Tag: Braden Holtby

Capitals tie series at one, heading back to Washington for games 3 and 4…

The Capitals have done the impossible! What a win for the Capitals last night though, not many expected this too happen a lot thought it was going to be a 2-0 Vegas lead heading into Washington and home ice was going to play a huge role in this series. But now for Washington they’re heading home with a tied series and the chance to go up 3-1 before heading back to Vegas for game five, HUGE.

The Golden Knights had the chance to win this game several times and something we have not seen Vegas do, but they did not counter on their chances. The Golden Knights had a 5 on 3 with minutes left in the third and then a wide open net that Alex Tuch got absolutely robbed on, and that was it, 3-2 Washington. 1-1 series.

The story here is Alex Ovechkin does anybody think this guy may be possessed by some Russian milk or something. He is not only scoring goals but he is absolutely ruining the Vegas defenseman and forwards. Ovechkin has now registered 9 hits in two games. I don’t know what Ovechkin is doing but there is something about him this year that is different. He certainly feels the pressure being in the Stanley Cup, getting older and realizing his window is closing but still, he looks locked in and ready to run through a wall. In game one when he got hit in the face with that puck, and just wiped it off like it was a fly, that’s when I knew ok this guy is probably not human.

This Golden Knights and Capitals Cup match up has been interesting series, totaling 10 goals in game on and 5 in game two, the goal scoring is there and it has been also a back and forth battle with non stop action. The good part the teams are starting to really dislike each other, that took a total of 24 hours. Anyways, the Golden Knights should not be too worried the Capitals have lost four games this playoffs on the road, so winning on the road is not impossible for Vegas as they have also won 6 games on the road this playoff season.

This series is going to go seven games I think though but the Capitals have to hope that Evgeny Kuznetsov is healthy for game three and the rest of this series or they are in some deep trouble. Nothing has come out about his injury but it looked to a be wrist injury after Brayden McNabb hit Kuzy late in the second period.

Game three and four will be in Washington, game three airs Saturday June 2nd and game four Monday June 4th. The positive to this is that Vegas and Washington get two full rest days to refocus, recoup and get back together. The Capitals need to utilize these two rest days to do all they can to hope Kuznetsov comes back for this series. Without Kuzy this is going to be even harder for the Capitals to win.

For now, game three in Washington, 8:00 p.m….

Video summary of game two below!

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Washington Capitals vs Vegas Golden Knights 2018 Stanley Cup Final preview

It seems as if this match up was not so much a shock for every fan out there as I had a few people say they called this match up, and for those that did. Kudos to them. Anyways the 125th Stanley Cup final will hold two underdog teams coming into the playoffs. The Washington Capitals from the East and Vegas Golden Knights from the West. Underdogs I say because the Capitals were not written off as a playoff team this year and when they went down 2-0 to Columbus everyone thought they were done. The Golden Knights never gained much respect from fans in the league and coming into this playoffs very few people had them getting passed the first round.

The Capitals are 12-7 this playoff run with a 66 goals for 47 goals against, 28.8 percent power play, 75.4 percent penalty kill and 32 shots per game. Compared to their opponent who is 12-3 with a 43 goals for 27 goals against, 17.6 power play percentage, 82.5 penalty kill percentage and 31 shots for per game. The Capitals and Knights faced during the regular season Vegas played the Capitals three times and all three times the Golden Knights won, with that behind the Capitals and playing much better now well see how that affects the series, probably won’t have any affect. The story line going into this series, well there is plenty but one is, long time Capitals general manager George McPhee faces his old time team with his new team the Golden Knights. Marc Andre Fleury and Braden Holtby meet once again, these two just seem like they can’t avoid each other. Diving into the series looking at both teams here is what the Capitals have going for them.

Capitals advantages over Vegas

NHL Washington Capitals(1) Experience and hunger: Now the Capitals have not won the Conference finals and made a Cup appearance in 19 years but they have a laundry list of playoff experience and per say a game 7 comes along I am feeling more confident with Ovechkin over Kalrsson if I am a fan. The Capitals have Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Holtby, Orpik, Carlson, Niskanen, Orlov, Beagle, Connolly, Oshie all players who have experienced what it is like to play on the big stage. Plus the Capitals just look like a different team they are hungry, and seem like they are not going to be denied from anything this year. They have a ton of momentum going for them, winning four straight in round one, beating the Penguins in round two, and now a game 7 win in the Conference finals, if you are the Capitals, confidence is high and hunger is even higher.

(2) Alex Ovechkin. The Golden Knights do not have a player like this, yes they have goal scoring and grit, but Ovechkin is a hall of fame player and a one of kind type of talents. He certainly has been on a different level this playoff season, winning the Rocket coming into the playoffs must have stirred the pot a but. Leading the playoffs in goals(active) and being within the top two for points. Every game we have seen a different side to Ovechkin that not many have seen in recent playoff years, the guy looks like the Russian machine that never stops, throwing his weight around, scoring goals and getting the team going. Ovechkin is a huge difference maker.

(3) Depth production, guys like Andre Burakovsky scoring 2 big goals, Lars Eller, Devante Smith Pelly, Jay Beagle, Chandler Stephenson, Brett Conolloy these guys all have chipped in one way or another this whole playoff run and they have been a huge reason the Capitals have made it this far. I believe the Capitals have a deeper line up and will keep up and possibly out skate the Vegas forwards. The Capitals fourth line is better than Vegas’s and it also does not hurt that the Capitals fourth line and third line can be a huge factor in mixing and matching lines for Barry Trotz.

Advantages for Vegas over Washington

(1) Marc Andre Fleury, now Holtby has been a brick wall posting back to back shutouts and a 2.04 GAA and 12-6 record but Fleury has been one of the biggest reasons Vegas is here right now posting Conn Smythe like numbers with a mind blowing 1.68 GAA and a 12-3 record and .947 SV percentage. Fleury has seemed to be dialed in, and on another level same for Holtby but if you were comparing the two at the moment right now. Fleury really does give Vegas the upper hand.

(2) Inexperience, now this one may seem odd but the Golden Knights have used their inexperience for the better this playoff run. They have shown that if you just go out play your game and not worry about all the other noise in the background, have some fun, you’ll be fine. The Golden Knights have a few experienced players but for the most part they are here right now due to their work ethic and guys just buying in and not worrying about what everyone else is saying. They have essentially lived the we have no expectations on us so let’s set the standard model.

Vegas Golden Knights(3) Scoring, the Golden Knights have been a team all year that has been able to score goals no matter what. They average 2.87 goals per game and they only played 15 games this post season perhaps a few more games and they would be around three. But it seems the Golden Knights play an incredibly quick transition game that leads to goal scoring and a ton of scoring chances. No matter the situation Vegas seems to know how to score and by just getting the puck to the net they found out sometimes works out. A team that does not quit paired with scoring to supplement that can be scary.

How these two match up evenly…

The Golden Knights and Capitals are very similar teams they finished four points apart in the league, won their division and play a similar style of hockey. The Capitals knew coming into Tampa they did not have the skill factor so they used their legs, capitalizing on mistakes and quick style of play to beat the Lightning. Same with Vegas and what they have done all year. The Golden Knights and Capitals both play a very quick style of play, they transition very quickly and rely on their transition game to give them scoring chances or their goals for. Two teams that play a quick, physical style of play will make for an interesting playoff series, as we will see how Gallant adjusts and Trotz adjusts.

Their defenses are extremely similar too, they both have three defenseman lines that play a heavy game, physical and shutdown, they both have one to two offensive defenseman but the rest are your typical gritty, stay at home guys who get the job done. The Capitals have the same issue but an issue that has worked out in their favor, some inexperienced defenseman that have stepped up massively this playoff run. The Golden Knights whole defense unit is inexperienced but the Capitals have Christian Djoos, Michael Kempny who are a little less experienced than the others and have played quite well for the Capitals. These two match up similar on the back end and it will be a series that may not possess a ton of offensive even strength scoring.

