Our Friday six-pack has reached the end of the regular season. Thanks for all of the great questions this year. Let’s crack open this week’s:
Of the 3 teams in the race for the playoffs (Bruins, Flyers, & Red Wings), who would you prefer the Caps to play 1st round? @Zack_Arts
For sheer entertainment value, I’ll take Caps-Flyers. If the Flyers win both of their final two games against the Penguins and Islanders, they will clinch the eighth spot and face the Caps in Round 1. Honestly, I don’t see that happening. The Flyers are not only running out of time, they’re running out of gas and are being forced to overuse Steve Mason, who is expected to get both ends of back-to-backs this weekend. (Although Michal Neuvirth is now cleared to play). Philly and Washington have not met in in a playoff series since 2008 and that was a barn burner, with Joffrey Lupul scoring in overtime of Game 7. Mike Richards chased Alex Ovechkin like a rabid dog in that series and now the two are teammates. Only one Flyer (depth forward R.J. Umberger) and two Capitals (Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom) remain from both of those playoff teams. If there is a downside to facing the Flyers it is that they would take a physical toll on the Caps if the series gets to a sixth or seventh game. There will be carnage. But if you ask me if I’d rather face Tuukka Rask, Jimmy Howard (or Petr Mrazek) or Steve Mason (or Michal Neuvirth), I’ll take that last duo.
any reasons to be/not to be worried in post season? @CottonEyeJones
I was on the “not worried” side of the fence for 78 games and carried the responsibility of talking nervous Caps fans off the ledge. But these last two games were a pair of red flags. First the Caps blow a two-goal third-period lead and fall to the Islanders in overtime, blowing a chance for Braden Holtby to get a taste of NHL history. It was the first time they had blown a two-goal lead in a third period since January of last year. And on Thursday they seemed one step slower than everyone on the Penguins, who raced out to a 3-0 lead. Granted, the Capitals proved they are never out of a game by roaring back to tie, but the fact it took them nearly two full periods to find their game concerns me. It’s also a concern that since clinching a playoff spot the Caps have lost six of 11 games and are dealing with their first three-game losing streak (0-1-2). Do I think the Capitals will beat any of their possible first-round opponents? Absolutely. Do I think they stand a good chance of beating their second-round opponent? If that’s the Islanders or Rangers, yes. If it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins, I’m a little worried.
what are the odds (Braden Holtby) gets the net vs the ducks if caps beat STL? @jaredbc
Zero. It was determined weeks ago that Holtby and Philipp Grubauer would split this weekend’s games and that’s not changing. It remains to be seen whether Holtby will start in St. Louis, where he could tie Martin Brodeur’s wins record (48) in front of Brodeur, who is an assistant general manager of the Blues. Ironically, Brodeur broke Bernie Parent’s record (47 wins) with Parent in the building in Philadelphia in 2007. In my opinion, considering the fact Holtby has lost consecutive attempts to tie the record with overtime losses, the Caps might look to avoid the sideshow in St. Louis and save Holtby for Sunday’s home game against the Anaheim Ducks.
When would the Caps begin the playoffs? Do you think they benefit or get hurt if any back-to-back games are scheduled? @terpinyc
Since the Caps’ season was extended an extra day because of the January snow storm and since the Wizards play Wednesday night at Verizon, the Caps will start no earlier than Thursday night. They could also get Friday-Sunday dates, depending on which games NBC would like to feature. Back-to-backs are unusual in the playoffs but I have seen them. The Caps have had 14 sets of back-to-backs entering this weekend. They are 12-2 in the front end of those back-to-backs and 9-4-1 in the back ends.
what's the plan for Orlov in the playoffs? He can be great but can also be a tremendous liability. Weber time? MrESQ_VT
A lot depends on how things look this weekend. Since Mike Weber practiced with Dmitry Orlov on Friday and Taylor Chorney was with Nate Schmidt, my guess is that we’ll see one of those pairs on Saturday and one on Sunday. Since there seems to be a commitment of keeping John Carlson and Brooks Orpik together, there could be some concern about having Orlov and Schmidt as a third pair in the playoffs. That’s why we could see Weber and Orlov together as a pair in Game 1 of the playoffs, especially if the Caps face a physical team like the Flyers. I do think Orlov will start the playoffs regardless and that Schmidt MIGHT be a healthy scratch.
Hey Chuck, in a potential PHI vs WSH series, deep down, will you be cheering for the orange and black? (you can be honest) on a more serious note, who should get the lions share of credit for the caps success the past two yrs, GMBM or Trotz? @OV3CHK1NG
Thanks for the opportunity to answer the first part of this question because I’m asked it all the time. Yes, I covered the Philadelphia Flyers for 23 years and yes, I’ve gotten to know many of the players who played there over the years, including Justin Williams and Mike Richards. But as I tell everyone who asks, I am a fan of the game. I root for good games, not wins and losses. And I root for people that I like. When Justin Williams won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes, I was happy for him. When Richards and Jeff Carter won a Cup with the Kings, I was happy for them. And if the Caps win the Cup this season, I will be happy for everyone in the organization. So, in all honesty, I am rooting for an entertaining first-round series, regardless of the Caps’ opponent. As for who I think deserves more credit, Brian MacLellan or Barry Trotz, that’s hard to say because they work so closely together. That said, if Barry Trotz is not the coach of the Capitals, Brian MacLellan has a far more difficult task of convincing Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen to come to a team that missed the playoffs two months earlier. Orpik told me that he simply could not say no to Trotz when it came to signing with Washington. The same can be said for Justin Williams signing in D.C. Hockey players talk to one another around the league and Williams did his homework last summer, wisely choosing Trotz and the Caps over Michel Therrien and the Montreal Canadiens. The Capitals did the right thing by cleaning house two years ago and they were fortunate to have someone willing to say what needed to change (MacLellan) and someone capable of bringing about that change (Trotz).
MORE CAPITALS: Flyers, Bruins, Red Wings still in mix for Caps