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Prediction Recap: A look back at Capitals pre-season predictions

Prediction Recap: A look back at Capitals pre-season predictions

With the regular season now over, it’s time to go back and see how we did with our preseason predictions.

Tarik El-Bashir’s predictions:

Braden Holtby will become the first goalie since Martin Brodeur in 2006-07 and 2007-08 to win the Vezina Trophy in back-to- back seasons.

We don’t officially know who will win the Vezina this season and while Holtby will almost certainly be a finalist, I believe ultimately Sergei Bobrovsky will win the award considering how important he has been to Columbus.

Dmitry Orlov will thrive in a top-four role.

After a few shaky moments at the beginning of the season, Orlov did prove he was ready to be a top-four defenseman. In the 2016 playoffs, Orlov was part of a revolving door on the bottom pair that exposed the team’s weakness in defensive depth. This season, if Barry Trotz wanted to shake things up on defense, he would have to go through a few other players before thinking about benching Orlov.

Evgeny Kuznetsov is going to flirt with 100 points.

Not quite. Nicklas Backstrom led the team in points with 86 and that was by a wide margin. Kuznetsov finished third among the Caps with 59 points. Only one player in the entire NHL reached 100 points this season and that was Connor McDavid.

RELATED: Hotlby found another award to win

JJ Regan’s predictions:

The Capitals will trade for a defenseman.

I thought of this prediction when the team traded for Tom Gilbert and whether I thought that should count. Luckily for me, general manager Brian MacLellan saved me the trouble by also trading for Kevin Shattenkirk. Washington’s defensive depth was exposed in the playoffs and I thought promoting Orlov to the top-four wouldn’t come close to solving the issue. In reality, the defense took a major step forward even before the Shattenkirk deal. Shattenkirk ultimately was brought in to bring left-right balance to the defensive pairs rather than to address depth, but I will still gladly take the win.

Lars Eller will register 40+ points.

While Eller turned out to be the player Washington hoped they were getting after an initial slow start to the season, he didn’t come close to the optimistic offensive production I projected. He finished the regular season with just 25 points.

Philipp Grubauer will start at least 20 games.

The Caps did not lose to Pittsburgh last season because of goaltending. While Braden Holtby played well enough to give Washington the win, however, there were points in the postseason where he looked fatigued. I thought that would make getting him more rest a bigger priority this season, but in fact he played in just three fewer games (63). As for Grubauer, he had only 19 starts. Are you kidding me? You couldn’t get him just one more start, Barry!?!

RELATED: Full 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff Bracket

Official results

Metropolitan Division

1. Washington
2. Pittsburgh
3. Columbus

Atlantic Division

1. Montreal
2. Ottawa
3. Boston

Wild Card 1: NY Rangers
Wild Card 2: Toronto

Central Division

1. Chicago
2. Minnesota
3. St. Louis

Pacific Division

1. Anaheim
2. Edmonton
3. San Jose

Wild Card 1: Calgary
Wild Card 2: Nashville

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Tarik El-Bashir’s predictions

Metropolitan Division

1. Washington
2. Pittsburgh
3. NY Islanders

Atlantic Division

1. Tampa Bay
2. Florida
3. Montreal

Wild Card 1: NY Rangers
Wild Card 2: Carolina

Tarik’s dark horse pick of the Islanders did not pay off as New York did not reach the playoffs and head coach Jack Capuano was fired midseason. The entire state of Florida was a major disappointment considering neither the Lightning nor the Panthers were able to reach the playoffs.

Central Division

1. Nashville
2. Chicago
3. Dallas

Pacific Division

1. San Jose
2. Los Angeles
3. Calgary

Wild Card 1: St. Louis
Wild Card 2: Anaheim

Tarik had a lot of confidence in Nashville after the P.K. Subban trade. While he remains one of the top defenseman in the NHL, his acquisition did not automatically turn the Predators into the Cup contenders many envisioned.

