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Friday six-pack: What do the Caps need?

Friday six-pack: What do the Caps need?

It’s Friday and that means it’s time to crack open our Penn Quarter Sports Tavern Friday six-pack, where we answer your questions on the Capitals. Good ones this week. Here we go:

Were there any fundamental weaknesses or deficiencies of the Caps roster exposed through their playoff struggles this year? - @Sfischer1967

There are fundamental weaknesses on every team. The trick is hiding them. It is much easier to hide a fourth-line forward than it is a third-line defenseman, especially in the playoffs, and the Caps’ bottom pair was below average against the Penguins. While Taylor Chorney stepped up and played well against his former team (one assist, one penalty, even), Nate Schmidt struggled (no points, one penalty, minus-3) and Mike Weber made an unintentional but crucial mistake in his only game in the series, inadvertently pushing the puck to Patric Hornqvist for the OT game-winner in Game 4 in Pittsburgh, giving the Penguins a 3-1 series lead. When teams are as close as the Penguins and Capitals were, those kinds of mistakes can be the difference and they were. Leading up to the trade deadline the Caps wanted more of an upgrade to their blue line and made a pitch for Vancouver’s Dan Hamhuis, but the time it took to move Brooks Laich’s contract made it difficult for the Caps to make a significant move on the back end. While I agree that the Penguins were a little quicker than the Capitals, I thought the Caps had a pretty good balance of size and speed and just didn’t get enough offense from secondary players like Andre Burakovsky, Jason Chimera, Tom Wilson, Daniel Winnik and Mike Richards. If any of those guys had chipped in goals at crucial moments the Caps might still be playing.


Curious abt rules for HBH regs who ended up on Caps roster at playoffs. Ex: Sill playing for Calder but Galiev no. - @2FootArata

Let’s start with Zach Sill. The Capitals recalled the 28-year-old center on April 10, the final day of the regular season, on an emergency basis because, according to head coach Barry Trotz, a couple of forwards got “banged up” in the Caps’ win in St. Louis the night before. Sill played in that season finale and was returned to Hershey the following day. Because Sill was recalled on an emergency basis he was not waiver eligible, meaning other NHL teams could not claim him. As for Stan Galiev, who did not play for the Capitals in the playoffs and might have benefitted from a Calder Cup playoff run, he would have needed to be on the Bears’ roster on the NHL trade deadline of Feb. 29 to be eligible for the Calder Cup playoffs and he was not. Teams often demote players for one day on the trade deadline to secure their AHL playoff eligibility and although these are often paper transactions not reported to the media, there is no indication the Caps did that with Galiev. With that in mind, it will be interesting to see what the Caps do with Galiev, who has a contract that goes from a two-way deal (in 2015-16) to a one-way, $575,000 deal next season.

Here's my caps question. Was this year’s failure due to coaching? Not putting the right line combos on the ice? - @DonOveFan8
In two years Barry Trotz has done an excellent job of taking a team that was fractured under Adam Oates and George McPhee and molding it into one capable of winning it all. On breakup day, nearly every Capitals player said this was one of the closest teams he had ever played on. Trotz deserves a lot of the credit for that. That said, I think Trotz might have waited one or two games too long to shake up his forward lines. As we’re seeing with the Penguins, a third line like Nick Bonino, Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin can have a huge impact on a playoff series and the Caps got very little from their bottom three forward lines until Trotz flipped his lines in Game 5, moving Evgeny Kuznetsov, who had one assist in four games against the Pens, to the top line, dropping Nicklas Backstrom (one assist in four games) to the second line, and dropping Justin Williams (one goal, one assist in four games) to the third line. Williams responded with two goals and one assist in Games 5 and 6, but the changes may have come a little too late for a Capitals team struggling to get enough pucks and traffic on rookie netminder Matt Murray. Trotz is a finalist for Coach of the Year honors and he deserves to win the award. But like Alex Ovechkin, he’s never gotten past the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and will need to do so to earn full marks from the hockey community.

With the World cup of hockey in Sep, how does this affect the caps? - @WasCaps08

I think the World Cup of Hockey will affect NHL teams in many different ways. With eight players – Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov (Russia), T.J. Oshie, John Carlson and Matt Niskanen (USA), Braden Holtby (Canada), Nicklas Backstrom (Sweden) – and head coach Barry Trotz (Canada) representing their countries, the Caps’ training camp and preseason will be disjointed to say the least. Training camps for the eight teams participating in the World Cup will begin on Sept. 4, with the actual World Cup tournament running from Sept. 17 through Oct. 1. That’s four full weeks away from the Capitals. For the sake of argument, let’s say Canada advances to the World Cup gold medal game against either Russia or USA. That would mean any combination of Trotz, Holtby, Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Orlov, Oshie, Carlson and Niskanen would not be arriving in Washington until Oct. 2 at the earliest. Caps general manager Brian MacLellan said he’s already discussed with his coaching staff the need to give his World Cup players ample rest, depending on how far their teams advance and the physicality of the tournament. With the Caps’ preseason schedule set to begin on Sept. 26, we may not see Holtby or Ovechkin or Oshie in game action until the final three games of the seven-game exhibition season, which runs through Oct. 9. And then there is the impact of Trotz missing the entire rookie camp (which normally runs for five day leading up to training camp) and the first three weeks of training camp. Assuming Todd Reirden, Lane Lambert, Blaine Forsythe and Mitch Korn return, they’ll be guiding the Caps through those four weeks during Trotz’s absence. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is the potential risk of injury and fatigue. The tournament will be a heated one and it will be incumbent on players to be in top shape at a time they are normally ramping up their offseason workout routines. Fatigue should not be a factor at the start, but could be a factor late in the season, which is why the NHL will give each team a 5-day bye week sometime between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28.

