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Korn prepares Grubauer for 'apprenticeship' with Caps

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Korn prepares Grubauer for 'apprenticeship' with Caps

As a rule, Capitals goaltending coach Mitch Korn doesn’t care much for beating around the bush. So when you ask him the biggest challenge facing rookie netminder Philipp Grubauer as he navigates through his maiden NHL season, he cuts right to the chase.

“If I were him the hardest part would be looking at how long the No. 1 is contracted for,” Korn said. “That, to me, is a bigger obstacle than anything else we talk about.”

Korn is referring to the five-year, $30.5 million commitment the Capitals made to Braden Holtby over the summer. Prior to signing Holtby, the Caps agreed to terms with Grubauer on a two-year, NHL contract worth $1.5 million.

Holtby, who turned 26 last month, is as much a part of the Capitals’ future as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson. Grubauer, who will turn 24 next month and is scheduled to make his season debut tonight in Edmonton, aspires to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL – if not in Washington then somewhere else.

“We’re going to try – and I know he’s going to try - to make the most of it and understand what his role is at this particular moment,” Korn said.

“His job is to make himself so marketable that everybody in the league will want him, and then he becomes an asset to the Washington Capitals.”

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Korn brought up Edmonton Oilers starting goaltender Cam Talbot as an example. When Henrik Lundqvist was injured last season, Talbot stepped out of his shadows as a backup and went 21-9-4 for the Rangers. Before the June draft, the Rangers traded Talbot to the Oilers for the 57th, 79th and 184th picks of the 2015 NHL draft.

“That’s my job,” Korn said, “to help make him the best asset we can make him and if that time should come that time will come and then it’s a win-win for everybody.”

Korn mentioned four of his former students who started as backups and worked their way into established No. 1s -- Dominik Hasek, Tomas Vokoun, Chris Mason and Dan Ellis. He’s hoping Grubauer follows a similar path, even if it turns out to be with another NHL team.

Truth be told, Grubauer isn’t looking any further into the future than tonight. He has not played in a game since the Caps’ next-to-last preseason game on Oct. 2. Since then he has spent every practice and game day working alongside Korn and his variety of goaltending props and tools.  

“I don’t approach anything different,” said Grubauer, who went 27-17-2 with the Hershey Bears last season before winning one regular season game and one playoff game for the Caps.

“Mitch gave me a couple things to work on that I’m working on now. I think every year you can improve and you can work on things, whether it’s playing the puck or reading the play. Obviously, it’s going to be a little bit tougher this year getting into a groove because maybe I’m not going to play as much as I used to in the past. But if I play I have to make sure I don’t have that rust on me and I play to my capabilities.”

Since the Capitals made him their fourth-round pick (112thoverall) in 2010, Grubauer has never played in fewer than 42 games in a single season. Since last playing on Oct. 2 he has practiced in front of screen boards, carried medicine balls and stopped pucks in a variety of sizes and colors.

“Every time I go out there before practice I get better,” Grubauer said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Holts or the guys shooting or if it’s me. If you work hard you’re going to get better eventually. (Korn) brings so much variety into the practice, whether it’s the screen board, white pucks, medicine ball -- everything has a place and makes sense because it helps you improve.”

Grubauer said a few points of emphasis have been playing tighter in his crease, handling the puck more cleanly, tracking the puck through traffic and reading and anticipating where the puck is going.

“If doesn’t matter to Mitch if you’re 6-foot-5 or 5-11, he doesn’t tell you you have to play deep or play far out. You’re the goalie and he makes you prove who you can be. It’s been great working with him so far and we’re all moving in the right direction.”

Someday, that direction could be in another NHL city and Korn says he and Grubauer are OK with that.

“He gets it,” Korn said. “He understands this is an apprenticeship and that’s what it is.”

MORE CAPITALS: Ovechkin turns 'muffin' into first game-winner

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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)

WHEN IS GAME 7 OF THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING SERIES?

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.

WHAT TV CHANNEL IS GAME 7 OF THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING SERIES ON?

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

WHERE CAN I STREAM CAPITALS vs. LIGHTNING GAME 7?

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.

CAPITALS vs. LIGHTNING GAME 7 OPEN THREAD

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.