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All-Star snubs: Who from the Caps did the NHL look over for an All-Star bid?

All-Star snubs: Who from the Caps did the NHL look over for an All-Star bid?

Two Capitals were on the Metropolitan Division roster for the All-Star game as released Tuesday by the NHL. Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby will be the team’s two representatives on the ice for the All-Star Game that will take place on Jan. 29.

Did the NHL get it right?

It’s hard to argue with Ovechkin getting the nod. With 19 goals, he is currently on pace for about 39 goals this season, which would be his lowest total since he scored 32 in the 2012-13 season...a lockout-shortened season. Clearly, he is not scoring at his usual phenomenal pace, but Ovechkin still has the second-most goals in the Metropolitan Division behind only Sidney Crosby.

Holtby, meanwhile, has again established himself as one of the top netminders in the league. Among Metropolitan goalies with at least 10 games played, Holtby is second in wins, tied for first in save percentage, first in goals against average and first in shutouts.

Good luck leaving him off your All-Star ballot.

RELATED: Pair of Caps named to All-Star game

With two players from Washington on the roster, that means there are another 20 who are not.

There are really only two players who stand out as possible “snubs.” Debating whether Nicklas Backstrom should be an All-Star is almost an annual exercise at this point considering he has only been selected once (while still being selected to Sweden’s Olympic team twice and to the 2016 World Cup team, but I digress). Backstrom actually leads the Capitals in points this season with 34, one more point than Ovechkin.

There is also T.J. Oshie who has arguably been the team’s best player this season. His impact was pretty noticeable when he missed seven straight games with a shoulder injury he suffered against the Detroit Red Wings.

After missing eight of the team’s first 40 games, it’s hard to argue for Oshie despite how good he has been this year. With only half a season to judge the players, Oshie’s All-Star resume is 20-percent incomplete. He would need more than 20 points to really earn a spot in this year’s tournament.

As for Backstrom, per usual, he has certainly done enough to warrant inclusion in this year’s All-Star festivities. The problem isn’t if he deserves to get in, however. The problem is who would he replace?

As much as it may pain Caps fans, you can’t argue with either Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Both are in the midst of incredible seasons and there’s no way to justify putting Backstrom in before either of them. 

The other Metropolitan forwards, besides Ovechkin, are Taylor Hall, Wayne Simmonds and John Tavares. You can make a legitimate case for Backstrom over all three of those players.

Hall has missed 10 of New Jersey’s 42 games this season with a knee injury. Simmonds is the third-leading scorer on his own team behind Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Tavares, meanwhile, is on pace for his worst season since 2009-10, his rookie year, showing even he is not immune to how horrible the New York Islanders are.

Backstrom’s 34 points are also higher than all three — Simmonds has 32, Tavares has 27 and Hall has 25. And, although this is a three-on-three tournament in which defense is largely optional, Backstrom’s defensive acumen is widely underrated. He is one of the top shutdown players on the team and is a major reason why the Caps boast the lowest goals per game average in the NHL.

But Hall, Simmonds and Tavares all have something in common that Backstrom does not. All three players are the lone representatives of their respective NHL clubs.

Despite the injury, Hall is the only bright spot in what is quickly becoming a dismal year for the New Jersey Devils while Tavares is the best player in the dumpster fire that is the Islanders. Simmonds has been one of the top players on the power play in the entire NHL this season which is what I believed earned him the nod.

What’s more, if the Metro needed to find a replacement forward, I’m not so sure Backstrom would be the next man up.

Phil Kessel’s career resurrection continues in Pittsburgh and he is clearly the best forward on that team not named Crosby or Malkin. Cam Atkinson is the leading scorer on a Columbus team that currently holds the league’s best record. Both players are producing at a point-per-game pace through the first half of the season, well above Backstrom’s 0.85 per game.

It stinks that Backstrom never seems to get the recognition he deserves for being one of the NHL’s top centers, but with the Metropolitan Division having an incredible season, it’s hard to put him or any other Caps in over the players who did make the cut.

MORE CAPITALS: Prediction recap: Holtby stays hot in win over Montreal

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Capitals playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly ready for his second chance in Game 5

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Capitals playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly ready for his second chance in Game 5

ARLINGTON — Devante Smith-Pelly will skate onto the ice at Capital One Arena tonight and the crowd will roar. They will chant “D-S-P!” and give him an ovation and he will try to keep a stone-faced focus, though it will be hard.

