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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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How to watch the IIHF World Championship Finals: Date, Time, TV Channel, Lineups

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USA TODAY Sports Images

How to watch the IIHF World Championship Finals: Date, Time, TV Channel, Lineups

The 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship is coming to a close this Memorial Day weekend.

After two weeks, the sixteen team field has been narrowed down to four with the world championship now on the line in Slovakia. 

The two group winners, Canada, the top-ranked team in the world and 26-time IIHF Champions, and Russia, who rolled through the group stage with a 7-0 record and a +29 goal differential, are the favorites. Russia overwhelmingly has played like the best team in Slovakia, outscoring its opponents 40-10 behind Nikita Kucherov's 16 points in eight games.

The Russian/ Soviet Union team is the only team with more titles than the Canadians with 27 (five as Russia, 22 as the Soviet Union). 

Washington Capital Alex Ovechkin is playing for Team Russia. In eight games he's scored two goals and recorded an assist. 

Canada will face off against the Czech Republic, whose only loss came against the Russians in group play, with a spot to the Finals on the line. Russia will play Finland for the last spot in the gold medal match.

Three of the four teams remaining (Russia, Canda, and the Czech Republic) are the winningest teams in the IIHF's history. The four semifinalists have combined to win 67 of the 82 IIHF World Championships.

When is the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals?

The 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals will take place at 8:15 p.m. local time (2:15 p.m. ET) on Sunday, May 26. The bronze medal match will precede the gold medal match at 3:45 p.m. local time (9:15 a.m. ET). 

2019 IIHF World Championship Schedule:

There are only four matches left in the 2019 IIHF World Championship. The two semifinals, the bronze medal match, and the gold medal match.

SEMIFINALS:
No. 3 Russia vs. No. 5 Finland, 9:15 a.m. ET, May 25
No. 1 Canada vs. No. 6 Czech Republic, 1:15 p.m. ET, May 25

BRONZE MEDAL MATCH:
Loser of Semifinal No. 1 vs. Loser of Semifinal No. 2, 9:45 a.m. ET, May 26

GOLD MEDAL MATCH:
Winner of Semifinal No. 1 vs. Winner of Semifinal No. 2, 2:15 p.m. ET, May 26

How to watch or stream the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals:

All games at the IIHF World Championships will be broadcast on NHL Network.

Who is playing in the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals?

The 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals will be played between the winner of Russia (8-0-0)/ Finland (7-0-1) and Canada (7-1-0)/ Czech Republic (7-0-1).

Lineups for the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals:

Lineups for the 2019 IIHF Championship Finals will be announced on the morning of May 26. 

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The Blues turnaround from last place to the playoffs began with a blowout win over the Caps

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USA Today Sports images

The Blues turnaround from last place to the playoffs began with a blowout win over the Caps

When the St. Louis Blues woke up on Jan. 3, they were in dead last in the NHL. A 15-18-4 record gave them 34 points, less than teams like the Los Angeles Kings and the Ottawa Senators who would go on to finish the season as the two worst teams. Yes, St. Louis had played in only 37 games to that point, the fewest in the league, but finding a way to climb back into the playoff hunt seemed daunting and unlikely.

Now the Blues are the Western Conference champions and stand just four wins away from the Stanley Cup.

The Blues have been one of the best stories of the NHL season climbing from last place to the Stanley Cup Final. When looking back at St. Louis’ season, there are several moments one can point to as key moments in the turnaround. Craig Berube replaced Mike Yeo as head coach on Nov. 20 and goalie Jordan Binnington got his first start with the Blues on Jan. 7 and never gave back the crease.

But the turnaround really started on Jan. 3. On that morning, the Blues were in last place. That would be the last day they would find themselves there.

And it all started with a 5-2 win against the Washington Capitals.

On Jan. 3, St. Louis and Washington looked like two teams headed in opposite directions. While the Blues were in last place, the Caps were rolling with a 24-11-3 record, first in the Metropolitan Division. Washington came into St. Louis on a five-game road winning streak. As if that wasn’t enough, the Blues were also without sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.

And yet, what looked like an easy win for the Caps turned into anything but. Robert Thomas scored a deflection just four minutes into the game. Washington managed to take a 2-1 lead early in the second, but St. Louis rattled off four straight goals for the 5-2 win. With Washington down only 3-2 heading into the third period, the Blues but on a possession clinic outshooting Washington 14-2 in the final frame.

"We stayed aggressive," Alex Pietrangelo told reporters. "When we're playing in the O zone, the best way to play defense is to play in their end. We kept the puck, we moved the puck, we worked. Forwards were great tonight, protecting the center of the ice. It kind of took their playmakers out of the game."

The Caps’ first shot came 13 minutes into the third. By then, the Blues already had 12 shots and two goals.

Over the course of an 82-game season, teams will lose games against teams they shouldn’t. This felt different. Watching this game, you did not come away thinking the Caps played down to an inferior team. The Blues dominated that game and the Caps knew it.

“They were skating, competing harder, won races, more determined than we were,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “If we’re being honest about it, we didn’t have a very good game, and they played a pretty darn good game.”
More importantly, St. Louis realized it as well. They knew following the game that this was a win and a performance they could build on.

“I think we out-chanced them, so we're building here at even strength,” Pietrangelo said. “It's just a matter of keeping it at even strength and scoring goals. Tonight the goals weren't necessarily pretty but we created a lot of chances."
That night proved to be the first night of the turnaround. From Jan. 3 on, no team in the NHL earned more points than St. Louis’ 65, not even the Tampa Bay Lightning who won the Presidents’ Trophy with an incredible 128 points.

St. Louis was not expected to be bad this season. The team made a number of offseason moves to bolster the roster and many thought they could be real contenders, but they sure did not play like it through the first half of the season. It took a big win over the defending Stanley Cup champs to show them and everyone else just how good they really were. From that point on, they never looked back.

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