In what could be one of the most sloppily played defensive game, the Caps used Jakub Vrana bumping up to the first line to help propel them to four unanswered goals (including two empty netters) in the third and gave the Caps a 3-2 series lead. Evgeny Kuznetsov had the game-tying goal and two assists, but the rest star was Braden Holtby. Holtby kept the Caps in the game after a barrage of Penguins chances and shut the door on them in key moments to keep the Caps alive and ahead.

That’s win seven in the playoffs, which means we look at the ONLY #7.

In the 43 seasons the Capitals have operated, there has only been one player to wear #7 and it’s the man who has ties to the organization and area– that’s Yvon Labre. While he only played 334 of his 371 games with the Capitals, he kept himself involved with the team after his retirement in 1981.

Labre was picked from Pittsburgh in the Expansion Draft of 1974, while being fourth in scoring in the inaugural season with the Caps and top amongst defensemen. Labre was the first player to score a goal at home for the Caps and was captain from 1975-76 until 1977-78 before starting to see some injuries mount up on him and forced him into retirement at only 31 years old.

However, Labre was dedicated to the DC area, taking part in a number of community projects, while also staying with the team as a coach, scout, and community ambassador. His number 7 was the first to be retired by the team, as he continues his time around the community with the Capitals and around area hockey. The Yvon Labre Award is given to the high school senior in the Maryland Student Hockey League based on dedication, work ethic, skill, and leadership.

Labre is always going to be remembered by Caps fans, though it was probably more for his contributions off the ice, as little is remembered from his on-ice days for more.

It wasn’t pretty, but it was a typical Pens/Caps game…but with the Caps getting the better of the Western Pennsylvania foes with Alex Ovechkin tipping in his own rebound with 1:07 left in the game to give the Caps a 4-3 win and 2-1 series lead. Not without controversy, as Tom Wilson became more of a villain for the Penguins for a borderline hit on Zach Aston-Reese. However, on the upside– goals from the blueline was big with John Carlson and Matt Niskanen putting up goals for the Caps, while Chandler Stephenson had the other goal for the Caps. Nicklas Backstrom was a true playmaker with three helpers in the game.

Sixth win of the playoffs means it’s time for a famous– if not THE famous– #6 for the Caps.

Miami Wade Miami Wade Jersey Jersey When it come to the #6, there’s only one guy to look for and it’s Calle Johansson, who’s longevity leaves him at second all-time with most games played as a Capital at 983 games. Johansson also continued the sturdy defenseman role that was left when Rod Langway retired. Having spent two seasons learning from Langway, Johansson picked up the reigns to anchor the Caps defense for 15 years.

After being acquired from Buffalo in 1989, Johansson fit right into the everyday line-up and never looked back. While there was a drop-off, Johansson was good for between five to 10 goals a year and in the mid-30s in points. A major power play contributor and key in their transition game, Johansson hit the 40-point plateau four times, while being a key part in the Capitals’ only trips past the second round in 1990 and 1998.

Miami Wade Miami Wade Jersey Jersey Calle Jo was quite sturdy, as well, with a few hiccups here and there– the most notable coming in 2001-02 when he missed the bulk of the season with a rotator cuff injury. Johansson played one more season with the Capitals after the rotator cuff injury before he retired for a time, then came back to play eight games before retiring again. Johansson’s legacy is one of an under appreciated defenseman league-wide, but was a major contributor for the Caps from the blue line and could be one of the finest two-way defensemen of his era.

It started with an Alex Ovechkin goal, it ended with a Nick Backstrom empty-netter, but in between– it was a battle. The Caps got up to a dreaded two-goal lead, but were able to hold off the on-slaught by the Penguins, including a controversial no-goal by Patric Hornqvist and a hit-to-the-head by Tom Wilson on Brian Dumoulin; but the luck seemed to give Caps a series tie as they go into Pittsburgh on Tuesday. With that fifth in of the playoffs– time to cover a famous #5 in Caps history.

Everyone knows about Rod Langway. He’s a Capitals’ legend and doesn’t need going over. But what about the guy that came before him?? Not just in position, but in number, as well. That’s where Rick Green comes in. Green was a part of the trade that brought Langway to DC, with Green going to Montreal– but he kept the #5 warm for the eventual Caps great.

Green was another first overall pick for the Capitals in 1976 and saw action immediately in the 1976-77 season, part of the lean years for the still new Capitals. Many wondered why he was picked over some proven scorers in that Draft, but then GM Max McNab thought a defenseman would help lessen the brunt of goals being scored on those lowly Caps. Green didn’t have an immediate impact and got plenty of hazing from the Landover faithful when he was around the ice. His minus-100 rating in his first three seasons probably didn’t help either.