Goalies, these two have met in the playoffs and regular season a dozen times. They know each other quite well, but the Capitals may have the upper hand here as they know Fleury a little better then the Golden Knights know Holtby. Fleury went to game 7 vs the Capitals last season, went to game 7 vs the Capitals in 2008-09, plus all the times they played in the regular season. The Capitals have a long history with Fleury one that can pan out to be useful or hurt them, either way going into a match up vs a team you do not know much about besides the goalie is a positive at least.

Gerard Gallant and Barry Trotz now, arguably some of the best coaches in the league right now and the Gallant may have the upper hand though as he will have McPhee in his ear talking about the Capitals, the Capitals old GM McPhee will be a huge help for Vegas here as he may know some things other GM’s would normally know but still these two coaches have been a thing of beauty this playoff series and have really set the example for the players. Making it a fun, competitive and winning environment. Anytime your coach is skating laps in practice that’s a positive or anytime you have players showing their love for their coach(Gallant) that’s a positive. Two great coaches.

Quick look at what Vegas is saying…

The stage is set and for game one Monday May 28 the Golden Knights host the Capitals, the lines are out and will change of course but right now it is -143 Vegas and +123 Washington, that’s a big line for a Stanley Cup game, wow. Maybe buy in now. Despite the line it is saying that Washington has 57 percent bets and Vegas has 43 percent. Across the other 13 sites it is saying around +120 to 135 for Washington and -140 to -155 for Vegas. Get in now if you want, because that line is changing for sure. Over under 5.5 also, may just be smart enough to buy on that because that is for sure hitting.

Washington shuts the door on Tampa to force a game 7

Yesterday I wrote an article Washington Capitals in do or die game six: Lightning eye 2nd Stanley Cup appearance in four years it talked about some keys for the Capitals to ensure a game 7 victory. Now I don’t want to go and tout my own horn here but yeah I called three of these keys, and the Capitals executed every one and they won. Therefore I am essentially Bob McKenzie and everyone can call me a genius.

In actuality, the Capitals scored first and when they scored first look what happened. They limited Tampa to two power play chances and Tampa went 0/2, and last but not least Braden Holtby although only stopping 24 shots, made some key saves late in the game, especially when Tampa was pressuring in the middle of that third period in game six. Three keys I called and a Capitals win. I’m onto something, maybe I’m not all that bad at this.

Game 7 history… 

Now, the Capitals head off to Tampa for a game seven, the Capitals have played zero game sevens this playoff series and neither have the Lightning. The Capitals history heading into game seven dates back to 1985 vs the Islanders, the most recent one that has bad memories for Capitals fans is Penguins last season in the second round. The most fond memory the Capitals have in game seven was back in the 2008-09 season when they won a game seven vs the Rangers in round one and the Islanders in seven in 2014-2015. Besides that the Capitals have lost 10 series in seven games.

The Lightning have been around as a franchise since 1992-93 and since coming into the league the Lightning have been to six game sevens before and the most recent memory is losing to the Penguins in seven during the Conference finals two years ago, other than that the Lightning have come out on top from game 7’s vs the Flames in the Stanley Cup in 2003-04, the Penguins in 2010-11 in the first round and the Red Wings and Rangers in 2014-15 the year they lost to Chicago in the Cup.

Game 7’s have treated these two teams well, clearly the Capitals have a bit more experience they have been a franchise a bit longer but both teams know what it is like to play in a game seven and the Capitals certainly know what it feels like to lose a game seven in a heart wrenching way. Capitals fans I hate to do it but Derek Stepan game 7, 2015 second round, in overtime. The Capitals definitely didn’t forget that feeling and nor did Braden Holtby. Let’s just say that loss will play a huge factor into Friday nights game seven.

WARNING: Viewer discretion is advised! 

Washington Capitals in do or die game six: Lightning eye 2nd Stanley Cup appearance in four years

The Capitals have now lost three games in a row, and head back to Washington to hopefully even out this series. If you are a Capitals there is obviously some concern being raised here as they have lost three straight and face elimination tonight but also the Capitals have looked like the better team in a majority of the games they lost thus far.

For the Capitals tonight executing these three keys is vital to a game six win…

(1) KEEP TAMPA OFF THE POWER PLAY! Hey Capitals the Lighting are good on the power play if you have not realized yet therefore you should probably not keep giving them chances on the man advantage. Stamkos in his office is probably going to score 10/10 times, Kucherov moving around put there with time and space is going to come back and bite you. If the Capitals can find a way to limit the Lighting’s power play chances they will be fine.

