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If lockout drags on, will fans return?


If lockout drags on, will fans return?

A few days ago, Aurena Raines, Carter Chewning, Mike Wardand Chris Newman climbed into a car and made their weekly 60-mile pilgrimagefrom Spottsylvania to the Capitals practice facility in Arlington.Thinking the Capitals would hit the ice for an informal practicearound 11 a.m., when they arrived at Kettler Capitals Iceplex at 10:20 a.m.,they saw Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks tossing pucks into a bucket and skatingoff the ice. Aside from a few workers inside the Capitals retail storeand the Front Page snack stand, Raines, Chewning, Ward and Newman representedonly a handful of people in a quiet building that is usually bustling withfans.My buddies and I come up here all the time, said Raines, a60-year-old retiree from Spottsylvania who has owned season tickets for theCapitals the past four seasons. Were so upset about maybe not seeing this.Its going to be so depressing.The NHL lockout entered Day 7 on Saturday and with no formalnegotiations scheduled, fewer and fewer Capitals have hit the ice at Kettler. Asof Saturday, 57 NHL players had signed contracts to play in Europe,including Caps captain Alex Ovechkin and goaltender Michal Neuvirth.Its a no-win situation for fans, players, owners,everybody, said Mike Ward, a 65-year-old Caps season ticket holder from Stafford. But I think the fans miss it the most. For the owners, its a business. For the players its theirlivelihood, but they have options. For fans, unless you have a dish servicewhere you can pick up the KHL games or the Junior A games up in Canada, yourereduced to DVDs from a bygone era.Ward admits he is a rarity in this region. He grew up in Arlington and rememberslistening to the NHL Game of the Week on his radio in the 1950s. Back then nobody down here followed hockey, he said. The WashingtonColiseum at 3rd and M was the only place you could skate.Ward said he was thrilled when the NHL awarded a franchiseto Washingtonin 1974 and was a season ticket holder at the old Cap Centre in Landover. Hesaw hockey slowly take root in the D.C. region and witnessed the explosion offans that followed the arrival of Ovechkin in 2005.Hockey has caught on in the States, markedly I think, inthe last three or four years, Ward said. In the D.C. area Capitals owner TedLeonsis and the whole organization worked hard to get the fans here. Now, some of the fans I talk to are still bristling overwhat happened with the NHL lockout in 05 and I think its definitely goingto take a hit, particularly with teams that are really struggling like Phoenix. Teams that arehurting to get 8,000 to 10,000 fans, people are going to stay away. You know,out of sight, out of mind.Before the last lockout of 2004-05, the Capitals drew603,528 fans to their 41 regular season home games and ranked 25th inthe NHL with an average attendance of 14,720.Last season they drew 758,746 fans to their regular season homegames and ranked 12th in the NHL with an average attendance of18,506 or 101.3 percent to capacity.The big question is this: If the 2012-13 NHL lockout wipesout another full season, will fans in D.C. return?The diehards like me, we may have a bad taste in ourmouths, but we will come back as soon as its settled, Ward said. But thosewho are fringe or who are just picking up the sport -- out of sight, out ofmind.
Ward also holds the unfortunate opinion that the NHL isgoing to be forced to find out just how strong its fan base is.I think the lockout will be a long, drawn-out process, hesaid, because theyre so far apart.

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5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

After losing three straight, the Capitals battled back in Game 6 on Monday. With their 3-0 win, Washington forced the Eastern Conference Final into a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.

Here is how the Caps did it.

1. Braden Holtby matched Andrei Vasilevskiy save for save

Andrei Vasilevskiy was just as great in this game as he was in the three previous, but one of the major differences in this one was that Holtby was just as good. He may not have been tested as much (Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, Holtby 24), but he was big when the team needed.

In the second period with the scored tied at 0, Holtby made one of the most critical saves perhaps of the entire season when he denied Anthony Cirelli with the toe on a 2-on-1. When the Caps took the lead, Holtby really shut the door in the third period with 10 saves to cap off what was his fifth career playoff shutout and first shutout of the entire season.

