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Grubauer's stellar performance not enough as Caps drop goalie duel to Rangers

Grubauer's stellar performance not enough as Caps drop goalie duel to Rangers

Final score: Washington Capitals 1, New York Rangers 2

How it happened: Philipp Grubauer did everything he could to weather the storm of the first period, turning aside 18 of 19 shots in the opening 20 minutes. Alex Ovechkin tied the game in the second period with a power play goal. The Rangers came out on top, however, as Mats Zuccarello scored right off of a faceoff in the third period.

What it means: The Caps are 0-1-1 since returning from the bye week with two straight losses, the first time they have lost two straight since Dec. 27-29. Washington is 0-2-0 against the Rangers this season.

Goals

Rangers goal: Ryan McDonagh from Rick Nash and Derek Stepan at 7:49 in the first. McDonagh fired a shot on net forcing a rebound from Grubauer. Several Caps had a chance to clear it out of danger, but McDonagh beat them all to it and fired his own rebound into the back of the net. Caps 0, Rangers 1

Capitals goal: Alex Ovechkin (power play) from Lars Eller and Evgeny Kuznetsov at 17:24 in the second. Eller provided a nice cross-ice feed to find Ovechkin in the office. The captain wristed a shot that deflected off of Nick Holden, fooling Lundqvist. Caps 1, Rangers 1

Rangers goal: Mats Zuccarello from Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider at 8:37 in the third. Zibanejad found the puck on his stick right off of an offensive zone faceoff and weaved his way behind the defense before feeding an open Zuccarello in the slot. Caps 1, Rangers 2

3 Stars

1. Philipp Grubauer: This game could have gotten ugly early if not for the incredible effort of Grubauer. The Caps' netminder turned aside 18 of 19 shots in as opneing frame that was completely dominated by the Rangers.

2. Henrik Lundqvist: The Caps started tilting the ice in their favor in the second period. While Ovechkin was able to tie the game, Lundqvist prevented the Caps from taking control with his fantastic effort in net. He came up big in the final minute as well with a game-saving denial of Marcus Johansson on the doorstep.

3. Mika Zibanejad: Zuccarello's game-winning goal was all effort by Zibanejad who took the puck behind the defense right off the faceoff. He looked like he was a stop ahead of everybody else on that play and it gave the Rangers the win.

Look ahead: Washington will come home briefly for a Tuesday practice before heading to Philadelphia for a game against the Flyers Wednesday night. The Caps then face Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers in Washington on Friday in the first leg of another back-to-back with the second leg coming on Saturday in Nashville.

Tell us what you think: Even with Braden Holtby on the bench, Saturday's game turned into a duel between the goalies as both Grubauer and Lundqvist dominated in net to keep their teams in the game. Which goalie had the more impressive performance?

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Offseason questions: Can the Redskins trust Dustin Hopkins at kicker?

Offseason questions: Can the Redskins trust Dustin Hopkins at kicker?

The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.

That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk podcast: It's tag day

Can the Redskins trust Dustin Hopkins at kicker?

Finlay: Nick Novak. Graham Gano. Shaun Suisham. That's just a recent list of kickers the Redskins gave up on too early. 

Dustin Hopkins missed a couple of important kicks in 2016, especially after a very strong start to the year, but with a powerful leg and a sharp mindset he should absolutely be the 'Skins kicker in 2017. In two seasons with Washington, Hopkins has made 84 percent of his field goals and 95 percent of his extra points. Don't forget he routinely puts kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks too.

Yes, Hopkins missed a game winner against the Bengals and other important kicks later in the year. That happened. Missed kicks are a part of life in the NFL. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point in the Super Bowl. 

At 6-foot-2 and just 26 years old, Hopkins is young and athletic. Of 70 career field goal attempts, Hopkins has missed 11 times. Of the misses, six of them came from 50+ yards. In 31 games, Jay Gruden has proven he trusts Hopkins to attempt long kicks. The 'Skins would be well served to stick with the young kicker.

Tandler: 

Finding a quarterback may be the most difficult, least scientific task that NFL organizations must undertake. Deciding when to let go of a struggling kicker is second.

There are plenty of strong legs out there spending hours every day kicking on high school fields in hopes of getting an NFL tryout. But being successful as a kicker is as much about what is above the shoulders as it is what’s below the waist. It appears Hopkins had a mental slump last year but he came back to finish strong.

Hopkins started the year making 14 of his first 15 field goal attempts, with the miss coming in the wind in Baltimore. But then in the dome in Detroit he just missed a 45-yard try and that set off a slump where he missed five of 15 field goal tries. He pulled it back together and missed just two of his final nine kicks, one of them a “why not” 57-yard try at the end of the first half against the Giants.

So, it was more of a slump than a bad year for Hopkins. He continued to pound the ball into the end zone, finishing tied for fourth in touchback percentage. I would understand if they brought in some competition for him during training camp but it will be a major upset if he is not the Week 1 kicker.

More offseason questions: 

What are reasonable expectations for Josh Doctson?

— Will there be a surprise salary cap cut?

— Should the Redskins defense switch to the 4-3?

— Is Spencer Long the answer at center?

— How many D-linemen do the Redskins need?

— Should the Redskins draft another QB? 

— With Sean McVay gone, will the Redskins run the ball more?

— Can Cravens handle the transition to safety? 

— Will the Redskins re-sign Pierre Garçon? 

Will Rob Kelley be the lead running back in 2017?

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!