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Caps clinch Metropolitan Division, conference and Presidents' Trophy in shutout victory

Caps clinch Metropolitan Division, conference and Presidents' Trophy in shutout victory

Final score: Washington Capitals 2, New York Rangers 0

How it happened: Neither team was able to generate much offense in the first half of the game, but the Caps opened up a shooting gallery late in the second period on their fourth power play opportunity of the night. Alex Ovechkin took advantage, sending a shot between the legs of Kevin Klein and into the net. Evgeny Kuznetsov made it 2-0 in the third with a two-on-one goal and the Rangers didn't have any fight left.

What it means: The win clinches the Metropolitan Division and Presidents’ Trophy for Washington. That guarantees the Caps home-ice throughout the playoffs and a first-round matchup with the Eastern Conference’s second wild card team. They have now won the Presidents’ Trophy three times in the past eight seasons and are just the sixth team to win the award in consecutive seasons. The win also extends Washington’s new franchise record for home wins in a season to 32.



Caps goal: Justin Williams (power play) from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin at 14:39 in the 2nd period. The Caps moved the puck along the right side of the zone on the power play drawing the penalty killers over. Kuznetsov made a cross-ice pass to Ovechkin in the office. He didn’t catch it cleanly, but with no defensemen anywhere close, he had plenty of time to aim and shoot. The eventual wrister traveled through the legs of Kevin Klein and off of Williams into the net. Caps 1, Rangers 0

Caps goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov from Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson at 5:42 in the 3rd period. Johansson took the puck up on a two-on-one with Kuznetsov. Brendan Smith decided to go for Johansson which left Kuznetsov wide open for the mini-breakaway goal. Caps 2, Rangers 0

3 stars

1. Evgeny Kuznetsov: Kuznetsov assisted on the first goal and scored the exclamation mark to really put this one out of reach. Considering his struggles last postseaosn, it is encouraging to see him get points on the board this close to the end of the season.

2. Alex Ovechkin:  Ovechkin loves playing against Henrik Lundqvist. He may be one of the best netminders in the NHL, but Ovechkin always seems to have his number. It was true again on Wednesday. It looked like Ovechkin scored again on Lundqvist, but after the game, the goal was credited to Williams and Ovechkin was given the assist. Still, I doubt the Great 8 will complain.

3. Braden Holtby: The Caps netminder earned his league-leading ninth shutout of the season as he turned aside all 24 shots he faced from the Rangers. That is another big step towards earning the William M. Jennings Trophy which is awarded to the goalie of the team that allows the fewest goals against in a season. The Caps already led Columbus by five (179 to 184) coming into Wednesday's game.

Look ahead: The Caps wrap-up the regular season with a back-to-back over the weekend. They play in Boston on Saturday and return home Sunday to host the Florida Panthers.

Tell us what you think: Winning two consecutive Presidents' Trophies puts the Caps in pretty rare company. Is that a noteworthy accomplishment to you are does nothing matter but the Stanley Cup?

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In a surprise twist, Barry Trotz takes The Hot Lap ahead of Game 7

In a surprise twist, Barry Trotz takes The Hot Lap ahead of Game 7

TAMPA—Head Coach Barry Trotz skated the hot lap prior to Wednesday’s Game 7 at Amalie Arena, taking over the superstitious tradition from captain Alex Ovechkin.

Why the change?

The Caps lost Game 5 here on Saturday. And when the Caps lose on the road—the only place where the morning-skate-starting hot lap takes place—a new skater is selected.

The weird tradition began in the first round at Nationwide Arena in Columbus when Jay Beagle grew tired of waiting for the ice to freeze over following a fresh Zamboni cut. Beagle's teammates implored him to wait a little longer for the ice to cure, but he grew impatient and took it upon himself to kick off the skate by racing around the rink, a la the fastest skater competition at the All Star Skills competition.

Ovechkin took it over prior to Game 6 in Pittsburgh because the Caps had lost Game 4 at PPG Paints Arena.

Ovechkin proudly carried on the tradition as Washington won three in a row—Game 6 in Pittsburgh and Games 1 and 2 of this series vs. Tampa Bay.

