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:
— Matt6Caps (@NergllawSaittam) October 15, 2015
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:
Feel free to debate below.
@ChuckGormleyCSN Are you concerned with Kuznetsov's slow start as far as possession numbers and chemistry with Oshie goes?
— Jared Cunningham (@jaredbc) October 15, 2015
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.
@ChuckGormleyCSN how many points for burakovsky this year
— Jimmy Taktikos (@JimmyTaktikos) October 15, 2015
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.
@ChuckGormleyCSN When can we expect Grubauer to get his first start? Sometime on the road trip?
— Michael Fleetwood (@mpfCaps) October 15, 2015
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.
@ChuckGormleyCSN When is brooks laich going to be sent to Hershey?
— Pcatucci (@Dc01herd) October 15, 2015
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.
— Джанлука тоньино (@GianluT67) October 14, 2015
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.
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