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Ovechkin on a mission to 'lead the way'


Ovechkin on a mission to 'lead the way'

PHILADELPHIA -- Whether it’s dropping defenseman Andrew MacDonald with his cannon slap shot and knocking Sean Couturier out of the series with a menacing shoulder into the boards in Game 1 or checking Brayden Schenn into his own players’ bench to start Game 2, Alex Ovechkin is having a large impact on the Capitals’ first-round series against the Flyers, even if it isn’t coming on the scoreboard.

“I think it’s a time when you have to not just score goals and do some offensive stuff, but you have to set the tone in different ways,” Ovechkin said Monday, prior to the Game 3 at Wells Fargo Center (6 p.m., Pregame Livce, CSN). “Physical game, smart play in the neutral zone, offensive zone, defensive zone, it doesn’t matter which area.

“It’s part of my game and I have to lead the way in that category and the boys are going to follow me.”

Remember those last seven words. At 30 years old, Ovechkin seems ready to heave the Capitals onto his broad shoulders and carry them, not so much with goals – although he had a big power-play blast to give the Caps a 3-1 lead in Game 2 – but with his will. In the first two games against the Flyers Ovechkin recorded a team-high 11 hits, with seven of them coming in Game 2.

“I think Alex is a physical player at the best of times, but in playoff time everything’s amped up and there’s no question he’s more physical,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s a big body (6-foot-3, 239 pounds), he can skate; he’s a force.

“That’s why I say Alex is unique in this game because he’s one of the purest snipers in the game and he’s got the physical element. Not too many people in the league can even match it. He’s a weapon for us that’s a difference maker.”

Just ask Schenn.

“He’s 230 pounds that skates fast and can score goals," Schenn said. "But I think we can still do a better job (on him). I don’t think we’ve given him a whole lot 5-on-5, but he’s dangerous on the power play. He got his one chance (Saturday) night on the power play, and he made the most of it. ... He just stands there and waits for his one-timer.”

Schenn probably has the bruises to show Ovechkin does more than just wait for one-timers, but the Caps' captain is not done just yet.

Ovechkin said the Capitals will be up against their biggest challenge of the series in tonight’s Game 3 and said the Caps need to use the emotion in the building “to our advantage.” He also agrees with Trotz’s assertion the Caps have not yet played their best game of the series, which continues with Game 4 on Wednesday.

“We didn’t play our best game,” he said. “I think we took too many penalties (six in Game 2). We have to stay focused on playing 5-on-5 and use our power play. We can’t have five or six penalties in a game.”

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What’s next for Capitals' Tom Wilson?

What’s next for Capitals' Tom Wilson?

On Thursday, Tom Wilson appealed his 20-game suspension to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. So what happens now?

Wilson was suspended 20-games for a hit he delivered to St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist in the preseason. The NHLPA filed an appeal on Wilson’s behalf which led to his hearing on Thursday.

There is no specific timeline on when Bettman will issue a decision so for now, Wilson will have to wait.

When a decision is reached, he will have two options of how to proceed. First, he can accept the commissioner’s decision and serve whatever suspension remains. As of Thursday, he has currently served six games out of the original 20-game suspension.

Wilson also has the option of a second appeal. For suspensions of six games or more, a player can file a subsequent appeal to a neutral arbitrator. The arbitrator is given authority to issue a ruling based on whether the league’s finding of a violation of the rules and the penalty imposed were both supported by substantial evidence, meaning both the hit itself and the length of suspension will be reviewed.

This can be a lengthy process.

The most recent example of a player appealing to a neutral arbitrator is Nashville’s Austin Watson. He was suspended 27 games by the NHL on Sept. 12 for domestic assault. On Oct. 12 an arbitrator reduced the suspension to 18 games.

Given the serious nature of domestic assault, it should be noted that Wilson and Watson’s respective transgressions are in no way comparable. This example is used merely to illustrate how long the process can take.

Another example is that of Dennis Wideman who was suspended 20 games in 2016 for hitting and injuring a referee. His suspension was ultimately reduced to 10 games by an arbitrator, but by that time he had already served 19 games.

Wilson will remain suspended throughout the appeals process.

