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Who's hot and who's not?: Ovi, Shattenkirk and the Caps' power play are cranking up

Who's hot and who's not?: Ovi, Shattenkirk and the Caps' power play are cranking up

Once a week this season, we've examined the numbers and pointed out a few trends that every Capitals fan should know about. Here’s our latest look:

Hot

 

Alex Ovechkin

The Caps’ captain has six goals and five assists in the last nine games. As I detailed here, the most noticeable difference has been the drastic uptick in the number of shots he’s taken since the team’s four-game losing streak earlier this month. Again, if you were worried about Ovi’s ability to turn it on, don’t be. No. 8 has transitioned into playoff mode.

Kevin Shattenkirk

The adjustment period seems to be nearing its end with the Caps’ newest player. Not only is he looking much more comfortable in his own end, he’s now in sync on the power play and chipping in offensively at even strength, too. In 13 games as a Capital, he’s racked up 11 points—all assists. In just the past three games, Shattenkirk has five helpers—three at even strength and two on the power play.

Marcus Johansson

Already enjoying a career year, Mojo has taken things to another level lately, having accumulated a goal and seven assists in the last four games. In fact, over the last 15 games the 26-year-old winger is second on the Caps in points with 14 (4 goals and 10 assists). Fellow Swede Nicklas Backstrom is the only player with more (19 points) during that span.   

Power play

During the Caps’ current six game winning streak, the power play has converted nine of 19 opportunities (47.4-percent). Ovechkin owns five of those power play tallies, while John Carlson, Johansson, Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov have the others. Since Jan. 1, the Caps have more power play goals (35) than any other team and have a 35-5-2 record this season when getting at least one.

RELATED: Prospect report: Playoff time in the WHL

Not

 

Blue Jackets and Penguins

In the race for the Metro Division crown, Washington is making its move while Columbus and Pittsburgh have begun to scuffle a bit. The Caps have won six in a row and earned points in eight straight (7-0-1). The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, are 2-1-2 in their last five games, while the Penguins are 0-2-2 in their last four. This weekend figures to be a pivotal one in the Metro/Presidents' Trophy race. The Caps own a 110-106 lead over the Jackets, while the Pens lag behind with 103 points. Washington is playing at 29th place Arizona on Friday night, while Columbus plays at Western Conference-leading Chicago…after some plane problems leaving Raleigh late Thursday night. Washington then plays at Columbus on Sunday.    

Lars Eller

The third line center scored an empty net goal to clinch the Caps’ 5-3 win in Colorado on Wednesday. It was Eller’s first point in the month of March and first goal since Feb. 7, a span of 22 games. Will it spark something? The Caps had better hope so. Eller’s line needs to get going again.

Brett Connolly’s ice time

Connolly has been the Caps’ feel good story this season. Lately, though, the 24-year-old has seen a dip in ice time. In fact, over the last 13 games, Connolly has seen fewer than 10 minutes nine times. That only happened three times in the previous 32 contests. A quick glance at the numbers reveal a couple interesting things: No. 1, Connolly also has more goals (15) in less ice time on average (10:43) than anyone in the league this season and No. 2, he’s been assessed more minor penalties per 60 minutes than any player on the Caps (1.80).

For more Capitals coverage, check out the latest edition of the Capitals Faceoff Podcast!

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How to watch the IIHF World Championship Finals: Date, Time, TV Channel, Lineups

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How to watch the IIHF World Championship Finals: Date, Time, TV Channel, Lineups

The 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship is coming to a close this Memorial Day weekend.

After two weeks, the sixteen team field has been narrowed down to four with the world championship now on the line in Slovakia. 

The two group winners, Canada, the top-ranked team in the world and 26-time IIHF Champions, and Russia, who rolled through the group stage with a 7-0 record and a +29 goal differential, are the favorites. Russia overwhelmingly has played like the best team in Slovakia, outscoring its opponents 40-10 behind Nikita Kucherov's 16 points in eight games.

The Russian/ Soviet Union team is the only team with more titles than the Canadians with 27 (five as Russia, 22 as the Soviet Union). 

Washington Capital Alex Ovechkin is playing for Team Russia. In eight games he's scored two goals and recorded an assist. 

Canada will face off against the Czech Republic, whose only loss came against the Russians in group play, with a spot to the Finals on the line. Russia will play Finland for the last spot in the gold medal match.

Three of the four teams remaining (Russia, Canda, and the Czech Republic) are the winningest teams in the IIHF's history. The four semifinalists have combined to win 67 of the 82 IIHF World Championships.

When is the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals?

