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Orlov: 'Everybody laugh and I laugh, too'

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Orlov: 'Everybody laugh and I laugh, too'

Long after Dmitry Orlov’s sleight-of-hand goal had made it onto every hockey highlight reel, the Capitals were still talking about it on Sunday, even sparking a new nickname for the 24-year-old Russian defenseman.

Houdini.

“Now you see me, now you don’t,” said Caps defenseman Nate Schmidt, who joined in on Saturday night’s scoring spree in a 7-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche. “That was awesome. I still can’t believe it. That and the celebrating. Arm pump, leg kick. Rarely seen, but highly effective.”

Thanks to the benefit of video replay, all of the Caps were able to see that Orlov did not pull a puck from his sleeve and place it on the ice to score his first NHL goal in 20 months. Instead, the saw him fake a shot to lose two defenders, juggle his own shortside rebound from his chest to his feet, then backpedal out of the corner to the front of the net for a goal.

“I saw him make that super nice move and he almost snuck it in the short side, said Orlov’s defense partner Taylor Chorney. “Honesty, after that, I had no idea. I was at the right point just waiting for the whistle because I thought it went out of play. Next thing I know, out of the corner of my eye I saw him pulling out of the corner and fire it in. You don’t see that too often.”

Caps left wing Jason Chimera was standing in the crease looking for a rebound on Orlov’s original shot when he realized the puck was on the other side of the ice and Orlov had it.

“The goalie (Calvin Pickard) motioned like he had it,” Chimera said. “I thought it was there or over the glass. And then ut of the corner of my eye I saw Orly sneaking around, so I kind of stayed there and hoped no one notice.”

No one did, until it was too late.  

The Capitals who were on the bench at the time of Orlov’s goal didn’t know what happened until they saw the replay on the overhead scoreboard.

“I saw the iso cam of him wheeling out of the corner and I was like, ‘What’s he doing?’” Schmidt said. “And all of a sudden he throws it in the back of the net and everyone just blew up. I was just as surprised as anyone else.”

Karl Alzner, one of four Caps defensemen to find the back of the net Saturday night, was just as impressed with the move Orlov made to take the first shot as he was with his presence of mind to score.

“He came down with an unreal move, that was an intense fake, he really sold it,” Alzner said. “And backward crossovers from the corner to an open net, it was just funny. And our celebration was huge.”

As you might imagine, Orlov had his own unique description of his memorable goal.

“I jump in the rush, get the puck, make a move, try to shoot short side,” he recounted. “It not go in, but puck goes to my chest or pants, I don’t remember what it was, and everybody don’t see the puck, so I see everybody look on the other side and I took it right away and start moving. I thought maybe the referee make a whistle or the D will come up to me. And they stayed in the net so I just need to shoot.”

As for the celebration, Orlov smiled broadly.  

“It just happen,” he said. “My emotion, I was so excited. Everybody say congrats. It was a funny goal. Everybody laugh and I laugh, too.” 

Injury update: Defenseman Brooks Orpik, who has missed the past five games with a lower body injury, sat out practice again on Sunday and will not play in Monday night's game against the Edmonton Oilers. Right wing T.,J. Oshie sat out Sunday's practice with what Barry Trotz called maintenance issues. Oshie is expected to play Monday. Anrdre Burakovsksy, who was a healthy scratch on Saturday, took Oshie's spot on the top line.

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The Stanley Cup Final is set and the Capitals will hand the Stanley Cup off to Boston or St. Louis

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The Stanley Cup Final is set and the Capitals will hand the Stanley Cup off to Boston or St. Louis

With the St. Louis Blues’ victory on Tuesday, the Stanley Cup Final has officially been set. The Blues will face the Boston Bruins as both teams will battle to supplant the Capitals as the Stanley Cup champions.

St. Louis finished off the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday with a 5-1 Game 6 win and will now look to win its first ever Stanley Cup. One has to wonder whether that game was the last time we will see the 39-year-old Sharks forward Joe Thornton on the ice. For the Blues, this is the first time they have reached the final since 1970, snapping a 49-year drought. They made the final in each of their first three seasons as the NHL grouped all of its expansion franchises into a single division.

St. Louis is now the first team in league history to go from last place in the league in January to the Stanley Cup Final.

This season will be a rematch of the 1970 final in which the Blues were swept by the Bruins. That series gave us the iconic moment of Boston great Bobby Orr soaring through the air after scoring the Cup-clinching goal in overtime of Game 4.

The Bruins have been waiting since Thursday to learn who their opponent would be after sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes to win the East. Boston will be going for its seventh Cup and first since 2011. Goalie Tuukka Rask was brilliant in that series with a .956 save percentage and a 1.25 GAA. The long layoff, however, could potentially cool off Rask and the red-hot Bruins.

