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Caps have been smothering Rangers' stars


Caps have been smothering Rangers' stars

During the regular season the New York Rangers were third in the NHL in goals per game [3.02] and the Capitals were sixth [2.89].

But in the playoffs, the Rangers are averaging just 1.88 goals per game, while the Caps are at 2.10.

Why? Everyone on the ice is just a little more desperate.

In the Capitals’ 1-0 win in Game 3 on Monday night, the Rangers generated 69 attempts at the net. Thirty of them found their way to Braden Holtby, while 27 were blocked and 12 more missed the net. Defenseman Matt Niskanen led all players with seven blocks, while Mike Green and John Carlson each had five.

“I look at the urgency of our players,” Carlson said. “I think [Monday] night we had a couple big blocks from our forwards, too, and those are the ones you really look for.”

Capitals coach Barry Trotz mentioned a key block by Alex Ovechkin that led to a breakaway and a selfless block by Marcus Johansson that saved a goal.

The Capitals’ ability to force the Rangers to the outside, along with Holtby’s quick reflexes, has started to frustrate some of New York’s star players.  

Through three games in the series, which the Caps lead 2-1, the Rangers’ top line of Rick Nash [one assist, even], Derick Brassard [1 goal, even] and Marty St. Louis [1 assist, even] has scored just one goal on a combined 29 shots. Nash had five shots blocked in Game 3.

“You have to fight a little bit more in the paint,” said St. Louis, who has no goals and two assists in eight playoff games. “It's really hard to get our shots through.”

Nash has just one goal in eight playoff games and in 49 career playoff games he has just six goals.

[MORE CAPITALS: Capitals, Rangers too even to call after 3 games]

“This is a results oriented business,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “You can play real well and do the right things with and without the puck on both ends and in the neutral zone.

“At the end of the day, you expect Martin St. Louis to find the back of the net. You expect Rick Nash to find the back of the net. You expect Derrick Brassard to help those two guys and himself find the back of the net. The quality of the goaltending that we're seeing and the quality of the defensive play from both teams, there are not a lot of Grade A chances.”

Quick on the draw: Caps centers Jay Beagle won 10 of 12 faceoffs and Nicklas Backstrom won 15 of 20 in Game 3 as the Caps held a 69 percent edge on draws. Derek Stepan lost 13 of his 16 draws, while Brassard lost 15 of 22.

Caps coach Barry Trotz credits the countless hours after practice that assistant coach Blaine Forsythe has worked with the team’s centers.

“We’ve been good with it all year,” said Caps coach Barry Trotz, who saw Backstrom and Beagle win a pair of key defensive zone draws in the closing minute of Monday night’s win. “Forget about the defense, it’s calming for the coach. Just like anything, you want to be assertive in what you do.”

Andre the [future] Giant: Caps rookie Andre Burakovsky earned the first playoff point of his career on Beagle’s first playoff game-winning goal in Game 3. The lanky 6-foot-3, 198-pound left wing played an assertive brand of hockey with three hits.

“He doesn’t have the man strength yet,” Trotz said with a smile. “He’s still got that boy strength. And that’ll come. That’s just the maturity of a player.”

What’s next: The Caps have a chance to go up 3-1 in the series when they meet again Wednesday night at Verizon, where the Caps are 4-1 in the post-season.

“We know they’ll be coming, but we’ve got to push back instead of just waiting for them to come.” Johansson said.

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Capitals listed as underdogs in their first Stanley Cup since 1998

Capitals listed as underdogs in their first Stanley Cup since 1998

The odds have never gone the way of the Washington Capitals.

After years of being the common pick to finally break through and win the Stanley Cup, this was most definitely not the year.

Yet, here we are with the Capitals as one of the final two teams standing.

For their upcoming Stanley Cup Final, the Caps are the underdogs against the Las Vegas Golden Knights.  The opening line from OddsShark has the Golden Knights as -135 money line favorites to win the Stanley Cup. The Capitals were listed as +115 underdogs.

Vegas (the betting entity, not the team) has not exactly been the most reliable this year though. After all, the Golden Knights were 100/1 odds to win the whole thing. Now they are four games away.

In their past two series, Washington was not the favorites. The Capitals have not been favorites since the First Round against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

For years in the Alex Ovechkin era, they have been the favorites to not only go on to play for the Stanley Cup but winning it.

In 2018 they started the season tied for the fifth best odds to win the Cup (14/1), one of their lowest opening marks in the past decade. For the full perspective, Washington was tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs and behind the Dallas Stars at the start of the season.

Without question this underdog role has fit them quite well, they shouldn’t want anything to change heading into the biggest postseason series in 20 years for Washington D.C.


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How the Caps upset the Lightning to win the conference championship

How the Caps upset the Lightning to win the conference championship

It wasn't supposed to happen.

The Capitals celebrated too hard after beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Second Round. The Tampa Bay Lightning had been here before. Tampa Bay's roster was deeper. Their goalie was hotter. They had home ice advantage. They had easily won their first two series. Nicklas Backstrom was still injured. Washington wouldn't be able to stop the Lightning's power play.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

For all of those reasons, many did not even give the Caps a chance. Washington overcame every obstacle in their way and was, for the most part, the better team through seven games defeating Tampa Bay to win the Eastern Conference for just the second time in franchise history.

The Capitals showed in their second-round win over the Penguins that these weren't the "same old Caps." They continued to prove that in the conference final when they stunned the Lightning to win Game 1 and Game 2 both on the road.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

When Washington lost the next three, many thought that meant the real Lightning had awoken, but it was the Caps who rose to the occasion in Game 6 and Game 7 where they face elimination as they completely dominated Tampa Bay by a combined score of 7-0.

The Caps now advance to take on the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final. The Knights have lost only three games this entire postseason and will hope to carry that momentum with them into Game 1.

If there is one thing this Washington team has proven, however, it's that you should never count them out.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.