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USA Today predicts fewer goals for Ovechkin and a new team for Orlov in 2017

USA Today predicts fewer goals for Ovechkin and a new team for Orlov in 2017

The end of the calendar year is rapidly approaching which means it’s time for New Year’s resolutions and 2017 predictions.

USA Today released 10 NHL predictions for the upcoming year on Monday including some interesting notes on the Caps. Will they prove prescient?

The first prediction deals with rising Winnipeg Jets star Patrik Laine and his quest to become the next Alex Ovechkin:

"Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine will outscore Alex Ovechkin this season and for the calendar year of 2017."

As the article notes, Laine currently holds a four-goal lead over Ovechkin (18-14). What it does not note, however, is that the Jets have played five more games than the Caps this season.

RELATED: 12 Days of Capitals: Day 9

Ovechkin’s goal production declines when the team’s power play is struggling. The team’s struggles with the extra man at the start of the season have been well documented. Now with the power play surging, expect Ovechkin’s goal totals to start climbing.

Laine is an unbelievable talent who has a very bright NHL future, but he is a rookie. Chances are he cannot continue scoring at his current rate over the course of 2017. The other coaches and players get paid a lot of money to find a way to keep players like Laine from scoring. His production will likely decline in 2017 as teams start to get wise to him, especially at the start of the 2017-18 season.

Ever hear of a sophomore slump?

This feels like the type of prediction experts are going to make every year until they’re proven right, much like declaring the San Antonio Spurs are past their prime or Tom Brady can’t lead the New England Patriots to the Super Bowl. Eventually, you’re going to be proven right. What we should keep track of, however, is just how many times you were proven wrong before Father Time eventually wins out.

I’m not saying Ovechkin will definitely surpass Laine in goals for either the season or the calendar year, I’m just saying it may not be as obvious a prediction as it may seem.

The second predictions dealing with the Caps had to do with defenseman Dmitry Orlov and former Cap Mathieu Perreault:

"Mathieu Perreault, Dmitry Orlov and Jonas Brodin will be among the most noteworthy Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural season."

For those who have been trying to project who from the Caps may get snagged in the expansion draft, Orlov has always seemed a likely candidate. Teams will be able to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie.

It’s easy to see why Orlov would be a target for Vegas general manager George McPhee. McPhee drafted Orlov in 2009, he is only 25 years old and has top-four skill. Among players on the team, he will likely be near the top of McPhee’s wish list. But this prediction is also dependent on one very large factor: Karl Alzner.

What this ultimately says is that Washington will protect Alzner, Matt Niskanen and John Carlson from the expansion draft, which they will...if they can re-sign Alzner. If not, however, most likely they will protect Orlov over Nate Schmidt, Brooks Orpik and Taylor Chorney.

Ultimately, I think this will be correct. Some have floated Philipp Grubauer's name out there, but with so many teams in the NHL utilizing a two-goalie system, I believe McPhee will have his choice of plenty of netminders who have already established themselves as top starters. Orlov would be my prediction as of now.

Having said that and with all due respect to Orlov, if he is among the "most noteworthy" players on the new Vegas team, it may be a rough first few years for the Golden Knights.

MORE CAPITALS: 3 bold predictions: Playoff rematch in Philadelphia

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A pair of firsts: Dmitrij Jaskin, Travis Boyd score first goals for the Capitals

A pair of firsts: Dmitrij Jaskin, Travis Boyd score first goals for the Capitals

Saturday’s game between the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets featured a number of high-profile NHL stars. In a battle for first place in the Metropolitan Division, you would expect Alex Ovechkin, Artemi Panarin, Braden Holtby or Sergei Bobrovsky to be the heroes.

While Ovechkin did score and Holtby recorded a shutout in a 4-0 win over Columbus, it was Washington’s fourth line that stole the show as Dmitrij Jaskin and Travis Boyd each scored their first goals as Capitals.