The New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets both swept their first-round opponents and both lost in the second round. The Hurricanes swept the Islanders in the second round and were then swept by Boston. The Bruins will have to shake off the rust as quickly as possible as the final begins.

Boston will have home ice in the final and will host Games 1 and 2 before the series shifts back to St. Louis.

Here is the final schedule:

  • Game 1 in Boston, Mon. May 27
  • Game 2 in Boston, Wed. May 29
  • Game 3 in St. Louis, Sat. June 1
  • Game 4 in St. Louis, Mon. June 3
  • Game 5 (if necessary) in Boston, Thurs. June 6
  • Game 6 (if necessary) in St. Louis, Sun. June 9
  • Game 7 (if necessary) in Boston, Wed. June 12

 

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Alex Ovechkin goes for gold before a needed break from hockey

Alex Ovechkin goes for gold before a needed break from hockey

The Capitals’ season ended a month ago, but Alex Ovechkin has yet to take his break.

That will happen soon enough, but for now Washington’s captain is leading Russia at the IIHF World Hockey Championships in Slovakia. After that, he gets his first real rest since the end of the 2016-17 season. He has played in 194 NHL games, including the postseason, in 18 months.  

Ovechkin will turn 34 on Sept. 17 and the questions now start in earnest: How long can one of the world’s greatest goal scorers keep up his pace? Ovechkin recorded his eighth 50-goal season this past season. And while it ended in disappointment with a first-round loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Ovechkin deserved little blame after adding four goals and five assists in the series.

“As a captain and as a leader, I thought he took another step this year from how he showed up to training camp to how he played all year long two-way hockey, commitment and when the games mattered the most,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said last month. “He scored big goals and showed fantastic playmaking ability. A physical force. I'm excited to see what he comes back with now after a little extended time away because he was tremendous this year.”

Washington won the Stanley Cup on June 7 in Las Vegas last year and after a hectic summer of celebrating and, eventually, training, players were back less than three months later for another grind of a season that ended after 89 more regular-season and playoff games. Ovechkin missed just one of them. 

Next year could be another one filled with milestones for Ovechkin. He doesn’t even need 50 to reach them. With 42 goals he reaches 700 for his career. Only seven players have ever hit that mark.  

Ovechkin passes Mario Lemieux (690) with 32 goals and moves into the top 10 all time. He has a reasonable chance to catch Brett Hull for second-most power-play goals (265) in NHL history. Ovechkin has 247 right now and has averaged 17 per year each of the past four seasons.     

At some point, even for Ovechkin, scoring 50 goals will be too much. Only Johnny Bucyk (36) and Jaromir Jagr (34) have ever topped 50 goals at an older age. But if he could just do it one more time he would tie Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for most 50-goal seasons ever (nine). We’re at the point where nothing should surprise, but we’ve gone off the known map. 

“That's the best I've seen him play in my three years here,” teammate Lars Eller said. “He just took some games over. It was impressive. He was our best player. Him and Nick, but especially O, he just took it to another level. Physicality-wise, he enforced his will out there and when he decides to do that, he's almost unstoppable. That was exciting to see."

Almost everything Ovechkin does now is unprecedented. In the past 20 NHL seasons dating to 1998-99, there have been 28 different 50-goal seasons as scoring has become harder thanks to better goalie play, equipment and more tactical defensive systems. And yet Ovechkin owns 29 percent of those 50-goal seasons. His 89 points (51 goals, 38 assists) were his most since 2009-10.  

For now, Ovechkin will settle for another IIHF World Championship. He has helped Russia win gold at the event three times (2008, 2010 and 2014). 

Russia finished group play undefeated on Tuesday night after a 7-4 win against Sweden. Ovechkin scored his second goal of the tournament in the victory. Despite just three points from Ovechkin through seven games, the Russians have out-scored their opponents 36-7 overall. 

They advanced to the quarterfinals on Thursday where they will play the United States. Given its play so far, Russia is favored to win gold but nothing is guaranteed. The semifinals would be Saturday if they win and the gold-medal game is set for Sunday. Then, finally, Ovechkin can rest before preparing for his 15th NHL season with two years left on his contract with the Capitals. 

“[Ovechkin] elevated his game in the first round. He's just got a hunger to him to contribute and to score goals,” teammate Brett Connolly said. “You could tell that he was committed and that he was going to give everything he had to win it again. He was great last year and arguably even better this year….This fan base is very lucky to watch what he does on a consistent basis. You're not going to see that ever again. So, enjoy it while it's here.” 

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