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Prospect Report: A bizarre finish for Ilya Samsonov

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Prospect Report: A bizarre finish for Ilya Samsonov

Hershey update: 18-11-1-5, 4th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 2-0-0-0

The Hershey Bears snapped a three-game losing skid in dramatic fashion on Saturday as they battled back from a 5-1 deficit to beat Binghamton 6-5 in overtime.

Madison Bowey had three assists, Christian Djoos had two, but the player who really impressed was Nathan Walker who scored two goals and one assist.

With Zach Sill up with the Caps and Chandler Stephenson day-to-day with an upper-body injury, Walker was moved from wing to center for both of Hershey's games last week. It's a move Walker and head coach Troy Mann have discussed before, but was never tried until now.

Walker added an assist in Sunday's win over Bridgeport Sound for four points in his first two games at center. Not a bad debut. Whether he continues playing center or if this is strictly temporary is definitely something to keep an eye on.

While everyone was paying attention to the NHL All-Star rosters, the AHL announced their teams as well and two Bears made the cut. Connor Carrick will join Chris Bourque as an Atlantic Division All-Star for the AHL All-Star Classic. In 28 games this season, Carrick has eight goals and seven assists.

Jakub Vrana appears to be inching closer to a return. According to Pat Welter of ABC 27, Vrana visited a doctor Wednesday and "is close to being cleared for full contact."

RELATED: Capitals showing a real killer instinct under Trotz

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Ilya Samsonov earned silver in this year's IIHF World Junior Championship as Russia fell to Finland in the finals. Though he was expected to start heading into the tournament, Alexander Georgiev took the bulk of the starts and Samsonov only played in one game in the round robin.

Georgiev was shaky in the quarterfinals, allowing three goals on 21 shots, and head coach Valeri Braglin decided to start Samsonov in the semifinals against the United States. Samsonov stopped 26 of 27 shots in a 2-1 Russia win, but Bragin surprisingly went back to Georgiev in the finals. The move did not pay off as Russia lost in overtime.

In two games, Samsonov posted a .956 save percentage with a 1.00 GAA. As a comparison, Georgiev had a .898 save percentage and 2.52 GAA.

Samsonov was also wearing a pretty awesome Assassins Creed goalie mask.

Goalie Vitek Vanecek started in all five of the Czech Republic's games, but was pulled in the quarterfinals after the U.S. jumped out to a 2-0 lead. This article offers a pretty thorough breakdown of what went wrong in the quarterfinal loss and whether Vanecek was really to blame.

For the tournament, Vanecek went 2-3 with a .881 save percentage, 2.73 GAA and one shutout.

Despite entering the tournament with high hopes, Jonas Siegenthaler's Swiss team only narrowly avoided relegation thanks to two wins over Belarus. The young defenseman had only one assist for the entire tournament, but he led all Swiss defensemen in shots (11).

Some troubling news out of Regina where defenseman Colby Williams will undergo wrist surgery. Williams suffered an arm injury over the summer which, according to Greg Hrader of the Regina Leader-Post, "caused significant nerve damage." He missed the first 16 games of the season, only returning on Nov. 13. As he is still missing strength in his hand and wrist, it was decided that he needed a followup procedure.

Williams is expected to return before the end of the season.

Tim McGauley continues his remarkable resurgence for the Brandon Wheat Kings with another goal this week. After missing much of the start of the season due to injury, McGauley now has 19 points in 19 games.

In the college ranks, Steven Spinner recorded three assist in Nebrakas-Omaha's 6-0 win over Trinity Western. As the game was an exhibition, however, none of those points will count towards his stats for the season.

Thomas DiPauli scored the shootout winner for Notre Dame over Denver on New Year's Day. You can watch it here. He also tallied another goal in the rematch the next day.

The top team in the nation was dethroned this week as Brown upset Providence 4-3 despite Brian Pinho's effort. Pinho showed very good hands in this game with a goal and an assist for the Friars.

Check out the highlights. Pinho assisted on Providence's first goal and he scored their third:

MORE CAPITALS: Capitals, Islanders react to Johansson's hit on Hickey

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The Stanley Cup Final is set and the Capitals will hand the Stanley Cup off to Boston or St. Louis

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The Stanley Cup Final is set and the Capitals will hand the Stanley Cup off to Boston or St. Louis

With the St. Louis Blues’ victory on Tuesday, the Stanley Cup Final has officially been set. The Blues will face the Boston Bruins as both teams will battle to supplant the Capitals as the Stanley Cup champions.

St. Louis finished off the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday with a 5-1 Game 6 win and will now look to win its first ever Stanley Cup. One has to wonder whether that game was the last time we will see the 39-year-old Sharks forward Joe Thornton on the ice. For the Blues, this is the first time they have reached the final since 1970, snapping a 49-year drought. They made the final in each of their first three seasons as the NHL grouped all of its expansion franchises into a single division.

St. Louis is now the first team in league history to go from last place in the league in January to the Stanley Cup Final.

