Capitals

Quick Links

Pregame primer: Stanley Cup Final Game 2

stamkos.png

Pregame primer: Stanley Cup Final Game 2

News, notes and quotes as the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks get set to resume the Stanley Cup Final tonight in Tampa with Game 2 [7:15 p.m., NBC]:

Series at a glance: The Blackhawks won the series opener 2-1 when forwards Teuvu Teravainen and Antoine Vermette scored back-to-back, third-period goals.

Comeback kids: Dating to Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final – which also featured the Blackhawks – five of the past seven Stanley Cup Final games have seen the victorious team overcome a deficit at any point in the contest, including four in the third period.

Last Seven Stanley Cup Final Games

2015: Game 1 – CHI 2 at TBL 1 (CHI trailed 1-0 in 3rd period)
2014: Game 5 – NYR 2 at LAK 3 (2OT) (LAK trailed 2-1 in 3rd period)
2014: Game 4 – LAK 1 at NYR 2*
2014: Game 3 – LAK 3 at NYR 0*
2014: Game 2 – NYR 4 at LAK 5 (2OT) (LAK trailed 4-2 in 3rd period)
2014: Game 1 – NYR 2 at LAK 3 (OT) (LAK trailed 2-0 in 1st period)
2013: Game 6 – CHI 3 at BOS 2 (CHI trailed 2-1 in 3rd period)
Winning team did not trail.

Including Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, the Blackhawks have led for a combined 5:33 in their last two Stanley Cup Final games (out of 120:00 total) – both wins.
The last two Stanley Cup winners have trailed for more time than they have led during the course of the series. The Blackhawks led for 21.0 percent of total playing time in 2013 (BOS: 23.1 percent) and the Kings led for 18.8 percent of total playing time in 2014 (NYR: 30 percent).

The Kings, who won Games 1 and 2 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final vs. NYR, did not hold the lead in either contest until scoring the decisive goal in overtime.

NBC ratings: Game 1 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final produced a 3.34 household rating and averaged 5.547 million viewers, making it the most-watched Game 1 that did not require overtime in 18 years and NBC’s second most-watched Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final ever.

Viewership of Game 1 was up 16 percent compared to Game 1 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final between the Kings and Rangers (4.785 million viewers). The only Game 1 on NBC to surpass Wednesday’s viewership was Game 1 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final between the Blackhawks and Bruins, which was decided in triple-overtime (6.315 million viewers).
The game peaked with 6.433 million viewers from 10:30 – 10:45 p.m. ET. 

RELATED: What changes would you make for next NHL season?

What the Lightning are saying:

“This will be a different test for our group. I think we look at all the positives in [Game 1]. There was a lot. I know that was the first game for a lot of us in the Final, but I don’t think that’s an excuse for our group anymore. We got that out of the way. We played extremely well, especially the first two periods. If we’re in that position again, we’ll make the necessary adjustments. But there’s a lot of good things, and we’re going to build on that.” – Lightning captain Steven Stamkos

“We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to try to win every playoff game. I think that’s the way you approach it. You approach the game, you want to win it. You want to do everything you can to do it. That’s the way we’re going to approach tomorrow, the same way we approached Game 1.” – Lightning forward Ryan Callahan

“We’re here for a reason. I think we’re a really good team. We need to be able to understand that we can lock it down by playing our game, skating forward, forechecking, taking the puck out of their hands. They’re a really good team, too, if you give them too much time and space. They can hurt you.” – Lightning forward Brian Boyle

“We respect everybody, but there’s no fear in the room. Especially after playing [Wednesday] night’s game, when you’re feeling out your opponent a little bit . . . We got a taste of who we were playing against. It’s probably in our style. This is four series; third one where we’ve lost Game 1. We’ve never made it easy on ourselves. But we came here to win this thing, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.” – Lightning head coach Jon Cooper

What the Blackhawks are saying:

“I think we know that we didn’t play our best game. I think we finally started to find our game late in the game. You can go over and over the parts of the game where they could have opened it wide up and maybe we wouldn’t have had a chance to get back and find ways to win the game. But [Corey Crawford] played great. It’s not the first time he’s stolen a game for us in these playoffs and throughout this season. So for the most part I think we found our game slowly as the game went on.” – Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews 

“This is very exciting. It is something I was looking forward to. I’ve been saying all along this is a great opportunity. Trying to make the best out of it. We have a good group, great players. This is a very exciting moment. Every time you have a chance to play at that time of the year, this is something you want to grab and take advantage of it.” – Blackhawks forward Antoine Vermette

“I think there’s always a feeling in our locker room when we’re down a goal or couple of goals that we might come back. There’s always a feeling. I think it’s just a great thing to have there.” – Blackhawks forward Teuvo Teravainen 

“I thought Game 1 we weren’t quick enough to begin. I think we found out how fast they really are. Certainly got our attention. When you’re down in the third period, you’re pressing. I’m not saying gambling, but you’re pushing the envelope. We got a couple of breaks. But there’s not a lot of room out there, not a lot of time. But I think our team realizes now everything’s got to be fast, quicker. The strength of our team is finding ways to win. [Wednesday] was a good example.” – Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: End of season review: Mike Green

Quick Links

Who will the Caps' backup goalie be next season?

backup_goalie.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Who will the Caps' backup goalie be next season?

Very few teams have the luxury of having a backup goalie they can rely on for an extended period of time while the starter goes through a massive slump. The Capitals had that luxury in 2017-2018 thanks to Philipp Grubauer.

