Get the caffeine ready, it's a late one tonight! The Caps are in San Jose to take on the Sharks (10:30 p.m., CSN). Here are three bold predictions for the game.
1. Marcus Johansson will score
Remember that stretch earlier in the season when it looked like Johansson would never stop scoring? He had five goals in a three-game stretch and it all started on a road trip to the west. He will sneak one past the netminder on Thursday as well.
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2. San Jose will score first
The Caps have struggled at the start of games of late and a 10:30 p.m. ET start time likely won't help them buck that trend.
3. Jannik Hansen will get a point
Hansen was acquired by San Jose at the trade deadline but did not practice with the Sharks until Wednesday due to immigration issues. He has practice on San Jose's top line and is expected to make his debut Thursday against the Caps. For a midseason trade, the first game is usually the easiest. The player really hasn't had enough time to digest the new system and plays based solely on instinct. It's when they begin adjusting to the system that the struggles start. Hansen won't be thinking Thursday, he'll just be playing and it will lead to at least a point.
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And then there were eight.
The Caps’ Game 6 victory on Sunday brought to a close the first round of the playoffs. Already, the field looks entirely different than many anticipated.
Washington came into the postseason as the team to beat, but the Caps were given all they could handle by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Pittsburgh Penguins, meanwhile, made short work of the Columbus Blue Jackets in what was expected to be one of the most competitive series of the first round. This begs the question, are the Penguins now the frontrunners in the East despite ceding home-ice advantage to Washington and not having Kris Letang?
SEE THE UPDATED STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS POWER RANKINGS HERE
The West is now wide open after the Nashville Predators’ stunning sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks. Coming into the playoffs, the St. Louis Blues had the longest odds of any team to win the Cup because their path went through the top two seeds in the West. The Blues dispatched the Minnesota Wild in just five games and Chicago is already out. If you put money on St. Louis, you’re probably feeling pretty good right now.
But did Nashville’s sweep show that they are now the frontrunners in the West?
And let's not forget about the Pacific. The Anaheim Ducks have yet to lose this postseason after a sweep of the Calgary Flames while Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers are out to prove that experience is overrated.
Find out where all eight of the remaining teams stand in this week’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings.
The Maple Leafs made a push for Game 7, but in the end they fell in Game 6 as the Caps took the game and the series on Sunday.
Here's a recap of the three bold predictions.
1. Toronto will score in the third period - Correct
The hockey gods would not allow this prediction to be wrong. Did you see that bounce off the boards? Not only did it bounce right into the danger area right in front of the bench, it went to the Maple Leafs’ leading scorer in Auston Matthews.
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2. Someone will take a penalty against Alex Ovechkin - Wrong
Give Mike Babcock all the credit in the world. Every point where you thought lack of experience would hurt Toronto, it didn’t. That speaks to coaching. I thought the Maple Leafs would try to coax a penalty out of Ovechkin, but would get carried away. Yet, despite their inexperience and the pressure of the moment, Toronto remained very disciplined.
3. If Toronto leads after the first period, the series is going 7 games - Push
For the first time all series, the score after the first period was 0-0. Both teams had chances but looked more tentative than they had earlier in the series. They recognized what was at stake on Sunday and affected the play to a degree.
2017 Results: I expected to see Toronto’s best push in Game 6 and I was not sure how the Caps would respond. Washington’s response late in the game was very impressive and a great sign for Caps fans going forward in the postseason.
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