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Braden Holtby can check another item off his to-do list tonight against the Dallas Stars

Braden Holtby can check another item off his to-do list tonight against the Dallas Stars

Over the course of his illustrious career, Braden Holtby has earned at least one victory against 28 different teams.

The one team last year’s Vezina Trophy winner hasn’t defeated? The Dallas Stars, who visit Verizon Center tonight.

Holtby is 0-3-0 in four appearances against the Stars — he did not receive a decision in one game. In addition, his save percentage (.852) and goals against average (4.42) against Dallas represent the worst numbers he’s posted against any single opponent.

So what gives?

In typical Holtby fashion, the unflappable netminder shrugged when his win-loss record versus the Stars was relayed to him following the morning skate.   

“We don’t play them very much,” he said. “Over the years, it hasn’t been too many times. I don’t know? We kinda struggled with them in their rink for a while. But that really doesn’t factor into it; I don’t think three games is a trend over the years. We’re focused on tonight.”

Added Coach Barry Trotz: “I didn’t even know that. To me, he’s going to play goal for the Washington Capitals, and he’s going to win a lot of games. And, at some point, he’ll beat every team in this league more than once. That’s how I look at it.”

The Stars have been a burr under the Caps’ saddle for a long time. Earlier this year, Washington ended a nine-game drought against Dallas with a 4-3 overtime win at American Airlines Center. Jay Beagle scored the game-winner 19 seconds into the extra session; backup goalie Philipp Grubauer got the win.

Tonight, Holtby and the Caps will look to end another drought…and extend a historic streak.

Washington has not defeated Dallas here since Nov. 30, 2006. (The Stars have won the last five meetings on F Street.)

The Caps, meantime, are looking to stretch their franchise-record home winning streak to 16 games.

And, oh yeah, Holtby will get the chance to check that final team off his list.

“They obviously have a dynamic offensive group, so it’s a matter of keeping them in their own end,” Holtby said. “They are going to get some chances and we need to make sure the ‘D’ and goaltending step up.”

Asked what it would mean to him to have wins against every opponent, Holtby said: “It would show consistency, I guess. But I don’t really think about that too often.”

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All of the round robin scenarios tied to Capitals vs. Flyers

All of the round robin scenarios tied to Capitals vs. Flyers

If you're a Capitals fan, you may be tired of hearing about how these round robin games "matter." With the other teams playing actual playoff series, it's hard to view the round robin games the same way. While there may not be as much on the line Thursday for the Caps and the Philadelphia Flyers (4 p.m., NBC Sports Washington) as there is in the qualification series, that doesn't mean Thursday's game doesn't matter. With only three round robin games, there is a lot riding on this game.

Here are the standings heading in:

Tampa Bay 4 points (2 games played)
Philadelphia 2 points (1 game played)
Washington 1 point (1 game played)
Boston 0 points (2 games played)

With that in mind, here are all the possible scenarios for the Caps in Thursday's game.

If the Caps win in regulation...

Washington will finish ahead of Boston, but can still finish in first, second or third overall. The Caps will finish in first if they beat Boston on Sunday AND Tampa Bay loses in regulation to Philadelphia on Saturday.

If the Caps win in overtime or a shootout...

The scenario is exactly the same as above. Washington will finish ahead of Boston, but can still finish in first, second or third overall. The Caps will finish in first if they beat Boston on Sunday AND Tampa Bay loses in regulation to Philadelphia on Saturday.

It doesn't matter if the win is in regulation, overtime or a shootout. Just win baby.

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If the Caps lose in overtime or a shootout...

Washington could finish in second, third or fourth place, but will be out of the running for first. The Caps will earn second place if they beat Boston in the round robin finale AND Philadelphia loses in regulation to Tampa Bay on Saturday.

If the Caps lose in regulation...

The highest Washington could finish is in third place. The winner of Sunday's Boston-Washington game will determine who is in third and who is fourth.

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T.J. Oshie shows you don't always have to have a letter on your chest to be a leader

T.J. Oshie shows you don't always have to have a letter on your chest to be a leader

When T.J. Oshie took to the ice on Monday for the round robin game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, he did so with an "A" on his chest. With John Carlson out, his A went to Oshie. It was not a major talking point before the game and was mentioned only briefly afterward by head coach Todd Reirden. Oshie taking the A wasn't a major storyline not because no one cared, it was because no one needed Oshie to wear a letter to know he was a leader.

In the second period against the Tampa Bay, Oshie dropped the gloves with Tampa Bay forward Yanni Gourde in the second period while the Caps were down 2-0 and struggling to find any intensity in their game. Less than five minutes later, the game was tied at 2. It was the clear turning point of the game and helped the Caps earn a point in a game that looked like it was getting away from them.

"He has an A on his jersey without Carlson and clearly a leadership move right there and the results speak for themselves," head coach Todd Reirden said. "He does a tremendous job with our leadership group and that was another signal of the type of person he is, the character he has.”

The energy Oshie brings to a team is evident. You can watch his interviews, see his interactions with his family or even check out the butt tap. That type of energy is contagious and goes a long way towards loosening a team up and giving them confidence in key moments.

"He is a great teammate and everything he does inside the locker room on a daily basis that everyone doesn’t get to see," Nicklas Backstrom said, "He is always positive, comes in with a lot of energy."

He added, "[Oshie] brings everything to the table."

But it's not just about what he does off the ice that makes him a leader.

Oshie has fought before, but no one would label him a "fighter." It's not something he does not do often -- his last fight came back in May of 2018 against Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang -- but he did it when the team needed it on Monday and that's what makes Oshie a leader.

If the team needs a goal, Oshie scores. If the team is in a shootout, Oshie always goes. If the team needs a fight, he drops the gloves.

That fight against Letang? It came in the final minute of Game 4 in the second-round series against the Penguins. After that game, Washington would not lose to Pittsburgh again.

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When it comes to talking about the Caps as a contender, we can talk about the skill they have, the size, the speed, etc., but there's something else to consider: The leaders. The fact that the Caps can turn to someone like Oshie to wear the A when needed is a sign of the amount of leadership on the roster. And that's not even including guys like Braden Holtby, Lars Eller or Tom Wilson, a player many believe will be the next C after Ovechkin.

In terms of leaders, Washington is full of them.

And that's evident when a player like Oshie steps onto the ice wearing an A and no one notices. That's because he's always been a leader and it doesn't take wearing a letter for his teammates to recognize it.

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