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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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T.J. Oshie puts on a memorable performance in 300th game as a Capital

T.J. Oshie puts on a memorable performance in 300th game as a Capital

300 games. 108 goals. 108 assists.

Just so you're tracking, those are T.J. Oshie's stats through 300 games as a member of the Washington Capitals.

In an outstanding 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers, Oshie scored two power play goals. It was the second time in his career that Oshie recorded two such goals.

Another shot on goal — he had four in the game — would have put him at a nice-and-even 620 during his tenure with the Capitals, but hey, we can't all be perfect.

The statistical-evenness is certainly satisfying, but even if you're not a fan of quirky stats, the man has logged 216 points in 300 games. That's pretty darn good.

T.J. Oshie will seek to continue putting up great numbers as the Capitals embark on a two-week road trip. Their first stop will be Sunday in Chicago for a showdown against the Blackhawks.

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A return six months in the making for defenseman Michal Kempny

A return six months in the making for defenseman Michal Kempny

It took six months of toil and effort for Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny to make it back to an NHL game. 

He last played March 20 when a torn hamstring in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning ended his season just a few weeks before the Stanley Cup playoffs began. That was brutal. 

A spring to heal after surgery, a summer to rehab the injury and weeks getting back in hockey shape were the steep price paid. And then it took him all of 15 minutes to score his first goal on Friday in a game against the New York Rangers. Welcome back, Michal. 

“I felt pretty good, actually. My legs felt good,” Kempny said. “Obviously not an easy situation for me. But I got to say just thank you to all of the staff, whole organization, my teammates, my family, my friends who were supporting me all the way through here and help me. It means a lot to me.”

It was an organizational project. Kempny meant so much to Washington during its Stanley Cup run of 2018. The Capitals felt his absence on the top pair with John Carlson during the first-round series loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Washington coach Todd Reirden credited team trainers Jason Servis and Mike Booi and strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish with putting Kempny in position to return early in the season.  

“Six months of investment of their time to get him back,” Reirden said. “I thought Michal looked really good.”

The goal came at 15:16 of the first period and gave Washington a 2-1 lead. Kempny jumped onto a loose pucked batted around by teammate Alex Ovechkin, quickly corralled it and beat Henrik Lundqvist for the goal. It was a pretty play and another indication that Capitals' defensemen are taking chances when they see them on the offensive end. 

In his first game back, Kempny had 14:24 of ice time. That’s about the goal the Capitals had in mind for him. He started on the third pair with fellow Czech Radko Gudas, but also played 3:42 with Carlson, who mobbed Kempny after his goal and gave him a celebratory facewash with his glove. They’re happy to have him back. 

“I just grab the puck and there was open net, so a little lucky for me,” Kempny said. “I was just excited.”

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