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McPhee: Caps won't shy way from Russians


McPhee: Caps won't shy way from Russians

In last years NHL draft, one Russian player was taken in the first round and that wasnt until the 27th selection when the Tampa Bay Lighting took Vladislav Namestnikov.

In 2010, three Russians were selected in the first round when the Thrashers took Aleksandr Burmistrov at No. 8, the Blues took Vladimir Tarasenko at No. 16 and the Capitals took Evgeny Kuznetsov at No. 26.

In 2009, only one Russian was taken in the first round when the Panthers took Dmitri Kulikov at No. 14 overall.

Of those five Russians, only Burmistrov and Kulikov have agreed to play in the NHL and both were drafted out of Canadas junior ranks.

Which begs this question as the Capitals hold two first-round picks 11th and 16th overall in Friday nights NHL draft in Pittsburghs Consol Energy Center. Is it worth the gamble to take a Russian with a first-round?

Our policy has always been to take the best players, Capitals general manager George McPhee said. We dont care where theyre from, it doesnt matter.

Other teams have different philosophies. Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray says he stays away from drafting Russian players in the first round unless hes sure he can sign them. Any he pretty much ignores Russians in the lower rounds.

The KHL has been the main reason, Murray said. The top guys who have come over in the past (Alex) Ovechkin, (Igor) Larionov, (Sergei) Fedorov -- come over here and are very happy and are very important players.

But the next level of player, they wont stay. Theyre unhappy. They wont take the time to develop and therefore, weve said if we cant get a top guy you might as well take an American or Canadian.

Weve had three or four in the minors and they get called (from the KHL) every other day to go back. Theyre making 45,000 to 65,000 here in the minors and they can make 70,000 or 80,000 over there.

This year, Russian forward Nail Yakupov is considered the consensus No. 1 pick of the draft and Russian countrymen Mikhael Grigorenko is expected to go in the top 10. Both played in the Canadian junior hockey league last season and that should increase the possibility of them being taken high in the draft.

But many other Russians are expected to slip because of the risk. And Kusnetsov is a reason why. Considered one of the most talented prospects not in the NHL, Kuzentsov has agreed to play the next two seasons in the KHL.

Good, let them avoid them, McPhee said of other Russian-unfriendly teams. People avoided Kuznetsov, but hes going to come over at some point and hes going to be a heck of a player here. We were prepared to wait when we made the pick. Wed like to have him but hell be here at some point and hell be worth it.

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Niskanen takes the blame for all three Lightning goals

Niskanen takes the blame for all three Lightning goals

There was no tougher critic on Matt Niskanen’s Game 5 performance on Saturday than Niskanen himself.

Niskanen and his defensive partner, Dmitry Orlov, were on the ice for all three of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s three goals in the Capitals’ 3-2 loss. That was striking given the Orlov-Niskanen duo is typically Washington’s best defensive pair.

That was not the case on Saturday and Niskanen took full responsibility afterward.

“First three goals are all my fault,” Niskanen said. “I had a tough first 20:30 so I've got to be better next game.”

Pretty much no one played the first goal right.

The goal came just 19 seconds into the game. Orlov turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Evgeny Kuznetsov looked like he could have gotten the puck, but instead played the body of Cedric Paquette. Niskanen stepped up at the blue line, but the Lightning got the puck past him creating a short rush that beat Braden Holtby who was way too far back in the crease.

Yes, Niskanen got caught a bit high, but he was just as at fault as Orlov, Kuznetsov and Holtby.

The second goal happened because Steven Stamkos tripped Orlov to create a turnover and it wasn’t called.

Niskanen got in between Ondrej Palat and the puck, but Palat beat both him and Holtby on the shot. Not sure I would put this one on Niskanen.

The third goal…well, that one was a bad play by Niskanen.

When you go one-on-one with a player, a defenseman cannot allow that player to turn the corner. That’s especially true when that player is defenseman Anton Stralman who is not exactly gifted with blazing speed. This was just a complete misplay.

Regardless of how many goals were strictly on Niskanen, that’s not the point. This was a message not so much to the media but to the team. That message was this: This one’s on me, I will be better next game.

Leaders always take responsibility. Niskanen is taking the blame here and saying he will be better in the hopes the team around him will be better as well.

They will need to be to win Game 6.

“A lot of people counted us out when we were down 0-2 in the first round,” Niskanen said. “Things got hard in the last series where we could have melted and we just kept playing. So that's what we've got to do again, bring our best effort for Game 6 at home, win a game and then we'll go from there.

“But we're focused on bringing our best game of the season for Game 6 and we'll be ready to go.”


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3 reasons the Caps lost Game 5 to the Lightning

3 reasons the Caps lost Game 5 to the Lightning

When the Capitals take to the ice at home on Monday, they will be playing for their playoff lives. They lost their third straight game on Saturday as the Tampa Bay Lightning took Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead and push the Caps to the brink.

Here is why the Caps fell on the road for the first time in this series.

A rough start

Nineteen seconds was all the time Tampa Bay would need to score in Game 5.

Dmitry Orlov turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Evgeny Kuznetsov chased after it, but instead of getting the puck he inexplicably played the body of Cedric Paquette. Paquette was able to chip it into the offensive zone to Ryan Callahan. Callahan tried to pass to the slot, but it hit off of Orlov right to Paquette who buried it past Braden Holtby who was very deep in the crease.

If Orlov doesn’t cough the puck up in the neutral zone, if Kuznetsov plays the puck instead of the body or if Holtby challenges that shot, that goal doesn’t happen. An ugly play all around for Washington.

A no-call on Steven Stamkos

Later in the first period, Orlov went to corral a puck in the neutral zone, but was pressured by Stamkos, fell to the ice and turned the puck over to Nikita Kucherov. It was very clearly a trip on Stamkos, but there was no call. Palat would score on the play to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead.

You can read more about the play here.

A rough night for Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen

Orlov and Niskanen is normally the Caps' best defensive pair, but they had a very long night. They were on the ice for each of the Lightning’s three goals of the game.

Orlov’s turnover led to the first goal, Stamkos’ trip of Orlov led to the second. On the third, Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman was somehow able to drive and turn the corner on Niskanen leading to a scoring opportunity that eventually deflected off the glove of Ryan Callahan and into the net. Stralman is not the speediest of players. The fact he was able to go one-on-one with Niskanen and get in behind him was surprising to see.