(2) Score first! Each of the last three games the Capitals have not scored and they have lost now three games in a row. When a team scores first this playoff year it has seemed to be almost a prerequisite for a win to come. The Capitals first two games they scored first and they won. Take a page out of the Golden Knights book they scored first in their last four wins over Winnipeg and they won the series. Scoring first is huge and especially for the Capitals at home here that would be a major momentum shiftier.

(3) Braden Holtby is going to be playing at some Marc Andre Fleury type level tonight. A good goalie will win you games this playoffs. Look at Vegas, look at Tampa Bay in game game four and five. Holtby is going to need to come up with not just his usual saves but he will need to be dialed in and making saves many of us have never seen before. Which is possible for Holtby, if the Capitals give him the support and eliminate turnovers in the gray areas of the ice Holtby will for sure make a save 99 percent of the time he sees the play happening or the puck. Don’t pull a Pekka Rinne here Holtby.

A look at what Vegas is saying…

The open line to start the day was Tampa Bay +110 and Washington -130 as the day went on and it is now 12:02 p.m. the line has not changed much but it did as Tampa is +105 and Washington is -125. This means that there really is no clear favorite the line is pretty close Washington is the favorite but by a small margin. Which is expected to see a line like this after Tampa won three straight and Washington is home so I think we all thought the line would be very even and no clear favorite would be seen. But the picks 44 percent Tampa and 56 percent Washington as of now. Thirteen other sites have lines similar as well having Tampa around +105 to the highest of +115 and Washington at -120 to the highest of -130. This is going to be a tough one, I would not lock anything in just yet. The line is going to change even more as the day goes on, so stay put.

Washington Capitals head home up 2-0 in series

You read the title correct. The Capitals are in fact heading back to Washington up 2-0 over the Lightning with two home games to play and a chance to do the unthinkable and sweep the Tampa Bay Lightning. I don’t think this series goes to that extent though. Although the Capitals have outscored the Lightning now 10-4 and have scored within the first minute of both games. The Lightning have to take at least one game in Washington right?

Well, not so fast because as much as you want to write the Capitals off and say, they will lose at least one game in Washington. Who is to say they can’t take two games and finish this series in four games. The Capitals have now proved EVERYONE wrong. Not one person, probably not even Capitals fans, first off thought they would be in the Conference finals, let alone be up 2-0 against the EASTERN CONFERENCE’S number one team this season.

What could be the Capitals reason(s) for success, there are plenty…

(1) HUNGRY. If you have not noticed by now the Capitals are winning every puck race and hunting pucks down like they are lion seeking prey in the jungle. I have never seen a Capitals team like this. Typically they have always been a very talented team up and down the line up but taking a look past Ovechkin and Kutneztov, the Capitals are winning games with guys like Alex Chiasson, who’s never tallied over 35 points in his career and was a free agent signing, or Jay Beagle, Lars Eller, Devante Smith Pelly, my point is, who are these guys? Does not matter because every one of these players whether they are scoring goals or not are buying in and doing something productive. Which has been the biggest reason the Capitals have not been successful in years past is that usually they have one or two guys carrying the load and everyone else was not chipping in. A hungry Capitals team has been of the many reasons they are up 2-0 right now.

(2) Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov are unreal. Need to say more? Anytime the Capitals win you can guarantee these two either scored or had a huge role in the game. Kuzy and the game-tying goal in game five vs Pittsburgh, game-winning goal in game six, Ovechkin scoring 11 goals, second among active players, plus Kuzy and Ovechkin combining for 38 points this playoffs is a major reason. I don’t think this point needs to be explained anymore, they both rank 1, 2 among active playoff players.

