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It's Labor Day. Who's the hardest-working Capital?


It's Labor Day. Who's the hardest-working Capital?

Happy Labor Day, the official end of summer and the unofficial start of 2015 NHL training camps. By the end of this week the Capitals should have nearly an entire roster on the ice at Kettler, with captain Alex Ovechkin expected to arrive a week from today on Monday, Sept. 14, three days before his 30th birthday.

In honor of Labor Day, we thought we’d ask your input on who you think are the five hardest-working players on this year’s roster. Feel free to throw in some of the hardest-working players in Caps history in the Comments section below. (Dale Hunter? Scott Stevens? Rod Langway? Steve Konowalchuk?)

Again, this is purely subjective and open for debate:

Jay Beagle

Ask just about any player, coach or trainer in the organization about hard-working players and Beagle’s name comes up. Whether it’s on the ice at practice, in the weight room or during games, Beagle’s boundless energy has been a benchmark for his teammates.

“Beags is the hardest-working player I’ve ever been around,” former Caps veteran Eric Fehr said at the conclusion of last season.

Undrafted, Beagle, 29, signed with the Caps in 2008 and has been a full-time NHL center/winger the past four seasons. One of Dale Hunter’s favorite players in 2011-12, Beagle is coming off a career-high 10-goal, 10-assist season and was one of the most sought-after Capitals at last year’s trade deadline. The Caps rewarded him with a three-year, $5.25 million contract and he’ll challenge for the third-line center spot in camp.

Brooks Orpik

On the ice, Orpik is the fearless leader of the Caps’ blue line. Approaching 35 years of age, he is still one of the NHL’s most respected and physical defensemen, capable of shutting down some of the NHL’s top scorers.

Off the ice, Orpik is completely dedicated to keeping his body in optimal condition, monitoring his diet like a hawk and encouraging his teammates to do the same. For a player who throws so many body checks (team-high 306) and blocks so many shots (192) Orpik is extremely durable, missing just four games last season.

With four more years and $22 million remaining on his deal with the Caps, Orpik appears to have enough left in his tank to be a top-four blue liner for at least two or three more seasons.

RELATED: Alzner hopes new Caps make up for loss of 'key' players

John Carlson

While his name may not be at the top of every fan’s list, Carlson’s dedication to his craft was evident last season. He was on the ice before nearly every practice working with assistant coach Todd Reirden on every aspect of his game.

Carlson carried that same dedication into the offseason, working on his upper- and lower-body strength to make him harder to play against in front of the net and in the corners. Carlson led the Caps with 200 blocks last season but was credited with just 74 hits.

At just 25, Carlson is coming off a career year (12 goals, 43 assists) and his best hockey is ahead of him. If he can continue to build off last season, the Caps could have a franchise blue liner on their hands.

Nicklas Backstrom

It’s not always the case when a team’s most talented players are also its hardest working, but for years Backstrom has been recognized by teammates as the Caps’ quiet de facto captain, more comfortable skating in the shadows of Ovechkin than basking in the limelight.

Now 27 and approaching his eighth NHL season, Backstrom brings a businesslike approach to every practice and every game. He is attentive and extremely serious about his practice habits and quietly leads with his words and actions in the dressing room.

Having played in every Caps regular season game the past three seasons, Backstrom is coming off the most challenging offseason of his career, rehabbing from May 27 hip surgery. His ability to return to full health will be perhaps the biggest factor in the Caps’ quest for a Stanley Cup this season.

Alex Ovechkin

Let me explain. Yes, the Caps’  captain has been criticized up, down and sideways about his “gliding” and disdain for defense. And yes, there are still times that Ovechkin is caught with his stick resting on his knees in the defensive zone.

But …

No one can tell me a player can score 50-plus goals a season for virtually an entire career without working hard in the offseason. Whatever Ovechkin does during his summers in Russia, it’s enough to make him the NHL’s most lethal goal scorer, not to mention one of its most intimidating hitters.

It was clear from the first day of fitness testing under Barry Trotz that Ovechkin would be treated like every other member of the Capitals, and it was equally clear that by midseason Ovechkin’s play away from the puck and willingness to backcheck was vastly improved.

Would Ovechkin benefit from spending a few minutes before or after practice working on the finer aspects of his game? Every player would. But from a production standpoint, no one can do what Ovechkin does every year without putting in the long hours of training every offseason.

Honorable mention: Braden Holtby, Karl Alzner, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Laich, Jassson Chimera, Dmitry Orlov.

Now, it’s your turn.

MORE CAPITALS: With Green in Detroit, who will fill the void?

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?


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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

The wait is finally over. 

After two decades, the Capitals are back in the Stanley Cup Final. 

After a convincing 4-0 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Capitals are in Vegas to take on the Golden Knights. They'll be facing off against a handful of familiar names, with former Caps GM George McPhee, fan favorite Nate Schmidt, and ex-Penguins goalie Marc Andre-Fluery are just a few of the names that'll be suiting up for Vegas. 

What will the X-factors in the series be? Who will be the unexpected heroes of Game 1? The action is almost underway, and here are all the details you need to know.

Game 1 Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Monday, May 28
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV.
TV Channel: NBCSN 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 FM)


Game 1 of the Capitals-Golden Knights 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final takes place on Monday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.


The TV broadcast of Game 1 between the Capitals and Golden Knights is on NBC. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

5:00 p.m. — Caps Cup Preview
6:00 p.m. — Caps GameDay Live
6:30 p.m. — Caps Face Off
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Game 1 Capitals vs. Golden Knights
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime


Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights 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.