While playing well this season, Jaskin has struggled finishing offensive chances. This is a player with 25 career NHL goals and who scored 13 goals in a single season in 2014-15. And yet, coming into Saturday’s game, Jaskin had yet to score a goal in 22 appearances with the Caps. The way he finally got into the net was by doing the same things he’s been doing effectively all season.

One of Jaskin’s best attributes is that he always goes to the net when he’s in the offensive zone. Boyd had the puck high in the zone and drew both Blue Jacket defensemen to him. Jaskin, as always, was headed to the front of the net and got in behind Columbus’ overly aggressive defense. Boyd looked for him on the pass, but it hit off of Jaskin’s skate and went directly into the top shelf behind a shocked Bobrovsky.

“I’ll take it,” Jaskin said. “Even if it was off the skate, I’ll take it any day.”

Boyd had an even more memorable night as he scored not only his first goal as a Cap, but the first goal of his NHL career.

Alex Ovechkin pounced on a loose puck in the neutral zone launching a two-on-one with Boyd. Ovechkin looked ready to wrist it, but instead passed it to Boyd who had plenty of net to shoot on as Jonas Korpisalo, who came on in relief of Bobrovsky after the first period, of course expected Ovechkin to shoot.

It was a nice moment not just for Boyd to get his first goal, but for it to come off the stick of Ovechkin who Boyd gave an assist to last season for his first NHL point.

“Pretty cool how it worked out for me having my first assist be on an Ovi goal and he feeds me a beautiful pass,” Boyd said. “Had a wide-open net for my first goal so pretty cool.”

It was truly a night of firsts for Washington with Jaskin’s first goal, Boyd’s first goal and the Caps walking away still in first place of the division.


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Alex Ovechkin takes over NHL goals lead in 4-0 win at Columbus

Alex Ovechkin takes over NHL goals lead in 4-0 win at Columbus

Alex Ovechkin is taking over. 

With a goal and an assist in Saturday’s decisive 4-0 shutout win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Ovechkin continued one of the hottest streaks of his career. 

At 11 games, this is Ovechkin’s second-longest point streak in his brilliant career. He has 10 goals and six assists during that stretch, and has taken over the NHL goal lead with 22 through 29 games. 

This outburst has helped make up for a stretch where Washington missed center Evgeny Kuznetsov for six games, and they still don’t have forward T.J. Oshie (concussion). He’s missed 11 games in a row. 

The power play has dried up with the personnel on the top unit in and out due to injury. Tom Wilson, who replaced Oshie in the “bumper” role in the slot on the power play, has missed two straight games. That hasn’t hurt Ovechkin at all. He has 16 points during the stretch – but 15 of those are at even strength or with the opposing goalie pulled (two goals, two assists) and a chance to put the game away.   

That’s a big deal. Washington’s power play during that stretch is 6-for-32, yet Ovechkin is still producing. Dating to Nov. 11 the power play is actually 6-for-39 (15.4 percent). He isn’t feasting in that area, which is normally a lock.

Ovechkin leads the NHL with 22 goals. He’s on pace for 62. That probably isn’t happening, and he will cool off at some point. But he’s put himself in legitimate contention for an eighth 50-goal season. Ovechkin just missed at 49 goals last year. 

A lot of Ovechkin’s work has come with center Nicklas Backstrom by his side. But he’s become a playmaker, too, lately. He showed that unselfish side again on a 2-on-1 with Travis Boyd against Columbus.

Last year Boyd earned his first NHL point when he was pushed into emergency duty on the top line in a March game at Philadelphia. He had a sweet spin-o-rama pass to Ovechkin for a goal. On Saturday, Ovechkin pushed a pass to Boyd , who scored his first NHL goal. 

It’s been that kind of month. Ovechkin goes for 12 in a row Tuesday against Detroit due for both a power-play goal and a multi-goal game, which he has done just once during the streak (Nov. 19 vs. Montreal).