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Can Caps afford to bring Joel Ward back next season?

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Can Caps afford to bring Joel Ward back next season?

Welcome to a playoff edition of our Penn Quarter Sports Tavern Friday six-pack, where we try to keep it real while answering your questions on the Capitals and their drive for the Stanley Cup. Let’s get started:

The fact that Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle skated on Friday should quell any kind of vindication the Rangers would have carried into Game 2 on Saturday at the Garden. Video replays can be interpreted a hundred different ways and while Nicklas Backstrom’s upper arm made contact with Boyle’s head, he did not appear to target Boyle’s head, nor did he launch himself into Boyle, two factors the NHL’s director of player safety considers when reviewing head shots. Backstrom was suspended during the Caps’ first-round series against the Bruins three years ago but he has an otherwise clean record. I think the Rangers were more upset that a penalty was not called than they thought there was an intent to injure, so any response from them in Game 2 should be minimal. Will they hit Backstrom, who led the Caps with five hits in Game 1, a little harder and a little more often? Probably. But the Rangers need to be very careful with their emotions. If Tanner Glass goes out there looking for revenge and puts the Capitals on the power play, New York will be down 2-0 in a series before they know what hit them.

Yes, but it will cost the Capitals. When we last asked Caps general manager Brian MacLellan about renegotiating contracts with his potential unrestricted free agents he said their performances and how they fit into the club’s structure, both on the ice and financially, would determine their fate. I’m a big believer that the chemistry in a locker room matters and Ward is a glue guy. He is an immovable object in the crease and he may have found a permanent home on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Backstrom. At 34 is he worth more than his current $3 million? Probably not. But I think that is the salary range we’re talking and I think the Caps see the value in keeping him.

I agree and it starts with personnel. Brooks Orpik clearly has stepped up his level of nastiness in the post-season and paired with John Carlson on the PK they have done an excellent job of forcing both the Rangers and the Islanders to the perimeter while also clearing the porch in front of Braden Holtby and eliminating second chances. Tim Gleason has also been a grit and spit player on the blue line and the Caps have gotten some big defensive zone faceoff wins from Jay Beagle. That will need to continue against the Rangers, who struggled on the power play in the regular season [16.8 percent] and are even worse in the post-season [13.6 percent].   

Good question. The Caps went 4-5-1 in day games during the regular season and that trend continued against the Islanders as they lost Games 3 and 6. I don’t think Alex Ovechkin is a big fan of afternoon games and I know most players don’t like being taken out of their game-day routines, which often include pre-game naps. With all of that in mind I think it was a good decision by Barry Trotz to give his players the day off on Friday and his players agree. “It was a long series against the Islanders and a quick turnaround for us,” Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “I think a lot of us were kind of drained after the game last night, both mentally and physically, and this time of year you’re not getting a lot out of practice, really. It’s just about adjustments. You can watch video and make sure your bodies are healthy. I think it was a good move for us.” With desperation as their guide, the Rangers will be flying in Game 2 and if the Caps can’t get up for an afternoon playoff game in Madison Square Garden, shame on them.

I would love to see it, but I just don’t see it happening, unless the Caps have multiple injuries on their blue line. Tim Gleason handled himself pretty well in Game 1, delivering two hits and blocking one shot while being an even player in 15:00 of ice time. I can’t imagine Barry Trotz changing his personnel on the blue line unless someone gets injured and my gut tells me Nate Schmidt would be the Caps’ first option if there is an injury on the back end. Trotz would be hard-pressed to give Orlov his first NHL game action of the season in the playoffs, but if two defensemen go down I think Orov would be the Caps’ next option behind Schmidt.

That’s a good question and I’m not sure the Caps even know the answer right now. Peters has one year and $950,000 remaining on his two-year deal with the Capitals. I don’t think many NHL teams would be interested in trading for him and I’m not sure buying him out is a great option, either. I think it’s imperative that Philipp Grubauer and Phoenix Copley continue to develop in Hershey and having Grubauer as a backup to Braden Holtby next season might slow his development. If I’m going under the assumption that Holtby will play between 65 and 70 games next season then I’m OK with Peters being his backup, because I think if Holtby was injured for any length of time Grubaer would be recalled as a starter anyway. For all he has been through this season Peters has been a consummate professional and that could go a long way in him returning to the Caps next season. 

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Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

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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?

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USA TODAY Sports

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.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

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!