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Blast from the past: Galiev back in the picture


Blast from the past: Galiev back in the picture

From a broad perspective, the Capitals’ scouting and coaching staffs came away from last week’s development camp pleased with the progress of forward prospects Jakub Vrana, Zach Sanford, Chandler Stephenson and Riley Barber and defensive prospects Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos.

They also liked the potential they saw in 2015 draft picks Jonas Siegenthaler, Connor Hobbs and Colby Williams.

But there was another player– a proverbial blast from the past – whose name kept coming up, even though he was not in attendance.

Stanislav Galiev, once considered one of the top prospects in the organization, has crept back into the conversation as a solid contender for the Capitals’ 2015-16 roster. Considering where he was a year ago, that is no small feat.

“I think we’re going to give him a good shot,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We want to see the skill, we want to see the work ethic, the speed. We had him up for a short stint last year (two games, one goal) and I thought he played really well. He scored a goal, he’s got good hands, he shoots the puck well.

“We’ll give him a number of exhibition games to show what he can do and hopefully he sticks up (on the Caps’ roster).”

Taken by the Caps in the third round (86th overall) of the 2010 NHL draft, Galiev, 23, was an absolute force in back-to-back playoff years for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec League. In 2011 and 2012 QMJHL playoffs, Galiev recorded 26 goals and 35 assists for 61 points in 36 playoff games. Back then, Galiev was projected as a top-six forward in the NHL.

But an injury plagued 2013-14 season had Galiev splitting time between the ECHL Reading Royals and AHL Hershey Bears and the following season proved much of the same, with Galiev producing at the ECHL level (47 points in 46 games) but coming up short in the AHL (one assist in 17 games).

Considering his failed expectations over two years it was reasonable to assume that Galiev would play out the final year of his contract and break away from the Caps’ organization.

That all changed last season, which began with an incredible highlight reel goal and ended with him tied for the Bears’ lead with 25 goals and leading the AHL with 15 power-play goals.

The Caps rewarded Galiev with a late-season call-up to fill in for injured right wing Tom Wilson and, after being pranked by his teammates and skating onto the ice alone for pre-game warmups against the Bruins, Galiev netted his first NHL goal against Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers in the final game of the regular season. But the real reward came on July 1 when the Caps re-signed Galiev to a two-year, two-way contract worth $1.15 million.

“He had an excellent season, from being a healthy scratch and playing in the ECHL, to maybe cracking the Caps roster,” Bears coach Troy Mann said.

“Is he ready? I guess we’ll find out in September if he can make that next step. But we were really impressed with his defensive awareness (at the NHL level). He’s really worked on becoming more of an inside player. One of his problems early on was he was really a perimeter player. Once he became that guy who would go into those traffic areas and be tough to play against, he showed that skill set and that’s a great combination.”

With T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams and Wilson projected as the Caps’ top three right wings, and with Marcus Johansson’s future with the Capitals in question, Galiev could push hard for the role of fourth-line right wing with a strong preseason.

“For us as coaches, we’d like to see him in Hershey,” Mann said. “But for the organization he would be a great story if he comes in here and has a great camp and is part of that 13 forward mix.”

MORE CAPITALS: Would Capitals walk away from Johansson?

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3 stars of the game: Caps save their season in physical win over Lightning

3 stars of the game: Caps save their season in physical win over Lightning

This one is going to go the distance.

The Washington Capitals staved off elimination on Monday with a 3-0 Game 6 win to force a Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Andrei Vasilevskiy looked unbeatable for much of the game, but T.J. Oshie finally got one past the Lightning netminder on the Caps' first power play since the second period of Game 4. Devante Smith-Pelly finished them off with a third-period tally.

Game 7 will be on Wednesday with a spot in the Stanley Cup Final on the line.

Here are the three stars of Game 6.

1.  T.J. Oshie: Oshie scored the goal that saved Washington's season.

The Caps were doing everything right, but they just could not get one past Vasilevskiy. Finally, Oshie struck with a one-timer from the high-slot that just managed to beat Vasilevskiy.

Oshie also added an empty-netter to ice the game away.

We will never know how close frustration came to really wearing down Washington, but it probably came closer than you think. Just seconds before Oshie's goal, John Carlson rang a blistering slap shot off the inside of the post. It was so close, the horn went off briefly, but play continued. Had Washington not been able to finish off the power play, would they have recovered or would Vasilevskiy officially have Halaked them?

2. Andrei Vasilevskiy: Don't let the score fool you, Vasilevskiy was absolutely brilliant. He really stood out in the first period when he denied great chances again and again to keep the score locked at 0-0. You knew he was on his game when he denied a great chance from Alex Ovechkin from the slot with the blocker. His best save, however, was saved for Evgeny Kuznetsov when he was on the ice and desperately extended the arm just in time to deny Kuznetsov.

Vasilevskity made a total of 32 saves in the losing effort.

3. Braden Holtby: Though he was not tested as much as his counterpart, Holtby was equally as brilliant in his 24 save performance for his fifth career playoff shutout.

The Lightning made a real push in the second and third period and some key saves by Holtby ensured the Caps did not give up the first goal or the game-tying one. The most critical save came on Anthony Cirelli in the second period with the game still tied at 0-0. A Lightning 2-on-1 resulted with Cirelli coming in all alone on Holtby, but the Caps' netminder just managed to extend the toe for the save.

Smith-Pelly had seven goals in the regular season. he has four in the playoffs. Smith-Pelly put the exclamation point on the game with his third period goal to extend the Caps' lead to 2-0.  He was set up by a phenomenal pass by Chandler Stephenson.

It was clear from the outset that the Caps wanted to be very physical in this game and Smith-Pelly really took that message to heart with 

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Burakovsky is back in for Game 6

Burakovsky is back in for Game 6

Coach Barry Trotz indicated that Andre Burakovsky’s benching wouldn’t last long.

And it didn’t.

The 23-year-old winger will return to the lineup on Monday night as the Caps look to stave off elimination in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final.

During the morning skate, Burakovsky skated on the third line with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly—a trio that’s enjoyed some success in the past.

It’s been a difficult postseason for Burakovsky, who has not recorded a point in six games. He missed 10 contests after suffering a hand injury in Game 2 of the first round that required minor surgery.

What he found out upon returning was this: coming back from injury in the regular season is hard...and it’s exponentially tougher in the playoffs.

“It’s definitely tough to jump in in the semifinal,” he said. “When you’re out, you just want to get in and help the team and do what you’re good at—score goals and produce.”

“What I realized is that it’s not that easy,” he added. “I really thought I could jump in and just play like I did before I got injured. 

But obviously it didn’t work out as well I thought it would.”  

Burakovsky also said that he’s planning to work with a sports psychologist this summer in an effort to maintain an even keel when things aren’t going as well as he would like. It’s a problem that he said he’s struggled with since his childhood.

Asked what he hopes to see from Burakovsky in Game 6, Coach Barry Trotz kept it simple: offense.

The Caps have scored just two goals in each of the last three games, with Evgeny Kuznetsov contributing 50-percent of that total.

“He’s a guy that’s given us some good offense all through his time here,” Trotz said of Burakovsky. “We think that he can add some of that.”