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Friday Six-Pack: Who should be feeding Ovi?

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Friday Six-Pack: Who should be feeding Ovi?

NEW YORK -- It’s a sun-splashed day in Manhattan, where we bring you a playoff edition of our Penn Quarter Sports Tavern Friday Six-Pack, where we try to keep it real with your questions on the Capitals. Let’s get started:

Good question and I agree, to a degree. I can’t say this for certain because teams are not always forthcoming on injuries, but I think the switch from Mike Green to John Carlson on the Caps’ No. 1 power play unit had more to do with a shoulder injury to Green earlier this season. At that time, Green kept faking shot and passing to Alex Ovechkin and opposing teams were recognizing those tendencies and cheating toward. With Green’s hard shot a non-factor on the man-advantage, and with Carlson’s booming shot from the point a weapon, the Caps’ coaching staff decided to make the switch and have stuck with it. Back in March there was a great post on Japers’ Rink on the pros and cons of Green vs. Carlson.

Honestly, you could probably make a strong case for either defenseman. Green had the primary assist on eight of Ovechkin’s 25 power-play goals, while Carlson had the primary assist on six. Ovechkin often stays out for the full two minutes, so both Green and Carlson have had their cracks at it. I’m sure most would agree that after 10 years together, Green knows the pace and placement for Ovechkin’s wicked one-timer better than anyone, while Carlson is still trying to find ways to get pucks into Ovechkin’s wheelhouse. Carlson and Ovechkin have spent lots of time after practices setting up Ovechkin’s one-timers from the left circle but they are still a work in progress. If Green is strong enough to blast away, I think he’s the best option at the point because that threat keeps teams honest. But if Green’s shooting strength is compromised, Carlson is a better option because of that hard shot. Either way, it’s a nice problem to have.

First, a quick injury update. Knocked out of the first-round series against the New York Islanders on a Kyle Okposo hit in Game 3 on April 19 on Long Island, Fehr did not join the team in New York for Game 5 and appears to be unavailable for Game 6, if necessary, as well. The guess here is that Fehr could be cleared sometime in the middle of next week, which would make him available for the Conference Finals, if the Caps are able to dispose of the Rangers. As for who comes out of the lineup, my first guess would be Curtis Glencross, who played a heavier and more effective Game 4 in the Caps’ 2-1 win.

The problem with making room for Fehr is that it could disrupt the Killer Bs line of Andre Burakovsky, Jay Beagle and Troy Brouwer. Beagle has been a monster on faceoffs in the Rangers series and it makes sense to keep him at center on that line. If Fehr is strong enough to take faceoffs, I’d start him on a fourth line with Brooks Laich on the left and Tom Wilson on the right. If Fehr is uncomfortable taking draws, I’d keep Laich there and put Fehr either at right wing [sitting Tom Wilson] or left wing [sitting Glencross].

I like that you put “easier” in quotation marks because there are no easy opponents in the playoffs. That said, it always seems harder to get out of the first round than any other. Hose series seem to go the longest. To your question, despite the Montreal Canadiens' season-saving 6-2 win over the Lightning in Tampa on Thursday night the Bolts still hold a commanding 3-1 series lead and can close out the series Saturday night in Montreal. Heading into the playoffs I thought the Caps would be better matched against the Lightning than the Habs simply because I thought goaltender Carey Price would give them more trouble than Ben Bishop. I still believe that, even though before Thursday night's blowout loss, in which he was pulled after allowing five goals, Bishop won seven of 10 playoff games. Even with the lopsided loss, the 6-foot-7 Bishop ranks third among playoff starters with a 1.86 GAA, behind only Braden Holtby (1.48) and Henrik Lundqvist (1.84).

Here’s why I think the Caps are better suited to play the Lightning than the Canadiens. During the regular season the Caps won two of three from the Lightning, outscoring them 12-9. All 12 of those goals came against Bishop, who had a 3.37 GAA and .899 save percentage against the Caps in the regular season. Nicklas Backstrom led the Caps in the season series with three goals [a hat trick on Dec. 13] and three assists, while Alex Ovechkin had two goals and three assists. The Lightning improved their blue line with the additions of Anton Stralman and Braydon Coburn and they’re tougher to play against with former Rangers Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle, but I think you’d see a tremendous series with Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos going head-to-head. As for the Canadiens, the Caps went 1-2 against them in the regular season, managing just one goal against Price in their two losses. I think a Caps-Canadiens series would mimic a Caps-Rangers series, with low-scoring games dominated by he goaltenders. Montreal does not have the firepower of Tampa, but their overall team defense would make it difficult on Ovechkin and Company. Long story short, I’ll take the Lightning.

Last year, former Caps goaltender Semyon Varlamov signed a five-year, $29.5 million contract [$5.9 million per year] to remain with the Colorado Avalanche and you can make the argument that Holtby, who currently is making $1.85 million, is worth more than that. How much more is difficult to gauge. The Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist is currently the highest-paid goalie in the NHL at $8.5 million, followed by Nashville’s Pekka Rinne [$7 milllion], Boston’s Tuukka Rask [$7 million], Montreal’s Carey Price [$6.5 million], Carolina’s Cam Ward [$6.3 million], Vancouver’s Ryan Miller [$6 million] and Chicago’s Corey Crawford [$6 million].

The body of work of all of those goalies is greater than Holtby’s, but with each playoff series victory, $500,000 is probably being added to Holtby’s asking price. Because he’ll be a restricted free agent, the Caps could offer Holtby a “bridge” contract that takes him through the first year or two of unrestricted status, but I think they will make a long-term commitment in much the same way they did with defensemen Matt Niskanen  [seven years, $40.25 million] and Brooks Orpik [five years, $27.5 million]. I always seem to guess lower than true market value, but if you pinned me down, based on comparables, I’d put Holtby at around seven years, $48 million or $6.85 million. 

