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Laich packs his bags for Switzerland

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Laich packs his bags for Switzerland

According to multiple reports, Brooks Laich became the third Capitals player to sign with a European team on Tuesday when he agreed to play for the Kloten Flyers of Switzerlands National League A.

Laich, 29, has not yet returned a message left for him by CSNWashington.com. His signing was first reported by the NLAs website.

Laich spent the past two weeks skating with Capitals teammates at Kettler Capitals Icelex and was on the ice as recently as Monday. He has five years remaining on a contract that pays him 4.5 million a season.

Laich has spoken openly about the NHL lockout and the rights of NHL players to earn paychecks overseas during the NHL lockout and fully supported teammates Alex Ovechkin signing with the KHL and Michal Neuvirth signing with the Czech League.

There are other opportunities for players to play, Laich told CSNWashignton.com. I dont know if these owners realize it, but it is a reality.

With former Caps forward Alexander Semin signing to play with a Tier II team in Russia on Tuesday, a total of 66 NHL players have agreed to deals with 10 different leagues in Europe.

The more players you start to see head overseas there are a lot of guys you speak to that really enjoy playing over there, Laich said. I think a lot of guys really, really want to play in the NHL. Obviously, thats the top league in the world. But if were facing a work stoppage once every six years, in the life span of an athlete thats a lot of time missed and a lot of potential earning that are missed.

For some guys its not as much pressure to play in Europe and maybe some guys enjoy that, where theyre not so much in the limelight. You can see different parts of the world. You see different parts of North America playing in the NHL, but now you get a more worldly experience going to other countries.

There are other benefits, Laich continued. Maybe the finances arent as great, but maybe it makes up for it with job security. Its a lighter schedule on guys and maybe they can prolong their careers by paying less games. There are a lot of things to think about.

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The Lighting are doubling down on stupid protocol to keep Capitals fans out of Amalie Arena for Game 7

The Lighting are doubling down on stupid protocol to keep Capitals fans out of Amalie Arena for Game 7

Remember when the folks at Amalie Arena went to great lengths to try and "block the red" during the Eastern Conference Final against the Capitals?

Well, the Lightning are doing that again for Game 7. Not that anything else would've been expected though.

Before the series, the Lightning used this tactic to try and keep as many Capitals fans out as possible, and they also enforced a dress code.

Not only could you not buy tickets through the team or its official partner, Ticketmaster, without a Florida Zip code, but the Lightning also added a clause to their ticket policy that wouldn't allow Capitals fans who were able to get tickets to wear red or anything with the team's logo if their seats are in the Lightning's Lexus Lounge.

This includes seats against the glass, or in the Chase Club luxury suites.

Neutral colors were the only thing allowed.

There are certainly ways around the ticket policy part. Whether you go through a different website for tickets like Stubhub, or as many have been suggesting on Twitter, using a prepaid gift card.

At this point though, with Game 7 closing in, you hopefully have a plan in place already if you're going to the game in Tampa.

This also isn't uncommon for teams to do anyway, with the Capitals having a similar policy.

Of course, we totally support the Caps doing this. When it's another team doing it to Caps fans though, that's a different story. 

The Capitals won the first two games of the series in Tampa, now it just takes one more win to get them to the Stanley Cup Final, where the expansion Vegas Golden Nights await

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5 keys for the Caps to win Game 7 and advance to the Stanley Cup Final

5 keys for the Caps to win Game 7 and advance to the Stanley Cup Final

It all comes down to this.

The Eastern Conference Championship is on the line Wednesday as the Capitals take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Tampa. Here are five keys for how the Caps can win and advance to face the Vegas Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup.

Score first

Game 7 is in Tampa Bay, the Lightning are deeper offensively and defensively and have a goalie capable of shutting down an offense.

Oh, and the Lightning are 8-1 when scoring first this postseason.

The Capitals are at their best when they are dictating the play. They want to play physical, trap the blue line and counter against the Lightning. None of those are particularly great strategies for chasing a game.

That makes the first goal critical.

The Lightning fans have seen their team lose twice at home already this series and fail to close out the Caps in Game 6. They have watched their team reach the conference finals two straight years in 2015 and 2016, fail to win the Stanley Cup in either year and fail to even make the playoffs in 2017.

Not only does playing with a lead better suit their game plan, but if Washington scores first that crowd is going to get very uncomfortable very quickly.

Gauge the referees

The Caps were very physical in Game 6 and they found success with that game plan. You would expect them to have a similar approach to Game 7, but they need to be careful.

In Game 6, it was clear the referees had put away the whistles. There were a few questionable plays on both sides that the referees let go. In a Game 7, you would hope the referees take the same approach, but they may not.

Tampa Bay’s power play is very good and the Caps cannot afford to give them many opportunities, but Washington will still want to play a physical style. It’s a fine line to walk so the Caps will need to quickly figure out how strictly the referees are calling the game and adjust accordingly.

Win the goalie matchup

In this series, Andrei Vasilevskiy has had two bad games and four good ones. He lost both of his bad games and won three of his good ones. He did not win the fourth, however, because he was outplayed by Braden Holtby.

Vasilevskiy was great in Game 6, but Holtby matched him save for save as both teams battled to get on the board. When the Caps finally did, Holtby shut the door to make sure the Lightning could not climb back. Vasilevskiy allowed just two goals on 32 shots, but Holtby turned away all 24 of the shots he faced for the shutout.

This is Game 7. There is no Game 8 just because you run into a hot goalie. If Vasilevskiy is on his game again on Wednesday, Holtby will have to be just as good if not better to make sure the Caps win.

Beat the fourth line

Playing at home in Game 6 allowed the Caps to get away somewhat from the Alex Ovechkin vs. fourth line matchup the Lightning have found success with. At 5-on-5, Chris Kunitz played 6:55 against Ovechkin, Ryan Callahan played 6:22 and Cedric Paquette played 6:12, considerably less than the 13:04, 13:46 and 13:42 each respectively logged in Game 5.

With Game 7 in Tampa, Barry Trotz will not be able to get away from that matchup. That means Ovechkin will just have to beat it.

That does necessarily mean he has to score a hat-trick. Ovechkin was one of the team’s top performers in Game 6 despite not logging a point as he helped establish a physical tone that ignited the team. But he has to make sure at the very least that his line is not outscored by the fourth like it was in Game 5 when Paquette and Callahan each scored.

Have a short memory

If you have a bad game in Game 1, you know you can bounce back in the series. A Game 7, however, is winner take all. If there’s a bad bounce, a bad call by the referees, a bad play, a missed save, whatever it may be, the Caps have to be able to put it out of their minds quickly.

There is no room for the “here we go again” mentality on Wednesday. The fate of this season will be determined within 60 minutes. If Holtby is not on his game, the Caps will have to battle through it. If Ovechkin has a bad night, the Caps will have to battle through it. If the referees decide they are going to call everything down to the letter of the law, the Caps will have to battle through it.

If something goes against them, they cannot allow it to bog them down mentally as we have seen at times in Game 7s of the past.

Likewise, if things go well they need to put that out of their heads as well. Desperation will grow among the Lightning as the game goes on. This is not the time to sit on a lead or circle the wagons.

Washington can’t let mistakes or success go to their head until the clock hits 00:00.