the most with 24 games. Everyone else played in 11 games or fewer. Stephenson played in 67.

Bill Masteron Memorial Trophy (perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey): Devante Smith-Pelly

This award is unique in that every team gets a nominee as voted on by each local chapter of the Pro Hockey Writer's Association (of which I am a member). All 31 candidates are then voted on by the PHWA at large. I will go with the Capitals' nominee from this season, Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly was bought out of his contract last season by the New Jersey Devils and came to the Caps on a two-way contract. He filled a key role for the Caps on the bottom-six all season despite a shaky training camp and played in 75 games with 16 points.

When faced with racial taunts from fans in Chicago, Smith-Pelly reacted with class and grace in the wake of the incident. The way he handled the situation allowed for a negative to turn into a positive as Chicago fans raised and donated $23,000 to Fort Dupont.

Frank J. Selke Trophy (best defensive forward): Jay Beagle

No Caps forward had a lower percentage of offensive zone starts than Beagle. His 58.5-percent faceoff win percentage was among the league's best. He also blocked 44 shots per game over the course of the season, sixth among the team's forwards, but he had less ice time than all but one of the five forwards ahead of him.

James Norris Memorial Trophy (best defenseman): John Carlson

This one's a slam dunk. Before Michal Kempny was brought on, defensive depth was the obvious weakness of the Caps even before an injury forced Matt Niskanen out of the lineup for 14 games. Carlson was called upon to play nearly 30 minutes a night and he proved himself capable of playing strong, hard minutes on both ends of the ice.

Carlson's 68 points led all defensemen in the league. In a contract year, he earned himself a lot of money with how he played this season.

Vezina Trophy (best goalie): Philipp Grubauer

This one was tough, but considering this is a regular season award, the nod has to go to Grubauer.

Yes, Braden Holtby played in 54 games, 19 more than Grubauer, and he earned 34 wins, 19 more than Grubauer managed. But Grubauer's superiority when it comes to the stats is undeniable.

Holtby: 54 GP, 34-16-4, .907 save percentage, 2.99 GAA, 0 shutouts
Grubauer: 35 GP, 15-10-3, .923 save percentage, 2.35 GAA, 3 shutouts

From Nov. 1 through the rest of the regular season, no goalie who appeared in at least 20 games had a better GAA than Grubauer and only two netminders recorded a better save percentage.

Grubauer stepped in to stabilize the Caps in net when Holtby was in the midst of the worst slump of his career and he helped Washington win the Metropolitan Division with a strong finish to the season, especially in a brilliant performance in Pittsburgh.

There is no doubt Holtby remains the Caps' No. 1 given what he did in the postseason and revisionist history will have many questioning why Grubauer started for the Caps at the beginning of the postseason. If you followed the team all year, however, there was no question who the stronger netminder was at the end of the regular season.

Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP): Alex Ovechkin

Who else?

Carlson comes in at a close second because of what he was tasked to do on defense, but Ovechkin was the MVP for this team.

Not only did he lead the team in points with 87, the Great 8 once again found the fountain of youth scoring 49 goals to lead the NHL after tallying just 33 the season before. His 49 goals accounted for over 19-percent of the Caps' goals this season. Had Ovechkin scored the same number of goals as he did last season, that would have knocked the Caps from 9th in goals all the way down to 15th. That's how important his resurgent offensive performance was to the team.


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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Suddenly the Caps are in need of a head coach


Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Suddenly the Caps are in need of a head coach

Less than two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup, the Caps are in need of a new head coach.

Barry Trotz resigned as the Caps coach on Monday after he and the team failed to reach an agreement on a new contract. How did we get here and where do both parties go from here? JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break it all down.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.