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Friday 6-pack: When can Caps clinch Presidents' Trophy?

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Friday 6-pack: When can Caps clinch Presidents' Trophy?

Welcome to our Friday six-pack, where we answer your most pressing questions on the Capitals. Another batch of good ones from some new readers this week. Thanks and let’s get started:

could you please tell us clinching scenario for presidents trophy? -@Tdeichl

OK, here we go. Please keep in mind the first tiebreaker is regulation and overtime wins (ROW) and the second is head-to-head. The Caps are 52-15-5 for 109 points and 48 ROWs with 10 games to play entering Friday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils. The Dallas Stars are next with a 44-2-9 record, 97 points and 42 ROWs and seven games to play, beginning with Saturday’s game in San Jose. If the Stars won the rest of their games in regulation or overtime, they would finish with a maximum of 111 points and 49 ROWs. The St. Louis Blues are right behind Dallas with a 43-22-9 record for 95 points and 38 ROWs with eight games to play, beginning Friday night at home against the Canucks. If the Blues win out they’d also have a maximum of 111 points, but their 46 ROWs would fall two short of the Caps, so that eliminates the Blues from Presidents’ Trophy contention. So … the Caps cannot clinch the Presidents’ Trophy with a win Friday night because the Stars could theoretically match their 111 points and 49 ROWs and would win the second tiebreaker because they went 2-0-0 against the Caps this season. That means the Caps would need any combination of two points earned by them AND one or more points unearned by the Stars to clinch the No. 1 playoff seed in the NHL (a combined magic number of three points). That could happen with a regulation or overtime win by the Caps in New Jersey and a loss of any kind (or shootout win) by the Stars in San Jose on Saturday. (I think).

will players that have admitted lingering tweaks be rested now that there is nothing left to do in the regular season? - @Hard_HitN_HockE

Barry Trotz has been asked that question a lot lately and his answer has always been that he’d rather spread out players’ ice time than let them take turns sitting in the press box. “I’d rather see us play our four lines and play hard than rest guys,” Trotz said, adding, “I think some guys can improve on their conditioning.” This is going back a few years but I remember once a team actually sending star players to Florida for mini vacations as a way of resting them up for the playoffs and it backfired miserably. Trotz was specifically asked about resting Ovechkin, who sat out the All-Star Game with an undisclosed injury, and he said that as long as Ovechkin is well enough to play he does not intend to rest him. That said, once the Caps clinch the Presidents’ Trophy I would not be shocked if a few overworked players are asked if they’d like a night off. Matt Niskanen, for instance, is averaging 24:42 of ice time this season, well above his previous career high of 22:21, set last season. But he hasn’t missed a game since joining the Caps last season and would probably be reluctant to break that streak. Same goes for Karl Alzner, who will play in his 500th NHL game tonight against the Devils. To answer your question, I think Trotz is trying to maximize his players’ energy levels by giving them additional days off in the final two months of the season, hoping that will give them a physical edge in the playoffs.

All year there's noticeable lack of foot speed on Ovi's line with 19 and 77. When they put Ov on Kuzy's line: Fast. Tweaks? @IfbPaul

That lack of foot speed has produced 85 goals this season, so they must be doing something right. If everyone stays healthy, I would imagine the Caps’ forward lines will look like this to start the playoffs:

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Oshie

Burakovsky-Kuznetsov-Williams

Chimera-Johansson-Beagle

Winnik-Richards-Wilson

To your point I wouldn’t mind (or be surprised) seeing Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov switch places because I also like the chemistry Ovechkin and Kuznetsov have shown in 3-on-3 overtimes. You can be assured that Trotz will shake up those lines if things look stale in the post-season, which is probably why he’s been tinkering with different combinations in these final three weeks of the regular season. There will be injuries during the playoffs and players will be forced to shuffle up and down the lineup so I like what Trotz is doing. Look for him to try to stick to the same line combos in the final two or three games, though.

how many more starts do you see #Holtbeast getting before the playoffs/does he break Marty's record? - @mwangell2012