Following the Caps’ 3-2 defeat in Game 5 here, though, it was expected that a change would be made.

And on Wednesday morning the baton changed hands, with the least obvious of all the Caps busting his 55-year-old hump around the rink much to the delight of his players and assistants.


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Regardless of what happens in Game 7, these are not the 'same old Caps'

Regardless of what happens in Game 7, these are not the 'same old Caps'

These are not the same old Caps.

Heading into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Monday, there was a lot of handwringing around Washington and with good reason. The Capitals were facing elimination for the first time this postseason. Of course the fans were on edge; no one wanted this run to end.

But even though the Caps are competing for the conference crown and have gotten past their archrivals to get here, the refrains leading into Game 6 were the same ones we’ve heard from past years.

 “They don’t want it enough.”

“There’s no heart.”

“Totally outcoached.”


And perhaps most damning, “Same old Caps.”

Stop it already.

Seriously, how can anyone have watched this postseason and walked away thinking this is the same Caps team?

Does no one remember the start of the season? Some people didn’t even think they would make the playoffs. Others were advocating the team trade Alex Ovechkin and start over. Yet here they are.

Finally, finally they got past the second round hump. They beat the Pittsburgh Penguins—ending their two-year reign as Stanley Cup Champions—and handed Mike Sullivan his first ever series loss as the Penguins head coach.

And no, Mike Wilbon, just because they made it past the second round doesn’t mean it’s OK to lose in the Conference Finals. But considering how they got there, they showed they have at the very least changed the narrative surrounding the Capitals.

Washington lost the first two games of its series against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round and went on to win four straight to advance. In the second round, they faced the two-time defending champions, a team they had beaten only once in the playoffs in franchise history and a team that had not lost a playoff series since 2015.

And they won.

And yet, people are acting like nothing changed with the Caps. Why? Because they lost three in a row to Tampa Bay?

OK, you've got a point. What kind of a team loses three straight in the playoffs? Hard-nosed teams with tough coaches that play the right way like Columbus or Anaheim wouldn’t let that happen to them. Oh, actually Columbus lost four in a row to the Caps and the Ducks got swept in the first round. Never mind.

Well, certainly not a team with a championship history like the Los Angeles Kings. Oh wait, never mind, the got swept by Vegas. Bad example.

Well, surely an original six team with a championship pedigree like the Boston Bruins would never let that happen. Oh yeah, they lost four straight to the same Tampa Bay team.

OK, OK, but were any of those teams really contenders this year? I mean, none of those teams were as good as Winnipeg and they won’t let themselves lose three in a row in the playoffs.

That’s because they lost four straight to Vegas in the conference final.

You see where this is going, right?

It just boggles the mind that anyone could see the game plan Barry Trotz put together in Game 6 in Pittsburgh, without three top-six forwards including Nicklas Backstrom, and win in overtime and still complain that he is always outcoached in the playoffs. He certainly wasn’t outcoached in that game or that series.

It’s baffling that anyone can see how Washington rallied past Columbus after losing Game 1 and Game 2, recovered from a disastrous Game 1 to Pittsburgh and won the first two games in Tampa Bay against a favored Lightning team and complain that this team “doesn’t want it enough.”

Chokers don’t advance to the third round. Chokers don’t beat the two-time defending champions when no one else could. Chokers don’t force seven games against a Tampa Bay team that finished off both of their prior series in just five games.

Just stop. Find a new storyline to push because this one is lazy and played out. It’s been done.

Don’t get me wrong, losing four in a row after winning Game 1 and Game 2 on the road would have really stung. With the history this team has, the fact that they finally got past Pittsburgh gave this team a feel of destiny. If they go on to lose Game 7 and end their run without a Stanley Cup or even a conference crown to show for it, that would be disappointing. No question about it.

But to say these are the “same old Caps” if they lose to Tampa Bay? That’s ridiculous. They have already put those demons to rest. Three straight losses to the Lightning don’t change that and neither will whatever happens in Game 7.

Regardless of what happens on Wednesday, whether the Caps win or lose, no one should come out and say these are the same old Caps. They have already proven that’s not the case.

Those Caps are gone. Now let’s see how far these Caps can go.