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Friday Six-Pack: Time to panic?


Friday Six-Pack: Time to panic?

Our Friday six-pack has reached the end of the regular season. Thanks for all of the great questions this year. Let’s crack open this week’s: 

Of the 3 teams in the race for the playoffs (Bruins, Flyers, & Red Wings), who would you prefer the Caps to play 1st round? @Zack_Arts

For sheer entertainment value, I’ll take Caps-Flyers. If the Flyers win both of their final two games against the Penguins and Islanders, they will clinch the eighth spot and face the Caps in Round 1. Honestly, I don’t see that happening. The Flyers are not only running out of time, they’re running out of gas and are being forced to overuse Steve Mason, who is expected to get both ends of back-to-backs this weekend. (Although Michal Neuvirth is now cleared to play). Philly and Washington have not met in in a playoff series since 2008 and that was a barn burner, with Joffrey Lupul scoring in overtime of Game 7. Mike Richards chased Alex Ovechkin like a rabid dog in that series and now the two are teammates. Only one Flyer (depth forward R.J. Umberger) and two Capitals (Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom) remain from both of those playoff teams. If there is a downside to facing the Flyers it is that they would take a physical toll on the Caps if the series gets to a sixth or seventh game. There will be carnage. But if you ask me if I’d rather face Tuukka Rask, Jimmy Howard (or Petr Mrazek) or Steve Mason (or Michal Neuvirth), I’ll take that last duo.

any reasons to be/not to be worried in post season? @CottonEyeJones

I was on the “not worried” side of the fence for 78 games and carried the responsibility of talking nervous Caps fans off the ledge. But these last two games were a pair of red flags. First the Caps blow a two-goal third-period lead and fall to the Islanders in overtime, blowing a chance for Braden Holtby to get a taste of NHL history. It was the first time they had blown a two-goal lead in a third period since January of last year. And on Thursday they seemed one step slower than everyone on the Penguins, who raced out to a 3-0 lead. Granted, the Capitals proved they are never out of a game by roaring back to tie, but the fact it took them nearly two full periods to find their game concerns me. It’s also a concern that since clinching a playoff spot the Caps have lost six of 11 games and are dealing with their first three-game losing streak (0-1-2). Do I think the Capitals will beat any of their possible first-round opponents? Absolutely. Do I think they stand a good chance of beating their second-round opponent? If that’s the Islanders or Rangers, yes. If it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins, I’m a little worried.

RELATED: Penguins fans take over Smithsonian steps after OT win over Caps

what are the odds (Braden Holtby) gets the net vs the ducks if caps beat STL? @jaredbc

Zero. It was determined weeks ago that Holtby and Philipp Grubauer would split this weekend’s games and that’s not changing. It remains to be seen whether Holtby will start in St. Louis, where he could tie Martin Brodeur’s wins record (48) in front of Brodeur, who is an assistant general manager of the Blues. Ironically, Brodeur broke Bernie Parent’s record (47 wins) with Parent in the building in Philadelphia in 2007. In my opinion, considering the fact Holtby has lost consecutive attempts to tie the record with overtime losses, the Caps might look to avoid the sideshow in St. Louis and save Holtby for Sunday’s home game against the Anaheim Ducks.

When would the Caps begin the playoffs? Do you think they benefit or get hurt if any back-to-back games are scheduled? @terpinyc

Since the Caps’ season was extended an extra day because of the January snow storm and since the Wizards play Wednesday night at Verizon, the Caps will start no earlier than Thursday night. They could also get Friday-Sunday dates, depending on which games NBC would like to feature. Back-to-backs are unusual in the playoffs but I have seen them. The Caps have had 14 sets of back-to-backs entering this weekend. They are 12-2 in the front end of those back-to-backs and 9-4-1 in the back ends.  

what's the plan for Orlov in the playoffs? He can be great but can also be a tremendous liability. Weber time? MrESQ_VT

A lot depends on how things look this weekend. Since Mike Weber practiced with Dmitry Orlov on Friday and Taylor Chorney was with Nate Schmidt, my guess is that we’ll see one of those pairs on Saturday and one on Sunday. Since there seems to be a commitment of keeping John Carlson and Brooks Orpik together, there could be some concern about having Orlov and Schmidt as a third pair in the playoffs. That’s why we could see Weber and Orlov together as a pair in Game 1 of the playoffs, especially if the Caps face a physical team like the Flyers. I do think Orlov will start the playoffs regardless and that Schmidt MIGHT be a healthy scratch.

Hey Chuck, in a potential PHI vs WSH series, deep down, will you be cheering for the orange and black? (you can be honest) on a more serious note, who should get the lions share of credit for the caps success the past two yrs, GMBM or Trotz? @OV3CHK1NG

Thanks for the opportunity to answer the first part of this question because I’m asked it all the time. Yes, I covered the Philadelphia Flyers for 23 years and yes, I’ve gotten to know many of the players who played there over the years, including Justin Williams and Mike Richards. But as I tell everyone who asks, I am a fan of the game. I root for good games, not wins and losses. And I root for people that I like. When Justin Williams won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes, I was happy for him. When Richards and Jeff Carter won a Cup with the Kings, I was happy for them. And if the Caps win the Cup this season, I will be happy for everyone in the organization. So, in all honesty, I am rooting for an entertaining first-round series, regardless of the Caps’ opponent. As for who I think deserves more credit, Brian MacLellan or Barry Trotz, that’s hard to say because they work so closely together. That said, if Barry Trotz is not the coach of the Capitals, Brian MacLellan has a far more difficult task of convincing Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen to come to a team that missed the playoffs two months earlier. Orpik told me that he simply could not say no to Trotz when it came to signing with Washington. The same can be said for Justin Williams signing in D.C. Hockey players talk to one another around the league and Williams did his homework last summer, wisely choosing Trotz and the Caps over Michel Therrien and the Montreal Canadiens. The Capitals did the right thing by cleaning house two years ago and they were fortunate to have someone willing to say what needed to change (MacLellan) and someone capable of bringing about that change (Trotz).

