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Is fighting on its way out of the NHL?


Is fighting on its way out of the NHL?

Tuesday's game against the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers had all the makings of a rivalry matchup. The Caps squared off against the team that eliminated them from the playoffs in their last three appearances. While the Caps and Blueshirts traded goals, one thing they did not trade was punches.

“Our team, it’s not something we’ve been doing the last couple years," said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. "Fighting is always going to happen if you’re playing a rival team if there’s a cheap shot and stuff like that. It’s gonna happen."

Is it?

In the first period of Tuesday's game, Alex Ovechkin took a stick jab to the groin from Rangers' defenseman Marc Staal.

Rivalry game? Check.

Cheap shot? Ovechkin thought so.

And yet, no fight. In fact, the Caps have not had a fight in any game this season and they're not alone.

RELATED: Jakub Vrana undergoes wrist surgery

The Caps are one of four teams without a fight this season in what has become a growing trend for NHL teams. According to, through 180 NHL games this season there have been only 40 fights. The league is on pace for only 273 fights this season at a rate of one fight for every five games. That would be the lowest total since the site began tracking fights in the 2000-01 season.

Teams are just not dropping the gloves like they used to.

"I think if you look up and down the lineup there’s not many guys who are strictly fighters anymore," Brooks Orpik said. "The lineups are different that way. It’s just the way the game is played."

Seemingly gone are the days of the Donald Brashears, enforcers who could fight and contribute little else. The NHL is becoming faster and more skilled and that's forcing teams and general managers to change the way they construct their rosters.

“Really, it’s a question for general managers on how they want to build their teams and what they foresee their identity being," Brooks Laich said. "I think the guys that are still around that can throw the fists can also play very well and have some sort of role. It doesn’t mean other guys are scared to drop the mitts. There just aren’t guys who leave their stick in the locker room and go out there."

Tom Wilson has proven that he's not afraid to mix things up, but was told by Barry Trotz heading into the offseason that he needed to "elevate his game." He has to be able to do more than just fight. As a result, the scrappy winger who racked up 172 penalty minutes last season has only eight thus far.

If fighting is truly on its way out of the NHL, what sort of impact will that have on the sport's popularity? Fighting has undeniably been one of hockey's major draws. Can a league already struggling to keep pace with the NFL and NBA really afford for teams to abandon fighting?

"I don’t see too many fans turning away from the game because there’s not as much fighting," Orpik said. "I know some people argue that will be the case but I don’t think the game has been any better than it is right now."

MORE CAPITALS: Holtby shoulders blame for loss to Rangers

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short. 


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Capitals listed as underdogs in their first Stanley Cup since 1998

Capitals listed as underdogs in their first Stanley Cup since 1998

The odds have never gone the way of the Washington Capitals.

After years of being the common pick to finally break through and win the Stanley Cup, this was most definitely not the year.

Yet, here we are with the Capitals as one of the final two teams standing.

For their upcoming Stanley Cup Final, the Caps are the underdogs against the Las Vegas Golden Knights.  The opening line from OddsShark has the Golden Knights as -135 money line favorites to win the Stanley Cup. The Capitals were listed as +115 underdogs.

Vegas (the betting entity, not the team) has not exactly been the most reliable this year though. After all, the Golden Knights were 100/1 odds to win the whole thing. Now they are four games away.

In their past two series, Washington was not the favorites. The Capitals have not been favorites since the First Round against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

For years in the Alex Ovechkin era, they have been the favorites to not only go on to play for the Stanley Cup but winning it.

In 2018 they started the season tied for the fifth best odds to win the Cup (14/1), one of their lowest opening marks in the past decade. For the full perspective, Washington was tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs and behind the Dallas Stars at the start of the season.

Without question this underdog role has fit them quite well, they shouldn’t want anything to change heading into the biggest postseason series in 20 years for Washington D.C.