(3) Braden Holtby, the guy has been lights out. He is not making fantastic saves or anything that is mind-blowing but the guy has been so consistent, allowing 2 goals per game and when the save needs to be made he is doing it. Holtby has always been known to be a Vezina goalie, and a goalie who is a freak of nature when it comes to focus and rituals. In years past it almost seemed like whenever the Capitals would go down a game, Holtby would struggle so credit the Capitals for staying up, consistent and supporting Holtby back there. This time around though, Holtby seems to be really confident, dialed in and really on another level. Holtby is arguably one of the best goalies in the last six or so years in the NHL, and with this playoff performance and possibly a trip to the Stanley Cup we are finally getting to see a different side to Holtby. He has been one of the most consistent players for the Capitals and coming in not even thinking he was a starter for the first round is unbelievable to now see him 10-2 through his 12 starts with a 2.04 and .926 save percentage. We are seeing a whole different Holtby right now and when this guy is on, the Capitals will have no problem winning two more games.

Washington Capitals vs Tampa Bay Lightning: Eastern Conference Finals

This is a matchup we have seen in the playoffs only two times, 2002 and 2011, the Lightning holds the series advantage 6-2. In 2002 they beat Washington in the first round 4-2, in 2011 they beat Washington 4-0 in the second round. The good thing about hockey is as much as those numbers play a factor, they essentially mean nothing. In 2002 no active player is still on either team to this day and in 2011, the only two players who remain on the Lightning roster still to this day are Stamkos and Hedman, I am going to have to guess they barely remember that series.

Who has the edge here though this year? Let’s break down each aspect of the game.

Offense…

Tampa Bay: The Lightning have a very deep top nine, one of the best in the league and every player on this roster is capable of scoring and chipping in some way. Their leading scorer is Nikita Kucherov with 12 points, next up is Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos with 10. Ondrej Palat(8), JT Miller(7), Alex Killron(6), Yanni Gourde(6), Tyler Johnson(5). They have a list of players who can score every night, as we saw with Boston. When the lines look a little like, Kucherov-Stamkos-Miller, Point-Palat-Johnson and still have Killron, Gourde on the next two it is going to be a handful for the Capitals.

Washington: As we all know, the Capitals run through two guys a lot, Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, their two top scorers and guys that have been their fuel all playoffs. Their leading scorer is Ovechkin with 15 points and Kuzy with 14, despite Backstrom being out one game, game six he also is a point per game player with 13 points in 11 games. Throw in an all-around forward in TJ Oshie(8) and a defensive forward in Lars Eller(7) the Capitals will rely heavily on these guys like Oshie and Eller to chip in a bit more and take some pressure off Ovechkin and Kuznetsov. Welcoming back Tom Wilson will give them that edge as well, with the Lightning, have Coburn, Hedman, Callahan as their guys who like to throw the weight around, Wilson will match any Lightning and bring that physical presence each day.

Winner: Lightning on pure depth and versatility. Any line can chip and every line has a ton of speed plus their fourth line has been causing havoc every shift they are out there. A good fourth line makes a championship team.

Defense…

Tampa Bay: With Norris trophy winner Victor Hedman leading the backend, with the help of Anton Stralman, Ryan McDonagh, Mikhail Sergachev and Dan Girardi. The Lightning have a very deep, versatile defense as well. In McDonagh you can get both offense and defense(offensive defenseman), Girardi you know a solid 16+ minutes a game playing a fairly solid defensive game and Stralman playing a very solid 18+ minutes shut down style. With Sergachev and Hedman leading the rush on the backend, they have a ton of tools who can get do it all.

Washington: John Carlson through and through has been the most underrated defenseman this whole season, logging major minutes this postseason, producing 11 points, 3 goals and 8 assists in 12 games behind all defenseman by one point for the defenseman lead in the playoffs. With Matt Niskanen and Dimitry Orlov who have played a very solid shut down game with the Penguins and their top guys and the old veteran-like Brooks Orpik doing the same thing as Girardi in a sense. With two very inexperienced and young defenseman in Christian Djoos and Michale Kempny, the Capitals have seen these two young men, grow exceptionally well this playoff run and not make any MAJOR mistakes. A simple game that has been working well for them.

Winner: Lightning, too much depth and tools on that backend that supplement their offense so well.