The 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals will take place at 8:15 p.m. local time (2:15 p.m. ET) on Sunday, May 26. The bronze medal match will precede the gold medal match at 3:45 p.m. local time (9:15 a.m. ET). 

2019 IIHF World Championship Schedule:

There are only four matches left in the 2019 IIHF World Championship. The two semifinals, the bronze medal match, and the gold medal match.

SEMIFINALS:
No. 3 Russia vs. No. 5 Finland, 9:15 a.m. ET, May 25
No. 1 Canada vs. No. 6 Czech Republic, 1:15 p.m. ET, May 25

BRONZE MEDAL MATCH:
Loser of Semifinal No. 1 vs. Loser of Semifinal No. 2, 9:45 a.m. ET, May 26

GOLD MEDAL MATCH:
Winner of Semifinal No. 1 vs. Winner of Semifinal No. 2, 2:15 p.m. ET, May 26

How to watch or stream the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals:

All games at the IIHF World Championships will be broadcast on NHL Network.

Who is playing in the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals?

The 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals will be played between the winner of Russia (8-0-0)/ Finland (7-0-1) and Canada (7-1-0)/ Czech Republic (7-0-1).

Lineups for the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals:

Lineups for the 2019 IIHF Championship Finals will be announced on the morning of May 26. 

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The Blues turnaround from last place to the playoffs began with a blowout win over the Caps

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The Blues turnaround from last place to the playoffs began with a blowout win over the Caps

When the St. Louis Blues woke up on Jan. 3, they were in dead last in the NHL. A 15-18-4 record gave them 34 points, less than teams like the Los Angeles Kings and the Ottawa Senators who would go on to finish the season as the two worst teams. Yes, St. Louis had played in only 37 games to that point, the fewest in the league, but finding a way to climb back into the playoff hunt seemed daunting and unlikely.

Now the Blues are the Western Conference champions and stand just four wins away from the Stanley Cup.

The Blues have been one of the best stories of the NHL season climbing from last place to the Stanley Cup Final. When looking back at St. Louis’ season, there are several moments one can point to as key moments in the turnaround. Craig Berube replaced Mike Yeo as head coach on Nov. 20 and goalie Jordan Binnington got his first start with the Blues on Jan. 7 and never gave back the crease.

But the turnaround really started on Jan. 3. On that morning, the Blues were in last place. That would be the last day they would find themselves there.

And it all started with a 5-2 win against the Washington Capitals.

On Jan. 3, St. Louis and Washington looked like two teams headed in opposite directions. While the Blues were in last place, the Caps were rolling with a 24-11-3 record, first in the Metropolitan Division. Washington came into St. Louis on a five-game road winning streak. As if that wasn’t enough, the Blues were also without sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.

And yet, what looked like an easy win for the Caps turned into anything but. Robert Thomas scored a deflection just four minutes into the game. Washington managed to take a 2-1 lead early in the second, but St. Louis rattled off four straight goals for the 5-2 win. With Washington down only 3-2 heading into the third period, the Blues but on a possession clinic outshooting Washington 14-2 in the final frame.

"We stayed aggressive," Alex Pietrangelo told reporters. "When we're playing in the O zone, the best way to play defense is to play in their end. We kept the puck, we moved the puck, we worked. Forwards were great tonight, protecting the center of the ice. It kind of took their playmakers out of the game."

The Caps’ first shot came 13 minutes into the third. By then, the Blues already had 12 shots and two goals.

Over the course of an 82-game season, teams will lose games against teams they shouldn’t. This felt different. Watching this game, you did not come away thinking the Caps played down to an inferior team. The Blues dominated that game and the Caps knew it.

“They were skating, competing harder, won races, more determined than we were,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “If we’re being honest about it, we didn’t have a very good game, and they played a pretty darn good game.”
More importantly, St. Louis realized it as well. They knew following the game that this was a win and a performance they could build on.

“I think we out-chanced them, so we're building here at even strength,” Pietrangelo said. “It's just a matter of keeping it at even strength and scoring goals. Tonight the goals weren't necessarily pretty but we created a lot of chances."
That night proved to be the first night of the turnaround. From Jan. 3 on, no team in the NHL earned more points than St. Louis’ 65, not even the Tampa Bay Lightning who won the Presidents’ Trophy with an incredible 128 points.

St. Louis was not expected to be bad this season. The team made a number of offseason moves to bolster the roster and many thought they could be real contenders, but they sure did not play like it through the first half of the season. It took a big win over the defending Stanley Cup champs to show them and everyone else just how good they really were. From that point on, they never looked back.

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