Obviously he would like to return to the ice as quickly as possible, but even if his appeal drags out and Wilson is forced to sit for most or all of those 20 games, he still can recoup some of the money he will forfeit from this suspension (over $1.2 million) which will make the arbitrator’s decision still relevant for him personally.

Should Wilson serve the full 20-game suspension, he will be eligible to return to play on Nov. 21 when the Caps host the Chicago Blackhawks.


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Capitals prospect report: The chocolate and white is feeling a bit black and blue

USA Today

Capitals prospect report: The chocolate and white is feeling a bit black and blue

The Hershey Bears won their first game of the season on Tuesday, beating rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 3-2. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Hershey is now 1-5 on the season and sits in last place in the Atlantic Division.

The Bears missed the playoffs last season meaning a 1-5 start to this season is not sitting well for fans of the storied AHL franchise.

The roster in Hershey looks much improved compared to last season. So why are they struggling and how do they turn things around?

The biggest issue to me is cohesion. Head coach Spencer Carbery is in his first season with the team. In addition, this roster has had a lot of turnover. Caps prospects Shane Gersich, Juuso Ikonen, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Max Kammerer, Beck Malenstyn, Garrett Pilon, Brian Pinho, Tobias Geisser and Ilya Samsonov are all making their AHL debuts this season. Other additions such as Michael Sgarbossa, Jayson Megna and Sergei Shumakov makes this roster largely a collection of players who have not played together before. There were going to be growing pains, but the Bears are going to get better as the season goes along.

    Another issue has been injuries.

    Samsonov became just the latest in a long list of players on the shelf due to injury. It was announced on Wednesday that he suffered a lower-body injury and is considered day-to-day. He did not dress for the team’s game that night and Hershey was forced to sign a local goalie, Padraig Carey, to an amateur tryout agreement to serve as the backup to Vitek Vanecek.

    Hershey recalled goalie Parker Milner from the ECHL on Thursday.

    In addition to Samsonov’s injury, Kris Bindulis, Colby Williams, Riley Barber, Ikonen and Shumakov are all dealing with upper-body injuries while Mason Mitchell has a lower-body ailment.

    Other prospect notes:

    • With so many new players, several have reached early career milestones. Pilon (2 assists), Kammerer (3 assists), Malenstyn (1 assist) and Jonsson-Fjallby (1 goal) all recorded their first AHL points over the week. Here’s a look at Jonsson-Fjallby’s goal:

    • Jonsson-Fjallby remains in Hershey despite rumors last week of a return to Sweden. Those rumors seem to have originated from Sweden and now it looks like any speculation of Jonsson-Fjallby leaving for his home country have been put to bed. Swedish outlet Expressen spoke with Joakim Eriksson, sports director of Jonsson-Fjallby’s Swedish team Djurgarden. In that report published Monday, Eriksson said (as translated by Google translate), “Axel has a contract with Washington and no other team. It's Axel's decision altogether, but we have said that we have a place available and that's how the situation has been. Everything else has just been media speculation.”
    • The blog Russian Machine Never Breaks made a trek out to Hershey and spoke with Ilya Samsonov about his transition to North America and his start in the AHL. “For so long, as you understand, I spent my whole life speaking a different language,” Samsonov said. “So, for now, it’s hard for me to hear what my teammates are saying on the ice. Some things I don’t understand, but I’m trying, and I think I’ve made a step forward in that regard.” Check out the full interview and article here.
    • I spoke with Capitals coach Scott Murray recently on Samsonov and the language barrier. “He actually did a really good job this summer,” Murray said. “He stayed in the US and did a really good job bridging that gap and then obviously we’ve made it a point and he’s made it a point that he wants to continually get better at the English language so that we can communicate because when you can communicate it’s way easier to teach, it’s way easier for him to learn and be engaged.”
    • Vanecek got his first win of the season on Wednesday and the Penguins made him earn it. He turned aside 40 shots in the effort, a new career-high for him.
    • Defenseman Tyler Lewington scored on Sunday against Rockford. It was his first goal since Nov. 11, 2017. You can see the replay of it here:  

    • Riley Sutter was named first star of the game on Saturday in Everett’s win over Kamloops in the WHL. He scored two goals and an assist to help lead Everett to the 7-2 victory.