Goaltending…

Tampa Bay: Andrei Vasalivskiy is up for a Vezina trophy and has been very solid and consistent this year for the Lightning. Someone who has really risen to the ranks of a starting role and has given the Lightning the confidence they need, making the saves he needs to when he needs to. Just in the Boston series, he allowed 12 goals in 5 games and 5 of those goals came in game one. He ranks third among active goalies in save percentage(.927) and third in goals against 2.20. This is a tough one because Vasilevskiy has had his team played very well in front of him, but has still been a part of their success in a big way.

Washington: Braden Holtby once a Vezina winner, but after one of his worst years as a starter, coming into the playoffs the Capitals went with Phillip Grubauer after that failed and the Capitals lost their first two games. They gave the torch back to Holtby who has been lights out for them with an 8-2 record, one coming in overtime in game two. Ranking second in goals against with a 2.04 and fourth in save percentage(.926). Holtby has allowed 23 goals compared to Vasilevskiy’s 22 this postseason and their numbers are very similar.

Winner: Capitals, experience-wise, I think we see Holtby elevate his game and play big on this stage that he has never been to before. They are very similar in numbers as far GAA, SV % and goals allowed but I think Holtby is going to be again the big difference maker for the Capitals and rise to the big stage when they need him most.

Series winner: I see the Lightning taking this series in 7, the home ice will play a major role and their offense is just too much to stop right now. With Point, Palat and Gourde all having great series thus far, along with a solid fourth line and Stamkos and Kucherov being relatively quiet that second round, the Lightning’s top guys will come to play and give them the edge here.

Why I think the Capitals can take this series…

Ok, yes the Capitals may have lost to the Penguins in the second round for the last two years and lost in the second round in general six times in the last seven years now. Or not having won a second-round series since the 1997-1998 season. The Capitals are certainly written off by many fans to take this series. Soley because of how the Penguins handled the Capitals in the playoffs and have beat them 9 times out of the 12 times they have met in the playoffs since the Capitals have been in existence since 1974.

Crosby vs Ovechkin… AGAIN. 

Sure Sidney Crosby and Ovechkin came in during the same draft year and have been compared to each other since they came into the league in 2005 and Crosby has won three cups and Ovechkin has won zero in his 13-year career. Yes, Crosby has the advantage over Ovechkin and will always haunt him when it comes to Cup wins and success throughout their careers. But Ovechkin is still a 7-time Rocket Richard winner, one-time art ross winner, 3-time hart trophy winner, 3-time ted Lindsay winner, and beat Crosby for the Calder trophy during the 2005-2006 season. His career has been successful but no matter what Ovechkin will always be remembered for his losses to Crosby in the playoffs and zero Stanley Cups to this day. And if he does not win a cup or a series against Crosby, a lot of Ovechkin’s achievements will go unrecognized by MANY. This is not why I think they can win. For some reason when the Capitals won four straight and beat the Blue Jackets, something I did not see happening, and then Ovechkin simply said “I can’t wait” when asked about playing Crosby and the Penguins next round. Some weird feeling came over me and made me think, the Capitals are going to win this series, they are going to do this.

A GUT feeling 

My real reason for making this case for the Capitals is solely based off a gut feeling. Don’t listen to my gut if you don’t want to, that’s understandable. The Capitals are flying a little bit under the radar this year, they have not been talked about as much as before. And a team that is not super talented or a powerhouse anymore. They have their key guys plus some depth guys that step in and chip in time to time. They have a Norris like defenseman right now, two other experienced defenseman and a bunch of young players who are just playing in the moment and seem to be doing just fine, one series but nothing that was alarming.

Year of the dog???

The Capitals core guys like Kuznetsov, Backstrom, Ovechkin, Holtby, Carlson are certainly tired of losing to Crosby and the Penguins. For some reason, the fact that this Capitals team is already written off by many fans and many people gives me a sense this can turn out a bit different than we think. It’s the year of the dog people, and I think this underdog, written off, defy all odds story remains true for one more playoff series. The Capitals do not match up terribly with the Penguins either. Holtby in net, their offense’s are similar, Penguins edge them there a little but not by a wide margin and the defense is about the same, if not Capitals are a little more experienced and better. Year of the dog people, this is going to happen, watch. Capitals in seven.