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Guess what Flyers fans told Alex Ovechkin

Guess what Flyers fans told Alex Ovechkin

Following Sunday’s post-game handshake between the Capitals and Flyers, which remains one of the most honorable traditions in professional sports, Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was skating off the Wells Fargo Center ice when several Flyers fans began screaming at him.

But it wasn’t what you (or he) might expect.

“Go beat the Penguins!” a fan yelled. Followed by another, and another. Until it became a mini-chant.

As a reward for surviving a six-game series that featured 403 hits (205 by the Flyers, 198 by the Caps) the Capitals get to face the Pittsburgh Penguins, who rolled over the New York Rangers in five games, outscoring them 21-10.

“It should be a lot of fun,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. “They’re hot right now. They were hot the whole end of the season. I watched a lot of their (first-round) series and they were good, scoring a lot of goals.

“It’s going to be a serious test from that team. It’s cool to stay in the state of Pennsylvania, not too far of a trip for us.”

The Capitals will be given the day off on Monday and are expected to begin preparations for the Penguins on Tuesday. The schedule for the second round is expected to be announced at the conclusion of Round 1, which could come as soon as Monday or as late as Wednesday, depending on the outcome of the Anaheim-Nashville series.   

Thanks to winning the Presidents’ Trophy the Capitals will open their second-round series against the Penguins at Verizon Center, with possible starting dates of Thursday orSaturday. (Justin Bieber is performing at Verizon Center on Friday).

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Caps right wing Marcus Johansson, who assisted on Nicklas Backstrom’s game-winning goal on Sunday. “I think the farther you get the more fun it gets. I can’t wait to get started. It’s the best thing there is, to play playoff hockey and keep going on.”

The Caps went 2-2-1 against the Penguins in their five regular season matchups. Sidney Crosby gathered one goal and three assists in the season series, while Alex Ovechkin was held without a point.

“Both are fast teams,” said Flyers left wing Jake Voracek, who was held to one goal in six games against the Caps. “It’s going to be a great series.

“I don’t know if I’ll watch because I need to rest up, but it’s going to be a great series. Two very good teams. Pittsburgh is playing well from what I saw. I’m not going to say who’s going to win or who’s going to lose. It’s too bad it’s not us.”

The Flyers put up quite a fight in their series against the Caps, with former Caps netminder stopping 101 of 103 shots. When the ice shavings settled and the two teams shook hands at center ice, all of the bad blood between the two teams seemed to melt away.

“Actually, a lot of guys were pushing us along, telling us to win,” Alzner said. “It’s funny, because you hate those guys so much when you’re playing them.

“You think everything they do is cheap. You’re friends with one guy and then all of sudden you won’t even wave to him when he walks by you. And then the handshake comes and it’s all good.”

Until the next series.

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Free Agency Bracket: Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

Free Agency Bracket: Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

It is almost time for NHL free agency to begin and the Capitals certainly have needs to fill and a limited budget. Who would be the best fit? Who would be the best free agent target for Washington to pursue? That’s what NBC Sports Washington wants to find out!

Our experts got together and made a bracket of the 16 best free agent fits. The bracket is divided into four regions: Third line forward, fourth line forward, depth defenseman and Caps’ free agent. Now we want you to tell us who you want to see rocking the red next year!

Every weekday we will match two free agents up against one another and present a case for each player. Then you get to vote and decide who advances!

Check out today’s semifinal matchup:

Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

2018-19 stats

Joonas Donskoi (27 years old): 80 games played for the San Jose Sharks, 14 goals, 23 assists, 37 points, 13:25 TOI

Playoffs: 12 games played for the San Jose Sharks, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 12:26 TOI

Carl Gunnarsson (32 years old): 25 games played with the St. Louis Blues, 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points, 15:15 TOI

Playoffs: 19 games played with the St. Louis Blues, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 14:57 TOI, won Stanley Cup

Hockey-Graph contract projections 

Joonas Donskoi: 3 years, $2,847,521 cap hit

Carl Gunnarsson: 1 year, $731,159 cap hit

The case for Joonas Donskoi

Maybe Andre Burakovsky’s qualifying offer of $3.25 million means he’s back with the Capitals for another year. But it doesn’t preclude a trade and in Donskoi you’d have a similar option at a cheaper price, which matters if you only have $9.2 million in cap space left for now.