Yet, he was still young and thrown into a role on an expansion club that saw the young rear-guard play close to 40 minutes a night, unheard of at the time for a younger defender. Green started to live up to the expectation, along with Richard Picard, to help the Caps get to their highest win total (27) in 1979-80, while the team only gave up 32 more goals than they put in. Green got the team’s top defenseman award and the team’s Unsung Hero award from the fans who used to boo him.

Green chipped in here and there offensively, as well, putting up 31 goals and 158 points in his 377 games with the Caps. But the move to trade him and Ryan Walter to Montreal in order to get Langway, Craig Laughlin, Brian Engblom, and Doug Jarvis was the first part of the “Save the Caps” movement so the team didn’t relocate. Green’s impact started with becoming better defensively and his impact worked well after he was gone by bringing in the Secretary of Defense that was Langway….and the long-time color commentator in Laughlin.

The first round is over and it was….something. Here’s some takeaways from it:

-As much as I hate to say it, the Penguins look like they’re world beaters. Sure, they beat the Flyers who were beat-up themselves and not all that great when you look at their goaltending, but to put up 28 goals in six games is impressive regardless of how you look at it. For a team that’s played from top to bottom for two straight seasons, they look like they’re gonna make a bigger push to get to a third.

-Man, those Western Conference series were a bit of a snooze, huh?? Two sweeps, both in the Pacific and the only real big deal series maybe showed the defending Conference Champs showing some vulnerability against a definitively weaker opponent. That said, at least the also-rans are out of the way for the new crop of powerhouses to take control of the division for a bit.

-The question is does this powerhouse really include the Vegas Golden Knights or are they just a mirage. They’ve already overcome the expansion blues and really took the league by storm. The question is whether or not Marc-Andre Fleury can really take the reins of this team and prove his playoff mettle. While defensive teams often take over the playoffs, a little goal support like how they managed this season could really help their cause as this dream season continues.

-Andrei Vasilevskiy will hopefully enjoy this break. For a guy who was talking about how he’s been worn down the entire season by playing so much, this time off will help him get a little recharged and focus. Though, he did look solid in those last two games, only letting up two goals total in them. If Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn can keep the offense up, the Bolts could take advantage of a worn down Bruins team.

Now, with that stuff out of the way– what to look for in the second round.

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-The Jets aren’t the Avalanche, so the Predators better not let up early goals like they have been. While Pekka Rinne and the squad have been solid, a team like the Jets and the offensive prowess they have will jump all over the Preds and not give the lead up so easily. You have to believe the best is yet to come for Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, and Blake Wheeler– and what better way to do it than now.

-While I’m a Caps fan and know what could come next, the fact they are going to start Game One without having to face Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin is a good thing. Yet, the Caps are 8-2 in Game Ones against the Penguins and have gone 1-9 in those series by the end. Alex Ovechkin has been scoring and the depth on the Caps is solid– they just have to get the boulder from off their back (and between their ears) if they want to succeed.

-Despite big-upping Vasilevskiy earlier, the Bruins are a team that could very well grind out some wins. It seems no matter what– their depth is chipping in and taking some pressure off Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. However, whether or not Tuukka Rask can withstand the barrage of firepower that Tampa has remains to be seen. You can expect the best out of Steven Stamkos this round, too.

-Someone get the pumpkin ready, because Vegas’s Cinderella season could be at it’s end. It’s nice to believe they can get to the Finals, but when you look at how this Sharks team is performing and how Martin Jones is looking back to form, it’s hard to say they’ll have a cakewalk like they did against LA. With Marcus Sorenson and Melker Karlsson leading the fresh group of Sharks, the Golden Knights could finally see their season end without a fairytale ending.

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With two goals, Alex Ovechkin once again help lead the way for their 6-3 victory over Columbus to win the series in six games. Braden Holtby had 35 saves in the winning effort, his and the Caps’ fourth straight. Chandler Stephenson potted a goal and assist for the Caps, as they move on to meet the Pittsburgh Penguins for a third straight year and 11th time overall. Before you get to where the Caps are going, gotta know where they’ve been– so time for #4 to go with the fourth win of the playoffs– Kevin Hatcher.

When it comes to the #4 spot, there hasn’t been many guys who made the mark that Kevin Hatcher did. Say what you will about him later on in his tenure, but the defenseman was crucial to production on the blue-line in the early-90s, as well as being a leader to his peers enough to get the captaincy for two years.

