Caps & Bolts: Preview of the Series Ahead

The Washington Capitals have finally thrown the monkey off their backs and progressed past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the road does not end here. Next up on the big stage are the infamous Tampa Bay Lightning, Atlantic Division leaders.

Credit: nhl.com

Tampa has always been a force to be reckoned with, especially with the services of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. What makes their club so successful is the way the other players have stepped up and produced. Notable names are Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde, and Victor Hedman. Most of all, their net minder Andre Vasilevsky has proven himself to the league as an elite goaltender. Previously the backup for Ben Bishop, Vasilevsky was already determined to take over the starter job in Tampa. His square style and mind-bottling desperation saves help him plead his case to the league.

Tampa is a complete package kind of hockey team. They are fast, fluent, tough, and seasoned; all aspects that make a well put-together playoff squad. A few players that bring the grit are guys like Ryan Callahan, Cedric Paquette, and Chris Kunitz. All of these men have proven themselves tough customers and are sure to try and set the tone early in game one.

The Caps need to bring their game as they did with the Pittsburgh Penguins, lots of scoring chances and smart plays. The boys obviously are blessed with the performances of Braden Holtby and Evgeny Kuznetsov, but the returns of Tom Wilson and Nicklas Backstrom are sure to reignite a flare to the lineup. Lines will most likely reform back to the way they were in the Semi Conference Finals, only with minor tweaks:

8-92-43

13-19-77

18-20-10

25-83-39

Defensive pairings won’t change, consistency is key at this point in the game. Top pair Michal Kempny and John Carlson have been stellar this post-season with a combined point total of 12 and a plus/minus of +4. While Kempny isn’t contributing much on the scoresheet, he compliments Carlson’s two-way play very well with his stay-at-home defensive style. He makes the defensive plays that deteriorate opponent’s score chances, takes the simple option and has a great first pass off the breakout. Carlson has also had a milestone regular and post-season thus far. With fans hoping the Caps re-sign him before the free-agent market window, he sure is adding hundreds to his potential deal with every play and point he contributes to the Caps’ defensive and offensive success. Look for these two to make a key difference this series.

Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson will be critical weapons this series for the Caps against the Bolts. The team needs Ovi on the scoresheet as much as possible. This is where production is needed from the scorers and playmakers, and Alex knows that. This is a bigger stage than he has ever been on in the NHL and I would look out for him to put everything he has out on the ice. Wilson can also make a huge impact in this best of seven. The team needs him to be just as aggressive, if not more aggressive than he was in the Pittsburgh series. With him on the ice, everyone will be looking over their shoulder and looking out for Whip. Avoid the dumb penalties, don’t let them get away with cheap shots, and be that intimidating and reckoning physical force on the playing field.

This’ll be a tough, competitive series. Caps must dig deep here if they want to knock off the Bolts and progress the Stanley Cup Finals. As always, we will be providing updates and insight via Twitter. Give us a follow @InColdPlacesDC and follow my personal @Jurky88. Go Caps go!

Caps are headed to the playoffs, but are they ready?

The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the New Jersey Devils last night in Newark, officially punching the ticket for the Washington Capitals into the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They won it in overtime with a sensational goal by Sidney Crosby. The Caps have five games left and seem to have figured out their lines in preparation of going into the post-season:

8 – 92 – 43

65 – 19 – 77

10/63 – 20 – 13

18 – 83/72 – 25/39

9 – 2

6 – 74

44 – 29/28

Can these line combinations send them pass the second round? Can they pass the first? I believe they can, and here’s why.

The top six forwards are solidified, they will only rotate amongst each other because they are the best offensive weapons on the Caps. The only two I could see rotating in are Brett Connolly and Shane Gersich. Depending on how Connolly performs in the first 3-4 playoff games, I could see whoever on the 3rd line and the other one the healthy scratch. The fourth line will rotate based on the opponent and needs of the team, for example: if the Caps end up playing the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round, we could see 18-83-25 because of Devante Smith-Pelly‘s ability to lay the body to match the physicality of the Broad Street Bullies. If they play the Pittsburgh Penguins, we could see Alex Chiasson in for his power forward style.

