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Caps 'create havoc' for the Rangers


Caps 'create havoc' for the Rangers

Locked in a goaltending duel, the Caps turned to an unlikely hero to break the scoreless tie and give the Caps the edge in their series against the New York Rangers. Jay Beagle's goal in the second period proved to be as critical as it was bizarre, giving the Capitals the 1-0 win in Game 3.

It did not look like this would be Washington's night early on. The Rangers, well known for their fast starts and impressive road record, came out swinging from the opening puck drop.

"We would’ve liked to get out to a little better start, but we got on our heels a little bit," Troy Brouwer said. "They did a good job coming out hard. They’re real good at starting games off with some good pressure."

The Rangers looked well on their way to taking control of the game if not for the efforts of Braden Holtby. The Caps' netminder faced 30 total shots on the night, 11 in the first period and managed to turn them all aside, out-dueling his counterpart Henrik Lundqvist.

"I could sit here all day and tell you things about Holtby," Brouwer said, "How good he is, how good he's been for us. Tonight was no different. He made the saves that we needed him to make."

The shutout was Holtby's second-career playoff shutout.

Holtby's stellar night would not have been enough, however,  without Jay Beagle's second period tally.

RELATED: Behind masterful performance from Holtby, Caps take Game 3 1-0

In the second period, Brouwer and Andre Burakovsky attacked the Rangers down low on the forecheck. Burakovsky was able to take the puck and find Beagle in the slot. Lundqvist made the initial save, but Beagle followed the puck behind the net and banked it off of defenseman Keith Yandle into the net.

"I just was trying to create havoc," Beagle said. "I got a good shot in the slot there. [Burakovsky] gave me a nice pass and [Lundqvist] made a good blocker save and I just tried to comeback around and put it on net because I knew guys were crashing there and tried to wrap it around. Got a little lucky and it went in."

A goal from the third line was just what the doctor ordered for a Caps team that had become reliant on their top lines in the first two games.

"We're going to need some new heroes every night," Barry Trotz said, "It's going to be someone different for us. That's how we have to get it done. That line has been buzzing and had some chances and some looks and [the puck] hasn't gone in, [but] the harder you work, the luckier you get."

The goal was a big one not only because of the game situation, but because the team was able to see what of its hardest workers rewarded for his blue collar play.

"If you watch the bench I think the team gets more excited when Jay scores than anybody else on the team," Brooks Laich said. "Just a good, honest, hard-working guy. Great teammate, great friend."

"He prides himself on more than scoring goals being good on the PK being good on the faceoffs," Brouwer said, "But for him to breakthrough get a goal and get us a win tonight, it’s a good feeling for him and for the rest of us."

Up only 1-0, the Caps then turned back to their brick wall in net to finish off the Rangers. Holtby did just that, standing tall in the midst of New York's desperate third period attack.

Now with the 2-1 series lead, the focus must quickly shift to Wednesday night's Game 4, a game the Rangers will desperately need to win in order to avoid the 3-1 hole.

"We’ve got to prepare for a very tough team in two days here," Brouwer said. "We know the Rangers are going to come back real hard and try to tie the series up."

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Key Caps questions: How will Samsonov look in his first season in North America?

Scout Pruski

Key Caps questions: How will Samsonov look in his first season in North America?

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: How will Ilya Samsonov play in his first season in North America?

What else is there to say about Samsonov's time in the KHL? In the limited action he saw playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, he looked every bit the starting goalie the Caps hoped he would one day be when they drafted him in the first round of the 2015 draft. Now, finally, he is ready to start his North America career.

What makes the transition from Europe to North America difficult?

First, Samsonov is adjusting to a new country and a new language. Second, the workload in North America is much larger, even in practice.

"He probably saw more shots today than he saw in a month of practice in Russia and this was nothing," director of player development Steve Richmond said during development camp. "For me, that's the biggest thing for him is to learn how to practice in North America."

And then there's the rink size. The game is faster for goalies in North America because of the smaller rink. Scoring chances develop much more quickly and Samsonov will also be dealing with different angles. It also means dealing with a lot more traffic in front of the net. He is going to have to learn more how to track the puck through a screen and to react much more quickly.

I tried to watch Samsonov closely in development camp. His size definitely stood out. He takes up a lot of the net, but is still very athletic and very quick in and out of the butterfly. As big as he is, however, he seems to play very low to compensate for his size which leaves him vulnerable up high at times. He would make a handful of very good saves, then let in a soft one glove side or in the corners because he was playing too low.

Those areas of his game can be improved on with practice so long as you have the skill and Samsonov certainly has that.

Samsonov has been elite at every level he has played and there is no reason to think that won't continue in the AHL. Having said that, there is just too much he needs to adjust to expect him to be ready for the NHL at this point. He needs as much playing time as possible at the AHL level before he is ready. As long as that's where he spends the season, I expect him to put up similar numbers to the 2.31 GAA, .926 save percentage he managed last season in the KHL.

Other key Caps questions:

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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.