Andre Burakovsky‘s junior team, the Erie Otters, kicked off the OHL Western conference finals against Guelph Storm on Thursday.

The series features the league’s two best regular-season teams and could become the best match-up of the playoffs, featuring three NHL first-round draft selections (Burakovsky, Brendan Gaunce, and Jason Dickinson) as well as three shoo-ins to be picked in the first round of either 2014 or 2015 (Robby Fabbri, Connor McDavid, and Dylan Strome).

Game One more than lived up to the hype: the teams combined for nine goals on 53 shots, trading the lead all game long. Guelph won 5-4 at home and retained home-ice advantage. Burakovsky, playing on the Otters second line with Strome and Michael Curtis, was the catalyst of Erie’s attacks, earning third star of the game honors.

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On Wednesday, Washington Capitals third-round pick Chandler Stephenson played in his first game as a Hershey Bear. His team battled the Norfolk Admirals, with whom they were tied in points for eighth and final postseason spot but held the tiebreaker, on the road.

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Saturday at Harry Grove Stadium was Hockey Day. The Frederick Keys staff wore hockey gear (I’m wagging my finger at you, girl in Malkin shirsey), and two former Washington Capitals, Craig Laughlin and Alan May, threw out the ceremonial first pitches and signed autographs for fans on the concourse.

Before the first pitches were thrown, however, there was some intrigue.

The night before, during the Caps telecast, Laughlin promised to CSN Washington’s Joe Beninati that he would zing the ball into home plate going “105.”

Let’s goooooo to the videotape.

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Photo: Alex Brandon

With 42 seconds left in the Capitals’ 4-0 win over Chicago, Jay Beagle skated to the bench looking for a change. He had been on the ice for three shifts in the last four minutes. His teammates, however, were adamant that he stay on the ice. But finally, after Beagle crawled over the bench wall, Eric Fehr stepped on for the final shift.

“I felt bad for him because I knew how tired he was,” Fehr told me. “I could see it in his eyes. He doesn’t get that look very often. He was begging to come off. I took a second and evaluated it and figured I better go.”

Said Beagle of his reaction: “I said “’I’m not! I’m not staying on. I can’t even move my legs anymore!”

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The Washington Capitals have been eliminated from playoff contention, and, sure, Friday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks — the 81st game of the season — was literally meaningless. But dammit, don’t tell that to Nicklas Backstrom.

Backstrom had a goal, an assist, and set his focus on recording his first career Gordie Howe hat trick. Angry Swede is angry.

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Photo: Rob Carr

Now that the Washington Capitals will officially miss the playoffs for the first time in six years, this is a great time to focus more on the tendencies of this Adam Oates-led team. While a lot of positive stories have been written about the team’s revitalized power play and its Russian captain, there’s a lot of reasons why we think Oates may be holding this team back from bigger and better things. Like, here’s twenty of them.

Then there’s the whole issue of the Caps sometimes looking like a beer-league team on the ice. Over the last few weeks, Caps players have violently collided into each other three times. Three. Times. And in two straight games.

Because this seems to be more like a pattern than a series of freak events, I collected GIFs and video of all the times it’s happened during Oates’ tenure. It’s happened… a lot.

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Alex Ovechkin is the first player to hit 50 goals in five seasons in a couple decades. His powerplay goal (naturally) in the first period of Tuesday’s game against St Louis introduced Ovechkin to the company of eleven storied scorers– including names like Gretzky, Lemieux, and Bossy.

Number fifty was nifty– a quintessential Ovi shot from the Ovi spot, clanging off the crossbar on its way home. Ryan Miller didn’t stand a chance.

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Photo: Terry Wilson/OHL Images

Capitals first-round pick Andre Burakovsky has had an excellent run in his first season in North America. After scoring 41 goals in 57 games during the regular season, Burakovsky kicked off the OHL playoffs with six goals in four games before hitting a mini-slump of three scoreless contests (all of which were won by his Erie Otters).

That slump lasted through a tight, low-scoring game 3 of the series between Erie and the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. With less than two minutes left game and up 1-0, Burakovsky– who doesn’t play with Erie’s stars of Dane Fox, Connor Brown, Brendan Gaunce and Connor McDavid– ensured the win.

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Photo: Alex Brandon

The Washington Capitals have less than a 5% chance of making the playoffs. Tonight, they take on the best team in the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues, in what is practically an elimination game. They need everyone on board. Unfortunately, not everyone is on board.

Speaking with the press today in St. Louis, Adam Oates revealed Braden Holtby will be starting tonight. That wasn’t too surprising until Oates explained the reasoning behind the move. Jaroslav Halak had told the coaching staff he was uncomfortable playing against his former team.

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In I-can’t-believe-I’m-actually-writing-about-this news, Sunday night at the SILVERDOME — err, I’m sorry the Superdome — WWE held their own Superbowl of Superbowls: Wrestlemania. And because it was the 30th anniversary, it was extra super. Stone Cold came back and drank some beers with The Rock, The Undertaker got his ass unmercilessly kicked by Brock Lesnar, and Triple HHH did something narcissistic again. That last one’s not special.

And sorry Peter, no, CM Punk did not come back.

Arguably the most special moment was when a former independent wrestler, the very bearded Daniel Bryan, won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship over DC’s own Batista and Randy Orton. Bryan is tiny and shouts “yes!” a lot and everyone loves him.

From where did he summon this mighty power though? Obviously, from the video they showed before the championship match, in which a younger Bryan high-fives a guy in a white Capitals jersey.

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