I don’t see the defensive pairs moving too much, however, they could change based on temporary chemistry and play. Michal Kempny and John Carlson are a good opposite balance of defense and offense blue line play. If the Caps want more attack from the back two, I could see Christian Djoos in Kempny’s spot with Carlson. The third pair will most likely stay Brooks Orpik and Djoos, but we could see Jakub Jerabek in depending on the performance of the defense.

That’s my take on the upcoming post-season. I’m crossing my fingers, checking my calender, and planning out my “uniform” and dinner for the ultimate fandom experience from my couch. I believe Caps can pull it off this season, as long as no one holds anything back. Everyone needs to put everything they got on the table. Guys like Jakub Vrana and Andre Burakovsky could make a huge impact for the team if they start clicking come playoffs. As always, follow us on Twitter @InColdPlacesDC and my personal handle @Jurky88 for Caps updates and insight. Have blessed day, and go Caps!

Bundle up, Caps cold roadie ahead

After the incomplete comeback loss yesterday at Capital One Arena to the Detroit Red Wings, the Washington Capitals prepare for a cold road trip out west. Here is a quick preview of the teams and who to watch out for.

 

Jets
Photo Credit: Jason Halstead/Getty Images North America

 

First stop on Tuesday is in Manitoba, where the Caps will play “the Western Ovechkin” Patrick Laine and the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets are currently 2nd in the Central Division with 73 points so far on the season, two points behind the Nashville Predators. Other than Laine, the Jets have a lot of other weapons that could prove difficult for the Caps. Mark Scheifele (15 goals – 24 assists) and Nikolaj Ehlers (21 goals – 19 assists) have proven to be offensive threats. However, the one who leads from the front is their captain Blake Wheeler with 60 points on the season (14 goals – 46 assists). Look for this team to take a strong home stand with their speed and scoring abilities. Caps will have to watch out for the big-hitters on the squad too, like Dustin Byfuglien and ex-Caps tough guy Matt Hendricks. This’ll be a good, tone-setting game for the road trip.

 

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Minnesota Wild
Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports

 

Next, the Caps travel Minnesota to face 2018 All-Star select Eric Staal and the Wild. Staal has found a home in Minnesota as a veteran playmaker, leading the team in points with 50 (24 goals – 26 assists). Another hot player to look out for is Jason Zucker, who has 40 points (22 goals – 18 assists) on the season so far. Both continue to be the face of the Wild’s offense, but the Caps must also look to beat their star goaltender Devan Dubnyk. At 6’6″, Dubnyk’s big rig can cover the net from all angles. He was a contender for the Vezina and Hart trophies a couple of seasons ago, so he can hold his own. The Caps will need to dig deep for this one following the Winnipeg game.

 

Hawks
Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

 

The Caps then travel to the Windy City of Chicago to play Patrick “Showtime” Kane and the Blackhawks. This is a prestigious club who has hit sort of a decline this season, currently short of a playoff spot. Regardless, they still have some very capable weapons on the team other than Kane. Alex DeBrincat is one of their young top 6 forwards, who has earned his place this season with 34 points (19 goals – 15 assists). He is quick and can put the puck in the net. Nick Schmaltz is another producer for the club with 39 points (15 goals – 24 assists), second among the team in points behind Kane. Following two presumably tough game on the road, the Caps could cool down with this matchup. However, no games are certain and they should make sure to contain the Blackhawks early if they seek to win.

