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Capitals Mailbag Part 1: Now is the time to be patient with the 3rd line

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Capitals Mailbag Part 1: Now is the time to be patient with the 3rd line

It’s time for a new Capitals mailbag! Check out Part 1 below.

Have a Caps question you want answered in the next mailbag? You can submit your questions here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

Lisa McKay writes: Would you like to see the 4th line of Brendan Leipsic, Nic Dowd, and Garnet Hathway get a bit more ice time at even strength and the 3rd line of Carl Hagelin, Lars Eller, and Richard Panik get a bit less? I know the 3rd line has not had a lot of time to gel, and both lines have had players in and out. But the 4th line's been playing great while the 3rd line hasn't yet shone.

There's no doubt that the fourth line has been playing great, but I would rather have a great fourth line than promote it just so they could become a mediocre third line especially if it comes at the expense of playing time for Hagelin, Eller and Panik.

I don't think people realize just how little time the third line has had to play together this season. Monday's game was the first time we saw that trio together in a very long time.  Heading into that game, the Caps had played in 31 games this season. You know how much time those three players had played together at 5-on-5 through those 31 games? Just 23:13. That's crazy.

Washington has the most points of any team in the league. What's the harm in giving that third line time to gel at this point? Meanwhile, you can keep letting the fourth line be great.

Alex G. writes: Do you think Evander Kane should have been suspended for the hit on Radko Gudas in Tuesday night's game? I don't think the $5000 fine is really sufficient, considering what the league has suspended other players for.

I would have given him a game. I wouldn't have thrown the book at him, but I don't buy his explanation.

To be fair, it wasn't an elbow to the head or the butt-end, just a glove to the head.

Kane's explanation was that Gudas had taken a run at him earlier and he thought he was doing it again, so he put his hand up to protect himself and caught Gudas in the head because Gudas was coming in low. My problem with that explanation is that, if you watch the replay from behind both players, Kane has his head up and is watching the entire play. He sees Gudas coming and gives him what is, in my opinion, a deliberate shot to the head. It was not as if he saw him at the last second and threw his hand up and it just so happened to catch him in the head like he seems to claim. He knew Gudas was coming in low and I think he knew where he was aiming.

Michael Fleetwood writes: John Carlson has put himself squarely in the Norris Trophy conversation this season playing well overall and I was thinking about how he compares to Mike Green. Why did Green finish high in Norris voting in the years he was runner-up with a stronger offensive game to his defense, but Carlson hasn't come as close the last few seasons and is arguably better defensively?

Because of the complicated way we judge defensemen.

First, in the interest of full disclosure, the Norris Trophy Award is voted on by members of the Pro Hockey Writers' Association, of which I am a member. I had a vote last year and voted Carlson second.

Racking up the points seems to be more and more important for Norris Trophy consideration, but being an offensive defenseman who is a liability is a problem. How can you consider someone as the top defenseman if they aren't very good at defense?  You can't unless they do something so special it can't be ignored. Scoring 30 goals definitely qualifies.

Green scored 31 goals in the 2008-09 season. He was the first defenseman to crack the 30-goal mark since Kevin Hatcher did it in the 1992-93 season. No one has done it since. That was the first of two straight seasons Green was named the Norris runner-up. Scoring 30 goals was/is such an amazing accomplishment for a defenseman that Green received a lot of Norris votes as a result.

In my opinion, people cling to this belief that Carlson is nothing more than an offensive defenseman who is a liability in his own zone, which is just not the case. He was very good last year, but did not lead defensemen in either goals or points. There was no way he was going to gain much traction in the Norris race with voters who have a perception of him as an offensive defenseman when he wasn't even the top offensive defenseman last season.

This year I think he will finally get the recognition he deserves and ironically it is because of the incredible offensive run he is on. Hopefully, those numbers will make more analysts evaluate Carlson on both ends of the ice and realize that he is a great two-way defenseman and so much more than just Alex Ovechkin's power play set-up man.

David Dusseau writes: How much of John Carlson's recent success is due to changes that the Caps have made in how they are using their defensemen for offense?