I agree the Caps won’t be able to keep Green and Gleason, especially after breaking down Holtby’s anticipated payday. Unless Green takes a drastic pay cut from his $6.1 million there’s little chance the Caps can keep him, especially when another team is likely willing to pay him at least $6.5 million, and he deserves it. A lot can happen between now and July 1, but if Gleason proves to be a valuable addition to the Caps’ blue line for the remainder of the playoffs I actually think he could re-sign with the Caps if they can keep him in the $1.5 to $2 million range. I say that because the Caps will want some toughness on that third pairing next season if they plan on Nate Schmidt filling the skates of Green.

The X factor in all of this is Dmitry Orlov. If the Caps believe his left wrist is durable enough to withstand a full NHL season, they can let Gleason walk. If there are questions about Orlov, and right now you have to think there are, then maybe you sign Gleason or another veteran UFA  and cover your bases. Either way, I don’t see the Caps breaking in two rookies on the back end next season. Schmidt is the most likely candidate to get full-time work, while Connor Carrick continues to develop in the AHL and Madison Bowey gets his first taste of AHL action with the Bears.    

The Islanders were so focused on hitting the Capitals that they got away from what makes them so dangerous, their team speed. In all honesty, the Capitals should have taken advantage of injuries to the Islanders’ blue line and taken them down sooner than they did. As for the Rangers, they have more skill up front, better talent on the back end and better goaltending than the Islanders, but find themselves on the brink of elimination. You could make the argument that with the first four games decided by one goal, the Rangers could be just as easily up 3-1 than down 3-1, but playoff hockey comes down to this: The team that makes the fewest mistakes AND gets the more timely saves moves on.

The Caps forced Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh into the giveaway he made at the offensive blue line, which allowed Andre Burakovsky to score the game-winning goal in Game 4. Those are the kind of plays that win playoff series and the Caps have made more of them than the Rangers so far. The Caps have also forced everything to the outside and are getting in shooting lanes and that has frustrated the Rangers more than they’ll say. I do believe the Capitals’ “heavy” brand of hockey has been too much for the Rangers’ speedy forwards and their third defense pairing of Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle, each of whom have been hit hard and often in this series.   

MORE CAPITALS: Gleason on fight with Glass: 'It's hockey, man'

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Dmitrij Jaskin's year goes from bad to worse as his former team prepares to play in Stanley Cup Final

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Dmitrij Jaskin's year goes from bad to worse as his former team prepares to play in Stanley Cup Final

Dmitrij Jaskin had a tough year. He played in only 37 games for the Capitals and scored only two goals and six assists. He seemed to struggle to earn the trust of head coach Todd Reirden and did not play a single game in the playoffs.

A tough year just got a little bit worse for Jaskin as now he will watch his former team, the St. Louis Blues, play in the Stanley Cup Final starting Monday.

Jaskin was a member of the Blues through training camp, but was a surprise addition to the Caps’ roster just one day before the start of the regular season. Frustrated with his lack of opportunities in St. Louis, Jaskin requested a trade and the Blues placed him on waivers. With Tom Wilson still awaiting word on how long his suspension would be for his hit to Oskar Sundqvist in the preseason, Washington claimed Jaskin off waivers for more forward depth.

Though Jaskin was an established NHL player with over 250 games of experience and 25 goals, he was used sparingly by Reirden. Jaskin seemed to play well when given the opportunity, but showed a lack of finish offensively that earned him the ire of the coaches. Any mistakes would see him taken out of the lineup completely.

“Obviously it was disappointing,” Jaskin said of his season. “I thought it would be better, but you always gain some experience from another season. It's over with and there's nothing I can do about it, just can get ready for next season and look forward to it.”

Though his individual situation was challenging, Jaskin looked like he was in a much better position for a deep playoff run than his former squad. The Caps were the defending Stanley Cup champions and would go on to win the Metropolitan Division while the Blues were in last place in the entire NHL as late in the season as Jan. 3. The two teams suffered a reversal in fortune in the postseason as Washington was bounced out of the first round by the Carolina Hurricanes. St. Louis eliminated the Winnipeg Jets in six games, won a Game 7 thriller in double overtime against the Dallas Stars and closed out the San Jose Sharks with three straight wins in the conference finals.

“I wish them all the best,” Jaskin said following the first round. “I think it's pretty impressive that they won against Winnipeg. Now, as you see, everybody's got the same chances. A lot of upsets this year and I think they have a pretty good chance to go far.”

Luckily for Jaskin, he did manage to find some playing time this summer in the World Championship tournament playing with the Czech Republic.  He has scored two goals and two assists in nine games and will play for the bronze medal on Sunday.

After that, his future remains unclear. Jaskin is a restricted free agent meaning the Caps will have a chance to retain his rights and his playing in Worlds seems to indicate he is secure in his position. At the same time, he was used sparingly enough throughout the season that whether the team will offer him a qualifying offer remains a question.

“I'll love to stay,” Jaskin said. “I love it here, guys are great and the organization and the city, everything's good. I would like to stay, but we'll see.”

For now, however, Jaskin will have to sit and watch to see whether his old team, the team he requested a trade from, will hoist the Stanley Cup.

“Obviously it's frustrating to not keep on playing and watch them play,” Jaskin said, “But as I said I wish them all the best and I think they have a pretty good chance.”

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

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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.