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Friday Six-Pack: First Q&A of the Capitals 2015-16 season!

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Friday Six-Pack: First Q&A of the Capitals 2015-16 season!

Welcome to the first edition of our 2015-16 Friday Six-Pack of Questions, where we answer your questions on the Capitals. To get in on the fun, tweet me your questions at @ChuckGormleyCSN. Here are this week’s top six:

We could find out as early as Saturday morning. Trotz said Backstrom’s recovery from offseason hip surgery is getting “better and better” and that there’s a possibility he returns to the lineup Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. With the way the top line of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie looked on Thursday night, I think Trotz would be hesitant to move Backstrom into Kuznetsov’s spot right away. And while I like the way the line of Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson has played in the first three games, here are line combinations I would consider:

Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Oshie

Burakovsky-Backstrom-Wilson

Johansson-Beagle-Williams

Chimera-Stephenson-Laich/Latta

Feel free to debate below. 

Not so much after Thursday’s 4-1 win. Here’s the thing with Kuznetsov: For the amount of creativity he possesses – and we saw some of it Thursday with his backdoor pass to Ovechkin from behind the net and his give-and-go return pass on Ovechkin’s goal – Kuznetsov must be responsible and effective digging pucks out of his own zone for that line to be a plus line. So far I like the commitment Kuznetsov has shown in all three zones and he can be a very feisty backchecker capable of turning pucks over for transition opportunities for Ovechkin and Oshie. There are times I see too much risk when Ovechkin and Oshie are on the ice together and Kuznetsov can’t be the only responsible player among the three. That said, Kuznetsov is oozing with talent and I believe he is a star in the making.

Honestly, I have not been overly impressed with Burakovsky’s start and that could have something to do with him playing in the middle. I think Burakovsky has the potential to be a center in the NHL, but if Backstrom and Kuznetsov are your top two centers and Jay Beagle is your checking-line center, it seems logical to move Burakovsky to left wing, where, if he plays alongside Backstrom, he could put up 25 or more goals and an equal number of assists.  What I like most about Burakovsky is his wicked release. He sometimes reminds me of a young Jeff Carter, who played both wing and center early in his career before converting to center full-time. So let’s say in the 45-50 point range. 

I would think so, yes. Assuming Braden Holtby is healthy, he’ll get the start Saturday night against Carolina and he’s likely to get Tuesday night’s game in Calgary. It’s a coin flip on whether Grubauer would get the start in Vancouver on Thursday or Edmonton on Friday. Since the Caps have four days off after their road trip I could see Grubauer getting his first start in Vancouver. I talked to him earlier this week about how his preparation changes as a backup and I’ll post that story next week.    

That sounds a lot easier than it is. First of all, Laich is doing what he’s been asked to do as a fourth-line penalty killer. Obviously, the Caps aren’t crazy about paying a fourth-line penalty killer $9 million over the next two seasons, just as the Flyers aren’t crazy about paying defenseman Andrew MacDonald $25 million over the next five years. Philadelphia sent MacDonald to AHL Lehigh Valley before the start of the season and picked up $950,000 in cap relief. The Caps would do the same if they placed Laich on waivers, but since they would have to replace him with an AHL callup with an NHL salary of at least $550,000 they’d only pick up $400,000 in cap space. For now I think the Caps are willing to let this play out and find a suitable role for Laich as the season unfolds.  

Quite honestly, I think the Caps were good enough, healthy enough and playing well enough to get to the Stanley Cup Final last spring. So many things have to happen for them to get to that point this season but, yes, I think they are a better team. T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams are more skilled than Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer and this year’s version of Kuznetsov and Burakovsky should be better than last. Braden Holtby is looking like a rock between the pipes and their top four defensemen are as good as any in the NHL. If you asked me if I’d rather take Mike Green and Tim Gleason or Dmitry Orlov/Nate Schmidt/Taylor Chorney on my third pairing, I’d take Green and Gleason. But the Caps will have some wiggle room around the trade deadline and if a proven veteran defenseman is an area that needs to be addressed they’ll have the resources to do it. 

MORE CAPITALS: Capitals get out the grit in win over Blackhawks

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Game 6 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 6 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

After three straight wins, the Caps now sit just one win away from closing out the Columbus Blue Jackets. They will get their shot to finish the series Monday in Game 6.

Nicklas Backstrom was the hero in Game 5 for Washington with three points including the overtime winner. Who will step up in Game 6? The Caps will need to make sure it's not Artemi Panarin who has been held without a point in two straight games. Washington will also need to make sure their penalty kill stays hot as they have killed off 13 straight power plays for the Blue Jackets.

The Pittsburgh Penguins await the winner of this series after closing out the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. Will the Caps close out Columbus and set up the rematch?

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 6

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 6 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 6 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 6 on Monday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Washington currently leads the series 3-2.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME ON?

Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 6 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 6, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jakub Vrana -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

SEE THE CAPITALS VS. BLUE JACKETS FULL SERIES SCHEDULE HERE

CAPITALS SCHEDULE

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Capitals one win away from facing the Penguins ... again

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Capitals one win away from facing the Penguins ... again

The Washington Capitals are one win away from advancing to the second round of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

If they do beat the Blue Jackets in Game 6 or Game 7, a familiar foe awaits them.

The Pittsburgh Penguins ended their series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday with a 8-5 win in Game 6. They will play the winner of the Capitals-Columbus Blue Jackets series.

Because of course they will.

The Penguins have beaten the Capitals in the second round in each of the past two seasons. The series went six games in 2016 and seven in 2017.

Washington’s biggest rival has been a thorn in the side of the Caps throughout the team’s history. Washington and Pittsburgh have met in the postseason 10 times. Only once have the Caps come out victorious, in 1994.

Pittsburgh has won five Stanley Cups in their history and each time, they had to beat the Caps in the playoffs to do it.

The emergence of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin helped to reignite the Washington-Pittsburgh rivalry, but that too has been one sided. Crosby has won three Stanley Cups while Ovechkin has never advanced past the second round.

Before you despair, however, consider this. Coming into the season, no one knew what to expect from the Capitals. Expectations were low. Somehow, Washington managed to overcome the loss of several players in the offseason and managed to win the Metropolitan Division.

In a season in which the Caps have already defied expectations, perhaps this will be the year they finally get past Pittsburgh and advance to the conference final. Maybe? Please?

First things first, they still need one more win against Columbus. Game 6 will be Monday at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

MORE CAPITALS:
How the Caps stymied Artemi Panarin
Nick Backstrom's Game 5 heroics, explained
Capitals' PK unit the series difference-maker
John Tortorella makes Game 7 proclamation