Welcome to our Friday six-pack, where we answer your most pressing questions about the Capitals. We had a good variety this week and if we didn’t get to yours, keep them coming throughout the week on my Twitter account @ChuckGormleyCSN. Let’s get started:
@ChuckGormleyCSN and..How much will we miss Green with the set up PP pass to Ovi? Carlson can't seem to place it in the sweet spot.
— drewtang (@drewtang) October 30, 2015
Honestly, I don’t think Caps fans are going to miss Mike Green as much as you think. You are right in that John Carlson does not give Alex Ovechkin the puck at the same speed and location as Green did for 10 straight years, but they haven’t been together for 10 years, either. Plus, the Caps’ power play is so much more dynamic and less predictable than it was in previous years, when it centered around setting up Ovechkin for one-timers from the left circle. Now, T.J. Oshie and Andre Burakovsky are threats from the slot, Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov are threats from the side of the net, Nicklas Backstrom can surprise goalies with his quick shot from the half wall, and Carlson and Matt Niskanen can blast away from the point. Believe it or not, Carlson has actually logged more power-play time this season (29:00) than Ovechkin (28:28). But guess how many power-play shots he’s taken? One. Ovechkin leads the Caps with 10 power-play shots, followed by Oshie (8) and Kuznetsov (6). I actually think this year’s power play is more dangerous than any other I’ve seen in the past five years and it’s because of its multiple threats. Green’s departure also means more power-play ice time for Niskanen (12:20), who already has a power-play goal. The Caps also will not miss Green’s penchant for being in and out of the lineup. He is currently sidelined with an upper body injury sustained when he was steamrolled by Flames forward Josh Jooris last week. Green, 30, missed at least 10 games in seven of his 10 seasons with the Caps, including each of the last five.
— Jess Hughes (@JessrHughes) October 30, 2015
There is a lot to like about Brooks Orpik, but I see your concerns. Through eight games he’s taken six minor penalties and his lack of quickness was evident in Beau Bennett’s game-tying goal for Pittsburgh Wednesday night. At 35, Orpik is not as agile as he was a few years ago but he is still a hard-edged, reliable defender who should be able to complement John Carlson for at least another season or two, at which time Madison Bowey could be ready to assume that role. I think the Caps’ stability with their defensive pairings is a strength, not a weakness, and I think Orpik is a big reason Carlson is developing into one of the top 10 defensemen in the game. I’d keep them together until or unless there is greater concern.
— Patljr_7 (@patljr_7) October 30, 2015
We can all agree, Barry Trotz included, that Andre Burakovsky is not a fourth-line player and will not be stuck there for long. With Jay Beagle locked into the third-line center spot, Burakovsky is also unlikely to see any more time at center, a position he never played until early last season. But if you move Burakovsky up, who drops down? Based on merit, I would drop Justin Williams off the second line and move Burakovsky into that spot with fellow Swedes Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson. While I like your idea of matching Burakovsky with Kuznetsov I think there is too much risk in their games to play together. I would, however, like to see Backstrom setting the table for Burakovsky’s wicked snap shot. Of course, dropping Williams ($3.25 million) to a fourth line would anger fans already upset that Brooks Laich is occupying the other wing at $4.5 million. But I’d give it a look, at least temporarily, and beef up Williams’ ice time on the power play and penalty kill.
@ChuckGormleyCSN What kind of issues raise enough concern for trade market scouting? (E.g., right-hand face off winners)
— imjustjokinen (@imjustjokinen) October 30, 2015
Nice Twitter handle and great question! With Jay Beagle and Michael Latta as their only right-handed centermen, the Caps have asked righty T.J. Oshie to handle some of the draws, but he’s 7-for-28 in his first eight games. Against the Pens the Caps were less than impressive in the dots (29 for 64) with Barry Trotz emphasizing that some Penguins faceoff wins were so clean the puck ended up in their defensive zone. (Yes, that bothered him). I’m not underestimating the importance of winning faceoffs and gaining possession of the puck. It’s crucial. But good faceoff men can be developed if they put the work in after practice and assistant coach Blaine Forsythe directs faceoff drills after every practice. I’m not sure I would want to burn up a roster spot for a faceoff specialist. If I’m trade market scouting, I’m looking to see what’s out there on the defensive side. The Caps have three unproven blue liners (Dmitry Orlov, Nate Schmidt, Taylor Chorney) making up their fifth, sixth and seventh D spots and for now I think Brian MacLellan is seeing what he has back there while keeping an eye on potential UFAs who could be added at the trade deadline if needed. On that list are names like Alex Goligoski, Dan Hamhuis, Braydon Coburn, Kyle Quincey, John-Michael Liles and Nikita Nikitin. If the Caps could land one of those guys to play alongside Orlov, Schmidt or Chorney, well, that could be a significant upgrade.
@ChuckGormleyCSN What is going to be done about the 4th line?
— Pcatucci (@Dc01herd) October 29, 2015
@ChuckGormleyCSN With the 4th line struggling, do you see a permanent change (new signing, early promotion) or the carousel continuing?
— DaniloASandoval (@Danilo4Sandoval) October 29, 2015
A lot of questions this week on the fourth line and yes, I have concerns as well. There really is no identity on the Caps’ fourth line right now. Chandler Stephenson is a step quicker than Michael Latta, but is he strong enough and experienced enough to handle NHL power forwards? Brooks Laich is a reliable penalty killer, but has he lost his scoring touch? And we all know Andre Burakovsky is not a fourth-line player. Stan Galiev has incredible skill, but he may free-lance too much to be trusted with fourth-line minutes. We had a long talk with Barry Trotz about this yesterday and he wants/needs his fourth line to be reliable defensively. Ideally, he said, he would like three veterans who make safe plays and kill penalties on that line. The salary cap people will hate me for suggesting this (and so would Justin Williams), but would a fourth line of Laich, Latta and Williams be worth a try? That would allow Burakovsky to play on the second line, the checking line to remain intact and the top line to be what it is. It would also allow Trotz to spread out his minutes. And remember, having 14 healthy forwards is a rare luxury in the NHL, so at some point the forward lines will be dictated by injuries.
— David (@davidb22307) October 30, 2015
I love the Caps-Pens rivalry and the energy it brings to Verizon Center. There were 64 hits in that game Wednesday night and the fans loved it. But like Brooks Orpik told me, the Penguins hate the Flyers (and their fans) more than they hate the Caps and they’ve played each other in the playoffs three times in the last seven years. (The Caps and Pens haven’t met since that classic seven-game series in 2009). Those playoff series stoke rivalries more than anything driven by the media. (The Caps and Islanders games will be doozies this year). It’s also probably safe to say the Rangers and their fans hate the Flyers and their fans more than they hate the Caps. (Maybe that just tells you how easy it is to hate the Flyers). The Rangers have knocked the Caps out of the playoffs in each of their last three playoff meetings over the past four springs, so you have to think the Rangers are their biggest rivals, although I liked it more when John Tortorella was dropping bombs behind the New York bench. But if you asked me right now, I’d say those Caps-Islanders games will be the nastiest we’ll see this season.
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