This season will be a rematch of the 1970 final in which the Blues were swept by the Bruins. That series gave us the iconic moment of Boston great Bobby Orr soaring through the air after scoring the Cup-clinching goal in overtime of Game 4.

The Bruins have been waiting since Thursday to learn who their opponent would be after sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes to win the East. Boston will be going for its seventh Cup and first since 2011. Goalie Tuukka Rask was brilliant in that series with a .956 save percentage and a 1.25 GAA. The long layoff, however, could potentially cool off Rask and the red-hot Bruins.

The New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets both swept their first-round opponents and both lost in the second round. The Hurricanes swept the Islanders in the second round and were then swept by Boston. The Bruins will have to shake off the rust as quickly as possible as the final begins.

Boston will have home ice in the final and will host Games 1 and 2 before the series shifts back to St. Louis.

Here is the final schedule:

  • Game 1 in Boston, Mon. May 27
  • Game 2 in Boston, Wed. May 29
  • Game 3 in St. Louis, Sat. June 1
  • Game 4 in St. Louis, Mon. June 3
  • Game 5 (if necessary) in Boston, Thurs. June 6
  • Game 6 (if necessary) in St. Louis, Sun. June 9
  • Game 7 (if necessary) in Boston, Wed. June 12

 

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Alex Ovechkin goes for gold before a needed break from hockey

Alex Ovechkin goes for gold before a needed break from hockey

The Capitals’ season ended a month ago, but Alex Ovechkin has yet to take his break.

That will happen soon enough, but for now Washington’s captain is leading Russia at the IIHF World Hockey Championships in Slovakia. After that, he gets his first real rest since the end of the 2016-17 season. He has played in 194 NHL games, including the postseason, in 18 months.  

Ovechkin will turn 34 on Sept. 17 and the questions now start in earnest: How long can one of the world’s greatest goal scorers keep up his pace? Ovechkin recorded his eighth 50-goal season this past season. And while it ended in disappointment with a first-round loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Ovechkin deserved little blame after adding four goals and five assists in the series.

“As a captain and as a leader, I thought he took another step this year from how he showed up to training camp to how he played all year long two-way hockey, commitment and when the games mattered the most,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said last month. “He scored big goals and showed fantastic playmaking ability. A physical force. I'm excited to see what he comes back with now after a little extended time away because he was tremendous this year.”

Washington won the Stanley Cup on June 7 in Las Vegas last year and after a hectic summer of celebrating and, eventually, training, players were back less than three months later for another grind of a season that ended after 89 more regular-season and playoff games. Ovechkin missed just one of them. 

Next year could be another one filled with milestones for Ovechkin. He doesn’t even need 50 to reach them. With 42 goals he reaches 700 for his career. Only seven players have ever hit that mark.  

Ovechkin passes Mario Lemieux (690) with 32 goals and moves into the top 10 all time. He has a reasonable chance to catch Brett Hull for second-most power-play goals (265) in NHL history. Ovechkin has 247 right now and has averaged 17 per year each of the past four seasons.     

At some point, even for Ovechkin, scoring 50 goals will be too much. Only Johnny Bucyk (36) and Jaromir Jagr (34) have ever topped 50 goals at an older age. But if he could just do it one more time he would tie Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for most 50-goal seasons ever (nine). We’re at the point where nothing should surprise, but we’ve gone off the known map. 

“That's the best I've seen him play in my three years here,” teammate Lars Eller said. “He just took some games over. It was impressive. He was our best player. Him and Nick, but especially O, he just took it to another level. Physicality-wise, he enforced his will out there and when he decides to do that, he's almost unstoppable. That was exciting to see."

Almost everything Ovechkin does now is unprecedented. In the past 20 NHL seasons dating to 1998-99, there have been 28 different 50-goal seasons as scoring has become harder thanks to better goalie play, equipment and more tactical defensive systems. And yet Ovechkin owns 29 percent of those 50-goal seasons. His 89 points (51 goals, 38 assists) were his most since 2009-10.  

For now, Ovechkin will settle for another IIHF World Championship. He has helped Russia win gold at the event three times (2008, 2010 and 2014). 

Russia finished group play undefeated on Tuesday night after a 7-4 win against Sweden. Ovechkin scored his second goal of the tournament in the victory. Despite just three points from Ovechkin through seven games, the Russians have out-scored their opponents 36-7 overall. 

They advanced to the quarterfinals on Thursday where they will play the United States. Given its play so far, Russia is favored to win gold but nothing is guaranteed. The semifinals would be Saturday if they win and the gold-medal game is set for Sunday. Then, finally, Ovechkin can rest before preparing for his 15th NHL season with two years left on his contract with the Capitals. 

“[Ovechkin] elevated his game in the first round. He's just got a hunger to him to contribute and to score goals,” teammate Brett Connolly said. “You could tell that he was committed and that he was going to give everything he had to win it again. He was great last year and arguably even better this year….This fan base is very lucky to watch what he does on a consistent basis. You're not going to see that ever again. So, enjoy it while it's here.” 

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