Capitals Prepare for Playoff Run With Ovechkin Set to Return

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The Washington Capitals have one recreation remaining within the 2020-21 NHL common season. The crew locked up the second seed within the MassMutual East division, they usually battled by means of a key late stretch of the yr with out their captain. Alexander Ovechkin might skate tonight in opposition to the Boston Bruins, however the Capitals’ supporting forged stepped up in his absence.

Capitals Skated Effectively With out Ovechkin

Ovechkin has missed a complete of 11 video games this season. He sustained a lower-body harm within the third interval in opposition to the New York Islanders on April 22. The captain did take one shift within the Capitals’ recreation with the New York Rangers on Might 3, however that was the extent of his play for the week.

Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Capitals’ star additionally missed 4 video games in January attributable to being positioned on the COVID-19 Unavailability Record. Sturdiness or hassle has by no means been a difficulty for Ovechkin; the celebrity winger has solely missed 30 video games in 14 seasons previous to his January quarantine.

Although uncertainty loomed for Washington after Ovechkin was injured, some key gamers stepped up for the crew and maintained a excessive seed heading into the postseason. Listed below are the three stars.

T.J. Oshie

Oshie has been incredible all yr. The 34-year-old ahead has scored 22 targets and added 21 assists this season—in what might be his final stint with the Capitals. It has been predicted that Washington will depart Oshie unprotected through the Seattle Kraken enlargement draft.

Oshie can be an incredible slot in Seattle, so his motivation to carry out is three-fold. He’ll look to shut out his profession as a Capital with one other Cup run, he’s displaying his management and appreciation to a fanbase that has beloved having him within the lineup, and he’s proving he will be the face of a brand new franchise within the state the place he was born.  

He gave Capitals’ followers an emotional unforgettable efficiency on Might 5, the place he netted a hat trick—his first recreation after the demise of his father. Throughout Washington’s January stretch with out Ovechkin, Oshie registered three factors (one objective, two assists), however he has six targets in his final seven video games with the captain out.

Sadly, Oshie didn’t follow on Monday after struggling a lower-body harm in opposition to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday however is listed as day-to-day. He won’t skate in opposition to Boston tonight. The Capitals are banged up and have to get wholesome quick. Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson are additionally warding off nagging lower-body points, nevertheless, the previous is enjoying this night and the latter is out.

Daniel Sprong

Haven’t any worry, Capitals’ followers, Daniel Sprong is right here. No goal-scorer has stepped up extra in Ovechkin’s absence than Sprong. The winger has scored six targets in his final six video games and has a plus-two ranking. He has 13 targets and 7 assists in simply 41 video games performed this season, and a career-best plus-eight ranking.

Sprong will have to be on the playoff roster, so discovering out the place he suits one of the best after Ovechkin’s return can be attention-grabbing. After buying Anthony Mantha from the Detroit Purple Wings, the highest two strains are set for the Capitals, and their fourth line is so strong collectively it gained’t be disturbed. Sprong might want to mesh properly with Lars Eller, who has additionally been excellent of late, and Conor Sheary for Washington to go far within the playoffs.

The Fourth Liners

The aforementioned strong line of Nick Dowd, Carl Hagelin, and Garrett Hathaway has performed tremendously all season. Over the last eight video games, the road has a plus-four ranking and has produced 5 targets and 4 assists. Dowd has particularly been choosing up the slack. He has three targets and two assists of late, which is a 3rd of his season factors complete. Three of his targets this yr have been game-winners.

It’s not the factors or the ranking that matter, nevertheless, it’s the little issues these guys do. They play bodily and quick, they end their checks, they win faceoffs, they provoke the celebs on the opposite bench, they usually skate with confidence. They’re grinders and they’re balanced collectively.   

Trying Forward

The Capitals are 8-2-2 with out Ovechkin. What was spectacular throughout this newest stretch was that the offense was capable of nonetheless common 3.13 targets per recreation. That’s beneath their season common of three.38, and the stretch dropped them from second to fourth within the league for targets per recreation, however it isn’t unhealthy contemplating this era’s most prolific objective rating wasn’t on the ice.

One space Washington should repair heading into the playoffs is the ability play. Since Ovechkin’s harm, the Capitals are simply 3-for-27 on the ability play, and two of these tallies got here in opposition to the Rangers when New York gifted Washington with seven extra-man benefits on Might 5.

After all, Ovechkin’s return ought to coincide with a right away enchancment. The captain has 17 power-play factors this season (9 targets, eight assists), and his presence opens alternatives for different skaters to capitalize on.

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If Washington is to make a deep postseason run, in addition they should tighten up defensively. Within the crew’s final six contests, they’re giving up three targets per recreation. That’s not horrible, however it’s additionally not going to get it executed within the playoffs. That is particularly worrisome as a result of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the East winners and solely opponent throughout that stretch who can be becoming a member of Washington within the playoffs, scored eight of the 18 allowed. The truth is, Pittsburgh has netted 29 targets in opposition to them this season, probably the most the membership gave as much as any opponent.

Lastly, they should relaxation and heal. Ovechkin et al have to be wholesome.

Capitals recap for tonight vs BOS:
Alex Ovechkin (lower-body) is a game-time resolution.
T.J. Oshie (lower-body), John Carlson (lower-body) are out.
Nicklas Backstrom is in.
Kuznetsov/Samsonov (covid protocols) stay out.
Vitek Vanecek in internet.

If the Capitals are to get by the Boston Bruins within the first spherical, they have to be 100%, the ability play should begin producing, and the blue line must be higher, or it will likely be yet one more early exit for a franchise whose window appears to at all times be creaking shut. They no less than get a warm-up match in opposition to the Bruins earlier than they see them on Saturday for the beginning of the postseason.





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