The former first round pick in 1984 for the Caps, Hatcher became a full-time blueliner in 1985-86 and kind of showed off his mixture of offensive talent and aggressive style of play in his own end. Hatcher saw his point-production increase through his first six seasons, peaking in his eighth season with the Caps in 1992-93, which saw Hatcher notch 34 goals and 79 points on the season. That goal total is still currently a Caps record for a season. Hatcher represented the Caps at the All-Star Game three times, while also holding the record for most goals by a defenseman in their career in Washington with 149.

While he did have his tenure marred by a contract holdout before the 1990-91 season, as well as his trade demand that saw him shipped to Dallas; Hatcher’s contributions on the scoresheet and as an imposing force in the line-up is what Caps fans should remember about the Detroit native who filled his role well during his 10 years with the Caps

Another game, another overtime, but this time– the Amazon Bulk Fortune Cookie was right in that #19 was a lucky number for the Caps. Nicklas Backstrom netted two goals, including the OT winner to put the Caps one win away from advancing out of the first round once again. And once again– we have a former Capital to look at for the win. This time– the #3 is a first for the Caps.

Yeah, it could have been Scott Stevens or Sylvain Cote– but we’re going with the original, we’re going with the first guy– Greg Joly. That’s right, the first ever Draft pick of the Washington Capitals was the first guy to don the #3 for the Capitals.

After an impressive junior career with the Regina Pats, one that saw him put up 21 goals and 92 points as a defenseman in his last season, as well as claiming a Memorial Cup; the Caps thought they had their first franchise player. However, the lights may have been too bright for a young player like Joly. He was never able to get back to the torrid pace he had in Juniors, only playing 98 games with the Caps and putting up a total of 33 points in those games. After two seasons, the Caps gave up on their first ever pick, trading him to Detroit for Bryan “Bugsy” Watson.

Now retired into a life of insurance, many Caps fans should remember someone like Joly. He was the hot product that the Caps thought they had lucked into. Yet, it also made a cornerstone for the future of the Caps– relying heavy on defense and very questionable drafting.

People thought Alex Ovechkin was odd saying that the Capitals would be going back to DC for Game 5 with the series tied. Thanks to Ovi’s goal and assist, the Caps took Game 2 over Columbus 4-1 to go back to DC with the series tied up 2-2. Thanks to that– we get the #2 on the Caps By The Numbers with Ken Klee.

It had to be Ken Klee for the #2. No past Capital wore the number as long as he did and he continued the ideal of the Capitals by being a defensive minded blueliner, only putting up 111 points in 570 games with the Caps. Klee, while only putting up 43 career goals for the Caps, had 11 game winning goals.

Klee came to the Caps via the Draft in 1990, but rather than go to the Baltimore Skipjacks right away, Klee stuck with Bowling Green State University for three seasons before going pro with the Skipjacks and then the Portland Pirates. Klee was a part of the 1993-94 Calder Cup team, a team that kickstarted the careers of Steve Konowalchuk, Andrew Brunette, Olaf Kolzig among others.

Though he wasn’t a top-pairing guy per se, Klee was a shutdown guy that the Caps always seemed to have in their line-ups at the time. He left following the 2002-03 season for a variety of places, while also getting into coaching for USA Hockey after that. Playing the quiet role, but playing it well– Klee could be the most memorable #2 (for now) in Caps history.

There’s no way the Capitals make it easy for themselves. With all three of their games going to extra time, which they had lost two of them– the Caps finally got some “puck luck” in their win over the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 thanks to Lars Eller being in the right place at the right time. A wild puck thrown at the net bounced off Eller, than Zach Werenski, then Eller again to give the Caps their first win. They are down in the series two games to one, however.

Miami Wade Miami Wade Jersey Jersey But– now we get to the gimmick for this playoffs to honor Capitals of the past and their jersey number with each Caps win. You have to start at #1.

There are a lot of goalies who could have gotten this slot– Pete Peeters, Semyon Varlamov, Rastislav Stana– but the guy who gets this slot is the guy who help lead the Caps past the second round of the playoffs for the first time. That man is Mike Liut.

Of course, the reason Liut was acquired in the 1989-90 season was simple in that the Caps needed a better back-up goaltending option than they had. Bob Mason wasn’t cutting it and the other options of Jim Hrivnak and Olaf Kolzig were too young in the eyes of the Caps. So, the Caps got rid of Yvon Corriveau (who only had 15 points in 50 games) to get the former NHLPA MVP winner.

It would prove to be a good move because he would be thrown into the fray after Don Beaupre went down in Game Three of the second round and was able to shake off a rough start to his playoffs to help the Caps get past the Rangers and onto the Conference Finals…though they got swept by the Bruins.

