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Capitals leave Coliseum with empty feeling


Capitals leave Coliseum with empty feeling

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- When the Capitals look back on Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders in their final game at Nassau Coliseum, they will remember the decibel level, the deafening chants of “Yes, Yes, Yes,” and the 78 glass-rattling hits.  

But mostly, they will remember the missed opportunities they created while generating 39 shots on New York goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

Like the 2-on-1 by Nicklas Backstrom and Joel Ward that ended with Halak getting his catching arm on Ward’s shot early in the game. Or the clear look by Alex Ovechkin from the high slot that sailed wide right. Or the yawning net in front of Marcus Johnsson that he failed to hit.

The Capitals and Islanders were two very even teams on Saturday and because the Isles were one shot better -– Nikolay Kulemin’s game-winner midway through the final period proved to be the difference -- they will go at it one more time on Monday night at Verizon Center.

“You’ve got two very determined teams,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “Two teams that are well prepared. Two teams going nose to nose. It’s a heavyweight bout, that’s what it is.”

If that’s the case, the Caps couldn’t stay off the ropes enough in Round 6, letting the Isles hang around just long enough to win it. 

“We knew they were going to come out hard and they did,” said Caps defenseman John Carlson, who scored a power-play goal in the closing seconds of the first period. “I thought we did a good job coming out of the first period 1-1. We had a bunch of chances to make it 2-1 and we didn’t. We didn’t finish that well.”

The Capitals outshot the Islanders 16-9 in the opening period but were outshot 17-10 in the second. The two teams exchanged chances in the final period, but Kulemin took advantage of a busted play to slip a forehander behind Braden Holtby for his first goal of the series.

“We had a couple looks, but they had too many looks,” Trotz said. “I thought we were too loose in a few areas around the net. When they had some quality chances Braden was good, and when we had quality chances Halak was good.”

In the end, Trotz said, the Islanders used the energy and desperation of their crowd to push the series to its limit.

“At the end of the day, the desperation level of the Islanders was just a little bit higher than ours,” Trotz said. “We’re in a winner-take-all situation.”

Carlson said there is nothing the Islanders can show them on Monday that they haven’t already seen.

“We know what we’re getting ourselves into,” he said. “We know they’re a team that forechecks hard. We know they skate and can move the puck and they’ve done that. We’ve got to do a better job slowing them down out of their zone and through the neutral zone. And we’ve got to bury our chances. I feel like we had a ton of them.”

And because they didn’t cash in, the Caps and Isles will roll the dice one more time for a chance to face the rested and supremely confident New York Rangers in Round 2.

MORE CAPITALS: Chimera in brief altercation with Islanders fan

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Oddsmakers give three Capitals the chance to win MVP in 2018-19

Oddsmakers give three Capitals the chance to win MVP in 2018-19

There are no signs of Alex Ovechkin slowing down heading into his first season after winning a Stanley Cup. Bovada just released their latest odds for the Hart Memorial Trophy (the NHL’s Most Valuable Player Award) and Ovechkin was tied with the third-best odds to win in all of the NHL at 10/1.

He was joined by two other Washington Capitals, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov both at 50/1 odds. 

Here are all the odds for the top 11 players:

Connor McDavid          10/3
Sidney Crosby              13/2
Auston Matthews        10/1
Alex Ovechkin               10/1
Jon Tavares                   10/1
Taylor Hall                     15/1
Nikita Kucherov            15/1
Nathan MacKinnon      15/1
Mark Scheifele              15/1
Anze Kopitar                  18/1
Evgeni Malkin                18/1

The only two players ahead of ‘The Great 8’ are the 21-year-old McDavid and dreaded rival Crosby.

Even with the immense amount of alcohol that has been consumed in the past two months, Ovechkin is still commanding respect in Vegas. It is hard not to when he turns around these intense offseason workouts. At 32, Ovechkin led the NHL in scoring with 49 goals a year ago, the seventh such time he has done so. 

Already the 2018 Conn Smythe winner has three MVP trophies to his name (one more than Crosby) and there is no telling what to expect now that the 11-time All-Star has a Stanley Cup title. 

In his 11 years in the league, Backstrom has never received any votes for the Hart Memorial Trophy. Kuznetsov only has done so once and that was in the 2015-16 season. 


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Key Caps questions: What rookies will have an impact next season?


Key Caps questions: What rookies will have an impact next season?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals correspondent JJ Regan is here to help you through the offseason doldrums as he discusses key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: What rookies will have an impact with the Caps next season?

In the team's push for the Stanley Cup the last few years, the Capitals brought in several veterans through free agency and trades to bolster the roster. As a result, there was not much room for the team's prospects. Last season, however, Washington took a very different approach.

Nine rookie players suited up for the Caps for at least one game in the regular season in 2017-18, the most the team has played since the 2013-14 season. Six rookies also played at least one game in the playoffs. Washington dressed zero rookies in the postseason in each of the two years prior. In fact, that is the most rookies Washington has used in a postseason in franchise history. 

To say the Caps won because they used their young prospects more so than before would be a gross oversimplification, but clearly there was value to adding cheap, young, talented players to the lineup.

But by returning virtually the same roster as last season, there will be little room for rookies to make a similar impact in 2018-19.

Here's a projected roster of the Caps' opening night lineup:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson - Nic Dowd/Travis Boyd - Devante Smith-Pelly

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos - Madison Bowey

Braden Holtby
Pheonix Copley

Barring injury, there's just not much room there for the young players to break in.

Of the players who still qualify as rookies, the ones to watch are Boyd, Nathan Walker, Shane Gersich, Liam O'Brien, Riley Barber, Jonas Siegenthaler and Ilya Samsonov.

The most obvious answer to the question is Boyd. Jay Beagle's departure leaves a spot open at fourth line center and Boyd would be my pick for the most likely player to fill that role.

The addition of Nic Dowd means Boyd may be the only rookie forward to make the team on opening night. Barry Trotz usually kept only one extra forward and defenseman on the roster, but we do not know if Todd Reirden will have a similar outlook. If there is another spot open, Walker, Gerish, O'Brien and Barber will be in the running. I am not sure I see Walker becoming an every day NHL player, but I could see him coming on as a 14th guy since the Caps have a little bit of breathing room under the salary cap. The same does not go for Gersich who has a higher NHL ceiling. Even though he jumped right into the NHL last season, it is much more likely he goes to the AHL this year to take a large role in Hershey rather than to play scattered minutes in Washington.

O'Brien and Barber also make this list because the clock is ticking for them. Both are 24 and both have spent several years in the organization. They need a strong training camp to prove they belong in the NHL or they risk being viewed less as prospects and more as lifetime AHLers.

Like the offense, the defense also seems pretty set. Of the team's defensive prospects, Siegenthaler is probably the most NHL ready, but I have a hard time believing he will supplant any of the seven defensemen in training camp.

And that brings us to Samsonov.

Samsonov will make his North America debut this fall playing in Hershey. Brain MacLellan has been adamant that Samsonov will be starting in the AHL in order to adjust to the North American game. Just how quickly he can adjust, however, may determine if he earns a jump to the NHL at some point next season.

Samsonov is widely seen as Washington's future in net. While there is no reason to rush him, it is not hard to envision him supplanting Pheonix Copley as the backup should Copley struggle. But first, he has to play well in Hershey.

While the Caps look set throughout the roster, injuries always leave open the possibility for a player to get called up and play his way into a full-time role. As of now, however, it looks like there is not much room for the team's rookies this season, other than Boyd.

Other key Caps questions: