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Who's hot and who's not?: The Caps' offense (finally) has come alive

Who's hot and who's not?: The Caps' offense (finally) has come alive

Once a week this season, we're taking a closer look at the numbers and pointing out a few trends that every Capitals fan should know about.  


Braden Holtby

The hottest player on the Caps right now is, without a doubt, their Vezina Trophy winning goaltender, who leads the league with six shutouts after blanking the Blackhawks on Friday. It was his fifth shutout in 14 starts. Entering Saturday’s games, Holtby is now top three in every meaningful metric for a goaltender—first in shutouts, second in goals against (1.85) and third in both save percentage (.933) and wins (21). “When he’s been in the zone or having good stretches, he just looks calm,” Coach Barry Trotz said after Saturday’s optional practice. “Every goaltender I’ve had that goes through stretches where they are seeing the puck really well and things are going their way, they just look very calm. Looks like it’s in slow motion for guys.” The combination of Holtby’s stellar play, the team’s commitment defense and a third-ranked penalty kill has the Caps leading the league in goals allowed per game (1.95).  

Steady line combinations

Trotz switched up his lines up following the Caps’ 2-1 shootout loss to the Devils on Dec. 29. Not only have the Caps won eight straight games since the changes, they’ve also scored 35 goals. “The lines started getting an identity and you just let them keep creating that identity,” Trotz explained. “We’ve been fortunate; we’ve had good health. It’s easy to keep the lines together when you’re not ravaged with injuries. It’s been good for us.” After Friday’s 6-0 win over Chicago, the Caps are up to seventh in goals per game (2.98). Last season, they finished second in that category (3.02).

Alex Ovechkin

Since enduring a dry spell in late November and early December, the Caps’ captain has ranked among the league’s most productive players. In fact, he’s amassed nine goals and eight assists in the last 16 games, putting him sixth among all players in that timeframe. With 21 goals in 42 games, the 31-year-old is on pace for 41 goals this season, meaning he’ll need to pick it up in the second half if he hopes to hit 50 for the fourth straight year.

Nicklas Backstrom

He’s got goals in three straight games and 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in the last five games. The most memorable assist, of course, was the set up pass on Ovechkin’s 1,000th point against Pittsburgh. Backstrom now leads the Caps with 40 points, putting him on pace for a fourth straight season with 70 or more points.

Evgeny Kuznetsov

The second line center has two goals, seven assists and three multiple-point performances in the last six games. Is Kuzy back for real this time? Time will tell.

Nate Schmidt

After registering one point from Nov. 18-Jan.3 (16 games), No. 88 has been channeling his inner Nicklas Lidstrom. In fact, Schmidt has racked up a goal and four assists over the past five games, including a pair of multiple-point outings.



There’s not a whole to nitpick these days. But there are still a few areas the Caps want to clean up in the second half of the season. One of them, of course, is penalties. It’s been a well-documented issue in recent weeks. But if the Chicago game was any indication—just a pair of minors, their lowest total in 14 games—they’re headed in the right direction.

Power play

The unit popped a couple against the Penguins, but it’s still a bit chilly by the Caps’ lofty standards. Dating back to Dec. 21, a span of 12 games, the power play has produced a meager four goals on 31 opportunities. Overall, the unit ranks 16th (18.0 percent) on the season, a year after ranking fifth (21.9). Interestingly, the Caps received no power plays in either game against the Blackhawks this season, marking the only two times that’s happened all season.

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Capitals vs. Lightning Game 6 Eastern Conference Final 2018: Date, Time, How to Watch, live stream

Capitals vs. Lightning Game 6 Eastern Conference Final 2018: Date, Time, How to Watch, live stream

When the Capitals take the ice in Game 6, they will be playing for their playoff lives. After losing Game 5 on Saturday to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Caps must win on Monday or their season will be over.

In order to do that, the Caps will have to change some things. First, they have to figure out how to win at home, something they have yet to do in this series. Second, they will have to find a way to get to Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy who has been dominant the past three games. Alex Ovechkin also needs to win the matchup against the fourth line since he has only two five-on-five points through five games. Finally, the defense will have to be better. Matt Niskanen took the blame for Game 5, but really it was a tough night all around.

Also, a few penalty calls against Tampa Bay would be nice too.

Where: Capital One Arena

When: 8:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Lightning, Game 6 will be broadcast on NBCSN

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Lightning Game 6 on NBC Sports' live stream page.


Game 6 of the Capitals vs. Lightning 2018 NHL Playoff series takes place on Monday, May 21 at 8:00 p.m. at Capital One Arnea.


The TV broadcast of Game 6 between the Capitals and Lightning is on NBCSN. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Lightning Game 6 on NBCSN
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime


Game 6 between the Capitals and Lightning is available to stream online on Monday, May 21 live here through the NBC Sports live stream page.


Capitals projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Lars Eller - Brett Connolly
Devante Smith-Pelly -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Lightning projected lines:

Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Tyler Johnson - Brayden Point - Yanni Gourde
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - J.T. Miller
Chris Kunitz - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

Victor Hedman - Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh - Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev

Andrei Vasilevskiy starts with Louis Domingue as backup.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.


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George McPhee's Vegas Golden Knights advance to Stanley Cup Final


George McPhee's Vegas Golden Knights advance to Stanley Cup Final

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Ryan Reaves scored the winning goal, Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves and the Vegas Golden Knights pushed their remarkable expansion season into the Stanley Cup Final, beating the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Sunday in Game 5 of the Western Conference final.

Alex Tuch also scored for the Knights. They lost Game 1 in Winnipeg before winning four straight to become the first expansion team since the 1968 St. Louis Blues -- when the six initial expansion teams were put alone in the West -- to get to the final.

Vegas will meet the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Washington Capitals in the final. Tampa Bay leads the Eastern Conference final 3-2, with Game 6 set for Monday night in Washington.

Josh Morrissey scored for the Jets, and Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves.

Reaves, the bruising Winnipeg native acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins before to the trade deadline in February, snapped a 1-1 tie with 6:39 left in the second period when he tipped Luca Sbisa's point shot past Hellebuyck for his first goal of the playoffs.

Winnipeg got a power play early in the third, but couldn't muster much of anything. The Knights smothered much of the Jets' attack for the next 10 minutes, with Hellebuyck having to come up with big stops on William Karlsson and Eric Haula to keep his team within one.

The Jets pressed with under 4 minutes to go, with Fleury stopping captain Blake Wheeler on the doorstep, but it wasn't nearly enough as the Knights closed out their third straight series on the road.

The Jets beat the Knights 4-2 in Game 1, but Vegas snatched home ice with a 3-1 victory in Game 2 before picking up 4-2 and 3-2 wins at T-Mobile Arena.

The Knights, whose jaw-dropping inaugural 109-point campaign included a Pacific Division crown, swept the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, and knocked out the San Jose Sharks in six games.

The Jets had the NHL's second-best record with 114 points in the regular season. They advanced to the first conference final in city's history with a five-game victory over the Minnesota Wild in the opening round before topping the Presidents' Trophy-winning Nashville Predators in Game 7 on the road.

The usual raucous, white-clad crowd at Bell MTS Place -- not to mention the thousands of fans outside the arena attending a street party on a sun-drenched spring afternoon -- were silenced just 5:11 into Game 5 when Tuch jumped on Morrissey's turnover and fired his sixth past Hellebuyck.

The Jets were tentative to start and it got worse after the opener as Vegas dominated the next couple of shifts, forcing some good saves from Hellebuyck before Winnipeg got its feet moving.

After being outshot 7-1 in the first 7 minutes, the Jets finally pushed back and turned the tide with the next nine attempts on goal, culminating with Morrissey making amends for his early gaffe with 2:46 left in the period.

Bryan Little won a faceoff in the offensive zone straight back to second-year defenseman, who blasted his first career playoff goal past Fleury's glove.

One of Winnipeg's downfalls in the series through four games was an inability to maintain momentum. The Knights scored within 1:28 of a Jets' goal in each of the first four games -- a crushing 12 seconds after Winnipeg tied Game 3, and an equally gut-wrenching 43 seconds after the Jets knotted Game 4 -- but they managed to take the game to the locker rooms tied 1-1.

Both teams had chances in the second period before Reaves made it 2-1, with Jets center Mathieu Perrault just missing on a pass from Little that had too much speed.

Right after Reaves scored the second playoff goal of his career -- and first since 2015 with St. Louis -- Winnipeg's Nikolaj Ehlers rang a shot off the post on Fleury.