You know or see any overseas options for 3rd/4th line depth like Donskoi of SJ? Better option than rookies? - @LanierSB   

It’s not easy to find impact free agents in Europe but Sergei Bobrovsky (Philadelphia), Niklas Backstrom (Minnesota) and Artemi Panarin (Chicago) have proven it can be done. As for this year’s crop of forwards, Evgenii Dadonov has gotten the most attention after his six-goal, seven-assist performance in 10 World Championship games for Russia, where he played on a line with Panarin and Vadim Shipachyov, who is reportedly staying in the KHL. Dadonov, 27, had 23 goals and 23 assists for St. Petersburg of the KHL this season but struggled in parts of three seasons with the Florida Panthers with 10 goals and 10 assists in 55 games. Former Caps defenseman Sami Lepisto, 31, also has received interest from NHL teams. Taken by the Caps in the third round of the 2004 NHL draft, Lepisto is a puck-moving defenseman coming off a strong season with Salavat of the KHL, scoring 11 goals and 30 points in 60 games during the regular season and six goals and 12 points in 18 playoff games. There’s also Peter Mueller, 28, who played five seasons in the NHL until he was slowed by concussions. Mueller, taken eighth overall by Phoenix in the 2006 NHL draft, put up 13 goals and 12 assists for Malmo of the Swedish League and has been working privately with former Caps coach and Hall of Famer Adam Oates.

After another playoff disaster yet again where does the team go from here - @Cigarjon1968

There’s nowhere to go but (C)up, right? There is very little that can be said to console diehard Capitals fans who have been led out of the desert to refreshing waters, only to learn it was all a mirage. But let’s not lose sight of the fact the Caps were the best team in hockey during the regular season with 120 points and lost four one-goal games (two in overtime) to the team likely to win the Stanley Cup. With at least 10 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies expected to return next season, including the league’s top goal scorer and goaltender, the Capitals should be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference again next season. So don’t lose faith in this team yet. Instead, hold onto these parting words from Nicklas Backstrom: “Even if we disappoint (fans), hopefully they have faith in us. We’re gonna do it. We’re gonna do it one day. I promise them.”


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Tarik's 3 stars: Caps come up empty on an emotional night in Florida

Tarik's 3 stars: Caps come up empty on an emotional night in Florida

Vincent Trocheck scored on the power play with 18.7 seconds remaining and the Panthers escaped with a 3-2 victory on an emotional night in Sunrise, Fla.

Trocheck’s goal was Florida’s second in the final four minutes…and the Caps were left to lament yet another incomplete performance. Washington has now lost three of its last four games and fell to 4-5-2 in February.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Vincent Trocheck, Panthers

Trocheck did what Trocheck does in the third period: The Florida forward scored a clutch goal in the final seconds, redirecting a Jonathan Huberdeau shot through Brooks Orpik’s legs and past Braden Holtby.

Eller was in the penalty box when Trocheck scored his 13th third period goal of the season.

2-Andre Burakovsky, Capitals

After losing a goal to Eller in the first period, Burakovsky made sure he didn’t go home empty-handed. No. 65 scored on the power play in the second period to put the Caps ahead 2-1.

It was Burakovsky’s third goal in six games. He also earned a secondary assist on Eller’s redirection score.   

3-Braden Holtby, Capitals

Following a handful of un-Holtby-like performances lately, Holtbeast roared Thursday night at BB&T Center. He made at least one game-saving stop in each period: an arm save on Trocheck in the first period; a pad stop on Denis Malgin in the second and another extended pad stop on Evgenii Dadonov in the third. Holtby finished with 30 stops.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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4 reasons why the Panthers beat the Caps

4 reasons why the Panthers beat the Caps

The Caps looked like they had the win in hand as they led 2-1 late in the third period, but things went off the rails in the final four minutes in a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers

Here's how the Caps lost.

An emotional start for Robert Luongo

Before the game, Roberto Luongo took the mic during an emotional tribute to the victims of the tragic Stoneman Douglas school shooting. As a writer, it was hard to get into the game after that. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for Luongo to focus to actually play in the game. But he did. He started off very well, making several strong saves in the first period. Washington scored late in the opening period after an offensive cycle of over a minute that completely wore out the Panthers' skaters. Otherwise, Luongo was brilliant turning aside 13 of the 14 shots he faced in the opening 20 minutes.

Another shaky start for Braden Holtby

This was the best game we have seen from Braden Holtby in a while as he made a number of phenomenal saves in the second and third period. In the first, however, he continued to struggle. Maxim Mamin scored his first career NHL goal and point as a puck trickled through Holtby and Mamin was able to slam it home. Holtby was dealing with a screen, but reacted late to the initial shot and late to Mamin.

Aleksander Barkov splitting Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson

With a 2-1 lead late in the third, the Caps looked like they had control. But with less than four minutes remaining, Aleksander Barkov was able to split Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson to set up Nick Bjugstad for the game-tying goal. Ovechkin was backchecking, Carlson stepped up on him and then...nothing. It looked as if both players thought the other would take Barkov and Ovechkin let up at the same time Carlson skated past giving Barkov a lane to the net.

A late penalty to Lars Eller

With the game tied late, the Caps were exerting their will in the offensive zone with the cycle that had been dominant all game long...and then Lars Eller tried to set a pick on Bjugstad, knocking him to the ice. It was an obvious interference call with just 42 seconds remaining in the game. Florida would score 22 seconds later to deny Washington not only the win, but a point as well.