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Chimera takes aim at Bettman


Chimera takes aim at Bettman

The Capitals were supposed to be finishing up their preseason schedule this weekend with home games against the Nashville Predators Friday night and the Detroit Red Wings Sunday.

Instead, seven Capitals hit the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Thursday, Day 19 of the NHL lockout, waiting for the first slate of regular season games to be canceled. The Caps were scheduled to open the season Friday, Oct. 12 at home against the New Jersey Devils.

With no negotiations scheduled and each side still waiting for counter-proposals, it could be months before the NHL is back in action.

Its up to the owners, Capitals veteran left wing Jason Chimera said. They keep saying we need to come back with a proposal. It seems like were the only ones making concessions right now.

Its tough for the regular fan to get into it because its billionaires against millionaires. But ultimately they want to take 17 percent off our paychecks and they wont back down from that. Weve made proposals in their direction every time.

In the expired Collective Bargaining Agreement, NHL players took in 57 percent of the leagues hockey-related revenue. In his initial proposal, commissioner Gary Bettman cut that figure to 43 percent before eventually raising it to 47 percent. The players most recent proposal has their share of revenue never falling below 52 percent.

I think we would have had a deal done if they hadnt started off with that initial proposal they made, Chimera said. The initial proposal was absurd. It was just a slap in the face.

Most players were optimistic when we heard we got a proposal and when they threw that at us a lot of guys were kind of shocked and bewildered. Why would they do that? Its their choice for locking us out. We could be playing in a weeks time. Thats the kicker. We said all along wed hammer it out while we play.

On Thursday Chimera was joined by forwards Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Ribeiro, Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks and defensemen John Carlson and Mike Green. Defenseman Karl Alzner, in town for a fund-raising event, watched from the bench.

Two fans watched from the stands.

Its going to have a very big impact on the game when you start losing games, Chimera said. At this time of year the stands are usually packed with people. Thats not the case. People just arent thinking about hockey and it hurts the game, big-time. We were just gaining popularity in the States and its a shame to lose that over something that should be hammered out.

Deep down, Chimera says he believes an agreement will be reached within a month or two and that an abbreviated season will begin before the turn of the calendar. Until then, most of his disappointment is directed at Bettman, who is on the verge of losing regular season games for the second time in his tenure.

The NHL's last lockout wiped out the entire 2004-05 season.

I think there will be a season, Chimera said, but players are pretty adamant. The players are pretty unified. I dont know if Gary thinks a lockout is another tool to help him. Hes the only guys in sports who seems to like lockouts.

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Burakovsky is back in for Game 6

Burakovsky is back in for Game 6

Coach Barry Trotz indicated that Andre Burakovsky’s benching wouldn’t last long.

And it didn’t.

The 23-year-old winger will return to the lineup on Monday night as the Caps look to stave off elimination in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final.

During the morning skate, Burakovsky skated on the third line with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly—a trio that’s enjoyed some success in the past.

It’s been a difficult postseason for Burakovsky, who has not recorded a point in six games. He missed 10 contests after suffering a hand injury in Game 2 of the first round that required minor surgery.

What he found out upon returning was this: coming back from injury in the regular season is hard...and it’s exponentially tougher in the playoffs.

“It’s definitely tough to jump in in the semifinal,” he said. “When you’re out, you just want to get in and help the team and do what you’re good at—score goals and produce.”

“What I realized is that it’s not that easy,” he added. “I really thought I could jump in and just play like I did before I got injured. 

But obviously it didn’t work out as well I thought it would.”  

Burakovsky also said that he’s planning to work with a sports psychologist this summer in an effort to maintain an even keel when things aren’t going as well as he would like. It’s a problem that he said he’s struggled with since his childhood.

Asked what he hopes to see from Burakovsky in Game 6, Coach Barry Trotz kept it simple: offense.

The Caps have scored just two goals in each of the last three games, with Evgeny Kuznetsov contributing 50-percent of that total.

“He’s a guy that’s given us some good offense all through his time here,” Trotz said of Burakovsky. “We think that he can add some of that.”


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5 keys for the Caps to win Game 6 and force a decisive Game 7 against the Lightning

5 keys for the Caps to win Game 6 and force a decisive Game 7 against the Lightning

The more you look at Monday's Game 6 between the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning, the more you realize this game is the most important game of Alex Ovechkin's career.

This is the first time Ovechkin and Co. have made it to the conference finals and it is the first time this postseason in which the Caps face elimination.

Here are the keys for the Caps to staving off elimination and forcing a Game 7:

1. Get off to a better start

It took Tampa Bay just 19 seconds to score in Game 5 and the score was 3-0 nothing before the Capitals really began to show any signs of life. They cannot allow the Lightning to jump all over them in the same way and take the crowd out of the game early.

With the game being in Washington, the Caps will have the crowd on their side. Use it.

The Caps have been at their best this series playing the trap, holding their own blue line and countering against Tampa Bay's aggressive defensemen leading to odd-man breaks. That's a hard gameplan to run if you're playing from behind. Scoring first would go a long way for Washington.

2. Stay out of the penalty box

Washington has given up six power play goals to Tampa Bay on just 15 opportunities in this series. That means the Lightning's power play is producing at a blistering rate of 40-percent. That's an insanely good power play rate and that may be putting it mildly.

So far, the penalty kill has had no answer for how to shut down a Tampa Bay unit that features Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov setting up for one-timers and being quarterbacked by Victor Hedman. That's a formidable cast.

If you can't beat it, then there's only one solution: Stay out of the box.

Despite everything that went wrong in Game 5, the one thing the Caps did right was not give up many penalties. They took only one on the night and even that one was avoidable as Brett Connolly got caught holding Brayden Point trying to get around him to get the puck.

3. Win the top line matchup

The Lightning have found success matching their fourth line against Ovechkin. Of his six points this series, only two of them (one goal, one assist) have come at 5-on-5. That's not good enough.

It's gut check time. The Caps need their best players to be at their best and that means Ovechkin has to win the matchup against Chris Kunitz, Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan. In Game 5, Tampa Bay's fourth line actually outscored Ovechkin's line in 5-on-5 play 2-0.

Washington will not win this game if the fourth line outscores Ovechkin's line. It's just that simple.

4. Take advantage of the power play opportunities

The Caps scored at least one power play goal in Game 1 and Game 2, both wins. They have not scored any since and have lost all three games since. They scored on three of seven opportunities in the first two games and zero of seven opportunities in the last three.

Not a coincidence.

Granted, they did not draw any penalties in Game 5, but it seems unlikely the Lightning will stay out of the box for another sixty minutes. At some point, they will take a penalty and when they do, Washington must take advantage.

5. Win the goalie matchup

Not much attention has been paid to Braden Holtby in this series. The Caps are not facing elimination because they have been getting bad goaltending, but when the Lightning needed Andrei Vasilevskiy to steal them a win and up his game to get them back into the series, he responded.

Vasilevskiy has been brilliant the last three games as he has turned aside 100 of the 106 shots he has faced for a .943 save percentage. For the series, Holtby has a save percentage of only .883.

Again, Washington is not down 3-2 in the series because of goaltending. Holtby has faced far fewer shots than Vasilevskiy and has been just about the only thing that has worked against Tampa Bay's lethal power play.

But as one of the team's top players, the Caps need Holtby to step up the way Vasilevskiy has. Game 6 will be about winning by any means necessary. If that means they need a hat trick from Ovechkin so be it. If that means they need Holtby to steal it for them, so be it.

Holtby has to be just as good as Vasilevskiy in Game 6, if not better, for Washington to come out on top.