RELATED: The Caps are not the favorites to win the Stanley Cup

JJ Regan’s predictions

Metropolitan Division

1. Washington
2. Pittsburgh
3. Carolina

Atlantic Division

1. Tampa Bay
2. Montreal
3. Florida

Wild Card 1: NY Rangers
Wild Card 2: NY Islanders

Carolina’s downfall last season was its goaltending. It was better this season, but the Hurricanes were still not good enough to get to the playoffs. Like Tarik, I also had more faith in Tampa Bay and Florida. The Lightning have to be one of the biggest disappointments in the NHL this season for me. The biggest surprise? Columbus. Neither Tarik nor I saw them reaching the postseason let alone challenging for the Metro.

Central Division

1. Chicago
2. Nashville
3. St. Louis

Pacific Division

1. San Jose
2. Calgary
3. Los Angeles

Wild Card 1: Dallas
Wild Card 2: Minnesota

Los Angeles’ failure to reach the postseason would be understandable with Jonathan Quick’s injury, but Peter Budaj played really well in relief. Goaltending was not their problem which makes the Kings’ failure this season especially surprising. While I still had Dallas as a wild card team, I foresaw this collapse. It seemed crazy to me to think they would be able to have similar success as last season considering they did nothing to address their goaltending issues. I also had faith Bruce Boudreau could lead the Wild to the playoffs, though I had no idea he would have as much success as he did.

MORE PLAYOFFS: Concerts will provide scheduling difficulties for Capitals

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Samsonov shines, the bottom-six was the difference and time to Panik?

Samsonov shines, the bottom-six was the difference and time to Panik?

Ilya Samsonov had his best NHL performance on Saturday in a big 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Capitals got contributions from players all over the lineup in a big win.

Check out a recap of the game here.

Observations from the win

Everyone is pitching in

Look at Saturday's game and Wednesday's game. Whatever the Caps needed, they were able to get. Against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, they needed a key coach's challenge and the video coaches delivered. They needed someone to take over the game and T.J. Oshie delivered. They needed a big night from the penalty kill and Carl Hagelin and Co. delivered. They needed a response to Boston's tying goal and John Carlson delivered.

Now look at Saturday's game. Ilya Samsonov got the start and he delivered when the Caps had a slow start to the game. The fourth line settled everything down and Alex Ovechkin forced a turnover behind the net to give Washington the lead. The bottom-six scored twice to give Washington control, Oshie scored a quick response goal when Tampa Bay tried to battle back and the penalty kill delivered again.

The Caps are not being carried by Ovechkin, it's not a hot goalie or a dominant blue line, it is a complete team effort and it is extremely impressive to watch.

Samsonov had his best NHL game

We knew Samsonov and Braden Holtby were going to split the weekend's games for the dad's trip. I expected Holtby would get the tougher game in Tampa Bay, but instead Todd Reirden went with Samsonov. The rookie had three brilliant saves in the first five minutes of the game. Tampa Bay was the better team for the first two periods and Samsonov only gave up one goal in those 40 minutes. This was a big boy offense and some big boy hockey. Samsonov was up to the task.

Good penalty kill, too many penalties

The Lightning entered this game with the second-best power play in the NHL. Limiting penalties was a big key to the game for Washington and...they did not do that. The Caps gave up five power play opportunities to Tampa Bay, just daring the Lighting offense to take fire. Tampa Bay was only able to cash in only once.

On the one hand, it's great that the penalty kill is playing so well. On the other hand, the Caps must stop taking so many penalties.

Time to Panik?

I have stressed the importance of patience for Richard Panik who is not only adjusting to a new team, but who had an injury and missed 10 games on LTIR. Now, however, it seems like patience is starting to run out.

Panik played a team-low 8:10 on Saturday. Players who get that little ice time are usually either fourth line players or players who do not contribute to special teams. Panik is supposed to be a penalty killer, but despite five penalty kill opportunities, he registered only 14 seconds of shorthanded ice time.

