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NHL 2015-16 season previews: Anaheim Ducks

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NHL 2015-16 season previews: Anaheim Ducks

To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.

Today’s team: Anaheim Ducks

2014-15 record: 51-24-7, 1st in the Pacific

How they finished: Lost in seven games to Chicago in the Western Conference Finals

Coach: Bruce Boudreau (5th season)

Notable additions: G Anton Khudobin, LW Carl Hagelin, D Kevin Bieksa, C Shawn Horcoff, RW Chris Stewart, assistant coach Paul MacLean

Notable subtractions: RW Kyle Palmieri, D Francois Beauchemin, LW Matt Beleskey, G Jason LaBarbera, assistant coach Brad Lauder

RELATED: Arbitrator hands down ruling for Marcus Johansson

Schedule against the Capitals: Fri. Jan. 22 at Washington, Mon. March 7 at Anaheim

Outlook: For the first time in his NHL head coaching career, Bruce Boudreau finally took a team past the second round of the playoffs last season. The Ducks came within one win of defeating eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago in the Western Conference Finals. Rather than ease the pressure, however, the scrutiny of Boudreau was higher than ever after the season and it wasn’t clear whether he would even keep his job until assistant coach Brad Lauder was fired at the beginning of June.

Not surprisingly, this team’s strength is its offense. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are as dynamic a pair as you can find in the NHL. Ryan Kesler also had a huge impact in his first season with Anaheim, though he was badly outmatched by Jonathan Toews in the playoffs.

The loss of Matt Beleskey hurts offensively, but his 22 goals last season are more than he scored in his previous three seasons combined. At 27, there is a strong chance that last season was an anomaly and that he will fail to produce similar numbers next season. Carl Hagelin is a much more consistent player and a strong penalty killer who should fit in nicely in Anaheim.

Goaltending was a question mark heading into the playoffs, but Frederik Andersen silenced the critics...initially. He looked very good against the overmatched Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames, but he was not up to the task against Chicago, failing to record a save percentage higher than .900 in any of the last four games of the series.

At 25, Andersen most likely has not reached his ceiling yet as a player, but he will need to be better if he hopes to lead Anaheim to the Stanley Cup.

If you cannot upgrade your starting goalie, you need to upgrade your defense. While the Ducks did add Kevin Bieksa to replace free agent Francois Beauchemin, they did nothing else to improve defensively. The question for this team will be just how far they can go with an average defense and average goaltending.

Expectations: The only potential stumbling block for Anaheim is if they get off to a slow start. Given the very real possibility that Boudreau could have been fired at the end of last season, if the Ducks get off to a bad start in the fall the team could start collapsing as the players wait for the other shoe to drop on Boudreau.

But that’s not likely to happen.

The gap between the Ducks and the rest of the Pacific is wider than in any other Division in the NHL. This is a very good team that, although they may not have the greatest goaltending, has enough defensively to supplement a world-class offense. If Chicago’s new-look lineup takes a significant step back this season, Anaheim will be one of the top contender to win the West and the Cup.

MORE CAPS: Caps sign Swiss draft pick to entry-level deal

See more team previews:

Pacific Division
Arizona Coyotes 8/2
Calgary Flames 8/3
Edmonton Oilers 8/4
Los Angeles Kings 8/5
San Jose Sharks 8/6
Vancouver Canucks 8/7

Central Division
Chicago Blackhawks 8/8
Colorado Avalanche 8/9
Dallas Stars 8/10
Minnesota Wild 8/11
St. Louis Blues 8/13
Winnipeg Jets 8/14

Atlantic Division
Boston Bruins 8/15
Buffalo Sabres 8/16
Detroit Red Wings 8/17
Florida Panthers 8/18
Montreal Canadiens 8/19
Ottawa Senators 8/20<
Tampa Bay Lightning 8/21
Toronto Maple Leafs 8/22

Metropolitan Division
Carolina Hurricanes 8/23
Columbus Blue Jackets 8/24
New Jersey Devils 8/25
New York Islanders 8/26
New York Rangers 8/27
Philadelphia Flyers 8/28
Pittsburgh Penguins 8/29
Washington Capitals 8/30

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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.

MORE CAPITALS STORIES:

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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.