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Oshie, Chorney, Toews prepare for Sioux reunion


Oshie, Chorney, Toews prepare for Sioux reunion

One night after facing his former coach at the University of North Dakota, current Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol, for the first time, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews will butt helmets with a pair of Capitals he suited up with while playing for the Fighting Sioux a decade ago.

For two seasons (2005-07) Toews, T.J. Oshie and Taylor Chorney made up three-fifths of the most dangerous power play in college hockey as members of the University of North Dakota.

Tonight they’ll face each other when the Blackhawks visit the Capitals at Verizon Center (6:30 p.m. pregame, CSN).

Chorney says he saw greatness in Toews even before they were college teammates.

Chorney and Toews were 16-year-old teammates at Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school, a hockey factory in Faribault, Minn., where Toews racked up 110 points in 64 games.

“When I was at Shattuck I wanted to play well so I could get a scholarship and maybe get drafted,” Chorney said. “For Johnny, his whole life he genuinely wanted to be a Hall of Famer. Not in a stuffy way. That’s been his dream and he’s been going at it at 100 miles an hour.”

Some might say that with three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy and an Olympic gold medal, Toews’ ticket to the Hockey Hall has already been punched. And he’s only 27.

“His work ethic is unbelievable, second to none,” said Oshie, who played two seasons on a line with Toews at North Dakota. “I think that’s why he’s had so much success, because of how much work he puts in away from the rink and at the rink.

“And he’s obviously a great leader as well. He’s the guy that drives the bus for them from an intensity standpoint, so we need to try to shut him down early, but he’s going to keep coming.”

In their two seasons together as linemates Oshie (41 goals, 56 assists) and Toews (40 goals, 45 assists) combined for 102 points in 87 games. Ironically, it was their linemate, left wing Ryan Duncan, who put up the most points in those two seasons (47-46-93), winning the 2007 Hobey Baker Award as the best college player in the nation.

(Duncan, 30, is now playing in Austria, having never played an NHL game.)

Chorney said he remembers the North Dakota power play, which also featured Travis Zajac and Drew Stafford, as one of the best he’d ever seen. Oshie agreed.

“That power play was pretty good,” he recalled. “I remember a lot of tic-tac-toes. They gave me a lot of empty netters, which was nice. It was fun.”

Tonight will mark the 34th game Oshie will line up against Toews but his first in a Capitals uniform. Oshie has five goals and 19 assists in his previous matchups against Chicago. And with both teams coming off shutout losses, Oshie said there will be no shortage of motivation.

“For the most part they stay on their game for the full 60 minutes,” Oshie said. “We’ve got to have a good start, unlike our first couple games, and we’ve got to play a full 60. These guys don’t go away and if they get up they try to get up two and then three.”

The Hawks (2-2-0) are expected to turn to 6-foot-6 backup goaltender Scott Darling, who has a 10-4-0 record in 15 career appearances in the NHL, along with a 1.88 GAA and .938 save percentage. Caps fans will also be getting their first look at Chicago’s 6-foot-8, 238-pound rookie defenseman Viktor Svedberg. 

MORE CAPITALS: Trotz sends urgent message with lineup changes

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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.”