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Ovechkin, Backstrom reunited


Ovechkin, Backstrom reunited

Dale Hunter would never let a little media pressure have an influence on his coaching decisions, now would he?

Looking for a little more offensive balance against the Rangers, the Capitals coach reunited Alex Ovechkin with center Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson on Wednesday morning, about 38 hours after limiting Ovechkin to a playoff career low of 13 minutes, 36 seconds of ice time.

Ovechkin netted the game-winner Monday night to even the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinals at two wins apiece. Game 3 is tonight at the Verizon Center.

In two playoff games against the Rangers Ovechkin has one goal on eight shots, along with five hits and zero giveaways.

The Caps forward lines and defense pairings looked like this today at Kettler Capitals Iceplex:

LW Alex Ovechkin C Nicklas Backstrom RW Marcus Johansson
LW Jason Chimera C Brooks Laich RW Alexander Semin
LW Matt Hendricks C Jay Beagle RW Troy Brouwer
LW Mike Knuble C Keith Aucoin RW Joel Ward

LD Karl Alzner RD John Carlson
LD Roman Hamrlik RD Mike Green
LD Jeff Schultz RD Dennis Wideman

Clean, but frustrating: Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner says the Rangers play such a suffocating defense that even when the Caps play a patient game they dont feel like theyre making much progress.

Playing against these guys it almost never feels like youre having a really great game, Alzner said, just because you have to chip the puck off the glass and chase it down. It feels like youre chasing the puck the entire game.

That said, Alzner said the first two games of this series has been cleaner than the series with Brad Marchand, Rich Peverley and the Boston Bruins. Through two games the Rangers have outhit the Caps 80-63.

There are more clean, big hits, Alzner said. Boston was a little more chippy.

The Rangers biggest hitters have been captain Ryan Callahan (16), Derek Stepan (8), Brian Boyle (6) and Brandon Prust (6). Matt Hendricks leads the Caps with 8, followed by Jay Beagle (7), Roman Hamrlik (7) and Brooks Laich (6).

Chimmer: Jason Chimera scored the Caps lone goal in Game 1 and tallied again in Game 2 for his second goal of the series. Chimera now has six career playoff goals, three coming during these playoffs. Four of those six goals have come against the Rangers and Chimera has scored in each of his last three playoff contests at Madison Square Garden (dating back to last season). Three of his six career playoff goals have been game-winning tallies.

25 and counting: Caps rookie goalie Braden Holtby stopped 26 of the 28 shots he faced in Game 2 for his fifth career playoff win. Holtby has now gone 25 straight starts in the NHL including nine in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs without suffering back-to-back setbacks.

Holtby said his parents were in the crowd at MSG for Game 2. Holtby said it was his father's first live Stanley Cup playoff game since watching Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers in the late 1980s.

Closing it out: Alex Ovechkin now has five career playoff game-winning goals. He ranks tied for second place in Capitals franchise history in playoff game-winners (Joe Juneau and John Druce) and trails only Peter Bondra (6) in that category.

Defensive affair: The Capitals allowed just 14 shots in Game 1 against New York. That marks the lowest playoff road total for shots allowed in franchise history, surpassing the 15 shots allowed by the Capitals against the New York Islanders on April 13, 1985 in Game 3 of the Patrick Division semifinals.

Bruise brothers: Washington ranks second in the NHL in blocked shots (178) and leads the league in takeaways (73) during the playoffs while its 297 hits rank fourth in the league.

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Free Agency Bracket: Noel Acciari vs. Marcus Kruger

Free Agency Bracket: Noel Acciari vs. Marcus Kruger

It is almost time for NHL free agency to begin, and the Capitals certainly have needs to fill and a limited budget. Who would be the best fit? Who would be the best free agent target for Washington to pursue? That’s what NBC Sports Washington wants to find out!

Our experts got together and made a bracket of the 16 best free agent fits. The bracket is divided into four regions: Third line forward, fourth line forward, depth defenseman and Caps’ free agent. Now we want you to tell us who you want to see rocking the red next year!

Every weekday we will match two free agents up against one another and present a case for each player. Then you get to vote and decide who advances!

Check out today’s matchup:

Region: Fourth line forwards

Noel Acciari vs. Marcus Kruger


2018-19 stats


Noel Acciari (27 years old):72 games played with the Boston Bruins, 6 goals, 8 assists, 14 points, 12:59 TOI


Playoffs: 19 games played with the Boston Bruins, 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, 13:10 TOI


Marcus Kruger (29 years old): 74 games played with the Chicago Blackhawks, 4 goals, 8 assists, 12 points, 10:25 TOI


Playoffs: None


Hockey-Graph contract projections


Noel Acciari: 2 years, $1,180,934 cap hit


Marcus Kruger: 1 year, $861,030 cap hit


The case for Noel Acciari

Plays a lot bigger than his 5-foot-10, 205-pound frame. A perfect fit at right wing on the fourth line for Washington. The native New Englander, who played at Providence, is a home-grown Bruin and might not want to leave home, but Boston also might not have the cap space to give an obvious fourth-line player a decent raise. The Capitals might not, either, but for now, they really only have to add in RFA Jakub Vrana’s new contract and figure out what they’re going to do with RFA Andre Burakovsky. 


Acciari is renowned for his character and toughness. He was a college captain for Providence and helped the Friars win an NCAA title in 2015. There’s never been a shot he’s unwilling to block. Acciari sustained a broken sternum in the second round against Columbus and a blocked shot with his right foot in Game 7 of the Cup Final left him in a walking boot.  


Acciari’s offensive upside is limited, but he did have 10 goals in 2017-18. He was a key player for the Bruins in the past two Stanley Cup playoffs and chipped in two goals in this year’s playoff run that came within a game of a championship. Acciari would help on Washington’s penalty kill, too. In 111:52 he was only on the ice for 11 power-play goals against. Only two Boston forwards were on the ice more short-handed.  


The case for Marcus Kruger


A different skill set here for the smaller Kruger (6-foot, 186 pounds). Don’t expect even double-digit goals from him, either. But Kruger will likely cost less than $1 million and can be a valuable penalty killer, where Washington needs help. That’s huge for a team that is now dealing with an $81.5 million salary cap, which is $1.5 million less than expected. Add in the overage bonus for defenseman Brooks Orpik from last season and you’re in trouble at just over $80 million.   


Kruger played seven seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and one disappointing one with the Carolina Hurricanes. Kruger has plenty of Stanley Cup experience, too, playing for Chicago’s 2013 and 2015 Cup winners. He has 87 postseason games and a triple-overtime game-winner in the Western Conference Final to his name in 2015 in Game 2 of that series against Anaheim. 


A defensive specialist, only two Blackhawks forwards played more short-handed minutes than Kruger (132:46) last season. There is risk here. Kruger was traded to Carolina in 2017-18, but was placed on waivers after 48 games and spent the rest of the season in the AHL before being traded to Arizona and then back to Chicago. But part of that stemmed from how much he was making on a $3.08 million cap hit. At a bargain-basement price, Kruger is more palatable. 


Who’s your pick? Vote here.


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Ted Leonsis reflects on Capitals' induction to D.C. Sports Hall of Fame

NBC Sports Washington

Ted Leonsis reflects on Capitals' induction to D.C. Sports Hall of Fame

Click "play" in the embedded podcast to listen to the Capitals Talk Podcast interview with Ted Leonsis and click here to subscribe to the podcast.

Just as the party seems to be ending, the 2018 Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals are finding new ways to celebrate.

Sunday at Nationals Park, the Caps were honored with the "team of distinction" award in the D.C. sports hall of fame, the first-ever award of its kind.

“I think it just shows how this team connected with the fans and as many people have noted, this is one of the most divided cities in the world," Caps majority owner and president of Monumental Sports, Ted Leonsis said to Rob Carlin on the Capitals Talk podcast. "People can’t agree on anything, but they agreed on how much they loved, and how much fun they had and how proud they were that we won the Stanley Cup."

Founded in 1980, the D.C. sports hall of fame honors athletes, sports journalists and executives each year for excellence in D.C. sports. 2019 was the first time an entire team was formally recognized, fitting for the first-ever Stanley Cup championship in D.C.

"It [the honor] is a good capstone on that run," Leonsis said.

Listen to the full episode linked below.