MORE CAPITALS: Flyers, Bruins, Red Wings still in mix for Caps

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Despite late penalty, Todd Reirden doesn’t want to see Nathan Walker change his game

Despite late penalty, Todd Reirden doesn’t want to see Nathan Walker change his game

The Caps looked like they were in good shape in the third period on Wednesday. With a 3-2 lead in the final frame against a New York Rangers team that had played the night before, Washington looked like they were starting to wear down the blue shirts and tilt the ice in their favor.

But everything changed just before the midway point of the period.

Nathan Walker, in the lineup for the first time since Oct. 4, chased down Neal Pionk behind the Rangers net as Pionk went to collect the puck. Walker put his arms around the Rangers’ defenseman to slow him up and he was called for holding.

“That was the safest thing possible for me to do is to wrap him up and take him in the corner like that,” Walker said to NBC Sports Washington on Friday. “Personally, I didn't think it was a good call on the ref's side, but that's the way it goes.”

Just over a minute later, Chris Kreider deflected a shot that was going wide past Braden Holtby for the power play goal to tie the game at 3.

A third period mistake that tied the game from a player in and out of the lineup could have been a devastating moment for Walker, but head coach Todd Reirden was adamant after the game that he did not want Walker to lose his aggressiveness or change the way he plays as a result of Wednesday’s mistake.

“I insert him to be aggressive and his intensity was something we needed,” Reirden said. “I thought he won a lot of puck battles earlier in the game and at different points. He's pursuing the puck trying to force a turnover and it ends up as a call against. That's I think a tough call in that situation, but we're able to pick him up and if there's a guy on our team that we want to rally around and try to come back for, it's someone like that with a work ethic and just commitment and dedication and how he is as a teammate.”

Luckily for Walker, the Caps were still able to get the win thanks to Matt Niskanen’s overtime goal. Those were nervous moments for him watching as the team tried to overcome his mistake.

“It's definitely nerve-wracking for sure,” Walker said. “You kind of feel like you're the reason why they got back into the game. I personally thought we were all over them in the third period up until they got that goal. I think we still played really well, but obviously the play with the lead is a lot nicer than playing tied up 10 minutes to go in the third. It was nerve-wracking, but it was good that the guys came through and we got the two points at the end of the day so that's the main thing.”

The fact that Walker’s mistake did not end up costing the team will make it easier for Reirden’s message to sink in. It’s his aggressiveness that makes him valuable. One mistake should not make him change that aspect of his game.

Said Reirden, “It's something that if he stops hunting pucks and creating havoc up ice then he's just a very average player that's going to find himself in and out of the league.”



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Capitals vs. Panthers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Capitals vs. Panthers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Washington Capitals (3-2-1, 7pts) are coming off of an overtime thriller at home over the Rangers thanks to Matt Niskanen's crafty timing.

Through the first six games of the season, Washington is undefeated on Wednesdays, yet has failed to win consecutive games. The Caps hope to change that trend Friday night at home vs. the Florida Panthers (0-2-2, 2pts).

The Panthers have yet to win a game this season, with each of the four games being decided by just one goal. The Panthers have no problem scoring, netting at least five goals in two of the first four games, but have failed to seal the deal. This is where the defending Stanley Cup champions will need to capitalize.

Only the Maple Leafs (33) and Hurricanes (33) have scored more times than the Capitals (24). Washington has a clear advantage in firepower. The biggest key to victory is keeping the space in front of Braden Holtby clean as a whistle. If the Caps control their goalmouth, they should have no issues dispatching the Panthers.

Here is everything you need to know about the Friday night game, which takes place at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington. 


What: Washington Capitals vs. Florida Panthers

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: Friday, October 19, 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Capitals-Panthers will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

Live Stream: Watch Capitals vs. Panthers on the NBC Sports Washington live stream page and the NBC Sports MyTeams App.

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7, 106.7 The Fan FM


6:00 PM: Caps FaceOff Live
6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live
7:00 PM: NHL: Florida Panthers at Capitals 
9:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live
10:00 PM: Caps Overtime Live


Capitals: Travis Boyd (OUT, IR), Tom Wilson (OUT, Suspension)

Panthers: Michael Haley (OUT, Leave of Absence), Roberto Luongo (OUT, MCL injury), Mike Matheson (OUT, Suspension) 


Evgenii Dadonov, W, Panthers: Dadonov is leading the Panthers this season with two goals and two assists on the season.

John Carlson, D, Capitals: Carlson had a heck of a game vs. the Rangers Wednesday night with a goal and two assists. The Capitals worked on faceoffs in practice leading up to Wednesday night's game and all of the hard work paid off with Carlson's goal coming right off the faceoff from Backstrom. 


Number of all-time Meetings: 123

All-Time Series Record: 64-50-9

Playoff Record: N/A

Last Meeting: Panthers beat Capitals 3-2 (2/22/2018)

Last 10 Meetings: Tied 5-5