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Boudreau wants the Caps to do well...unless they meet the Wild in the final

Boudreau wants the Caps to do well...unless they meet the Wild in the final

LOS ANGELES—Bruce Boudreau lives and coaches 1,000 miles from Verizon Center these days, but he readily admitted on Saturday that he still keeps a very close eye on the Capitals.

Why?

A couple of reasons. For one, Washington holds a special place in his heart because it was his first stop as an NHL head coach. And second, he currently coaches the Wild, who sit just behind the NHL-leading Caps in the league standings.  

“[The Caps] are the best team in the league,” Boudreau told CSN at All-Star media day. “I’m sure Barry [Trotz] doesn’t want me to say that. They’ve been like that and they’ve had that stigma put on them for as many as seven or eight years. But when you watch them play, except for a couple of hiccups, they blow teams out of the water.”

“The one thing you notice about [the Caps] is, any other team you play except maybe for Pittsburgh, you can make mistakes and sometimes get away with it,” Boudreau continued. “Against the Caps, you make a mistake and you’re paying for it. They've got a lot of great players and that’s what happens with great players—they do great things.”

One of those great players is Alex Ovechkin, who was named one of the NHL’s greatest 100 players on Friday night. Boudreau attended the ceremony and beamed with pride when Ovi’s name was announced.

“I was very proud,” Boudreau said. “I got to coach him for over four years. It’s a great thing to tell your grandchildren and children, that you’ve been able to coach one of the greatest players of all time. And I’m sure when it’s all said and done, he’s going to be in the top-5 greatest players of all time. He’s in that conversation.”

He added, “I was lucky.”

Luck, however, has nothing to do with where the Caps and Wild find themselves at the all-star break. Both teams have rattled off long winning streaks. Washington ranks first in goal differential (+54) and Minnesota is second (+51). The teams are also 1-2 in the NHL standings, with the Caps up by three points on the Wild.

Washington and Minnesota play twice in the span of 11 days in March.

MORE CAPS: Ovechkins ready to 'chill' in Los Angeles

A lot could change between now and then, but as things stand today, Boudreau believes both have a good chance of making a deep run this spring.

Asked if he’s ever daydreamed about facing the Caps in the Stanley Cup final, the 62-year-old coach nodded.

“I do,” said Boudreau, who spent four plus season in Anaheim before being hired in Minnesota. “But I’ve done that for a few years and it hasn’t worked.”

Boudreau also acknowledged how weird a Bruce vs. the Caps final would be.

“On the other hand, I don’t want to play them,” he said. “I think it would be too difficult because I want them to win and I want us to win.”

“Some of the guys on that team that I’ve made great friends with that are still there, I want them to have success,” he added. “But I wouldn’t want them to have success against me. It’s a real double-edged sword. But I think both teams right now have got a shot. Those guys look like, okay, they were the favorite last year and they lost and they’re playing like that’s never going to happen again. And we’re the young upstart team that’s never been in that situation. We’ll go as far as we go, and hopefully in May or June, one of us has a lot great success.”

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

las_vegas-sign-no_caps-stanley_cup_final.jpg
Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

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