I think that certainly is a big part of it. Todd Reirden implemented a new system this season in which the defense is expected to jump into the play when it is open in the offensive zone. This new system benefits Carlson more than anyone as he has the top offensive ceiling of all of the team's blue liners.

This is not the only reason for Carlson's success this season. His passes look more accurate and he has added a touch of deception to his game as he is able to look off defenders to help open passing and shooting lanes which he takes advantage of. He seems to be more confident with his shots as well. But I do think the new system has certainly had an effect.

Joseph Signorelli writes: Will the Caps have enough money to keep John Carlson if he keeps up this level of play all year?

I’ve got good news for you. The Caps absolutely will have enough money to keep Carlson because he is already signed through the 2025-26 season. That $8 million cap hit isn't going to change.

David Pittman writes: Is there a chance the Caps trade Holtby because of his age and the high cost he costs?

There is no chance the Caps trade Holtby this season. None. Zero. Washington's goal is to win the Stanley Cup and they right now hold the most points in the league. They are not going to turn around and trade away their top goalie just to avoid losing him for nothing.

Holtby is tied for the league-lead in wins and since Nov. 1 has a .925 save percentage and 2.34 GAA. I don't know how you trade a goalie like that and convince the team you're all in for a Cup run this year.

And, by the way, even if Ilya Samsonov is lights out and supplants Holtby as the starter at some point this season, Brian MacLellan still isn't going to trade Holtby because he saw the exact same thing happen in 2018. What happened when Philipp Grubauer entered the playoffs as the team's starter? Holtby retook the starting job after two games and led the team to the Cup. This roster is better with Holtby on it.

Will the Caps be able to re-sign Holtby in the offseason? I doubt it. Does it stink to lose a starting goalie for nothing? Yep, sure does. But the team is trying to make another run at the Cup and is not going to jeopardize that by trading away its starting goalie.

Michael Fleetwood: Does the Capitals' hot start put Todd Reirden into a still too-early Jack Adams discussion?

Reirden has done a fine job with this team through the first 32 games, but I seriously doubt that anyone has given much thought to him for the Jack Adams. 

Barry Trotz is turning what looks like a weak roster on paper into contenders on Long Island, Ralph Krueger has the Buffalo Sabres in playoff contention as does Joel Quenneville with the Panthers in Florida despite getting no goaltending, Mike Sullivan may get Pittsburgh into the playoffs despite its entire team being injured, Paul Maurice is doing the best coaching job of his career by keeping Winnipeg in playoff contention considering all the issues plaguing that team, Dave Tippett has an Edmonton Oilers team left for dead as one of the top teams in the conference and Arizona may actually make the playoffs this year with Rick Tocchet.

I have a hard time believing enough voters will vote for Reirden over those guys.

Mark Miller writes: How long does it take to change Capital One Arena from basketball setup to hockey?

A few hours. Fast enough that Georgetown can play a basketball game at 12 p.m. and the Caps can play at 7 p.m. on the same day. The next time this will happen is on Dec. 21. Media for the Georgetown game will still be in the media room writing when the Caps media start to arrive.

Yet somehow, the arena is ready for a hockey game that night and that includes the pregame warmups. It's incredible.

Lisa McKay writes: Could you find out if indeed the Capitals play more OT games than any other team in the NHL, or if it just feels that way? Say, in the regular season in the past 3 years?

Washington has played 12 games this season that have required overtime. That is indeed the most in the NHL. Going back to the 2017-18 season, the Caps have gone to overtime 47 times. That is not the most, but rather is tied for the eighth-most. Philadelphia actually has the most with 52.

Micah Reed writes: With all the OT the Caps have played and the current state of player tracking technology in both practice and games, do you think the coaching and training staff has any sort of "pitch count" type of thing tracking players overall ice time? Not that they will scratch guys or anything. But maybe practices change or guys miss some shifts in a blowout game.

Interesting thought, but I doubt it. I think coaches are always cognizant of how much playing time their star players are getting and are always looking to cut back when they can. They don't need added technology for that. Could this one day be how it is used? Perhaps. If the added technology does show there is reason to be concerned about overworking players, I think we will see morning skates go away long before we see coaches do anything approaching the "load management" we see in the NBA.