 

Sabres
Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/Olean Times Herald

 

Finally, to close out the road trip, the team travels to Buffalo to play Ryan O’Reilly and the Sabres. Recently, the Sabres suffered a huge blow to their offense with a season-ending injury of their star forward Jack Eichel (Sprained ankle). He is currently the point leader on the team with 53 points (22 goals – 31 assists), but he isn’t the only threat. Evander Kane is third among points on the team with 38 (18 goals – 20 assists). Kane can move the puck and use the body to power his way to the net. With the Sabres second to the Arizona Coyotes as the worst team in the NHL with 42 points, this could be an easy game for the Caps. This could be a good an opportunity to start Philipp Grubauer to get him another win on his record and maybe rotate in Taylor Chorney to get him some play time to keep him fresh, but anything can happen in hockey so they should not underestimate Buffalo. Caps will probably be ready to return home at this point, so hopefully they have some extra juice in the tank to squeeze out a win here.

 

As always we will be tweeting the games, providing updates and insight. Give us a follow @InColdPlacesDC and give me one too @Jurky88. Go Caps!

Caps prepare for double-date with Jackets

It’s not the double date that you’re thinking of, but a meeting between the two clubs twice this week. The Washington Capitals are set to play The Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at Nationwide Arena. On Thursday, Caps will travel back to Capital One Arena and host Columbus. The Blue Jackets, who are 4th in the Metropolitan Division, are surely a team to be reckoned with. Their defensive core is young and full of talent, they have a Vezina-winning goaltender and their offense is fast. Here is a list of a few players to watch from Columbus:

 

  1. Sergei Bobrovsky.
    NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at New Jersey Devils
    Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

    Bob is a goalie who should not be taken lightly. This 2017 Vezina Trophy Winner can flash the glove and maintain excellent rebound/puck control. It is going to take more than a pretty shot to beat this guy. Low shots, traffic in front and guys crashing the net will do the trick. I would expect Braden Holtby to start these games for a goalie battle of the titans.

  2. Zach Werenski.Zach-Werenski

    Photo via SportsSpyder.com

    Werenski is the Blue Jackets ‘Great 8.’ This 20 year old from Michigan is young and very talented. He plays a fantastic two-way game with 22 point on the season thus far (11 goals-11 assists). Look for him to step up and challenge the Caps ‘Great 8’ Alex Ovechkin and make things difficult for Washington’s offense.

  3. Cam Atkinson.
    cut
    Photo via NHL.com

    At 5’8” and 179 lbs, this Connecticut native knows how to move and shoot the puck. He is fast and great at handling the puck, which makes him an imminent threat to the Caps’ defense. 17 points on the season so far (8 goals-9 assists), this speedster will look to make an impact early in both games. Caps will need defensmen like Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen to step up here and contain their fast players like Cam.

There are others that I could list, but I personally think these are the players to contain if the Caps look to earn both wins. First game is tonight at 7 p.m. and next game is on February 9 at 7 p.m. as well. Be sure to catch both and look out for us on Twitter, @InColdPlacesDC and my personal @Jurky88. Go Caps!

Welcome Back Caps, Here’s A Back-To-Back

The Washington Capitals get back to it after their bye-week, where all players made sure to enjoy it with their family and friends. Long awaited, they open back up with back-to-back game. First game will be played in New Jersey against the Devils, then the boys head back home to host the Habs at Capital One Arena.

 

The New Jersey Devils are right on the Caps’ tail at 2nd in the Metropolitan Division. They are a young, fast team with one of our previous own Marcus Johansson back in their lineup. I would look for him to make an impression on his team against his former club and help compete for the top spot in the division. The Diablos also have fearful offensive weapons like Taylor Hall and first overall 2017 draft pick Nico Hischier. The Caps will need to make sure they find their feet early and play well defensively.

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The struggling Montreal Canadiens, however, are a different story. With their inability to play star goaltender Carey Price and having their main defensive weapon Shea Weber on IR, the Habs are trying to claw out any wins they can get at this point. With their recent acquisition Logan Shaw from Anaheim, I would look for them to try and find a spark with new lines and shake ups. Oh, and don’t forget about their offensive wepons Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. This is the perfect time to try and get Andre Burakovsky back into the lineup. Caps have been rolling with the lines they have now and adding Burky could be very beneficial, especially when he is on his game. Who would sit out in order to get him in? I personally foresee either Alex Chiasson or Chandler Stephenson sitting out this game. Both have been decent on the 4th line, but both are rotatable at this point in the season.

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Makes sure to tune in to both games and look out for us on Twitter for game updates and insights, @InColdPlacesDC and my personal handle @Jurky88. Go Caps!

Caps Prepare for Holiday Road Trip

The Washington Capitals have just finished a spectacular home stand, winning six out of their six home games. With last night’s win over the Anaheim Ducks, they have climbed to the tippy top of the Metropolitan Division. However, the Caps get to look forward to an interesting road trip out west before Christmas and then a long time rivalry after the unwrapping of Christmas gifts.

First stop is in Dallas, home of Jamie Benn and the Stars. Dallas has always been a threat to the Caps, especially in their barn. There a lot of weapons the Stars have to use: their captain Benn, Tyler SeguinAlex RadulovJohn Klingberg, hot-headed scrapper Antoine Roussel, and tall goaltender Ben Bishop. All of these gentlemen are established and have made a name for themselves in some form of fashion. Caps will see a lot of talent from this team in Dallas and should play their game to the best of their ability. Match their speed, win those battles in the corner, get big bodies in front of Bishop (Alex Chiasson and Tom Wilson), throw the biscuit on net and the Caps may squeeze by with a victory at the American Airlines Center.

Next, Caps will head to the desert where Oliver Ekman-Larsson and the Arizona Coyotes reside. The Yotes may not be one of the most ‘threatening’ teams, but they do have some punch to their lineup. I would expect Philipp Grubauer to start this game. Max Domi, son of famed enforcer Tie Domi, is just like his father. He’s not afraid to get in your face and drop the gloves, at the same time, he can put up points. Clayton Keller is a contender for the Conn Smyth Trophy this year with 25 points (12 goals and 13 assists) in 35 games. The kid can score and Caps need to make sure they contain him the entire game. Derek Stepan is also a scoring force to be reckoned with, who was acquired from the New York Rangers in the offseason. Caps should just continue to play their own game, not buy into theirs and they should be fine.

The day after, they will travel to Sin City to face the Vegas Golden Knights. The Knights have made an incredible impression on the NHL with a record of 20-9-2, placing themselves 2nd in the Pacific Division. This’ll be a very strange reuniting with ex-Caps defenseman Nate “Smiley” Schmidt, who was claimed in the expansion draft. Leading the charge is James Neal, who has been outstanding for their club. He scored the very first goal for the expansion and has established a captain’s mentality for the team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him with the ‘C’ on his jersey next season. Another threat on their offense is ex-Blue Jacket William Karlsson, who has climbed his way to center the Golden Knight’s top line. He is basically their Nicklas Backstrom, making plays and producing points. Finally, their ‘main attraction’ is ex-Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who has just come back after being on IR. This was a bitter-sweet parting for Pittsurgh’s hockey club because he lead them to back-to-back Stanley Cups and has been there for so many years, but with younger goalie Matt Murray stepping in as replacement, it was the best move for the club’s future. Caps must work their tail off this game. This Vegas team is extremely talented and will surely come out swinging against the Capitals. This’ll be a true test for Washington and I sure hope the boys have some juice left in the tank for this one.

After the Christmas break, the Capitals will faceoff at Madison Square Garden against Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers. This team hasn’t been as elite as they once were, but still hold talent amongst their lines. In the offseason, ex-Caps blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk found a home in New York, earning a spot on their top defense pair with Ranger’s captain Ryan McDonaghMika Zibanijad is their top line’s center, who established a fine reputation in Ottawa and was traded to New York a couple of seasons ago. He has continued to sculpt his positive reputation with the Rangers as a playmaker. Chris Kreider has had a Tom Wilson style of play to him and is known as a Caps-killer. He caused the most problems for the Capitals his rookie year in the second round of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, where he scored twice to help eliminate the Caps. Since then he has been a hard-hitting force for New York.