Panik's offensive struggles have been well documented (he had an assist on Saturday), but if he is not contributing on the penalty kill either...well, that's an issue.

Turning point

Tampa Bay looked like the better team for the first 40 minutes. Thanks to Samsonov, the game was tied at 1 at the start of the third. These two teams boast some of the top offensive stars in the NHL, but it was Washington's bottom-six that gave them the edge as Lars Eller scored early in the third and Garnet Hathaway added a second goal just 45 seconds later.

Suddenly the Lightning were on their heels after looking in control for the majority of the game.

Play of the game

Just when the Caps took the one-goal lead, Hathaway came swooping in to make it 3-1.

Stat of the game

The Caps' PK had a success rate of only 78.9-percent last season. This is a dramatic improvement.

Quote of the game

John Hathaway, father or Garnet, stole the show between the first and second period:

"I think as parents, we try to teach them like two lessons as kids growing up. It's like, if you can dream it, you can do it and never, never, never give up. The dads are here tonight and I think they're not only so proud of their sons, but they're happy for their sons because they know that they had big dreams, they dared to dream big and they never gave up."

Fan predictions

Hey, two for two.

No Ovechkin goal, but you got the score right.

Eller with a big goal tonight assisted by Panik.

Backstrom had only two, but just a few games removed from returning from injury, he looks like he hasn't missed any time at all out there.

This bit will never get old to me.


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Samsonov weathers the Lightning in shutdown performance

Samsonov weathers the Lightning in shutdown performance

Ilya Samsonov got the difficult assignment on Saturday of playing on the road against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He proved to be up to the challenge with a brilliant performance in net, leading the Capitals to the 5-2 victory, their second win over the Lightning in 16 days.

Here is how Washington won.

Ilya Samsonov

There's no question who the player of this game was. Samsonov was brilliant in this game. He had an immediate impact as the Lightning came out firing. Samsonov robbed Alex Killorn, Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev all in the first five minutes of the game.

Samsonov did not fade down the stretch either. Tampa Bay dominated in the second period and Samsonov turned aside 10 of the 11 shots he faced. For the game, he stopped 26 out of 28.

The fourth line and top line team up

The Lightning were all over Washington at the start of the game and Samsonov was the only reason Tampa Bay did not take advantage. A really strong shift by the fourth line for Washington seemed to settle everything down. Soon after, the Caps were celebrating a 1-0 lead.

Defenseman Jan Rutta had the puck behind the net. Ondrej Palat came wheeling around for the handoff and Alex Ovechkin saw him coming. As Palat wheeled one way, Ovechkin came charging the other. That forced Rutta to flub the pass and the puck bounced right in front of the net to a wide-open Nicklas Backstrom who fired it into the net.

Incidental contact

Tampa Bay thought they had the tie early in the second when Carter Verhaeghe finally got one past Samsonov, but the goal was immediately waved off for goalie interference.

Mathieu Joseph and John Carlson were battling in the defensive zone when Joseph was skated into Samsonov. He was not necessarily pushed, but he and Carlson battled their way into the Caps' netminder, which did not allow Samsonov the chance to defend against Verhaeghe's shot.

You never know what can happen with a goalie interference call, but in this case the referee got it right. It was no goal for incidental contact and no penalty for goalie interference.

The bottom-six

These two teams boast some of the top offensive stars in the NHL. But that's not all it takes to win in the NHL and the Caps' showed off their depth in the third period, which really proved to be the difference.

With the game tied at one, Dmitry Orlov made a great play at the offensive blue line to get the puck over to Richard Panik despite the immediate pressure he faced. Panik set up Lars Eller who one-timed it past Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Just 45 seconds later the fourth line came streaking down the ice and Brendan Leipsic teed up Garnet Hathaway, who took it in on net and chipped it through Vasileskiy.

Those two quick goals suddenly turned the game on its head. To that point, the Lightning had been the better team. After that, the Caps were dominant.