Liut would come back for the next two season with the Caps, going an even 23-23-5 in those last two seasons before calling it a career and going into a life as a player agent. He may not have been in Landover for a long time, but he was there for a decent time in the history of the Caps playoff history.

While there will be some team sites out there doing other things for their team’s playoff wins– I’m feeling like I need to have a decent gimmick for the playoffs when it comes to the Capitals. Of course, this team hasn’t been past the second round since 1998, but this year….this year feels odd. A team that didn’t look the best at times, their solid portion of their game (Braden Holtby) looking very human, but getting help offensively in a big way.

Plus, they didn’t win the President’s Trophy, so I’m happy with that. Better odds to win.

However, this year– I’m doing to do something called “Winning By The Numbers” for the Capitals this playoffs. With each playoff win– I’ll pick one former Capital whose jersey number coincides with that playoff win. Like with win #1– Pete Peeters or Mike Liut, #2 for Garry Galley or Ken Klee, and so on and so forth. Maybe even get past Yvon Labre and just have a post for #8 about Larry Murphy where it’s just me typing out “WHOOP” for 500 words worth.

My goal is to get all the way to #16 and my favorite player of all-time in the NHL: Bengt Gustafsson.

There you have it– I’ve done my part, time for the Caps to do theirs.

Midco Sports Network’s Alex Heinert pointed out that there has been a helluva lot of underclassmen leaving school early and going pro. Who can blame them, honestly– when the next level is calling and money is being thrown your way– why not take it?? You can’t blame them to get the money and go for their dream job when they can before they have some kind of injury that really shelves their potential.

The University of North Dakota have two players leaving early to go onto their professional career. Last week, both Christian Wolanin and Shane Gersich signed their pro deals in two nation’s capitals– Wolanin with Ottawa and Gersich with Washington. It’s another year for UND to lose players early. Last season, they lost three players early– Tucker Poolman, Tyson Jost, and Brock Boeser and after their 2015-16 National Championship run, they lost Troy Stetcher, Keaton Thompson, Nick Schmaltz, Luke Johnson, and Paul LaDue to the pros. There’s a reason why University of North Dakota is on the cusp of having 100 players to play in the NHL.

When it comes to someone like Poolman, he really couldn’t do much more with UND. He was NHL-ready and that junior season was the icing on the cake for Poolman to try and repeat as a National Champion. The same could be said for Wolanin, who came into his own during the off-season and transferred it to his junior season, becoming the first defenseman since 1983 to lead UND in scoring for the season. Of course, on a rebuilding team and probably being a key cog in that, there’s going to be a lot of weight on Wolanin’s shoulders– especially given his pedigree being the son of a former NHLer.

Of course– there’s risks involved from leaving college early and not living up to the hype that has been out there right off the bat. That could leave people to wonder if it was worth leaving school early for. That’s something that I wonder when it come to Shane Gersich. Last season, alongside Jost and Boeser; Gersich made his name known with 21 goals and 37 points in 40 games. This season was solid for Gersich, if not frustrating at times. With only five goals and six assists in his first 20 games, you could see Gersich fighting the puck during his struggles. However, new year– new Shane as Gersich finished with eight goals and 10 assists in the second half to have some mojo going into his last games with the Fighting Hawks.

One recent example against the move for Gersich could be his former linemate in Jost, who left the University of North Dakota after his freshman season last year to sign with the Colorado Avalanche (after some alleged heavy/annoying persuading by the Avalanche brass). With only nine goals and 19 points in 59 games this season, you could argue that Jost wasn’t ready for that jump and could have used the time to stay at UND to grow more. Granted, you can’t take injuries into effect when they sign that deal, but it happens and you adapt from it.

Conversely– there’s players who may not look like they’re ready, but surprise plenty of naysayers– like Gersich’s other linemate in Boeser, who was a heavy Calder Trophy favorite with 29 goals (10 on the power play) and 55 points in 62 games until his season-ending back injury this year. Boeser could have probably went pro after his freshman year and winning a National Championship– but he decided to stick around. I’ll say upfront I didn’t think it was best for Boeser to do that, as he didn’t look that great to close out his sophomore season– but I’m glad he proved me wrong on that.

Both Gersich and Wolanin will face some hardships when they get into the big leagues– it happens with most every player, whether they leave early or stay all four years in college. There’s probably going to be questions of if they should have stayed one more year or if they should even be with the team that drafted them. In the end, they made the choice right for them and you have to respect them for it regardless of personal view now or down the road.