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The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 9 John Carlson

The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 9 John Carlson

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. 9 John Carlson

When you're a team with only three top-four defensemen, all three of those players are going to be pretty important to your season. But John Carlson's impact is not just about what he brings defensively. It's also about his offensive production.

There are not many things the Capitals did not do well last season in another dominant run to a Presidents' Trophy. One stat in which they ranked near the bottom, however, was goals from their blue line. Washington got only 29 goals from their defensemen, good for only 26th in the NHL. Brent Burns scored 29 goals by himself  2016-17. Excluding the lockout-shortened season, that's the fewest Washington has gotten from its defense since 2010-11.

Carlson's production was down as well with just 37 points in 72 games, the lowest point total for him since 2013-14. He managed 39 points in the season before despite playing in only 56 games that season.

The Caps lost a lot of offensive production in the summer. The responsibility for making up those goals will fall largely on the offense's shoulders, but it is clear they need more production from their blue line as well. As the defense's best offensive weapon and a key piece of the power play, the pressure is on for Carlson to spark the blue line's offensive production.

But that may be difficult considering we do not know who Carlson's partner will be this season. While the team is set on the top pair with Dmitry Orlov and Niskanen, there's no clear answer as to who will be skating alongside Carlson. The team looks poised for a training camp battle between prospects Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos and Tyler Lewington among others and veterans Aaron Ness and Jyrki Jokipakka. Regardless of who wins the job out of camp, it would not be surprising to see a rotation of sorts on that pair. That will present an added challenge to Carlson who will have to adjust to a new partner night in and night out. How well he is able to do that will be a major factor in determining just how good the Caps' defense is this season.

And, oh yeah, it's also a contract year. There's a lot on the line for Carlson in 2017-18.

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

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

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NBC Sports Washington

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.