The Caps face an angry Tampa Bay Lightning team on Saturday (7 p.m., CSN). Here are three bold predictions.
1. Washington will trail after the first period
Why is Tampa angry? The Lightning hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday in a critical game as both teams are fighting for the second wild card spot. Tampa got its doors blown off in a 5-0 loss. It's not an understatement to say they are playing for their playoff lives Saturday and they will come out swinging.
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2. Andre Burakovsky will get a point
Burakovsky scored two goals in his first game of the season and scored in his first game back from being benched for three games as a healthy scratch. While he was gone, he worked hard on his conditioning and he should be flying in Tampa on a third line that hasn't been the same without him.
3. Tampa will be limited to two goals or less
In two games against the Lightning this season, the Caps have limited them to only one goal total. Yes, Tampa has been playing better lately than they did earlier in the season, but they will be without Tyler Johnson, Cedric Paquette or Vladislav Namestnikov. Stranger things have happened, but it's hard to see how Tampa will score more goals with fewer weapons.
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Since drafting Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, the Capitals have built an entire team around its superstar forwards.
As they go, so go the Caps.
The 2016 playoffs showed, however, that a strong supporting cast is just as important in a Stanley Cup run than the top playmakers. With that in mind, Wednesday's result was a very good sign for the Caps.
In a 5-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche, five different players scored for Washington. None of those five players were Ovechkin or Backstrom.
In fact, both Ovechkin and Backstrom were held without a single point in the win.
How rare is that? Washington has scored five or more goals in 20 games this season and either Backstrom or Ovechkin had at least one point in every one of them until Wednesday.
The last time the Caps scored five or more goals in a game and Ovechkin and Backstrom were held without a point was April 23, 2015 in a 5-1 playoff win over the New York Islanders. The last time it happened in the regular season was on Dec. 18, 2014 in a 5-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Getting increased scoring depth was a major focus for the Caps heading into the 2016-17 season after seeing the Pittsburgh Penguins' depth carry them to a Stanley Cup in 2016. Obviously, Washington will need production from its top two playmakers in the postseason in order to be successful, but the fact that they can rely on their depth at times when they need to is a really good sign.
With just six games left to go in the regular season, the Caps are showing they have the depth to make a run in 2017.
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The Stanley Cup is the top prize in hockey and the most beautiful trophy in all of sports.
On Thursday morning, keeper of the cup Phillip Pritchard was in Washington, D.C. with Lord Stanley's Cup for a special tour of the nation's capital as part of a promotion for the NHL on NBC and the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which begin Wednesday, April 12.
After a quick stop at the CSN office in Bethesda, Md., The Cup made its way downtown to take in some of the sights and sounds from the National Mall and other notable D.C. landmarks.
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The Cup's itinerary for Thursday is as follows:
9:45 a.m. — Lincoln Memorial
11:30 a.m. — White House
Noon — Freedom Plaza
1:30 p.m. — Farragut Square
2:30 p.m. — 7th Street NW
5:00 p.m. — U.S. Capitol, 3rd Street
We understand if you're uneasy about seeing the Stanley Cup in Washington, D.C., before the playoffs begin, but it's hard to pass up a chance to hang out with the greatest trophy in all of sports.