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Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: Too soon to panic

Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: Too soon to panic

To say Caps fans are nervous after going 1-1 with the Toronto Maple Leafs through two games would be an understatement. D.C. is in full panic mode.

Considering Washington’s playoff history, it is understandable. We have all seen this story before in which an incredibly talented team that breezed through the regular season but is ultimately unable to find that extra gear in the postseason. Seven years ago it resulted in one of the biggest upsets in modern NHL history as the Caps fell to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round.

Losing to Toronto in the first round this year would be on that level. Few expected the Maple Leafs to get this far, let alone challenge the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Caps. After losing Game 2 and seeing the Pittsburgh Penguins roll to a 3-0 series lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets, Washington fans are despairing that even if they do somehow avoid the upset, they don’t stand much chance against Pittsburgh in the second round.

SEE THE LATEST STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF POWER RANKINGS

Sounds like a good time for the team to hit the road for a few days to avoid the negative rhetoric.

Look, Games 1 and 2 were not good enough. Washington will not make a deep playoff run if they do not play better. To declare the series and the playoffs over, however, is premature.

History is full of examples of teams who struggled early in the playoffs and still found success. In 2014, the Los Angeles Kings fell into a 3-0 series hole to the San Jose Sharks in the very first round. Think a few people were writing them off? Not only did the Kings win four straight to stun the Sharks, they would go on to win the Stanley Cup.

Ok, but the Kings were the underdogs. Real contenders don’t struggle against lower seeds, right? Well, there was that time in 2011 when the 3rd-seeded Boston Bruins lost both Games 1 and 2 at home in the first round to the 6th-seeded Montreal Canadiens, but still won the series and the Cup. Oh, and that time in 2012 when the 7th-seeded Detroit Red Wings took a 3-1 series lead in the second round against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Chicago Blackhawks. That Chicago team would also go on to win the Cup.

The point is not to say that the Capitals will win the Cup or even beat the Maple Leafs. I am not trying to explain away how Washington played in Games 1 and 2, it wasn’t good enough.

But to say the playoffs are over because the Caps are tied 1-1 in the first round? That’s silly. Washington could win both games in Toronto and suddenly the entire conversation is different. Or they could lose both games and come back home down 3-1…and still go on to win the series and the Cup.

Nothing is over until the clock hits zero on loss No. 4.

Where do all the teams stand after the first week of playoff hockey? Find out here in the newest Stanley Cup Playoff Power Rankings.

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Want to witness history? Why Saturday's game is a good bet for Alex Ovechkin to score 700

Want to witness history? Why Saturday's game is a good bet for Alex Ovechkin to score 700

Alex Ovechkin is capable of scoring any time against any team, but if you're trying to pinpoint when history could happen and see goal No. 700, there are plenty of reasons to be watching Saturday's marquee matchup against the New Jersey Devils (1 p.m., NBC Sports Washington).

In three games this season, Ovechkin has scored four times against New Jersey. On Jan. 16, he was bloodied by a high stick from Miles Wood and left for the locker room returning before the first period was up and scored twice. He did not just get mad, he got even and completed the hat trick in the third period.

Head coach Alain Nasreddine did not reveal who his starter would be in net on Friday, but it will be either MacKenzie Blackwood or Cory Schneider. Keep your fingers crossed for Schneider.

Schneider has not played an NHL game since Jan. 18 and was recalled from the AHL on Thursday most likely because Louis Domingue is headed out of town in a trade and the team wanted to protect the asset. Schneider has a 4.65 GAA and .852 save percentage in nine games. Ovechkin has also had plenty of success against him in the past, scoring eight times against the Devils netminder. He has only managed one goal on Blackwood, but it came this season on Dec. 12, 2019.

Ovechkin has a history of success against the Devils. In 56 games against New Jersey, Ovechkin scored in 22 of them. He has 29 total goals including two of his 28 career hat tricks against the Devils.

New Jersey ranks 30th in the NHL in goals against and, although they have improved in that area since Jan. 1, they still rank 21st in that time keeping the puck out of the net.

Add in the fact that the trade deadline firesale has already begun with the Devils shipping out Blake Coleman and captain Andy Greene in the past week, as well as Taylor Hall back in December, and this may be a team not ready to stop Ovechkin's march to history.

With Ovechkin on the verge of 700, there's no doubt that Saturday's marquee matchup (1 p.m., NBC Sports Washington) is one you won't want to miss.

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Alex Ovechkin's son, Sergei, makes an appearance during Capitals practice

Alex Ovechkin's son, Sergei, makes an appearance during Capitals practice

The Capitals had a special guest during their morning skate on Friday.

Alex Ovechkin's son, Sergei, got to pay his father a visit at the Medstar Capitals Iceplex.

Ovechkin carried his one-year-old around the ice and even put him down on the ice to practice his skills. Sergei had a mini stick of his own, almost like he was ready to play if needed.

No word yet on whether Sergei plans on declaring for the upcoming NHL draft, but the kid has already got some skills--and not to mention pretty good genes.

If you were having a bad day, this moment between Ovechkin and his son will certainly cheer you up!

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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