New York Rangers v Washington Capitals - Game Five

Boudreau says Brooks Laich is a “modern-day Bob Gainey”

One of the biggest free-agent signings this offseason actually occurred before the July 1 feeding frenzy. Before hitting the open market (where he would have been a highly sought-after commodity), Brooks Laich chose to keep his roots planted in Washington when he signed a 6-year deal worth $27 million. It’s a sizable contract for any player, let alone a center that was coming off a 16 goal season with 48 points.

In the days following Laich’s contract, there were those who thought the Capitals overpaid for their 28-year-old center. Sure, he’s a valuable two-way forward. Sure, he’s only missed four games in the last four seasons. Sure, he’s one of the heart-and-soul leaders in the locker room. But he still only put up 48 points last season. Then again, the only forwards who have scored more points for the high-powered Capitals over the last three seasons are Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin.

The offensive numbers are only half of the story with a player like Brooks Laich. Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau talked to XM’s NHL Home Ice today (and Lindsay Applebaum from the Washington Post transcribed the colorful coach’s comments regarding Laich). Needless to say, he’s happy that he’ll have his two-way forward around for the next six seasons.

“But I think of him as a modern-day Bob Gainey. He can skate, you can put him in all situations, he can play center, wing, he’s gonna contribute on the power play, great penalty killer, he never tires, he plays as much as you want, he’s in tremendous shape, and he’s the consummate hockey player.

“He’s the kind of guy… that lives and breathes hockey. He’ll get up and his training regimen in the summer is almost legendary, how hard he works. If I told him he had to do this and this and this to be better, he’d be the guy who does this, this and this, and he takes everything to heart. His whole goal is to win the Stanley Cup. I thought it was a real important signing.”

Laich embodies the characteristics that every coach in the league wants from his players. He dependable, he’ll play on both sides of the puck, he leads by example, and he can produce points. It’s not only coaches—Laich is the type of player that fans only truly appreciate after watching him for an extended period of time. There are games where he’ll stand out—but most of the time, he’s the player who always makes the solid play at the right time. He’s the guy who makes his teammates better.

The Capitals will need both Laich and Marcus Johansson to step up at the center position if they want to fulfill The Hockey News’ Stanley Cup champion predictions. Either Laich or Johansson will be depended upon to fill Jason Arnott’s skates in the offensive zone on the second line; while the other will be depended upon to give the team some much needed scoring depth. Despite great regular seasons over the last handful of years, one of the knocks on the Capitals has been their play at center. Locking up Laich for the next six years should help solidify their depth—if he can improve up his offensive statistics, he’ll give Washington the center play they desperately need.

Regardless, Laich will continue to do all of the little things that make him worth every single penny of his new contract.

Oshie’s hat trick lets Caps just barely squeak by Penguins in OT

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What a start.

This series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals might be headlined by Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, but as many have said in the lead-up to tonight’s opener, there is so much more to this second round matchup than that. Washington’s 4-3 overtime victory in Game 1 tonight could be offered up as Exhibit A.

This game had everything except big offensive showings from Crosby and Ovechkin. They had their moments, but in the end combined for just one assist.

What we got instead was a hat trick by T.J. Oshie that was completed with a game-winning goal that made it past the line by such a narrow margin that it warranted a video review:

This game also featured a sequence of three goals in 90 seconds and yet also some great saves by goaltenders Braden Holtby and Matt Murray. At the other end of the spectrum, there was a controversial hit by Tom Wilson that might lead to a suspension.

There was even some odd stuff. Like how Jay Beagle got a stick stuck in his equipment.

Twice:

If this game sets the tone for the rest of the series, then we should be in for a closely contested, highlight filled affair.

NOTES:

Nick Bonino had a goal and an assist for the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin and Ben Lovejoy accounted for the Penguins’ other markers.

— Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky scored the game’s opening goal. It was his first marker of the 2016 playoffs.

— Washington outshot Pittsburgh 15-9 in the first period, but Pittsburgh ended up with a 45-35 edge.

— This is the first time in the 2016 playoffs that Braden Holtby has allowed more than two goals. He surrendered just five goals in six games to Philadelphia.

— Matt Murray suffered his first career postseason loss after winning three straight contests against the New York Rangers.

Video: Wilson delivers late, knee-on-knee hit to Sheary

Wilson hit
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Tom Wilson has already found himself in a controversy for delivering a late, knee-on-knee hit to Penguins forward Conor Sheary in the third period of Game 1 Thursday night.

You can see that incident below:

Wilson spent two minutes in the sin bin earlier in the contest for crosschecking Evgeni Malkin, but there was no penalty on this play.

Fortunately Conor Sheary was able to stay in the game. The question now is if Wilson’s actions will lead to him being suspended prior to Game 2.

This isn’t Wilson’s first brush with controversy. He delivered a big hit to Brayden Schenn in 2013, but Wilson wasn’t suspended for that incident. Lubomir Visnovsky’s final campaign was cut short due to a check by Wilson that angered the New York Islanders. More recently, Nikita Zadorov was concussed by a crushing blow from the Capitals forward.

In 231 career regular season games, Wilson has 50 points and 486 penalty minutes.

Related: Wilson says ‘I’ve never been a dirty hitter’ after teams voice complaints

Video: Penguins, Caps combine for three goals in 90 seconds

Oshie goal
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For the first 30 minutes of Game 1 between Pittsburgh and Washington it looked like goaltenders Matt Murray and Braden Holtby might outshine these star-studded offenses. Then the floodgates opened up, if only for a moment.

Washington already had a 1-0 lead going into the second frame courtesy of Andre Burakovsky‘s first marker of the 2016 playoffs, but Ben Lovejoy and Evgeni Malkin scored back-to-back goals within the span of 57 seconds midway through the second period to tilt the scale in Pittsburgh’s favor. That lead didn’t last for long though as Capitals forward T.J. Oshie got a breakaway opportunity and took full advantage of it.

In total, there were three goals scored in the span of just 90 seconds and you can see all of them below:

After that sequence, the 2-2 tie held for the remainder of the frame. However, Oshie was able to reassert Washington’s edge just 3:23 minutes into the third period.

Video: Beagle gets stick stuck in visor

Beagle
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Through 40 minutes of action in Game 1 of the second round series between Pittsburgh and Washington and we’ve already seen some big moments, along with a pretty unusual one.

Beagle ended up with a stick lodged into his visor towards the end of the second frame. He tried to get it out himself, but ended up having to go to the bench for assistance. You can see that below: