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Caps Summer Series: Top locker room stories

Caps Summer Series: Top locker room stories

Do you feel like the summer is too long to go without hockey? So do we! To give you your hockey fix and to pass the time from now until the start of next season, CSN proudly presents the Caps Summer Series, a series of five episodes that will broadcast on CSN in July.

The third episode, CSN’s best features, premieres Saturday at 9 p.m. on CSN (channel finder). Check out the teaser clip above!

The episode will feature the best stories CSN has brought you about the Capitals away from the ice. To get you ready, here is a sneak peek into the locker room from Capitals correspondent J.J. Regan. These are his favorite moments he saw in the locker room that did not make the headlines.

Nate Schmidt always makes ‘em smile

Whatever you may think of Schmidt as a player—whether you see him as a top-four defenseman poised for a breakout or a glorified depth player—what’s not up for debate is the fact that he is just a great human being. That really shined through in Caps Fight Cancer Day. The event brought in kids from Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic and paired each one with a player. The participants waited for their player partner in the locker room at Kettler after practice. You may remember that day because of Addy who turned into a good luck charm for her partner, T.J. Oshie.

Professional athletes can be pretty intimidating to little kids. Nate Schmidt's partner was a very young little girl who was a bit overwhelmed by the whole event. As he entered the locker room, she sat on the floor as her mom explained to Schmidt that she was a little shy. Schmidt being Schmidt, he sat on the floor with her in almost full gear from practice. He took a puck and rolled it to her. She smiled and rolled it back. They did that for a few minutes until she began to relax and open up. A few minutes later, she and a few other kids were climbing all over Schmidt’s back as he lay pinned on the floor, big smile on his face. Schmidt really embraced the event and did everything he could to make that little girl comfortable. It was a heart-warming site.

RELATED: Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Caps Summer Series

Jockeying for votes

To celebrate election day, the Caps hosted their own Election Night giving fans the chance to vote to determine the bobblehead giveaway for later in the season. The choices were Braden Holtby, Tom Wilson or Justin Williams. On election day, the Caps hosted the San Jose Sharks and held a morning skate at Kettler. As I was in the locker room talking to players about that night’s game, I noticed the team’s PR staff was asking several players which bobblehead they would vote for and filming the response to play on the video screen during the game. Just to give you some background on morning skates, as the players have to be at Verizon Center just a few hours later, most are in a hurry to leave. Some players will be out of the locker room before the media is even admitted in. On that day, however, Holtby, Wilson and Williams all seemed to stick around longer than normal and it soon became clear why. Every time a player announced who they would vote for, they would hear it from the other two. It was all in good fun, but I think all three of them wanted to win the vote. As a quick aside, the fact that Williams didn’t win this is a travesty.

Don’t tread on Ovechkin

Every sport has its own norms and traditions. One that is particularly important in hockey is that you never step on the team logo. The Capitals’ locker room at Verizon Center has the team’s secondary eagle logo on the floor in the middle of the room. It is cordoned off, but if it gets crowded with lots of media, sometimes someone can accidentally find themselves stepping on part of the logo. During the playoffs I was in a scrum around Ovechkin following a game. Ovechkin was answering a reporter's question then stopped mid answer. “Excuse me?” he said looking past the crowd of media surrounding him and then again a little louder. He had noticed someone was stepping on the logo. Usually when that happens, a PR representative will ask the person to move. I cannot remember another situation the entire season when a player asked someone to move, but Ovechkin did. He stopped mid answer to ask the person to get off the logo. He then went on to finish the question. After years of falling short of a Stanley Cup, there are a lot of questions about Ovechkin and his ability to lead the team as the captain. There are reasonable points to be made on both sides of the argument and I am certainly not trying to point to this story as the definitive proof that he deserves to wear the C,  but if you want to argue that he does not care about the team or about being a leader, I can tell you that’s simply not true. He cares way more than you may think.

MORE CAPITALS: Newest Cap snags picture with Floyd Mayweather

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

las_vegas-sign-no_caps-stanley_cup_final.jpg
Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

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