It’s time for a new Capitals mailbag! Check out Part 1 below. Have a Caps question you want to be answered the next mailbag? Send it on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC or by email to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com.
Nathan S. writes: Do you see replay being expanded given all the bad calls and do you see this including penalties like in college hockey where they review headshots and other major penalties?
The Competition Committee recommended expanding video review and coach’s challenge on Tuesday which is the first step.
At the start of the Stanley Cup Final, even Gary Bettman was very candid about the need to expand video review saying “What I thought was it would be good if I kept my head from exploding” when asked about the hand pass that led to the San Jose Sharks’ overtime victory over the St. Louis Blues.
The fear is expanding it in a way that slows the game down to a crawl and allows too many calls to be reviewed. You cannot simply allow for all calls to be reviewed.
To me, the model the NHL should try to follow is soccer. Soccer gets it right by both limiting the situations in which review can be used, but also essentially not limiting what is being reviewed in those situations at all. What the NHL needs to eliminate are the obvious blown calls. Everyone can see that Gustav Nyquist was guilty of a hand pass.
To this day, no one has shown me a definitive view of whether Gabriel Landeskog was offsides or not.
Obvious can mean different things to different people, but I believe the league can find a solution in which plays like Nyquist’s can be quickly reviewed and overturned while plays like Landeskog’s will not even register as worthy of review.
If I had to predict, I would say we will see some sort of expanded replay for all goals and major penalties.
Unfortunately, I don’t think this will mean the end of the offside review, as terrible as it is. Since we have concluded we need more review, the NHL does not seem interested in getting rid of a review that is awful, unnecessary and everybody hates.
Nathan S. writes: The Stanley Cup Final has been very physical. Do you see this as another move away from the speed game that the Pittsburgh Penguins perfected back in 16-17 and back to a hard-hitting style of game or do you see NHL trying to curtail this level of physicality given the injuries that have resulted from it?
Every year when a team wins the Stanley Cup, everyone tends to make sweeping conclusions about what it means for the league. When the Penguins won back-to-back Cups, many took that to mean the NHL was a speed league and everyone had to get faster.
There is no question Pittsburgh won in large part because of their speed. But is it as important as we thought? At their core, the Capitals are a heavy team. They play a physical style of game and they were very successful doing that in 2018. That was especially evident in the conference final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. When facing a better team, Washington still managed to come out on top because they manhandled the Lightning.
It was no surprise to me to see Tampa Bay play the Caps so physically in the regular season in 2018-19 because they wanted to send a message that they were not going to get pushed around this year. Now let’s look at the 2018 results. There’s simply no way to describe the St. Louis’ Blues’ speed other than slow. They do not play a fast game at all, but they do not need to. They have gotten this far by being an extremely physical team and it has them within one win of the Stanley Cup.
After seeing the success teams like the Caps and Blues have had, will teams respond by trying to bulk up?
Regardless of who wins the Stanley Cup or how, the NHL is never going to revert back to the hard-hitting days of the past. That does not mean there will not be big hits or physical play, but from what we know of the affects these hits have on the brain and the body, the game is never going to completely go back to the way things were even if physical play does become trendy.
Referees are going to ref the game differently than they did then and the NHL is going to react to those hits differently than they did in previous years. To me, I do not see view size to be more important than speed or vice versa.
It is easy to come to that conclusion given how the postseason has turned out plus the fact that Penguins general manager Jimmy Rutherford took a team that won two Cups with speed and skill and decided to make them more physical. When the general manager who won with speed decides to bulk up, it is hard to argue against him. Since then, however, Rutherford has made a number of head-scratching moves that have actually made Pittsburgh worse all in the name of “physicality” so perhaps he is not the guy teams should be modeling their strategies after.
Here’s what this postseason tells me: Physical play is why the playoffs are so different from the regular season. If you are a physical team, it is hard to play that way for 82 games. It wears you down and the players will admit as much. They are willing to go through that physical punishment for four seven-game series, but they cannot play that way for a full season.
This also shows you why Tom Wilson is such an effective and important player for the Caps.
The NHL is definitely getting faster, but, there is still value in the physical game. Having a player as big and physically imposing as Wilson who has the skill to play on the top line and who can skate well to boot is a valuable commodity. As for the style teams should pursue, at the end of the day a team can win playing almost any way they want.
They just have to have the right players to pull off whatever style they hope to play, a coach capable of implementing that system and they have to play their system better than the opponent can play theirs.
Jimmy H. writes: Do you think Alex Ovechkin will get a statue of him in DC or at the practice facility after he retires?
I expect Ovechkin is going to get the full star treatment once his career is over: Hall of Fame, number retired, statue, etc. I would not be surprised if MedStar Capitals Iceplex becomes the MedStar Ovechkin Iceplex, or something like that.
The team owes him a great deal and he will be an ambassador for life. There’s not a whole lot of room on the sidewalks around Capital One Arena for a statue so my prediction is that they put it on Gallery Place Way next to the Clyde’s. There is a walkway there that leads to the mall on the side of the arena.
You might as well clear that space now. And for any young hockey fans with aspirations of one day playing for the Caps, I hope you don’t have your heart set on wearing No. 8. Ovechkin will be the last Cap to every wear that number.
Thanks for all your questions! Part 2 of the mailbag will be coming on Thursday. If you have a question you want to be read and answered in the next mailbag, send it CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com or use #CapsMailNBC on Twitter.
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