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MacLellan on making major changes to Caps: 'I don't know that that makes sense'

MacLellan on making major changes to Caps: 'I don't know that that makes sense'

After another second round playoff exit, just about everyone has an opinion on what direction he Caps should take this offseason. The one opinion that matters more than any other, however, is the man in charge of making those decisions, general manager Brian MacLellan. And, well, it doesn't sound as if he has quite made up his mind yet.

“I don't know that I have conclusions,” MacLellan told reporters Tuesday in his end of season availability. “I spent a lot of time interviewing players and coaches and then I talked to [team president Dick Patrick] and [owner Ted Leonsis] a lot. I don't have any obvious conclusions or specific issues to address. There's some internal stuff that we probably need to address to make things better going forward. … For me, for trying to address issues or problems that we might have, I don't know that any one  thing stood out to be able to say, 'This is the one thing that we need to fix right now to get to that next level.'”

Without something clear to fix, that makes the process of putting a team together for next season more difficult.

RELATED: MacLellan says no deal is imminent with Oshie

But while MacLellan was not sure exactly what needed fixing, he did say he was not expecting to blow up the roster or make any major changes.

“I think it’s tough to make a major change…I think it’s a lot easier to make this team worse than it is better,” MacLellan said. “If you make a major change, what’s it going to involve? Trading a franchise player, blowing the whole thing up? I don’t know that that makes sense.”

For a team that has won the Presidents’ Trophy in each of the last two seasons, you can understand why he would be reluctant to make such sweeping changes. Yet, Washington has failed to advance past the second round of the playoffs since 1998. After a two-year self-imposed championship window in which the team ultimately has nothing to show for it, changes still need to be made.

MacLellan indicated that most changes would be internal rather than major roster changes, but even if he is loath to shake things up, he did acknowledge that the choice was not entirely up to him. The Caps were right up against the salary cap this past season and with restricted free agents Philipp Grubauer, Nate Schmidt, Dmitry Orlov Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky all in need of new deals, the Caps may be forced to watch unrestricted free agents T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, Karl Alzner, Daniel Winnik and Kevin Shattenkirk leave for new teams.

“It’s going to be hard to bring all the free agents back,” MacLellan said. “We’re going to be getting younger, our prospects are developing and they’re going to take a bigger role. It’s just going to be a different feel to it.”

Ultimately what that will mean is that the Caps will take a step back in the upcoming season. The roster in 2016-17 was just too good and too expensive to replicate for another year. But just how big of a step back will that be?

“I don't know we'll be at this level,” MacLellan said referring to this season’s roster. “I mean, we'll be competitive. … I think we're going to be a good team still.”

MORE CAPITALS: MacLellan, Trotz take different view on Caps' postseason history

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4 reasons why the Caps beat the Senators

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USA TODAY Sports

4 reasons why the Caps beat the Senators

The Capitals head into Thanksgiving on a high note after a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.

Here's why they won.

Line changes

Barry Trotz surprised everyone by changing up the lines and reuniting Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom despite coyly telling the media that he would use the same "group" just two hours before the game. The move worked, however, as an energized Caps team took the ice. The moves were not just felt on the top line, there was a boost all throughout the lineup to start the game and the energy the team played with was evident.

The Caps’ best offensive players looked like their best offensive players

Much has been written in recent days about the Caps’ top-six and its offensive struggles, but they seemed just fine against Ottawa. Ovechkin (1 goal), Backstrom (1 assist), T.J. Oshie (2 assists), Evgeny Kuznetsov (1 goal, 2 assists) and Jakub Vrana (2 goals) all had big nights.

Ovechkin's late first period goal

Multi-goal leads have been hard to come by for the Caps of late. Despite a strong first period, Washington held only a 1-0 lead as the first frame drew to a close. Instead of having a chance to regroup in the locker room, Ottawa found itself suddenly down by two as Ovechkin scored with just five seconds left. That goal set the tone for the start of the second period where Washington was able to tack on another two goals to take the 4-0 lead. Does that momentum carry over to the second without Ovechkin's late tally? I'm not so sure.

Killing a 5-on-3 power play in the second period

Despite the 4-0 deficit, the Senators hung around and scored in the second period to make it 4-1. Then Ovechkin was called for a high-stick and Backstrom got into a bit of a tussle with Ben Harpur after getting a high-stick from him. The ref sent Ovechkin, Backstrom and Harpur to the box. Just 44 seconds later, Tom Wilson joined them after getting called for a slash giving the Senators 1:16 of a two-man advantage power play. One goal would have pulled them within two with over a period left to play. This game was not over. This was a critical moment for Washington and the penalty kill delivered by killing off both penalties. After that, the game really was no longer in doubt.

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3 stars of the game: Caps' stars shine against Senators

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USA TODAY Sports

3 stars of the game: Caps' stars shine against Senators

On the eve of Thanksgiving, the Caps gave the home crowd something to be thankful for with a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators.

Barry Trotz elected to shake up the offensive lines before the game and it seemed to work. The Caps took control of the game from the drop of the puck and took a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period and never looked back.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jakub Vrana

Vrana opened the scoring by crashing the net and was in perfect position for the rebound off of a shot from Evgeny Kuznetsov. His second goal came off a perfect shot, and I do mean perfect. This was the first multi-goal game of his NHL career and his third multi-point game. 

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov

This is why Kuznetsov should shoot more. Vrana's first goal came off a rebound from a shot by Kuznetsov. It was his first even-strength point since Nov. 6. On a power play in the second period, a loose puck came to Kuznetsov's stick. Rather than look for the pass as he has been his tendency, he did not hesitate. He shot it and the result was his third power play goal of the season. Kuznetsov finished with one goal and two assists.

3. Alex Ovechkin

Despite how dominant the first period looked for Washington, they still held only a 1-0 lead. What really set the tone for the game was Ovechkin's first period goal. A quick passing play from Nicklas Backstrom to Alex Chiasson to Ovechkin found the Great 8 behind Ottawa's defense. He finished off the play with the goal to put Washington up 2-0 with just five seconds left in the period. That turned a good period into a dominant one and really set the tone for the start of the second in which the Caps were able to put up another two goals.