Thanks for all your questions! Part 2 of the mailbag will be coming on Thursday. If you have a question you want to be answered in the next mailbag, you can submit it here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on


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Capitals vs. Predators: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, how to watch

Capitals vs. Predators: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, how to watch

After sitting out the Capitals' 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens due to a suspension for skipping the All-Star Game, Alex Ovechkin returns to game action on Wednesday for Washington's home contest against the Predators.

Nashville has dropped three of its last four while the Capitals are riding a four-game winning streak.

Here's everything you need to know before puck drop.


What: Washington Capitals vs. Nashville Predators

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: Wednesday, January 29, 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Capitals-Predators game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Predators game on NBC Sports Washington live stream page.

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7


6:30 PM: Caps Faceoff Live

7:00 PM: Caps Pregame Live

7:30 PM: Capitals vs. Predators

10:00 PM: Caps Postgame Live

10:30 PM: Caps Overtime Live


Capitals: None

Canadiens: Ryan Ellis (upper body/OUT), Colton Sissons (upper body/OUT)

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.


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What makes Alex Ovechkin so hard to stop?

What makes Alex Ovechkin so hard to stop?

With Alex Ovechkin’s one-game suspension over, the NHL now once again faces the seemingly impossible task of trying to find a way to stop the Great 8. Even at 34 years old, Ovechkin remains one of the top goal scorers in the NHL with 34 on the season. He is currently on pace for 56 goals which is almost unfathomable for a player of his age.

Many players in the NHL catch fire before defenses begin to figure them out or until Father Time catches up to them. Coaches and defenses figure out ways to keep star players in check. But not Ovechkin.

“You feel like you're covering him, but he always finds a way,” Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi said. “He needs just a tiny bit of room to score goals and that's why he has so many goals.”

Not only is Ovechkin the leading active scorer in the NHL by a wide margin -- he leads second place Patrick Marleau by 133 goals -- but he is such a prolific scorer that he could potentially make a run at the untouchable goal record held by Wayne Gretzky.

It is not as if Ovechkin is catching anyone by surprise at this point. Teams know what they are in for when they play the Caps and still they cannot find a way to slow down this grey-haired, 34-year-old veteran player.

It is not hard to figure out the biggest reason for Ovechkin's success: his shot. Once Ovechkin gets his shot off, it is hard for a goalie to get in front of it.

“He's not afraid to put anything on net,” Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck said. “He's got a really good release and if you give him space, he'll take it and he'll make you pay for it.”

“It kind of curves, changing direction every time so it's pretty hard to stop for a goalie,” Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy said. “Like knuckleball, right? So it's very hard to stop.”

Knowing that his shot is so lethal, the focus of a defense must be to prevent him from getting his shot away in the first place. Doing that, however, is easier said than done.

“It's always a challenge playing against him,” Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. “He's got that mean streak to his game. When he's coming at full speed it's going to hurt. He gets physical, he gets into the game more. He's always going to get scoring changes, that's how good they are as a team and that's how good he is.”

“He just can score from anywhere inside the blue line so you've got to get up on him,” Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano said. “ It's been pretty impressive to watch him over the years. You sort of think teams would come up with a gameplan to stop him, but you can't.”

That’s a feeling Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy can relate to.

“[The power play] is where I think you have the biggest challenge with that group of five guys and how to frustrate him, maybe to taking that shot away,” Cassidy said. “Five-on-five, we'll play him like anybody else, try to get a body on him as much as possible.”

It is essentially accepted around the league that if you give Ovechkin an opportunity with the puck, he is going to be able to find a way to get his shot off and get on the scoresheet. He does not need much room to shoot and when he does, it's lethal.

There is only so much you can do when a power forward of Ovechkin's size comes barreling down on you. If you play him too tight, he can create space with his physicality. Play him too loose and he will fire shots from anywhere.

That leaves a defense with only a few strategies.

“Try to keep the puck out of his hand is one thing, stay out of the box is another thing,” Hedman said. “He's got that quick release, he's got that one-timer down to a T obviously. … It's just trying to eliminate them to a few a game. You look at a game sheet and he's got 14 shot attempts and two goals. A good player's going to find the net if they get that many chances, so try to eliminate the shot attempts and try to keep the puck out of his hands.”

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