In a wide-ranging interview with reporters on Monday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan addressed a variety of topics, from the team being “angry” and “agitated” about their second-round exit from the playoffs to the need to having better forward depth. In Part Three, MacLellan discusses defenseman Dmitry Orlov, his opinions on the Caps’ six-game elimination by the Penguins and Evgeny Kuznetsov possibly running out of gas down the stretch:
On balancing risk vs. reward with the Caps’ young defensemen:
Especially with Orlov. I call him a high-event player. At both ends there’s some events going on. But he’s learning. You like it on the one end and you’re living with stuff on the other end. Todd (Reirden) is working with him. How do you eliminate the errors and get them down to a level that’s acceptable for us as a team and then still contribute offensively? I think he’s still trying to figure that out. I think in the playoffs there was probably a little too much concern with not making the errors and you want him to create some offense. You want him to shoot the puck, you want him to join the rush, you want him to make plays through the middle of the instead of flipping pucks. I think it’s just a learning process and the more he plays the better he’s going to get.
On Barry Trotz rotating defensemen in and out of the lineup in the playoffs:
Because we had some depth, because guys were pretty similar with their skill sets, I don’t think it hurts for a guy to go up (in the press box) and watch a game and then get thrown back in it. Maybe it hurts their confidence, maybe it doesn’t. I guess it depends on the delivery from the coaches if it does or it doesn’t. It is what it is.
On if the Penguins were clearly better:
No, I don’t think they were clearly better.
I think if you looked at all the shot statistics they were pretty much equal. Maybe we had an advantage in scoring chances. I think the goaltending was pretty much equal. It was a close series. I think in hindsight, I think we missed opportunities. I think Justin Williams says it the best in that you need to recognize those opportunities and you need to take advantage of them and step up.
I think Game 1 we got away with one. They probably slightly outplayed us but we won the game. And then Game 2, I thought was a big chance for us to make a statement and we didn’t. We came out flat. Those first two periods were not played well. That’s a point you’ve got to recognize we didn’t play well (in Game 1), we need to step up, we need to win these two games at home.
The (Kris) Letang suspension, we should have recognized that as a game we could put a lot more pressure on their defensemen. I felt we played a little too conservative that game and they stepped up, covered up for missing Letang.
And then Game 6 the (Brooks) Orpik double-minor they took advantage of it. (Karl) Alzner got hurt and they stepped up and took advantage of it. And then we got the delay of game penalties, we responded by scoring the two goals. And then I thought our point for the series was the Letang penalty at the end. Our power play was so aggressive through the three delay of game penalties and I thought it got hesitant at the end. It was not as aggressive, like this is our chance to win the game. It became a little more conservative. It was too conservative.
So I think we missed those opportunities to beat Pittsburg in an otherwise even series. I think if there’s anything we learned you’ve got take advantage of these situations. You’ve got to recognize them first of all. I don’t know that we did the best job of recognizing them. Maybe it’s easier in hindsight, but it was an evenly played series and I think those moments were the result of us being one goal less.
On if a general manager can remedy that, or if it’s up to players:
I think it’s a learning experience. Talking to guys at the end of the year here I think in hindsight they recognize it. I think Williams kind of stressed it during the two series, about that. I think the leadership within the room does that. But I think it’s learning.
On Evgeny Kuznetsov finishing the regular season with no goals in his final 20 games and netting just one goal and one assist in 12 playoff games:
“I think for him, maybe he ran out of gas a little bit. He put in a good regular season and I don’t know that he finished the year that well offensively. I think it’s playing 100 games. The previous year, you could say he finished strong but the first part of the year wasn’t as hard on him, I don’t think. He was learning and finding his way. This year put a little more pressure because of the success he had. I think there’s a rhythm, there’s a pace to a season. There’s 100 games that you’re playing and it gets ramped up the farther you go. And I don’t think he had enough gas in the tank at the end, in my mind, to play the way he wanted to.