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Tarik El-Bashir: Thrilled to return to hockey beat as CSN's Capitals Insider

Tarik El-Bashir: Thrilled to return to hockey beat as CSN's Capitals Insider

After covering the Redskins for the past four seasons, I’m thrilled to announce that I’m returning to the hockey beat as CSN’s Capitals Insider.

In a lot of ways, this feels like a homecoming for me. 

For those of you who don’t know my backstory, here’s the CliffsNotes version:

I’m a native Washingtonian who learned to play hockey at Wheaton Ice Rink, went to games at Capitals Centre and had a Scott Stevens ‘drink your milk’ poster on my bedroom door. 

One of my first jobs in the business was contributing to The New York Times’ coverage of the Islanders, Rangers and Devils in the late 1990’s. Then, in 2005, I realized a dream of mine: I was named Capitals beat writer at The Washington Post and, over the next seven years, was fortunate enough to cover the highs and lows of the franchise I grew up cheering for. 

I was at Verizon Center for Ovechkin’s board-rattling NHL debut and witnessed “The Goal” from the press box in Glendale, Ariz. I was at Kettler Capitals Iceplex when Boudreau was hired on Thanksgiving and covered the dueling hat tricks by Ovechkin and Crosby in 2009 playoffs. I also worked the locker room after the Caps were humbled by Halak and the Habs in 2010 and after they got swept from the playoffs by Stamkos and Co. a year later.

Although I stopped writing about the Caps in 2012 and left The Post to join CSN a little while later, I never stopped following my hometown hockey team. I didn’t miss many games, but when work or my son’s crazy travel hockey schedule didn’t allow me to watch, I almost always dialed up the highlights on my laptop in the morning. 

This past April, I jumped at the opportunity to join CSN’s playoff coverage as an analyst on our post, postgame show, #CapitalsTalk. Although I hadn’t covered hockey in four years, it was like lacing up on an old, broken-in pair of skates; it just felt right. So when the chance to cover the Caps full-time was presented to me recently, I’m pretty sure I said, ‘Yes’ before my boss finished his thought.   

So, here we are. 

I’ve watched and covered a lot of Caps hockey over the years and now, after a scratching my NFL itch, I’m back for more. I’m pumped to join CSN’s deep and talented roster of analysts, reporters and producers. In my new role, I’ll lead our network’s coverage on the web and contribute to our coverage on the air. 

My first day on the job is today.

Please give me a follow on Twitter (@TarikCSN) and a like on Facebook (facebook.com/TarikCSN).

Talk to ya’ll soon.

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Caps cut an additional nine players, but keep all four goalies in the midst of fierce competition for backup role

Caps cut an additional nine players, but keep all four goalies in the midst of fierce competition for backup role

The Capitals reassigned nine players from its roster to the Hershey Bears on Sunday, sending Kristofers Bindulis, Tobias Geisser, Connor Hobbs, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Brett Leason, Philippe Maillet, Bobby Nardella, Garrett Pilon and Joe Snively to its AHL affiliate.

Training camp for Hershey begins on Monday making Sunday a convenient time to update the roster.

The latest round of cuts contains no major surprises. Jonsson-Fjallby is likely the most NHL ready of the group, but after returning to Sweden he is not quite used to the North American game as he needs to be. After a disappointing showing in the Prospects Showcase and in training camp, he now finds himself headed to Hershey. He has committed to remaining in North America this season regardless of where he plays and given the Caps’ salary cap constraints and depth, he will likely spend most if not all of the 2019-20 season in the AHL.

Leason was a second-round draft pick by Washington in 2019 and scored a goal in Saturday’s preseason contest. As a 20-year-old, however, he is headed to Hershey instead of to a junior team.

The Caps elected to keep both rookie netminders Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov which will leave the Bears a bit shorthanded as camp opens. Both goalies are competing with Pheonix Copley for the backup role behind Braden Holtby this season.

The Caps are expected to make additional cuts prior to their preseason road trip beginning Wednesday in Chicago.

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3 players who stood out in playoff rematch against the Hurricanes: Samsonov gets the full game and the win

3 players who stood out in playoff rematch against the Hurricanes: Samsonov gets the full game and the win

WASHINGTON -- In a reversal of last season’s playoff, the Capitals dominant forecheck suffocated the Carolina Hurricanes for much of the game on Friday in a 3-2 preseason win. The game was the final preseason game in Washington as the Caps’ three remaining contests all will come on the road.

Here are three players who impressed in the home preseason finale.

Ilya Samsonov

Samsonov faced only 15 shots from a clearly outmatched Hurricanes roster, but he looked impressive in the few times he was tested. The save of the night came in the second period when he denied Julien Gauthier on a breakaway.

Gauthier attempted the old Peter Forsberg move and skated to his right while trying to craftily tuck the puck in to the left. Samsonov slid with Gauthier, but stuck out his stick to deny the shot and make the tremendous save.

Samsonov continued to demonstrate his comfort playing the puck with his stick as he also denied a scoring opportunity with a well-timed poke check and was always quick to play the puck when it came behind the goal line.

One area in which he was not comfortable was the glove. There were multiple occasions in which he was able to get a glove on the puck, but was not able to catch it creating dangerous opportunities for Carolina’s offense.

The Hurricanes managed only seven shots on goal through the first two periods, but managed some more pressure in the third. The shutout bid was ended in the third when Brock McGinn followed up his own rebound to score Carolina’s first goal of the game. The second goal came on a fluky bounce off the backboards that Janne Kuokkanen was able to whack behind Samsonov before he could get a glove to it.

While Todd Reirden likely hoped Samsonov would be more tested than he was, he was up to the task with 13 saves.

Brian Pinho

The Caps recorded three goals on the night and Pinho had two of them.  In the first period, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby created a turnover on the forecheck. Feeling the pressure, Fredrik Claesson tried a hopeful clear that was cut off at the blue line by Pinho who skated in and tucked the puck through the 5-hole of goalie Anton Forsberg. He scored again in the third period on the power play when his shot deflected off of Jake Bean and took a favorable bounce up before dropping into the net.

Pinho led the Capitals with five points in three games at the 2019 Prospect Showcase, but at 24 years old, he would be expected to play well. He faced slightly better competition on Saturday and still was able to produce with two goals on the night.

Richard Panik

One of the newest Caps, Panik has looked extremely comfortable in both of his preseason games thus far. He was again strong on the penalty kill where he logged 1:35 of ice time. He also looked strong offensively.

Panik played very heavy below the goal line which suits the Caps’ offensive cycle the team likes to utilize. He also showed good vision as, in the third period, he was able to fight off a check and literally kicked the puck out to a wide-open Tavis Boyd in the slot.

With Panik and Carl Hagelin together, the Caps should have a much more formidable penalty kill this season.

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