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Pregame Primer: Schmidt expected to return

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Pregame Primer: Schmidt expected to return

News, notes and quotes as the Capitals (4-1-0, 8 points) prepare to face the Vancouver Canucks (3-1-2, 8 points) tonight at Rogers Arena (9:30 p.m. pregame, CSN):

Lineup change: Capitals coach Barry Trotz confirmed at the morning skate that Nate Schmidt will replace Taylor Chorney  on the Caps’ third defense pairing. Schmidt has sat out the past three games, all wins, after going pointless and a minus-1 in his first two games. Chorney did not record a point and was a plus-3 in his three games alongside Dmitry Orlov. He took a holding penalty in Tuesday night’s 6-2 win over the Calgary Flames. Trotz said he simply doesn’t want one of his young defensemen sitting too long.

Where they stand: The Caps are coming off three straight wins by a combined score of 14-4. The Canucks have lost two straight after a 3-0-1 start.

Goalie matchup: In 30 career games against the Caps, Ryan Miller is 17-12-0 with a 2.50 GAA and .916 SP.  Braden Holtby has faced the Canucks just once in his career and is 0-1-0 with a 4.13 GAA and .875 SP.

TKO Line: The Caps’ top line of Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin combined to record six points (2 goals, 4 assists) in Tuesday night’s win in Calgary and in the last three games the line has combined for six goals and eight assists.

Good numbers: The Caps rank first in the NHL in shots against per game (24.2) and first in goals per game (3.8). The Caps held the Flames to 19 shots on Tuesday, marking the second consecutive game they have held opponents to fewer than 20 shots. The last time the Capitals held their opponents to fewer than 20 shots in consecutive games was during the 2003-04 season. 

MORE CAPITALS: TROTZ ENDORSES OVECHKIN AS HALL OF FAMER

Here are projected lineups for tonight:

CAPITALS

Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Justin Williams

Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Brooks Laich - Chandler Stephenson - Andre Burakovsky

Defense pairings

Brooks Orpik - John Carlson

Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner

Dmitry Orlov –Nate Schmidt

Goaltenders 

Braden Holtby (starter) - Philipp Grubauer

Injured: Chris Brown (hand)

Scratches: Michael Latta, Taylor Chorney, Stanislav Galiev

CANUCKS

Forward lines

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Radim Vrbata

Alexandre Burrows - Brandon Sutter - Jannik Hansen

Sven Baertschi - Bo Horvat - Jake Virtanen

Brandon Prust - Jared McCann - Derek Dorsett

Defense pairings

Alexander Edler - Christopher Tanev

Dan Hamhuis - Matt Bartkowski

Ben Hutton - Luca Sbisa

Goaltenders

Ryan Miller (starter) - Richard Bachman

Injured: Chris Higgins (foot), Jacob Markstrom (hamstring)

Scratches: Adam Cracknell, Yannick Weber

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning to win the Eastern Conference

4 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning to win the Eastern Conference

The Capitals dominated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0 in Game 7 on Wednesday to claim the conference crown and a spot in the Stanley Cup Final. Washington took an early lead and never looked back.

Here is how they bucked their Game 7 history to win.

62 seconds

The last time these two teams met in Tampa, the Lightning struck just 19 seconds into the game and it set the tone for the entire contest. This time, it was the Caps who struck early.

A big hit by Tom Wilson in the neutral zone created a turnover that started the rush for the Caps. Evgeny Kuznetsov fed Ovechkin for the one-timer and he fired it past Vasilevskiy just 62 seconds into the game.

Andre Burakovsky’s big night

Injury limited Burakovsky to just 56 games this season. He suffered another injury in Game 2 of the first round and did not return until Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. He was a healthy scratch in Game 5 and was talking about talking to a sports psychologist over the summer. He had not recorded a point this postseason heading into Wednesday game.

And somehow, he rattled off two goals to lead the Capitals.

The start of the second period was all Tampa Bay. The Lightning were dictating the play and buzzing around Braden Holtby. They outshot the Caps 8-1 to start the frame, but Burakovsky got the momentum right back as he stole the puck away from Dan Girardi and fired a beautiful shot past Andrei Vasilevskiy. John Carlson sprung him on a breakaway later in the second period which he put through the five-hole of Vasilevskiy for his second goal of the game.

Braden Holtby is suddenly unbeatable

The last goal Holtby allowed was 33 seconds into the second period…of Game 5. After not recording a single shutout at all this season, he blanked the Lightning in both Game 6 and Game 7 for back-to-back shutouts.

The Lightning had their opportunities. They pushed and pushed hard all game long, especially in the second period as they recorded eight of the first nine shots on goal of the period.

It didn’t matter.

Holtby was up to the task as he dominated the Lightning yet again, even turning aside a breakaway from Alex Killorn to keep the clean sheet. He made 60 straight saves and did not allow a goal for 159:27. This is just the fifth time in NHL history a goalie recorded a shutout in both Game 6 and Game 7 of a playoff series.

Team defense

The Lightning had their chances, but they were frustrated all night long by the all-in defense the Caps played. As good as Holtby was, he let up a lot of juicy rebounds early on. But Tampa Bay could not get a stick to any of them because the Caps defense beat them to the puck all game long.

The Caps recorded 15 blocked shots in the game. Devante Smith-Pelly took a shot block off the back of the neck, T.J. Oshie took one off the boot.

This team was all-in all night long and it frustrated what was the league’s top offense.

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Did Bryce Harper predict the Caps-Knights Stanley Cup Final?

Did Bryce Harper predict the Caps-Knights Stanley Cup Final?

On May 1, the Capitals were in the middle of their second-round series vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Everyone was skeptical about whether or not they'd be able to overcome the looming second-round hump. 

Everyone except Bryce Harper that is.

On May 1, Harper tweeted this: 

Moments after the Caps' Game 7 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the Eastern Conference, earning a date with the Vegas Golden Knights, fans remembered Harper's prescient tweet.

Harper is a Las Vegas native and has been an outspoken Knights supporter since the beginning of the season.

However, as one of D.C.'s most beloved athletes, it's tough to imagine a scenario in which he roots against the Caps in a series that's so monumental for the entire city.

He hasn't announced which team he's pulling for yet, but regardless of who wins the Cup Bryce Harper will end up pretty happy.

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