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Caps' newcomers make presence felt in first game


Caps' newcomers make presence felt in first game

After yet another devastating playoff loss, you would believe some of the enthusiasm surrounding the Capitals would begin to wear off. Yet, heading into the new season, there was renewed optimism yet again in Washington due in large part to the offseason acquisitions of Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie. Though their first game was far from perfect, they clearly made their impact felt with their new team.

Williams recorded two assists and Oshie chipped in with four shots on goal, tied with Ovechkin for the team high, to help lead the Caps to a 5-3 season-opening win over the the New Jersey Devils.

"We're still working and it's not perfect yet," said Ovechkin about his new linemates of Oshie and Evgeny Kunzetsov, "but I'm pretty sure we're going to be fine and we're going to be good."

"It was just a real choppy game," Williams said. "Certainly nobody's in midseason form yet, but stuff we can clean up."

RELATED: Ovechkin too much for Devils in opener

Despite all the excitement surrounding Oshie teaming up with the Great 8, it was Williams who got on the scoresheet first.

While on the penalty kill, John Carlson attempted to dump the puck deep, but it went right to Williams who skated it  into the offensive zone. With three Devils bunching around him, Williams found the trailing Chimera with a backhanded pass and then skated to the net. Chimera tried to pass it back to Williams but it was tipped past goalie Keith Kinkaid by Devils defenseman Jordin Tootoo giving Williams his first point, an assist, as a Cap.

Oshie may not have gotten on the scoresheet, but did display more of the toughness that quickly endeared him to the fans in the preseason.

Early in the first period, Oshie took the puck behind his own net and spotted New Jersey forward Brian O'Neill close on his heels. Rather than trying to out-skate him around the net, Oshie instead squared him up and laid him out with a beautiful shoulder check. It is that mixture of skill and toughness that makes him such an intriguing addition to the top line.

"Both had their moments," said head coach Barry Trotz. "Both had their moments when they were really good and there were some moments where I think they could be better and that's a new team, a new setting. I think that's just normal."

As the game went along, it was evident that the players were already adjusting to their new linemates as the Caps slowly began taking control.

"Our line didn't play well for maybe two periods but in the third we [period] we started moving the puck and we controlled the puck," Ovechkin said.

One adjustment the newcomers will happily make is getting used to playing along side a superstar like Ovechkin. When asked about Ovechkin's third-period goal that put the Caps up 3-2, Williams smiled and said, "If he can do that every time we're tied in the 3rd period, that'll be fine."

MORE CAPITALS: Must see: Ovechkin with a spectacular goal to start the season

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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues pull even with Sharks with 2-1 win

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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues pull even with Sharks with 2-1 win

The St. Louis Blues' two-goal first period powered them to a win over the San Jose Sharks, and the series is now tied.

The Blues started with a goal 35 seconds into the game. Ivan Barbashev picked off a Brent Burns exit pass and flung it towards the net for the games opening goal. 

Barbashev is the second Blues player to score in the first minute of a game these playoffs. Jaden Schwartz is the other player.

Tyler Bozak scored the game-winning goal for the Blues on a power play off a scramble in front of the net.

The Sharks responded when Thomas Hertl poked the puck past the goal line after Jordan Binnington thought he had the puck covered. Hertl now has 10 goals this postseason for the Sharks, and the team now features 10 or more players to score 10+ goals in the playoffs for the second time in franchise history.

Binnington's 29 save performance gave him his 10th win of the playoffs, the most of any Blues goaltender in franchise history.


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Soccer could be the key to fixing the NHL's video replay and officiating problem

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Soccer could be the key to fixing the NHL's video replay and officiating problem

In Game 3 of the Western Conference Final, just about everyone in the world saw San Jose Sharks forward Timo Meier bat the puck with his hand to teammate Gustav Nyquist in the offensive zone. Nyquist then passed the puck over to Erik Karlsson who scored the overtime winner. It was a goal that never should have counted because of the obvious hand pass.

