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Friday Six-Pack: Who should be feeding Ovi?


Friday Six-Pack: Who should be feeding Ovi?

NEW YORK -- It’s a sun-splashed day in Manhattan, where we bring you a playoff edition of our Penn Quarter Sports Tavern Friday Six-Pack, where we try to keep it real with your questions on the Capitals. Let’s get started:

Good question and I agree, to a degree. I can’t say this for certain because teams are not always forthcoming on injuries, but I think the switch from Mike Green to John Carlson on the Caps’ No. 1 power play unit had more to do with a shoulder injury to Green earlier this season. At that time, Green kept faking shot and passing to Alex Ovechkin and opposing teams were recognizing those tendencies and cheating toward. With Green’s hard shot a non-factor on the man-advantage, and with Carlson’s booming shot from the point a weapon, the Caps’ coaching staff decided to make the switch and have stuck with it. Back in March there was a great post on Japers’ Rink on the pros and cons of Green vs. Carlson.

Honestly, you could probably make a strong case for either defenseman. Green had the primary assist on eight of Ovechkin’s 25 power-play goals, while Carlson had the primary assist on six. Ovechkin often stays out for the full two minutes, so both Green and Carlson have had their cracks at it. I’m sure most would agree that after 10 years together, Green knows the pace and placement for Ovechkin’s wicked one-timer better than anyone, while Carlson is still trying to find ways to get pucks into Ovechkin’s wheelhouse. Carlson and Ovechkin have spent lots of time after practices setting up Ovechkin’s one-timers from the left circle but they are still a work in progress. If Green is strong enough to blast away, I think he’s the best option at the point because that threat keeps teams honest. But if Green’s shooting strength is compromised, Carlson is a better option because of that hard shot. Either way, it’s a nice problem to have.

First, a quick injury update. Knocked out of the first-round series against the New York Islanders on a Kyle Okposo hit in Game 3 on April 19 on Long Island, Fehr did not join the team in New York for Game 5 and appears to be unavailable for Game 6, if necessary, as well. The guess here is that Fehr could be cleared sometime in the middle of next week, which would make him available for the Conference Finals, if the Caps are able to dispose of the Rangers. As for who comes out of the lineup, my first guess would be Curtis Glencross, who played a heavier and more effective Game 4 in the Caps’ 2-1 win.

The problem with making room for Fehr is that it could disrupt the Killer Bs line of Andre Burakovsky, Jay Beagle and Troy Brouwer. Beagle has been a monster on faceoffs in the Rangers series and it makes sense to keep him at center on that line. If Fehr is strong enough to take faceoffs, I’d start him on a fourth line with Brooks Laich on the left and Tom Wilson on the right. If Fehr is uncomfortable taking draws, I’d keep Laich there and put Fehr either at right wing [sitting Tom Wilson] or left wing [sitting Glencross].

I like that you put “easier” in quotation marks because there are no easy opponents in the playoffs. That said, it always seems harder to get out of the first round than any other. Hose series seem to go the longest. To your question, despite the Montreal Canadiens' season-saving 6-2 win over the Lightning in Tampa on Thursday night the Bolts still hold a commanding 3-1 series lead and can close out the series Saturday night in Montreal. Heading into the playoffs I thought the Caps would be better matched against the Lightning than the Habs simply because I thought goaltender Carey Price would give them more trouble than Ben Bishop. I still believe that, even though before Thursday night's blowout loss, in which he was pulled after allowing five goals, Bishop won seven of 10 playoff games. Even with the lopsided loss, the 6-foot-7 Bishop ranks third among playoff starters with a 1.86 GAA, behind only Braden Holtby (1.48) and Henrik Lundqvist (1.84).

Here’s why I think the Caps are better suited to play the Lightning than the Canadiens. During the regular season the Caps won two of three from the Lightning, outscoring them 12-9. All 12 of those goals came against Bishop, who had a 3.37 GAA and .899 save percentage against the Caps in the regular season. Nicklas Backstrom led the Caps in the season series with three goals [a hat trick on Dec. 13] and three assists, while Alex Ovechkin had two goals and three assists. The Lightning improved their blue line with the additions of Anton Stralman and Braydon Coburn and they’re tougher to play against with former Rangers Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle, but I think you’d see a tremendous series with Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos going head-to-head. As for the Canadiens, the Caps went 1-2 against them in the regular season, managing just one goal against Price in their two losses. I think a Caps-Canadiens series would mimic a Caps-Rangers series, with low-scoring games dominated by he goaltenders. Montreal does not have the firepower of Tampa, but their overall team defense would make it difficult on Ovechkin and Company. Long story short, I’ll take the Lightning.