Not bad for a player who was cut in February, passed on by 30 other NHL teams and banished to the minors after a disappointing season and a salary-cap crunch. But that is life as a Stanley Cup playoff folk hero. After scoring seven goals with 19 points during last year’s postseason, including the game-tying goal in the decisive Game 5 of the final series against the Vegas Golden Knights, Smith-Pelly bought himself a lifetime of good will. 

Now, an injury to T.J. Oshie gets him another chance with the Capitals. Smith-Pelly will be in the lineup tonight when Washington hosts the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series (8 p.m., NBC). 

“I don’t know if weird is the word. It’s a business,” Smith-Pelly said. “It’s hard to go through something like that. I missed the guys a lot. I still kept in touch with pretty much everyone. It was just going there and doing what I had to do and waiting for a shot. It’s unfortunate that [Oshie] had to get hurt.”

Smith Pelly had just four goals and four assists in 54 games this season and was held out of several preseason games to get his conditioning where it needed to be. When the Capitals traded for forward Carl Hagelin on Feb. 21 they needed salary-cap space to make the move, according to general manager Brian MacLellan. He chose waiving Smith-Pelly over Dmitrij Jaskin. 

When Smith-Pelly cleared waivers, Washington sent him to AHL Hershey so he could play and be ready if needed again. That didn’t seem likely when the playoffs began and the salary cap was no longer an issue. MacLellan said the team had no immediate plans to recall Smith-Pelly just so he could sit. 

But the Capitals wanted him to stay in game shape in case injuries struck – and they finally did on Monday in Game 4. T.J. Oshie is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Smith-Pelly got the recall and is in the lineup tonight at right wing on the fourth line. It is another chance for a player who was once a second-round draft pick, but has been let go by three previous organizations (Anaheim, Montreal, New Jersey) and found himself on tenuous ground with the Capitals. This isn’t how he wanted it to be. But now he’s back. 

“I wasn’t really thinking too much about it. I was watching the games and cheering the guys on,” Smith-Pelly said. “I wasn’t really sure. I definitely didn’t want to get a chance by someone else getting hurt. That’s for sure. So I don’t know. It’s kind of a weird spot. I’m focused on playing the playoffs there and helping the team there. I wasn’t really thinking about too much about what would happen.”

News and notes

Still no update on Oshie other than he’s out indefinitely, according to coach Todd Reirden. He will obviously not play in Game 5 after crashing into the boards following a nudge from behind by Carolina forward Warren Foegele. … Reirden’s lineup changes include Carl Hagelin moving to right wing on the second line and Chandler Stephenson joining Smith-Pelly and Nic Dowd on the fourth line. … After a nice first playoff game, rookie Jonas Siegenthaler will start with John Carlson, who moves to his natural right side. He'd been starting games on the left with Nick Jensen.  

Game 5 lineup

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Carl Hagelin

Andre Burakovsky – Lars Eller – Brett Connolly

Chandler Stephenson – Nic Dowd – Devante Smith-Pelly

 

Jonas Siegenthaler – John Carlson 

Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik – Nick Jensen 

 

Braden Holtby 

 

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NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Maple Leafs pull ahead of Bruins, Avalanche eliminate Flames

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NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Maple Leafs pull ahead of Bruins, Avalanche eliminate Flames

Thursday's games gave us another tied series with the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes, a slugfest between the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets, and the San Jose Sharks avoiding elimination at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights.

Friday's games pushed the Boston Bruins to the brink of elimination, and the Colorado Avalanche eliminated the Calgary Flames in the Saddledome.

Here are all of Friday's results.

Maple Leafs take 3-2 series lead with 2-1 win over Bruins

Frederik Andersen and Tuukka Rask were sharp for the first two periods, but Auston Matthews broke the scoreless tie with a controversial goal 10 minutes into the third period. Boston challenged for goaltender interference, but the goal stood. Matthews now has four goals in the last three games of the series.

Kasperi Kapanen gave the Leafs the game winner on a 3-on-2 just two minutes later.

The Bruins battled back to make it 2-1 with a backdoor feed for David Krejci, but they couldn't force a tie to send the game to overtime. Should the Leafs hold on to win, not only would they reverse their two-year trend of losing in the first round of the playoffs, they would win a series for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

Avalanche extinguish Flames, win series with 5-1 victory

The upstart Avalanche had four players hit three points in their Friday night upset over the Flames. Mikko Rantanen continued his punishing pace with two goals in the game, including the opening and closing goals.

Colin Wilson also notched a two-goal night, and Philipp Grubauer held steady with 28 saves.

This is Colorado's first series win since the 2007-08 season, and the Flames became the second first seed to be knocked out of these playoffs, as the Tampa Bay Lightning were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier this week.

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