Welcome to another Friday six-pack, where we answer your questions on the Capitals. Let’s get started:
will Caps get their game back once playoffs start or will it take a few games in playoffs and fall into early hole at home @selby_bill
Hey, maybe falling into a playoff hole wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Caps, who have made a habit of blowing 3-1 playoff leads. I’ve seen it both ways. I’ve seen teams lose a bunch of games down the stretch and turn it on in the playoffs (2010 Flyers) and I’ve seen teams win most of their games down the stretch and lose in the first round (2010 Capitals). The Caps have been waiting so long to play a meaningful game and they won’t really face another until next week when they host the Islanders, who likely will need the two points to stay in playoff position, and the Penguins, who embarrassed the Caps with a 6-2 win in Pittsburgh on March 20. Those are good attention-getters for the Caps, who will finish the season with a pair of games against teams who could go a long way in the Western Conference playoffs – the Blues and Ducks. I think because the Caps are a veteran team they should have no problem gearing up their game to a playoff level pretty quickly. If not in Game 1, then certainly by Game 2.
Will the Caps be presented with the President's Trophy in a pregame ceremony like they were in 09-10? @letsgocaps819
I am told they will not.
With playoffs so close, do you expect the Caps to continue rolling all four lines, or do you expect Trotz will give the top guys some extra rest moving forward? Similarly, how many more starts do you think we can we expect from Holtby? @Zack_Arts
Barry Trotz has asked the opinions of other NHL coaches and even his own players and they all seem to agree that unless someone is injured he should keep playing them. Brooks Orpik said he remembers the 2013-14 Penguins clinching a division title and coach Dan Bylsma resting him and other players. The Pens won their opening-round series but blew a 3-1 series lead to the Rangers in Round 2 and although he won’t place all of the blame on players being rested, he said guys were out of their rhythm when they returned to the lineup. Trotz said his plan is to distribute ice time more evenly among his forwards and defensemen down the stretch, holding off on “hard minutes” until the playoffs. That said, I would not be surprised to see defensemen Mike Weber and Taylor Chorney worked into the lineup either this weekend or next. The only issue with that is Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen are working on games played streaks and might talk their way into staying in the lineup. Brooks Orpik and John Carlson missed big chunks of the season with injuries and may also want the reps. That leaves Nate Schmidt and Dmitry Orlov and neither wants to come out of the lineup. As for Braden Holtby, I see him getting four chances to break Marty Brodeur’s record. If he wins all four he’d finish with an incredible 50-win season.
Will Trotz use the Blackhawks model of predominantly relying on just 4D for the playoffs due to inexperience of 9 & 88? @Terpinyc
Great question. My answer is no, at least at the start. One of the reasons John Carlson and Brooks Orpik have not been reunited is exactly the question you’re asking. I believe the coaching staff is a little jittery about having Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt as the Caps’ third pairing and I think most fans would feel the same way. I like the idea of Orpik being the steady hand to play alongside Orlov, who has a tendency to try risky plays that could hurt a team in a tight playoff series. That’s why I think you’ll continue to see the pairings the Caps have been using since Carlson’s return: Alzner-Niskanen; Schmidt-Carlson; Orpik-Orlov. If turnovers become a continual problem for Orlov (and I believe his tendency to avoid taking hits is one reason for the turnovers) we may see Weber or Chorney take his place, depending on the opponent.
Finally Kuzy with OV. Backy line too slow. Will Trotz ask ALL of the caps to finish checks with authority come playoffs? @IfpPaul
He shouldn’t have to, but I agree the Caps are not playing as “heavy” as they will need to in the playoffs. According to NHL.com, the Caps rank 11th in hits per game at 24.6 per game. Last year they ranked ninth at 28.5 hits. That has something to do with T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams being less physical than Troy Brouwer and Joel Ward, but I’ll still take Oshie and Williams in a playoff series. Your point is well taken. All of the Caps need to play more gritty in the playoffs, which means guys like Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson will need to fight harder for pucks than they have been lately.
Who do the caps match up best with in first round of playoffs? @bam305Isles
I’m asked this a lot these days. If you’re talking about sheer entertainment I’d go with Philadelphia. But if you’re talking about best chance to win I’d say the Islanders ... tentatively. A week ago I really thought the Islanders might play their way out of a playoff spot. But they have run off three straight wins to move within two points of the Rangers with a game in hand. The Isles finish up with the Penguins, Lightning, Capitals, Rangers, Sabres and Flyers and that will be quite a challenge, with a chance for them to move into the second or third spot in the Metro or fall back to the seventh or eighth spot. I’m not convinced Thomas Greiss is the answer between the pipes and that’s why I think the Caps would get through the Isles in a potential Round 1 matchup. A lot of people want the Caps to face the Bruins or Red Wings in Round 1 but I’m not among them. Before the season I picked the Bruins to finish out of the playoffs and it looks like the Bruins and Red Wings are going to battle it out for that final spot in the Atlantic. Both teams have five games to play, including a pivotal game against each other. The Bruins finish with the Blues, Blackhawks, Hurricanes, Red Wings and Senators. Detroit finishes with the Wild, Maple Leafs, Flyers, Bruins and Rangers. In my opinion, whoever wins that Bruins-Red Wings clash on April 7 gets in, while the loser is out. As for Philly, I think the Capitals would wear down their defense in a seven-game series, and I think goaltender Steve Mason will be exhausted by the time the playoffs roll around.
With everything wrapped up, what's the biggest priority heading into the playoffs?@ScottRouch
Getting to play with some consistency. I like the way Braden Holtby’s game is trending. I like the way the fourth line is playing and I like the way John Carlson is skating. I also like the overall play of Niskanen and Alzner. I’d like to see the spark return to Marcus Johansson’s game because he really had that third line going earlier in the season. If Johansson is playing at his best he can get the most out of Jason Chimera and Jay Beagle. That would give the Caps a fourth line of Daniel Winnik, Mike Richards and Tom Wilson and that’s a hard line to play against. I’d also like to see Kuznetsov, Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie or Justin Williams on that top line for an extended period, leaving a second line of Backstrom between Andre Burakovsky and either Oshie or Williams. I think the Caps’ penalty kill has been strong but I’d like to see a new wrinkle or two on the power play, which has become too predictable.
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