Donskoi made the offense better in San Jose in whatever role he was asked to play. He can go up and down the lineup and had a consistency to his game that Burakovsky at times lacks. Donskoi’s stats may not always reflect that, but making his teammates around him better is a valuable asset. Either way, depth scoring is important and a priority for the Capitals. 

Donskoi has every bit the Stanley Cup playoff experience as Burakovsky does if that matters to you. Donskoi has nine goals and 12 assists in 50 playoff games and Burakovsky has nine goals and nine assists in 56 playoff games. Not much to chose between the team except Donskoi would be cheaper if Washington decided to trade Burakovsky. 

The case for Carl Gunnarsson

The Caps will need a No. 6/7 defenseman after Brooks Orpik retired on Tuesday. Yes, they gave a qualifying offer to RFA defenseman Christian Djoos and they have Jonas Siegenthaler under contract, too. Both are natural left side defensemen. Going with the kids is an option. But both of them? That becomes problematic when someone gets hurt in your top two pairings and players have to bump up. 

Gunnarsson was the hero of the “Boston Pee Party” when he scored the overtime winner in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final after declaring to head coach Craig Berube at the urinal he just needed one more opportunity. Gunnarsson had just seven points in the regular season so no one should expect a ton of offense, but the point is he delivered when it mattered most.

When he is not playing the overtime hero, he is a third-pairing, stay at home defenseman who can play on the penalty kill which is pretty much exactly what the Caps need in a depth defenseman.

Take a look at Gunnarsson’s contract projection. You can’t beat that price. Sure, those projections came out before he won the Stanley Cup, but even if his price goes up, it will not be significant. You’re tinkering at the margins of the roster here and championship experience matters. 

Who’s your pick? Vote here:

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Burakovsky receives qualifying offer from Capitals

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Burakovsky receives qualifying offer from Capitals

The Capitals tendered qualifying offers to six of their seven restricted free agents at Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline, including forward Andre Burakovsky. 

Burakovsky, 24, had been the subject of trade rumors up until the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 25 and also in the days leading up to last week’s NHL Draft in Vancouver. Nothing came of them. Washington general manager Brian MacLellan made it clear that while teams were calling, he wasn’t about to just give away a 2013 first-round draft pick. 

“We like the player. There's been some inconsistencies there, but when he's on his game, he's a good player,” MacLellan said last Thursday. “We'd like to keep him around but obviously his name is out there a little bit, so we do talk to some teams about him. But we're not going to move him unless we get something we're comfortable with back.”

But the Capitals are still in a salary cap crunch and that could still land Burakovsky elsewhere in the coming days. His qualifying offer is $3.25 million. Washington is only $9.235 million below the salary cap of $81.5 million. If Burakovsky signs, he would provide scoring depth. He has a career-high 17 goals and has scored 12 each of the past two seasons.

The Capitals do need to see more from Burakovsky. He has struggled with confidence and consistent production over the years. But if he returns, he would be a good option to replace the expected-to-depart Brett Connolly at right wing on the third line with Lars Eller and Carl Hagelin. Connolly is an unrestricted free agent and likely out of Washington’s price range. 

By tendering a qualifying offer, the Capitals ensure that they will keep Burakovsky’s rights. If they had not then he’d be an unrestricted free agent able to sign with any team. That’s not a smart use of an asset that could still help in 2019-20. They could, of course, still trade him at any time. 

Meanwhile, forward Dmitry Jaskin was not tendered a qualifying offer. He is a free agent now. Jaskin never gained the trust of the coaching staff last season. He appeared in just 37 games despite analytics that showed he had a positive impact on the fourth line. Jaskin picked up on waivers from the St. Louis Blues in October, had two goals and four assists. He did not play in the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

Winger Jakub Vrana also received a qualifying offer, but that’s not expected to matter much as the two sides try to put together a long-term contract extension after his breakthrough 24-goal season in his second NHL year. 

The Capitals did tender a qualifying offer to defenseman Christian Djoos. An ugly thigh injury that turned into compartment syndrome and limited him to 45 games. But with Brooks Orpik retiring on Tuesday, Washington could go with Djoos and Jonas Siegenthaler as their No. 6/7 defensemen on their natural left sides. 

Fourth-line winger Chandler Stephenson also received his qualifying offer. AHL Hershey forward Colby Williams and goalie Vitek Vanacek also received qualifying offers from Washington.  

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