The St. Louis Blues players saw it, the fans saw it, everyone at home saw it. Heck, even the NHL saw it, as Meier was credited with an assist on the play.

The only four people who did not see it, however, were the four people who mattered most. Both referees and linesmen missed it and no hand pass was called.

The hand pass was obvious after watching the replay, but per NHL rules, hand passes are not reviewable. The goal stood and the Sharks won what felt like a tainted game.

Officiating and video review have become a major topic of conversation during the 2019 postseason after several botched calls on the ice that could have easily been overturned upon review. No one wants to see the game slowed down by multiple lengthy reviews, but this postseason is a clear indication that more video review is needed. When referees are making series-altering decisions that anyone can see from a quick replay is incorrect, that’s a problem.

In the wake of the controversies we have seen this postseason, there are bound to be many suggestions over how the NHL can expand video replay to get this right. The problem with every suggestion – and the reason many detractors do not want to see video review expanded – is the fear of unintended consequences.

The offside review, for example, was prompted by a goal scored by Matt Duchene in 2013 in which he was at least 10 feet offside. The rule was implemented to prevent plays like this. Instead, now goals are broken down frame by frame, pixel by pixel to see if a player’s skate may have been over the blue line even if that player had nothing to do with the play. Just ask the Colorado Avalanche, who had a game-tying goal in Game 7 of the second round this year erased because Gabriel Landeskog was headed for a line change and took too long to get on the bench.

The fear over slowing the game down and unintended consequences are legitimate, but they cannot be an excuse to not help the officials. Instead, the NHL has to find a system that limits reviews to catch the egregious mistakes that are more black and white.

Luckily for the NHL, there is a sport that has a rule like this already in practice.

Most Americans do not follow soccer all that closely, but FIFA has had a videa assistant referee system (VAR) for years now. It was implemented for the 2018 World Cup and there is no bigger stage in world sports than the FIFA World Cup.

How does it work?

Each game has a video assistant referee who reviews calls made by the referee during the game. There are only four types of incidents that can be reviewed: goals, penalty decisions (meaning specifically penalty kick decisions), red card decisions and mistaken identity (if the wrong player is given a red or yellow card). While these rules limit what can and cannot be reviewed, they are also broad enough to encompass all significant instances of a game.

A similar system can be implemented in hockey that will eliminate what we all most want taken out of the game: egregious officiating mistakes.

Let’s say, for example, the NHL stipulates that every scoring play, major penalty and perhaps some of the more black and white minor penalty calls such as delay of game are now reviewable. First off, this system takes reviews out of the hands of the coaches. Coaches should not be in charge of whether or not a game is officiated correctly and a bad call should not be allowed to stand just because a coach does not have a challenge. Second, making all goals reviewable for any reason would allow for the easy denial of plays like Duchene’s obvious offside goal or the missed hand pass on Meier. That is what a VAR would be looking for, not if a player’s skate was a millimeter offside.

The insane standard to which offside is now called based on the offside challenge would essentially be gone if you stipulate in the rules that a VAR in hockey would have until the puck drops to notify the referee of a review. That would only allow for the VAR to watch for the more obvious calls. Third, if all you are looking for are the obvious calls, none of these reviews should take much time at all. Fourth, this would not take the human element out of the game. Referees must make subjective calls throughout the course of the game. The VAR is not there to argue if something is a soft call, he is there to inform the referee of the possibility that he just got a call flat out wrong.

By leaving situations in which plays can be reviewed as broad while also keeping the time in which a review can be called rather short, this would ensure only the really bad calls are fixed. In the end, that should be the goal.

The NHL desperately needs a video review system in place that can better help the referees. If the whole world can see Meier’s hand pass, the people with the ability to make the call should too. Yes, expanding review can open a Pandora’s box of unintended consequences, but soccer’s system has had success in both limiting bad mistakes by officials without overly slowing down the game. They have shown it is possible and have provided a blueprint in which the NHL desperately needs to follow.