Not every team in the NHL has a dependable starter, let alone backup, so when a backup goalie goes 15-10-3 in a season with a 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage, that is likely to catch the attention of general managers around the league.

The 2018-19 season will likely be a season of transition for the Capitals behind Braden Holtby. General manager Brian MacLellan expressed his willingness Wednesday to possibly trade backup goalie Philipp Grubauer this offseason. With the season he just had, he could potentially yield the Caps a solid return.

But, if Grubauer is indeed moved, that leaves the question of who will play backup for the Capitals this season?

The initial plan appears to be to promote Pheonix Copley from the AHL.

“Yeah, I think he's capable of it,” MacLellan said when asked if he saw Copley as an NHL backup. “Obviously, he's unproven. I think he's done what he could do at the American League level. Got through probably a little bit of a tough patch this year recovering from an injury, but I think he has potential to be that guy, yes.”

Copley, 26, played last season with the Caps’ AHL affiliate Hershey Bears. He had a tough season with a 2.91 GAA and .896 save percentage in 41 games.

As MacLellan alluded, Copley suffered a serious injury at the end of the previous season and it clearly affected his season. The year prior, Copley managed a 2.15 GAA and .931 with Hershey in 16 games. He was considered Washington’s No. 3 goalie this season and was recalled for the playoffs as an emergency backup behind Grubauer.

Copley’s career includes only two NHL games.

There is another internal candidate who some fans may be hoping to see next season. That of course, is 2015 first-round draft pick Ilya Samsonov.

Samsonov, 21, signed an entry-level contract with Washington in May and will make the jump from the KHL to North America next season.

But don’t expect to see Samsonov backing up Holtby to start the NHL season.

Samsonov will be adjusting to the North American game and the smaller North American rink. Because of that, MacLellan believes he will benefit from time in the AHL before making the jump to the NHL.

"I think he needs time in Hershey,” MacLellan said. “We'll start him in Hershey I would anticipate and see how he grows, see how he gets accustomed to the small rink and hopefully get some good coaching, get our guys in that work with him. It'll be up to him. I think he'll adapt fairly quickly given his skill set.”

MORE CAPITALS COVERAGE:

Quick Links

Devante Smith-Pelly is hopeful he has found a home with the Capitals

Devante Smith-Pelly is hopeful he has found a home with the Capitals

“I didn't think I'd be here a year ago,” Devante Smith-Pelly told the media Wednesday. “That's for sure.”

In 2017, Devante Smith-Pelly was a member of the New Jersey Devils and thought that’s where he would play the 2017-18 season. Instead, Smith-Pelly was bought out of the final year of his contract, something that he was not prepared for as he only received word of the team’s decision on the same day they made the move.

New Jersey’s loss turned out to be Washington’s gain as the Caps signed Smith-Pelly for one year and he proceeded to score seven goals during the Capitals’ postseason run to the Stanley Cup.

“Obviously, at the start of the year, not knowing exactly where I would be to at the parade on Constitution, it's crazy," Smith-Pelly said. "I haven't really sat down and taken it all in, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. I had an amazing time this year. Obviously, it's the best year of my life.”

Now as a restricted free agent, Smith-Pelly is hoping he has found a home in Washington.

Despite being only 26-years-old, Smith-Pelly has already had somewhat of a journeyman’s career. The Caps are the fifth team in which he has played for.

The issue for much of Smith-Pelly's career has been consistency.

The 2018 playoffs was not his first breakout performance. He scored five goals in just 12 playoff games for the Anaheim Ducks in 2014, but he failed to live up to that level of production again until this year’s postseason with Washington.

“I don't think I needed to prove anything,” Smith-Pelly said. “I knew what I could do, it's just me getting a chance to do it and that's it. I got a chance here and I guess it worked out.”

Expecting him to score seven goals every 24 games in the regular season is likely unrealistic, but the Caps don’t need him to do that. Smith-Pelly developed a role with the Caps being a bottom-six player, a role that he thrived in throughout the season.

“He's become a big part of the team,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “He brings good energy, he's a good teammate, he's well-liked. You could tell the teammates really migrate towards him, they like him and then the crowd also likes him. They're chanting 'DSP' all the time so it's been fun to watch how he's got everybody to embrace him and his personality.”

Given when Smith-Pelly was able to do in the postseason, it is no surprise that the Caps would be interested in keeping him around. But at what cost?

Smith-Pelly was a bargain for Washington last season with a cap hit of only $650,000. He will be due a raise, but with John Carlson expected to get a monster contract, how much will general manager Brian MacLellan be willing to spend on a bottom-six winger like Smith-Pelly?

Despite the phenomenal postseason, Smith-Pelly had only seven goals and 16 points in the entire regular season. When it comes to a new contract, MacLellan will likely want to pay for that player while Smith-Pelly will no doubt look to be paid like the player who scored seven times in 24 playoff games.

As of Wednesday when he spoke with reporters, Smith-Pelly said he had not yet had any talks with the team about a new contract, but also noted that, as a restricted free agent, “there’s no real rush.”

The Caps own Smith-Pelly’s rights which helps their bargaining position. Smith-Pelly, however, is arbitration eligible and his postseason stats will undoubtedly bump his value when viewed by a neutral arbitrator.

But there's a good chance it may not get anywhere close to that point.

“On the ice and off the ice I feel like this is the best situation I've been in,” Smith-Pelly said. “Obviously, never know what's going to happen but I found a place and I want to be back.”

MORE CAPITALS COVERAGE: