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The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 3 Alex Ovechkin

The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 3 Alex Ovechkin

Every player on an NHL team plays a role.Some, of course, play bigger roles than others.

In the coming weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles.

Today’s player: No. 3 Alex Ovechkin

Surprised to see Alex Ovechkin at No. 3? No, his production is not going to fall off a cliff. While his 50-goal seasons are likely behind him, I believe he will score more goals than last year and finish in the 35-40 goal range to lead the team. But goals are not the sole determining factor when it comes to gauging a player's importance.

Soon to be 32 years old, Ovechkin is at a crossroads in his career. The mantle of leadership no longer falls squarely on his shoulders. Now there is T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, Matt Niskanen and Braden Holtby. Plus, a new core of players is starting to come into their own. Players like Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky on the offense will be expected to take a bigger role on the offense going forward.

There's been a lot of talk this offseason about the offensive production the Caps lost in the summer—Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson scored a combined 48 goals last season—but notice that no one is talking about how much pressure Ovechkin is under to make up for that loss. Instead, the team will look to players like Kuznetsov, Burakovsky, Jakub Vrana and Tom Wilson to start hitting the back of the net and rack up the goals.

It's not just about Ovechkin anymore because it can't be.

Ovechkin is no longer in his prime. Even if he was, that's not enough to win in today's NHL. Not only have the Caps failed to get past the second round of the playoffs in the Ovechkin era, but look at the teams that do win. The Pittsburgh Penguins are not the two-time defending champs because of Sidney Crosby. They are the two-time defending champs because of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Matt Murray, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang (the first year), Jake Guentzel (the second year), etc.

Ovechkin is still the captain, he will likely still lead the team in goals and will be a very prominent figure in the team's success or lack thereof this season. He comes in third on this list not because his production is about to drop off or because he's no longer a leader on the team, but rather because the Caps will look for more from their other players both offensively and in the locker room. 

Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.

— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
 No. 22 Pheonix Copley
— No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly
— No. 20 Taylor Chorney
— No. 19 Nathan Walker

 No. 18 Philipp Grubauer
 No. 17 Christian Djoos

— No. 16 Madison Bowey
— No. 15 Jay Beagle
— No. 14 Brett Connolly
— No. 13 Tom Wilson
— No. 12 Lars Eller
— No. 11 Jakub Vrana
— No. 10 Brooks Orpik
— No. 9 John Carlson
— No. 8 Dmitry Orlov
— No. 7 Andre Burakovsky
— No. 6 Matt Niskanen
— No. 5 Evgeny Kuznetsov
— No. 4 T.J. Oshie

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The Caps are rolling at home, the power play is surging and other morning skate notes as the Flames visit Monday

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The Caps are rolling at home, the power play is surging and other morning skate notes as the Flames visit Monday

The Caps will look to build on Saturday’s strong performance vs. Minnesota when Johnny Gaudreau and the Flames come calling Monday night at Capital One Arena.

Here’s how Washington is expected to line up:

Forwards
Stephenson – Backstrom – Oshie
Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Smith-Pelly
Vrana – Eller – Wilson
Connolly – Beagle – Chiasson
Extra: Walker

Defense
Orpik – Carlson
Orlov – Niskanen
Chorney – Bowey
Extra: Ness

So, yeah, no changes up front or on the backend.

RELATED: FLAMES HEAD TO WASHINGTON IN STYLE

Now for some notes, quotes and observations from the morning skate:

  • Braden Holtby (11-4-0/2.56 gaa/.921 Sv%) is expected to start for the Caps. He’s won seven of his last nine starts and his 11 Ws are tied for third most in the NHL. The Flames are expected to start Mike Smith (10-6-0/2.70 gaa/.919 Sv%).
  • Including their win over Philipp Grubauer and Caps on Oct. 29, the Flames have won six of eight games to move into third place in the Pacific Division.
  • Leading the way for the Flames is Johnny Gaudreau, who has six goals and 10 assists during in the Flames’ last eight games. Gaudreau will likely match up against the Nicklas Backstrom line. Here’s what T.J. Oshie had to say about facing Gaudreau (it comes after he addresses the power play, which I’ll get to in a second.)
  • One thing that’s been pretty consistent for the Caps over the past couple of weeks has been the power play. After a bit of a dry spell, the unit has been (finally) getting some opportunities—and it’s been cashing in. Over the last five games, in fact, the power play has scored six times on 22 opportunities. Oshie has three of those goals, while Kuznetsov has chipped in with a pair.
  • The Flames, by the way, have the NHL’s worst penalty kill at 70.6-percent.
  • The Caps will be going for their sixth straight win at home against Calgary. In the previous five games on F Street, they’ve outscored their opponents by a combined 16-8.
  • Since Matt Niskanen returned to the lineup vs. the Predators, John Carlson’s ice time has come down to a more manageable figure. Carlson had been leading the league at 27:20 prior to No. 2’s return. Over the past three games, however, he’s skated 25:26, 24:53 and 24:55.
  • Game day skates typically begin around 10:15 when the Caps are at home. Sometimes scratches, the goalies and players toward the bottom of the lineup go out early to get a little extra work. On Monday, star center Evgeny Kuznetsov was on the ice at least 15 minutes early, working one-on-one with Trotz. Kuznetsov has five goals on the season but none at even strength in 11 games.  
  • Defenseman Christian Djoos hasn’t been on the ice since suffering an upper body injury in Nashville. Trotz did, however, say that the rookie is feeling better and starting to ramp up his level of activity. The coach also said he’s hopeful to see Djoos on the ice this week.


MORE CAPITALS: HOW TO WATCH CAPS-FLAMES

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Calgary comes to Washington in style with 1950s theme

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Calgary comes to Washington in style with 1950s theme

The Calgary Flames left for Washington D.C. on Saturday night and they decided to go in style.

After a game in Philadelphia, the Flames were slated to take a train to Washington for their game against the Caps on Monday so they decided to have a little fun with it with a 1950s style theme.

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS

The irony to this is that Jaromir Jagr is a member of the Flames and he currently doing everything he can to avoid turning 50. Now the rest of the team is embracing the 50s. Go figure.

HOW TO WATCH CAPS-FLAMES

Washington will host their stylish foes on Monday at Capital One Arena at 7 p.m.