This’ll be a tough road trip for Washington, but Alex Ovechkin and the Caps know what’s to be expected. They know what needs to be done in order to beat these teams. Follow @Jurky88 and @InColdPlacesDC on Twitter for fan coverage of all games on the road, go Caps go!

p.s. Brittney will be live tweeting warmup and photos from Las Vegas….and Nate Schmidt!

This Season Must be a Tough one for the Metro Division

Many teams playing in the Metropolitan Division have been doing well building their teams since last season. In addition, the first two draft picks were from teams in this division, which may reflect a great season for its teams and, consequently, unpredictability for the division title and classification for the playoffs. Now let’s look at each team and what we can expect for the season:

Carolina Hurricanes: Cam Ward, Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, Teuvo Teravainen and Trevor van Riemsdyk will also have the experienced Justin Williams, former Capitals and three times Stanley Cup champion; one with the Canes and two with the Los Angeles Kings. And they have a new goalie, Scott Darling, acquired from Chicago. They were in the seventh penultimate position in the Metro and 21st overall in the league. And they were eight points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs who took the Wild Card spot.

Columbus Blue Jackets: The team was one of the big highlights in the last regular season, ranking third in the division and fourth overall. The team from Ohio which already has Sergei Bobrovsky, Nick Foligno, Cam Atkinson and Brandon Bubisnky will also feature Artemi Panarim, who came from the Chicago Blackhawks.

New Jersey Devils: Taking the last place in the division / conference and 27th overall in the league, the franchise has won the draft lottery and now has rookie Nico Hischier, who will play alongside players like goaltender Corey Schneider, Tylor Hall, Adam Henry, Brian Boyle and former Caps Marcus Johansson. The Devils finished the last season with 70 points and can use the boost Johansson could bring.

New York Islanders: The team led by John Tavares, Jaroslav Halak, Johnny Boychuck and former Caps Jason Chimera almost qualified for the playoffs, with 94 points, just one point behind Maple Leafs, which has been qualified with the second and last Wild Card spot. One key change is a new goalie coach, ChrisTerreri, who coached the likes of Devils legend, Martin Brodeur.

New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist, Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Rick Nash, Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, Brendan Smith are names that don’t need introductions. The team reached the semi-final of the Eastern Conference, being eliminated by the Ottawa Senators in six games. The team has lost Derek Stepan, Antti Raanta and Dan Girardi during the offseason, but signed defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (who played with Capitals during playoffs).

Philadelphia Flyers: The team that finished the regular season with 88 points, fighting in the final rounds for the hope of a place in the playoffs, has got the second draft pick. Rookie Nolan Patrick will certainly contribute the team alongside names like Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Shayne Gotisbehere and Valtteri Filppula.

Pittsburgh Penguins: The Caps greatest rival has won two consecutive Stanley Cups (2016 and 2017), both defeating the Caps in the conference semi-final. Also in both times, the Penguins maintained names like Sidney Crosby, Evgeny Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang among others. The team lost goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to the Vegas Golden Knights, but Matt Murray is ready and able to replace Flower. As the Penguins maintain a good base for the two-time consecutive team, they will certainly be a strong team to face in an already talented Metro Division.

Washington Capitals: The Caps have won two consecutive Presidents’ Trophies, but both times they were eliminated by their greatest rival, the Penguins. The team led by Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Braden Holtby, John Carlson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky can count on a more effective participation with younger players like Jakub Vrana. Vrana has been standing out  and could gain a permanent spot on the team this season. At least many Caps fans are hoping he will. However, the team lost names like Justin Williams, Karl Alzner, Marcus Johansson and Kevin Shattenkirk, but the remaining roster and the new additions will be able to keep the Capitals in contender status.

Featured image by sportspresscom