Seven. And yes, I predict Holtby (44 wins) will break Brodeur’s record of 48 victories in a single season. I would not be surprised if the Caps gave Holtby the night off tonight and had him face the St. Louis Blues Saturday at Verizon Center, but we'll see. Either way I see Holtby playing in seven of the Caps’ final 10 games: Friday at Jersey OR Saturday vs. St. Louis, Monday vs. Columbus, Wednesday at Philly, April 2 at Arizona, April 5 vs. Islanders, April 7 vs. Penguins and April 9 at St. Louis OR April 10 vs. Anaheim. (If the Caps want to be really sentimental they could give Holtby the start in St. Louis on April 9 instead of the home start against the Ducks on April 10 to give him a chance to set the record in front of Brodeur, who is the assistant general manager of the Blues). That gives Holtby seven chances to get the five wins necessary to pass Brodeur. If Holtby achieved the record he’d do it in 66 appearances. Brodeur played in 78 of the Devils’ 82 games in 2006-07. It should be noted I do not think the Caps would alter Holtby’s playing schedule by playing him in back-to-backs just to get the record. But I’ve seen crazier things happen.

Given how well the team has played this season and lead in standings the caps don't have much left to play for. @SlavaMalamud tweeted recently that NHL Legend Igor Larionov said "Hopefully, #Caps will let Ovechkin rest instead of chasing more stupid records". What should caps be doing w/ their stars? Is Ovi battling an injury now? - @OV3CHK1NG

If Alex Ovechkin was truly injured to the extent he could not play the Caps would have pulled him from the lineup and kept him sidelined weeks ago, knowing their window of opportunity to win the Stanley Cup is now. The problem at this time of year is that every player is nursing some kind of injury. Watching the way Ovechkin battled during Thursday’s practice and watching him crank one-timers after many recent practices, I don’t see anything wrong with the guy. In fact, I see Ovechkin staying on the ice longer after practices than at any time in my five seasons covering the Caps. Do I think scoring 50 goals is important to Ovechkin, who has 43 with 10 games to play? Yes. But not nearly as important as being ready for the playoffs, which is why he skipped this year’s NHL All-Star Game and sat out the Caps’ next game as punishment. Like many of the Caps, Ovechkin went through a lull for about eight or nine games, but unless I’m told otherwise I can’t attribute that to injury. Physically, Ovechkin looks fine to me and I’m sure opponents like Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin would agree.

Do you really think he'll break up Orlov & Orpik? I think Trotz views that as a mentor/mentee pairing, don't you? - @tommer100

I do. I think when Capitals assistant coach Todd Reirden considers his defensive pairs, matching Dmitry Orlov with the best partner is critical. Karl Alzner told me Thursday that the Caps could load up with a shutdown pair of John Carlson and Brooks Orpik, as they did last season, or they could spread the wealth by separating Carlson and Orpik and playing Carlson with Nate Schmidt and Orpik with Orlov. I like the idea of “spreading the wealth” because I’m not crazy about Orlov and Schmidt experiencing their very first Stanley Cup playoff game together as a pairing. I’d much rather see Orpik mentoring Orlov through his first playoff experience and Carlson doing the same for Schmidt. To me, Orlov has exceeded all preseason expectations with eight goals, 20 assists and a plus-14 rating and has earned the right to stay in the lineup. He can be “an adventure” (Barry Trotz’s words) in the defensive zone but he is slowly learning the difference between risk and reward and I guarantee he will make a difference in a playoff series, one way or another. If there is an area of his game I’d like to see improve it’s Orlov’s willingness to absorb a hit to make a safe play. He sometimes throws the puck away blindly when pressured and if he can eliminate that from his game he’ll cut down on his turnovers and Trotz will stay committed to keeping him in the lineup. As for Schmidt, I think the Caps’ coaching staff will take into account their playoff opponent before determining whether Schmidt or Mike Weber will get in the lineup. Weber played a strong physical game against the Penguins last weekend and he could be called upon if a playoff series (like Philadelphia) gets overly physical.   

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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!