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NHL Power Rankings: Caps go cold in California

NHL Power Rankings: Caps go cold in California

Caps nation is in a panic. After a rough California road trip, the Caps have lost four straight games, have seen their lead in the standings evaporate and are at a low point for the season at a time when they should be gearing up for the playoffs.

There's a lot riding on this season. Alex Ovechkin is 31 and the team has multiple expiring contracts. There's a real possiblity that this is the last year of the Capitals' championship window so when they rattle off four straight losses for the first time since Barry Trotz's first year behind the bench in Washington, it's a cause for concern.

Are the Caps as bad as they have looked the past week? No, but if they don't turn things around quickly, we won't be talking about whether they can finally get past the second round of the playoffs, we'll be talking about whether they can even get out of the first.

It wasn't that long ago that the Caps were the top team in the Power Rankings. Now, they're not in the top five. Check out just how far Washington fell here in this week's NHL Power Rankings.

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Playoffs Power Rankings: On to Round two

Playoffs Power Rankings: On to Round two

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.

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Prediction recap: Washington survives Toronto's best shot

Prediction recap: Washington survives Toronto's best shot

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.

RELATED: 3 key observations: Caps save their best for last

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.

Correct: 8
Wrong: 9
Push: 1

MORE CAPITALS: Capitals vs. Penguins schedule announced