Last year, former Caps goaltender Semyon Varlamov signed a five-year, $29.5 million contract [$5.9 million per year] to remain with the Colorado Avalanche and you can make the argument that Holtby, who currently is making $1.85 million, is worth more than that. How much more is difficult to gauge. The Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist is currently the highest-paid goalie in the NHL at $8.5 million, followed by Nashville’s Pekka Rinne [$7 milllion], Boston’s Tuukka Rask [$7 million], Montreal’s Carey Price [$6.5 million], Carolina’s Cam Ward [$6.3 million], Vancouver’s Ryan Miller [$6 million] and Chicago’s Corey Crawford [$6 million].

The body of work of all of those goalies is greater than Holtby’s, but with each playoff series victory, $500,000 is probably being added to Holtby’s asking price. Because he’ll be a restricted free agent, the Caps could offer Holtby a “bridge” contract that takes him through the first year or two of unrestricted status, but I think they will make a long-term commitment in much the same way they did with defensemen Matt Niskanen  [seven years, $40.25 million] and Brooks Orpik [five years, $27.5 million]. I always seem to guess lower than true market value, but if you pinned me down, based on comparables, I’d put Holtby at around seven years, $48 million or $6.85 million. 

I agree the Caps won’t be able to keep Green and Gleason, especially after breaking down Holtby’s anticipated payday. Unless Green takes a drastic pay cut from his $6.1 million there’s little chance the Caps can keep him, especially when another team is likely willing to pay him at least $6.5 million, and he deserves it. A lot can happen between now and July 1, but if Gleason proves to be a valuable addition to the Caps’ blue line for the remainder of the playoffs I actually think he could re-sign with the Caps if they can keep him in the $1.5 to $2 million range. I say that because the Caps will want some toughness on that third pairing next season if they plan on Nate Schmidt filling the skates of Green.

The X factor in all of this is Dmitry Orlov. If the Caps believe his left wrist is durable enough to withstand a full NHL season, they can let Gleason walk. If there are questions about Orlov, and right now you have to think there are, then maybe you sign Gleason or another veteran UFA  and cover your bases. Either way, I don’t see the Caps breaking in two rookies on the back end next season. Schmidt is the most likely candidate to get full-time work, while Connor Carrick continues to develop in the AHL and Madison Bowey gets his first taste of AHL action with the Bears.    

The Islanders were so focused on hitting the Capitals that they got away from what makes them so dangerous, their team speed. In all honesty, the Capitals should have taken advantage of injuries to the Islanders’ blue line and taken them down sooner than they did. As for the Rangers, they have more skill up front, better talent on the back end and better goaltending than the Islanders, but find themselves on the brink of elimination. You could make the argument that with the first four games decided by one goal, the Rangers could be just as easily up 3-1 than down 3-1, but playoff hockey comes down to this: The team that makes the fewest mistakes AND gets the more timely saves moves on.

The Caps forced Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh into the giveaway he made at the offensive blue line, which allowed Andre Burakovsky to score the game-winning goal in Game 4. Those are the kind of plays that win playoff series and the Caps have made more of them than the Rangers so far. The Caps have also forced everything to the outside and are getting in shooting lanes and that has frustrated the Rangers more than they’ll say. I do believe the Capitals’ “heavy” brand of hockey has been too much for the Rangers’ speedy forwards and their third defense pairing of Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle, each of whom have been hit hard and often in this series.   

MORE CAPITALS: Gleason on fight with Glass: 'It's hockey, man'

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

No player on the Caps gets more scrutiny than defenseman Brooks Orpik. While the analytics aren't kind when he's on the ice, we got to see what the Caps looked like without him when he was scratched against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday and...well, his loss was noticeable.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir discuss what Orpik's true impact on the Capitals really is both on and off the ice on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast. Plus, they also talk about John Carlson's monster season and Barry Trotz's new strategy for the goalies.

Listen to the latest episode in the player below or here on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Caps prospect watch: Signing season?


Caps prospect watch: Signing season?

The 2018 NCAA Hockey Tournament bracket has been announced and only one Capitals prospect, Brian Pinho, is still in the running.

Providence College was selected as the No. 2 seed in the East Regional and will play No. 3 Clarkson in the first round on Friday, March 23 on ESPNU. The winner will play the winner of Notre Dame-Michigan Tech on Saturday with a chance to advance to the Frozen Four.

The college season is over for the rest of the Capitals' college prospects which begs the question, will any of them sign an entry-level deal with Washington?

In the spring when seasons end for colleges, junior leagues and European leagues, we see a flurry of signings across the NHL as teams sign their prospects and young free agents.

Among the Caps' college prospects, the most likely candidate to sign would be Shane Gersich. Gersich just wrapped up this third season at the University of North Dakota, finishing second on the team in goals (13) and tied for third in points (29). The Capitals will certainly make a push to sign him considering his talent and because if he returns to college for a fourth year, he stands to become a free agent on Aug. 15, 2019.

Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald reported Wednesday that North Dakota was still awaiting Gersich's decision on whether he planned to return to college.

Quinnipiac defenseman Chase Priskie is in a similar situation, but it he has decided to head back to school for another season.

“That wasn’t a season I’d want to leave on,” Priskie told the New Haven Register. “When I came here as a freshman I saw our senior class, Garteig, St. Denis, Soren Jonzzon, and they left such a legacy that guys still talk about them. Same for Sam Anas and Devon Toews. They were all such great players and some of the best people for our program. When I leave, I want to be talked about like they are.”


Other prospect notes:

  • For Pinho, now a senior at Providence, this marks an opportunity for him to finish his college career the same way he began, with a national championship. “I don’t think I realized at the time how hard it is just to get back to the tournament,” Pinho told the New Haven Register. “So that’s something we older guys have been telling the younger guys. You never know when you’re going to be back and you have to make the most of it when you’re there.” (You can read the full feature on Pinho here)
  • The end of the season may suddenly be near for goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov. Metallurg Magnitogorsk finds itself down 3-1 in its series with Ak Bars in the KHL playoffs meaning their season could be over as early as Friday. Of course, the big news to watch after that is whether or not Samsonov would come to North America. If he does, he would most likely go to Hershey to play for the Bears. With only 10 games remaining on Hershey's schedule, however, the sooner Samsonov's team is ousted from the playoffs, the better. At least from a Washington perspective.
  • All three of Washington's WHL prospects have reached the WHL playoffs. Moose Jaw (Dmitriy Zaitsev) finished with the best record in the league and will play Prince Albert in the first round. Swift Current (Beck Malenstyn) finished second in the East Division behind Moose Jaw and will play Regina. Everett (Garrett Pilon) won the U.S. Division and earned the top seed in the Western Conference. They will play Seattle in the first round.
  • Dmitriy Zaitsev remains out after taking an illegal hit last week. He did not play in either of Moose Jaw's final regular season games, but was a full participant in practice on Wednesday.
  • Adam Carlson has found his groove in Kansas City. Playing for the Mavericks of the ECHL, he won each of his two starts this past week allowing only one goal on 43 shots. He was named the 2nd star of the game for both games.
  • Madison Bowey recorded an assist on Friday and two more for Hershey on Saturday for three over the weekend in his first week back with the Bears. Bowey has spent the majority of the season with the Caps, but the additions of Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek at the trade deadline meant there were just too many bodies up in Washington and not enough playing time to go around. As Bowey is waiver exempt, he became the odd-man out and was sent to the AHL. It would not be surprising to see him recalled by Washington when the NHL playoffs begin.
  • Defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler brought his goal total up to five for the season with two goals against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Monday. The Bears really wanted to emphasize his offensive game this season to see if Siegenthaler could be developed into a two-way player. His strength is definitely is on the defensive end of the ice, but he will be a more versatile player if he can also be a threat offensively as well. You can see the highlights of Siegenthaler's two-goal game here:

  • Forward Hampus Gustafsson was recalled to Hershey last week and did not wait long to make an impact. He scored his first career AHL goal on Friday. He also added an assist making that game his first career multi-point game as well.
  • Tyler Lewington was suspended two games by the AHL for a punch he delivered to Bridgeport's Scott Eansor in Friday's game.

Who are the Caps' top 10 prospects? Find out here in this week's updated rankings