The Capitals host the rival Philadelphia Flyers in what could potentially be a preview of the first round of the playoffs (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here are three bold predictions for the game.
1. Kevin Shattenkirk will register his first point as a Cap
This should be a physical, mean type of game. That will mean power play time for Washington. Shattenkirk has already found his way onto the team’s top unit and will get plenty of opportunities to get onto the score sheet.
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2. There will be a coach’s challenge
Both teams like getting net-front presence. At some point, someone will score with a player right in the face of the netminder and we’ll get a challenge. Either that, or we’ll get an offsides challenge. That seems to happen all the time now after I complained about them on the podcast. I hate them and hope they go away.
3. There will be a fight
The Flyers have a certain reputation for being a very physical team. The last time these two teams met, five roughing minors were doled out and T.J. Oshie suffered an upper-body injury. Oshie will be making his return to the lineup Saturday and the team will want to protect their top-line wing. Considering that these two teams are rivals, they could potentially face each other in the first round of the playoffs and the Caps have had a fight in each of their last three games, someone is going to drop the gloves on Saturday.
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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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