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3 bold predictions: Jay Beagle owns the Central Division

3 bold predictions: Jay Beagle owns the Central Division

Jay Beagle has been an offensive powerhouse against teams from the Central Division this year. Will that continue Thursday against Nashville (7 p.m., CSN)? Here are three bold predictions for the game.

1. Jay Beagle will score

Eight of Beagle's 12 goals this season have come against Central Division teams. Against everyone else? He has only four goals.

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2. The Capitals will give up at least four power plays

If Washington gave up four power plays, that would actually be an improvement from what they have done lately. The Caps have given up five or more power plays in four straight games. What's more is that Nashville is pretty good at drawing penalties as they rank 6th in the NHL in road power play opportunities.

3. Alex Ovechkin will get at least two points

Ovechkin's Rocket Richard days are probably behind him, but his scoring days are not. He finally broke his goalless drought and he's a player that tends to produce in bunches. He has points in two straight games and he'll make it three tonight with a big performance after finding the back of the net on Tuesday.

MORE CAPITALS: Check out the latest addition of the Capitals Faceoff Podcast!

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Braden Holtby officially named one of three finalists for 2017 Vezina Trophy

Braden Holtby officially named one of three finalists for 2017 Vezina Trophy

Braden Holtby is officially in the running to repeat as the top goaltender in the NHL.

On Saturday afternoon, the Capitals' goalie was named as a finalist for the 2017 Vezina Trophy, per the NHL release.

The Vezina Trophy is awarded annually to the NHL's top netminder based on regular-season play.

Holtby — who won the award in 2016, joins Canadiens goalie Carey Price — the 2015 winner — and with Columbus Blue Jackets' Sergei Bobrovsky.

The sixth-year Saskatchewan native finished the regular season with a 42-13-6 record in 63 starts. He recorded nine shutouts and had a 2.07 goals against average and entered the postseason with a .925 save percentage.

Holtby finished the regular season with the league lead in shutouts and wins, and ranked second in GAA and third in save percentage.

RELATED: HOLTBY FINALLY SHINES IN GAME 5

 

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Barry Trotz considers drastic lineup change for pending return of Karl Alzner

Barry Trotz considers drastic lineup change for pending return of Karl Alzner

Thanks to the indestructibility of Alex Ovechkin, Karl Alzner remains the only Capitals' player out of the lineup due to injury. Alzner has not played since Game 2 on April 15 of Washington’s series against the Toronto Maple Leafs due to an upper-body injury. His absence in Game 3 was significant because it snapped an iron man streak of 599 consecutive starts for the veteran defenseman.

In a conference call with reporters on Saturday, Barry Trotz said that Alzner is “day to day and he’s improving.” That’s good news, but it does present an interesting dilemma for the Caps. Who comes out if Alzner goes in?

Nate Schmidt has played in relief of Alzner and played well. He has two assists in three games this postseason and scored a goal that was called back because of a controversial goalie interference call. His speed has also proven to be an asset against the speedy Maple Leafs and, should they get there, would also be useful in a second-round matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, another team that likes to push the pace.

RELATED: Capitals-Maple Leafs Game 6 how to watch

Alzner, however, is one of the team’s best defensive players. Washington’s play in the defensive zone has been suspect all series long and the Caps have allowed nine goals in the three games Alzner has been out.

To solve this dilemma, Trotz may make a fairly drastic change to the lineup when Alzner is finally ready to return.

When asked if he would consider using seven defensemen, Trotz did not hesitate with his answer, “Yes, I would.”

A typical lineup consists of 12 forwards (four lines of three) and six defensemen (three pairs of two). Dressing seven defensemen would mean dropping a forward and would represent a pretty dramatic shift considering Washington has not tried this sort of lineup at any point this season.

The benefit of dressing seven defensemen is flexibility. Trotz could use three pairs and use the extra as a situational player for power plays or penalty kills. He could also switch up his pairs depending on zone starts.

Someone would still have to come out of the lineup, but it would have to be a forward and, judging by ice time from the last two games, it’s not hard to figure out who that would be.

Brett Connolly played only 4:26 in Game 3 and 6:12 in Game 4.  He is the only player who did not get any playing time on special teams on Friday. When asked about Connolly’s playing time, Trotz said Thursday, “I felt that the way they were going in terms of the minutes, I just felt, I was going with the 10 or 11 guys we were going with.”

The downside of going with seven defensemen is that it creates uneven pairs and lines, but with Trotz essentially only utilizing 11 forwards anyway it is perhaps no surprise that Trotz would consider the move.

MORE CAPITALS: Trotz updates Ovechkin's status for Game 6