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Burakovsky and Vrana's slow start could be a problem down the line

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Burakovsky and Vrana's slow start could be a problem down the line

It’s been a heck of a start to the season for the Capitals’ big stars. In four games, Alex Ovechkin has eight goals, Evgeny Kuznetsov has eight assists, Nicklas Backstrom has six points and T.J. Oshie has four points.

But there are two players in the top six who have been fairly quiet and it is two players the team needs to have big seasons from.

Andre Burakovsky looked poised for a breakout season in 2016 when he scored two goals in the season opener. A 26-game goalless streak followed leading Barry Trotz to scratch Burakovsky. But, in the playoffs, Burakovsky was given a promotion to the top line and responded with three goals in three games.


That was how he ended the 2016-17 season. So far, that finish has not carried over to this season despite playing alongside Backstrom and Oshie as Burakovsky has just two assists. He has not been terrible, but he has not looked like the breakout player the Caps were hoping for.

“Burky's pressing a little bit at times,” Trotz said to reporters Thursday after the team’s practice. “I'd like to see him hit the net. You can't score if you don't hit the net and I think he's got to put the puck on the net. He's getting some really great looks. When I do chances most nights, I'll put 65 grade A failed because he missed the net.”

Burakovsky has only hit the net four times in four games, but has five missed shots.

But he is not the only player in the top six without a goal. Jakub Vrana, who had to compete in training camp to make the team, has been playing with Ovechkin and Kuznetsov. He has not looked out of place in the NHL, but while his line is producing at a frenetic pace, he is not with just three assists.

“Actually, I just sat with [Vrana] and just went over some little details that he can continue to get better at as a young player,” Trotz said, “So he doesn't get jammed up that, you know, I'm not scoring so I'll start cheating in this area.”

Now let’s be clear, recording two assists and three assists in four games is not bad. The issue is not that they are playing poorly, the issue is that they have not been able to put away their scoring opportunities and if frustration over those missed opportunities will ultimately affect their game.

“Mostly offensive young guys, they think that total validation is scoring in this league and it's really not,” Trotz said. “We talked about being sustainable in this league. If you're not scoring then there's so many things that you can do for your team and the little details away from the puck, how to get the puck back. Very similar to things that I've said to [Alex Ovechkin] when I first got here, you say to the young guys, you do what you do with the puck. You can score, you can do those things, but do what I want you to do when you don't have the puck so you can have it more so you can do what you do.”


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Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

Alan May knows a thing or two about the trade deadline.

Over the course of his NHL career, May was traded five total times, four at the trade deadline. He sits down with Rob Carlin on a special edition of the Capitals Extra Podcast to tell stories from his playing days about what it was like getting traded.

This one's a can't miss for hockey fans. You can listen to the episode here on the Capitals Extra page or with the player below.

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?


NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.


Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!