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Should Capitals tinker before the trade deadline?


Should Capitals tinker before the trade deadline?

With the Feb. 29 NHL trade deadline fast approaching and the Capitals  sitting atop the NHL with a 41-10-4 record, general manager Brian MacLellan finds himself in an envious but difficult spot.

Does he roll the dice and acquire a high-profile player who could, theoretically anyway, put the Capitals over the top in their pursuit of their first Stanley Cup?

Or does he stand his ground and let the deadline pass without a major move?

“I wouldn’t want to be a GM just for that reason,” Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie said. “I mean, you’ve got a team going good and maybe you think someone can help the team and it might mess with the mojo. Or you make that trade and something special happens. That’s why they’re up there (in upper management) and we’re down here.”

Late in the 2011-12 season the Los Angeles Kings acquired center Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets, reunited him with Mike Richards, and the Kings won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Two years later, they acquired Marion Gaborik from Columbus at the trade deadline and won a second Cup.

But for every move that puts a team over the top, there are dozens that don’t. The Blues saw that two years ago when they acquired goaltender Ryan Miller from the Sabres, only to fall in the first round of the playoffs to the Blackhawks.

Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik recalls the Penguins acquiring forwards Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow and defenseman Douglas Murray before the 2013 trade deadline and seeing that team swept by the Bruins in the conference final.  

“Media members and fans were crowning us champions right away and it’s a tough transition for some guys,” Orpik said. “With Jarome, it was his first time being away from his family and his first time playing with another team (other than Calgary) and he played really well for us.

“It’s tough. It’s a fine line when a team has a lot of success. How much do you want to tinker with it? That’s what GMs get paid to do. I wouldn’t want to have that job, especially with a team going as well as this one.”

RELATED: Orpik makes his (physical) presence felt

Last season the Caps acquired forward Curtis Glencross and defenseman Tim Gleason, with mixed results.

“Curtis probably didn’t work out as good as we would have liked, unfortunately,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said. “And Gleason probably worked out better than maybe even we hoped for.”

This season the Caps are at or near the top in nearly every meaningful statistical category and already addressed their need for forward depth with the January signing of Mike Richards. Trotz said he views that acquisition and the return from injuries of Orpik and center Jay Beagle (hand, approximately two weeks) as three additions without subtractions.

But that hasn’t stopped Trotz and MacLellan from exchanging lists of players they think could give the Capitals the depth they may need for a long playoff run.

“(Team chemistry) is part of the consideration,” Trotz said. “If we find the right piece we’ll add it. If it can put us over the top and give us a huge advantage we’ll forgo the chemistry a little bit and go for it. But I think for the most part the group knows we want to move forward and we can’t move forward until we get our game totally in order.”

In all likelihood the Caps will set their sights on a depth defenseman in the $1 million range who can fill in as a sixth, seventh or even eighth blue liner.

“Obviously, you try to make your team as good as possible,” said Caps defenseman Karl Alzner. “If you see something you think you can pick up to help that, you go for it. I think it depends on the chemistry you have in the room.

“If you have a lot of good leaders and mentally tough players it doesn’t matter what you do. But that’s why (general managers) are in the position they’re in, to make tough calls like that and I haven’t disagreed with one call the front office has made with all the guys they brought in, so I’m pretty happy about that.”

Brooks Laich, who came to the Capitals in a trade from the Ottawa Senators 12 years ago, said regardless of whether the Caps make a big move, a small one or none at all, the players need to continue to play at a high standard.

“There are no guarantees,” he said. “You can trade for a fantastic player and maybe it just doesn’t work out. And then you can make a small trade that you maybe think won’t have an impact on your team but all of a sudden it makes a huge impact. It’s just on us as players to play, whether we make a move or not.”

MORE CAPITALS: After being prodded, Capitals 'take out the best'

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Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

When Mike Babcock essentially dismissed any concern over the impact Tom Wilson could have on a series, Wilson responded. In the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017, the Caps' forward scored the overtime winner in Game 1 and saved the series in Game 3 with a sweep of the puck off the goal line followed by a goal of his own soon after.

If you dismissed Wilson after Game 1 and Game 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Barry Trotz believes you can expect a similar answer this year after how he played in Game 3.

"I think his game was really good and that will maybe give some trust and confidence in him going forward," Trotz said Wednesday on a conference call with the media.

Wilson's impact in the first round against Toronto was immediate. As a top-line winger this season, expectations for him were high heading into the playoffs. His start to the series, however, left a lot to be desired.

Through the first two games, Wilson did not record a single shot on goal. What's worse, he took a critical penalty in each game that allowed the Blue Jackets to tie the score on each resulting power play.

You can't compare Wilson's impact on the Caps to that of a player like Alex Ovechkin, but a top-line player has to have some sort of positive impact or, at the very least, not be a detriment to his team.

In Game 3, postseason Tom finally delivered.

Wilson recorded six shots on goal and scored Washington's first goal of the game, deflecting in a shot from Matt Niskanen.

"[Wilson's] taken a lot of criticism for his first two games and some of the penalties and the effect it's had on the game," Trotz said. "I think it's given him some confidence. He's a bright young man, he's a leader, he's an all-in guy."

The key now will be for Wilson to build on that confidence.

Columbus has a number of star players such as Artemi Panarin, Seth Jones and Sergei Bobrovsky. What they do not have, however, is the scoring depth to match the Caps. Getting key contributions from players like Wilson in addition to the top playmakers like Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov will make it very hard for the Blue Jackets to keep up.

"[Wilson] had a big effect last year in the first round," Trotz said. "I think he can have a big effect in this series, in this first round."


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Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

With a thrilling double-overtime victory in Game 3, the Capitals are right back in the series. Trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1, the Caps will look to even up the series at 2-games apiece before returning to Washington for Game 5.

As the Caps take the ice for Game 4, you can be certain that Braden Holtby will be the man to lead the team in net. His stellar performance in Game 3 resolidified him as the team' starter and ended whatever goalie tandem there was between him and Philipp Grubauer.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 4

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.


The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 4 on Thursday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Columbus currently leads the series 2-1.


Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30


Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.


Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jakub Vrana -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.