2. T.J. Oshie’s timely goal

Over halfway into the game, it looked like it was just going to be one of those nights. Caps fans know it well by now. Washington outplays their opponent, they get chance after chance and develop a whopping advantage in shots, but they run into a hot goalie and a random play suddenly turns into a goal for the other team, game and season over.

Vasilevskiy was on his way to having perhaps his best performance of the series. Considering how he played in the three games prior to Game 6, that’s saying something. The Caps were doing everything right, but he continued to make save after save. Then on the power play in the second period, John Carlson struck the inside of the post, the horn went off and the roar of the crowd gave way to dismay as the referee waved his arms to indicate there was no goal and play continued. Just seconds later, T.J. Oshie gave the Caps the 1-0 lead.

You have to wonder if doubt was starting to creep into the back of the minds of the players when that puck struck the post as they wondered what else they had to do to beat Vasilevskiy. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long.

3. Special teams

Braydon Coburn’s tripping penalty in the second period gave Washington its only power play of the night and its first since the second period of Game 4. They had to make it count given how well Vasilveskiy was playing and they did.

Washington now has a power play goal in each of their three wins against the Lightning and no power play goals in their three losses. So yeah, it’s significant.

Tampa Bay had two opportunities of their own, but Washington managed to kill off both power plays in the penalty kill’s best performance of the series.

4. Washington’s physical game plan

On paper, the Lightning are better than the Caps in most categories. One area in which Washington has the edge, however, is physical play and it was clear very early that they intended to use that to their advantage in Game 6. Tampa Bay was pushed around and they seemed to struggle to recover.

Ovechkin was a one-man wrecking ball out there hitting everything that moved. The energy he brought with every hit was palpable and both the team and the crowd fed on it.

Washington was credited with 39 hits on the night compared to Tampa Bay’s 19. Ovechkin had four of those as did Nicklas Backstrom while Devante Smith-Pelly contributed five and Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six.

5. Fourth line dagger

Tampa Bay’s fourth line was the story of Game 5, but Washington’s fourth line sealed the deal on Monday with its third period goal.

Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call, forcing Braydon Coburn to play the puck along the wall. Jay Beagle picked it up, fed back to Stephenson who backhanded a pass for the perfect setup for Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly scored seven goals in the regular season. He now has four in the playoffs.


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Capitals vs. Lightning Game 7 Eastern Conference Final 2018: Date, time, TV Channel, live stream

Capitals vs. Lightning Game 7 Eastern Conference Final 2018: Date, time, TV Channel, live stream

Game 7.

It's the best phrase in all of hockey, and on Wednesday, May 23, Game 7 of the 2018 NHL Eastern Conference Final between the Capitals and Lightning will go down in Tampa, Fla.

The Capitals' path to Game 7 was less than ordinary. After racing to a 2-0 series lead with back-to-back road wins in Tampa, the Lightning responded with three straight wins, forcing the Capitals' to the brink of the 2017-18 season.

But in Game 6 on Tuesday night, the team put on their best performance of the season, blanking the Lightning and forcing Game 7 at Amalie Arena.

The winner of Game 7 advances to the Stanley Cup Final, where the Vegas Golden Nights await, having defeated the Winnipeg Jets to advance to the championship round in the team's inaugural season.

Game 7 Capitals at Lightning
Date: Wednesday, May 23
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: Amalie Arena. Tampa, Fla.
TV Channel: NBCSN 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 FM)


Game 7 of the Capitals-Lightning 2018 NHL Eastern Conference Final takes place on Wednesday, May 21 at 8:00 p.m. at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla.


The TV broadcast of Game 7 between the Capitals and Lightning is on NBC. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Game 7 Capitals vs. Lightning
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime


Game 7 of the 2018 NHL Eastern Conference Final between the Capitals and Lightning is available for online stream on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the NBC Sports live stream page.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals digital producer JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.