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Chorney goes from losing the dream to living it

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Chorney goes from losing the dream to living it

Six months ago, Taylor Chorney was beginning to wonder if he would be perpetually stuck in the minor leagues. A 27-year-old defenseman with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, he had played 400 of his 461 pro games in the AHL and had reached what Capitals coach Barry Trotz called a “tipping point.”

“I don’t want to say you lose the dream, but you probably do a little bit,” Trotz said. “And he didn’t.”

On April 4, injuries to Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen Olli Maatta, Kris Letang and Christian Ehrhoff forced the Penguins to recall Chorney from the Baby Pens, in part because his contract came at the NHL minimum, and he never came out of the lineup.

“We were fighting for a playoff spot and a few of those games we only had five defensemen and I was forced to play more minutes than I normally would,” recalled Chorney, who will make his Capitals preseason debut tonight in Montreal against the Canadiens.

RELATED: Is Grubauer ready to take next step for Caps?

Chorney played in the Penguins’ final five games of the regular season and averaged more than 14 minutes a game. He followed with a strong playoff performance against the New York Rangers, averaging more than 17 minutes while finishing the post-season even on the plus-minus ledger.

“Getting a chance to play in the playoffs was awesome and I kind of hoped there were enough people watching where maybe I would get a new opportunity,” Chorney said.

The Caps were one of those teams and on July 1 they raised a few eyebrows by signing Chorney to a one-year contract worth $700,000. It was the first one-way contract of Chorney’s career, meaning he will be paid $700,000 whether he plays for the Capitals or the Bears.

“His tipping point came at a very key moment,” Trotz said. “I think he said, ‘I can play here. I played in the playoffs and didn’t feel out of place. I can play in this league every day.’ You can just tell. A player can be reborn a little bit. Joel Ward got that second shot and has played pretty good hockey for the last couple years. Taylor Chorney could be one of those guys.”

Drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the second round of the 2005 NHL draft, Chorney played his college hockey at his parents’ alma mater, the University of North Dakota, where he established a strong relationship with newly acquired Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie, his Sioux teammate from 2005-08.

But while Oshie’s NHL career skyrocketed after leaving UND, Chorney has spent most of his past five seasons in the AHL.

“Chorns is one of the best teammates you’ll find,” Oshie said. “He’s a great locker room guy. He’s a little more educated about the league than I am. He’s friends with everyone.

“On the ice he battles hard, he’s a great skater and he does a very good job of getting the puck out of our end quick. I know there’s a fight at the back end of our D corps and I think he’s going to make a good run. But there are some good players here. We’ll see. I’m definitely excited to have him here. He’s a guy you want going down the stretch to have on your team.”

Trotz has identified 26-year-old Ryan Stanton, who played 54 games for the Vancouver Canucks last season, and 21-year-old Connor Carrick, who played last season in Hershey, as two of the other blue liners competing for the role of seventh defenseman.    

“I like (Chorney),” Terotz said. “I like the way he moves, I like his personality. I like the way he practices. There’s a lot of good things to like about Taylor. Stanton’s been pretty solid, to, and Carrick is playing with a lot of confidence right now. I’m going to let them fight that out.”

Chorney said he realizes that having a one-way contract guarantees him nothing more than an increase in pay, especially at a time when established NHL veterans like Derek Roy, Brad Boyes and Curtis Glencross are on tryout contracts.

“I’m so thankful it worked out the way it did,” he said. “You see guys that have had unbelievable careers and have proven a lot more at this level than I have. For me to have the opportunity I’ve got, I couldn’t be more thankful for it.  

“I’ve been grinding for a while and I’ve been on two-ways forever now. But to get a chance to get a one-way is pretty cool for me. It doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything. I’ve still got to come in and make the team. Now I’ve got to make good on the investment.”

MORE CAPS: Trotz: Backstrom eyeing return for season opener

 

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

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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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