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3 key observations for Game 4: Tom Wilson shows the potential Caps saw when they drafted him

3 key observations for Game 4: Tom Wilson shows the potential Caps saw when they drafted him

The Caps tied up their series with the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 5-3 Game 4 win. Here are three takeaways from the game.

1. Could this be a breakout series for Tom Wilson?

Wilson had a great goal line save and scored twice. He now has three goals this series, tying him for the team lead with Alex Ovechkin. Maybe Wilson is just playing out of his mind in front of his hometown team, but maybe this is more than that. Let’s not forget, Wilson is just 23 years old and was a first-round draft pick by the Caps. They did not take him that high for his fighting skills. While many have sold him as a thug or an enforcer, he is showing in this series he has more to offer.

RELATED: Wilson's heroics tie the series at 2

2. Another game-saving 5-on-3 penalty kill

Game 3 turned on a failed 5-on-3 opportunity for Washington. In Game 4, it was the opposite. Lars Eller took a penalty late in the second period as he tried to play the puck with his hand on a faceoff. Brooks Orpik took a slashing penalty just three seconds later to give Toronto 1:57 of a two-man advantage, 1:54 of which came on a clean sheet to start the third period. Braden Holtby looked shaky at points over the game, but he was the best penalty killer for that 5-on-3 with some huge saves to keep Toronto out of the net.

3. Third periods are a concern

In Game 3, the Caps and Leafs were tied at 3 and Toronto took it to them in the final frame, outshooting Washington 9-3. Game 4 the story was much the same…except worse. Toronto outshot the Caps 18-3 in the final 20 minutes as they poured relentless pressure on Holtby. When the Caps are pushing the tempo offensively, they give the Leafs fits. When they try to circle the wagons and play defensively, however, Toronto really steps up the pressure and outplays them. The Caps need to keep their foot on the gas offensively all game long because as soon as they don’t the Leafs take over.

MORE CAPITALS: Bogus call wipes out crucial Capitals goal vs. Leafs

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Braden Holtby — the skater — is a sight to behold

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CSNMA

Braden Holtby — the skater — is a sight to behold

Braden Holtby is an elusive guy.

The 2015-16 Vezina Trophy winner might be large in stature, but keeps to himself. When you do see him, he's typically covered in layers of goalie pads or briefly chatting with the media following a game.

So imagine the surprise to see Holtby take the ice at Kettler IcePlex well before training camp begins with zero goalie pads on.

That's what took place on Monday morning. As several players hit the ice for some unofficial workout sessions, there was the 6-2 Saskatchewan native strolling onto the ice, with a regular stick, regular skates, regular gloves and Andre Burakovsky's helmet.

RELATED: 2017-18 CAPITALS SEASON PREVIEW SERIES

Frankly, it was a bit odd to see Holtby skate up and down the ice.

Maybe it's because we're used to seeing him in the crouch position. or maybe it's because we actually see his entire figure, not just a pile of leather pads.

But even goalies need to work on non-goalie skills. The more familiar you are with position players, the better you will be to stop them from scoring.

But man, seeing Holtby skate like a forward sure does take some time to get used to. 

RELATED: RANKING THE CAPITALS' MOST IMPORTANT PLAYERS

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The 25 most important players for the Caps: No. 20 Taylor Chorney

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USA TODAY Sports Images

The 25 most important players for the Caps: No. 20 Taylor Chorney

Every player on an NHL team plays a role.

Some play bigger roles than others.

In the coming weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles. 

Today’s player: No. 20 Taylor Chorney.

RELATED: 2017-18 CAPITALS SEASON PREVIEW SERIES

One of the more interesting storylines during training camp is going to be the battle along the blue line and where everyone, particularly a veteran like Chorney, fits into the plan as the Caps skew a bit younger.

The top pair is easy to figure out; it’ll be Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen.

After that, it gets a little more interesting.

John Carlson will be on the second pair, perhaps with Aaron Ness.

If that's how things shake out, it would make sense to have Brooks Orpik anchor the third pair, especially if the No. 6 spot goes to a rookie since they'd surely benefit from the steady hand of a soon-to-be 37-year-old.

But will that spot go to a youngster like Christian Djoos, Madison Bowey or someone else? 

Or will it go to Chorney, a 30-year-old who's appeared in 141 NHL games spread over eight seasons for four clubs?

The Caps anticipate that Djoos and Bowey are closer to being NHL-ready than their other defenseman prospects.

Djoos lit up the AHL last season to the tune of 58 points in 66 games and the team needs to replace some offense. Bowey, meanwhile, has the look of a promising two-way defenseman.

But here’s the drawback—and where Chorney, in my opinion, fits into the equation.

Neither Djoos nor Bowey have done it yet. And until they do, no one can be 100-percent sure they’re completely ready to handle the everyday duties that the NHL demands. 

Chorney, to that end, has a significant advantage in experience, at a position where it matters a lot. He appeared in 18 games last season and a career-high 55 games the year before, also with the Caps. 

The bottom line: I suspect Chorney, who is entering the final year of his contract, will open camp penciled in as the team’s No. 6/7.

I also expect that he'll play a decent amount this season, maybe more than last year but perhaps less than 2015-16. I could even see him in the opening night lineup. Eventually, though, the Caps will want to see Djoos, Bowey or another youngster squeeze their way past Chorney and into the lineup full-time.        

Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.

— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
— No. 22 Pheonix Copley
No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly