Capitals

Capitals

It’s time for a new Capitals mailbag! Check out the April 10 edition below.

Have a Caps question you want to be answered for next week’s mailbag? Send it on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC or by email to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com.

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

Nathan S. writes: Do you think fans will be louder and less nervous, especially when Caps give up a goal, in first round series than they have in recent years or do you think there is still some residual negativity from prior playoff failures?

I think this ended last season when the Caps finally beat the Pittsburgh Penguins. Against Tampa Bay and Vegas in the next two rounds, the arena was louder than I have ever head it. It also helped that the Caps were able to overcome a 2-0 series deficit against Columbus. I do not think there is any situation this postseason that will bring the return of the “here we go again” mentality that plagued this city and its fans in the postseason. Now there is a feeling like there is no deficit that cannot be overcome. There is a sense of belief and optimism that this team can actually win when it matters.

Justin C. writes: What are the serious odds of Devante Smith-Pelly making a playoff appearance?

Never say never, but it certainly does not sound like he is coming back any time soon. Brian MacLellan was asked Monday if he would recall Smith-Pelly and said, “I’m not sure. We have guys here that have played well. We played really well down the stretch. We’re not anxious to make changes, but we’re open to whatever it takes. If we need Devante, he’s played well down there and we’ll use him.”

 

I don’t know how you read that, but to me it is not a ringing endorsement. If there are some injuries and the Caps need to make a call-up, then I have to believe Smith-Pelly is at the top of the list. Otherwise, he is not coming back.

You may question this, you may wonder why the team wouldn’t want a guy who played such a huge role in last season’s Cup run around, but remember this: Smith-Pelly was not just re-assigned to Hershey, he had to clear through waivers. Thirty teams had a chance to claim him and no one did. That should tell you something.

Mike C. writes: The Capital's power play has been weak at best lately. The sling shot doesn't appear to help get the puck in the zone. No sense of urgency! Is it coaching or the players?

Benjamin C. writes: For years Alex Ovechkin has been the main weapon on our power play. Teams are starting to crack down on Ovechkin more yet we’re still trying to force him the puck. Why isn’t Carlson hitting any snapshots from the point anymore? Why aren’t we feeding Oshie in the slot anymore? Our second pp unit looks awful every time they get the chance out there so why bring them out with like 50 seconds to go on pp?

There are two major issues that have been plaguing the power play of late. The first is they have really struggled on the zone entry. The sling shot is garbage and needs to go away. Teams know how to defend against it and everyone can see it coming whenever John Carlson starts skating and Nicklas Backstrom and/or Evgeny Kuznetsov is skating behind him. It’s not hard to spot.

The second issue is forcing the puck to Ovechkin. In the past, when teams would crowd over to Ovechkin, they would go to the slot or fire from the point and force the penalty kill to slide back over, leaving Ovechkin open for the one-timer. They have not been doing a great job of that. Whether it was a push to get Ovechkin to 50 goals or just sheer frustration over the power play leading to players forcing it to the best player, everyone just seems to be trying to get him the puck even when he is not open. Everyone sees it coming and they cover Ovechkin, the passing lanes to him and his shooting lane. This power play only works if teams have to account for Washington’s other weapons. Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom especially must shoot more.

 

As for the second power play unit, you put them out there with 50 seconds remaining because it is unreasonable to expect the top unit to play the entire two minutes. It’s not a good strategy to have them out there 90 seconds or longer. You can maybe get away with doing that with Ovechkin, but not the entire power play.

I will predict four. I do not think he breaks it out every single goal he scores, just the big moments (late goals, overtime winners, etc.). I do think we see a random one thrown in at some point though, like a second period, ‘screw it I’m pumped’ goal celebration.

Nathan S. writes: Do you think NHL will change its standing point system and stop giving teams "loser points"?  

I do not see this happening for two reasons. First, the shootout is not going anywhere, but I think we can all agree it is pretty gimmicky and most people are over it. If two points are riding on those shootouts, that will get pretty old, pretty fast. The second reason is because the NHL loves the close playoff races at the end of the season. More teams are in the mix for the playoffs later in the season thanks to three-point games and the league is not going to do anything that will take more teams out of the mix earlier. The NHL likes the added intrigue of the multiple team playoff races. So no, the “loser point” is not going away.

Corey B. writes: Are playoff warm-up pucks going to be available for purchase in Capital One Arena?

I reached out to a team official and found out that yes indeed, the warm-up pucks will be available for purchase during the playoffs. They will be sold for $50 outside of section 425 which is apparently the normal spot.

Thanks for all your questions! If you have a question you want to be read and answered in next week’s mailbag, send it in to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com or use #CapsMailNBC on Twitter.

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