It’s time for the weekly Capitals mailbag! Check out the April 3 edition below.
Have a Caps question you want 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.
#CapsMailNBC— Wardrobe_Changes (@08437077Caps) April 2, 2019
Who do you predict the Caps will play in rounds one and two?
I believe the Caps will ultimately win the Metropolitan Division meaning they will play the first wild card team in the playoffs. I think Pittsburgh will hold onto third in the Metro, but that Columbus will overtake Carolina meaning we will see a Capitals-Blue Jackets rematch which is not great news.
Columbus has scoring depth to match the Caps and one of the top defensive pairs in the league with Zach Werenski and Seth Jones. The Blue Jackets look like they are finally getting things together in terms of chemistry and if Sergei Bobrovsky every figures out how to play in the playoffs, this will be an incredibly formidable team and a really difficult matchup.
As for the second round, if and when the Caps advance, I believe the Penguins will be there waiting for them. Barry Trotz has done a phenomenal job with the New York Islanders this season, but I believe a Mike Sullivan coached team with Sidney Crosby and Matt Murray will find a way to beat an Islanders team with three 20-goal scorers and a Robin Lehner-Thomas Greiss tandem in net.
Benjamin C. writes: What’s the reasoning that Carl Hagelin and Jakub Vrana switched places? Hagelin, Brett Connolly and Lars Eller developed good chemistry on 3rd line, why change it?
#CapsMailNBC do u have any idea what the lines will be come playoff time? I don’t get why vrana and hagelin switched when the 3rd line was on fire. And Now that Kuznetsov has woken up should he move back to 1st line ?— NHL clown (@CapitalsHockey5) April 1, 2019
You tend to see a lot of experimenting this time of year as teams look to find their ideal lineups for the playoffs. Jakub Vrana has played great and I do not think we should look at him moving to the third line as a demotion. The point is to find chemistry with multiple combinations and multiple lines because, the longer the playoffs drag on, the more injuries this team is going to take. It is a lot easier to reshape your offensive lines on the fly if you know that certain players play well together and others do not.
For what it’s worth, Vrana and Brett Connolly look like they had instant chemistry together the moment Todd Reirden made that change.
Here is my prediction for the lineup at the start of the playoffs:
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana – Evgeny Kuznetsov – T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin – Lars Eller – Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson – Nic Dowd – Andre Burakovsky
Christian Djoos – John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik – Nick Jensen
All of this is very fluid and Reirden is not going to hesitate to make changes not only game by game, but shift by shift. Having Ovechkin and Backstrom on different lines was important for the team’s run last season, but we will see them play together at points. The same goes for the defense which Reirden has shuffled constantly since Michal Kempny was injured. Even if Djoos does start on the top pair at no point will he get top pairing minutes as Reirden will continue his platoon defense approach of using multiple different players with Carlson.
Nathan S. writes: Why do Caps always lose to the Panthers? Do you anticipate next year they will spend more time coming up with a game plan to beat Panthers?
The Capitals scout the Panthers as much as they scout any other team so do not take their struggles this season to mean the coaches don’t care about Florida enough to game plan how to beat them. The unsatisfying answer is that some teams match up better against others and the Panthers seem to match up well against the Caps.
The biggest issue in each of the three games against Florida this season is the fact that Washington allowed the Panthers to build a big lead on them. On Oct. 19, it was 4-1, Feb. 9 it was 3-1 and on March 31 it was 4-0. Each game the Caps rallied late, but it was the start that sunk them.
Nathan S. writes: Why does the NHL add new teams before figuring out how to fix or move failing franchises such as Coyotes and Panthers? When will the NHL address the problems with those franchises?
The NHL will always favor expansion over relocation because of money. Vegas had to pay $500 million for their team and Seattle had to pay $650 million. Had Arizona relocated to Vegas and Florida relocated to Seattle, the NHL would be out the $1.15 billion it collected in those expansion fees.
When it comes to explaining the NHL’s reluctance to relocate teams, you have to ask why that team was there in the first place. The NHL wants to expand its reach by going to non-traditional markets and, while teams like Arizona and Florida have their issues, you could still point to positive results. Auston Matthews grew up in Scottsdale, Ariz. and became interested in hockey because of the Coyotes. With no Coyotes, there is no Matthews. If the league had a more conservative mentality when it came to markets, then it probably would never have gone to Vegas in the first place and there is no question expanding there has been a complete success.
Having said that, I’m with you. The number of people in attendance at the Caps-Panthers game was embarrassing and the arena debacle in Arizona is not a good look. The NHL cannot let this drag on forever and at some point the NHL has to admit defeat. If I had to predict, I think in five years we will see Arizona move to Houston. Florida, however, I do not see moving anytime soon.
Kristen L. writes: Why does Alex Ovechkin have yellow laces?
Here is an article from 2010 that talks about Ovechkin’s skates and laces. The boring answer is that he always had yellow laces and he kept it up in the NHL.
European players used to wear wax laces and the only color those laces came in was yellow. When you see European players today wear yellow laces, it is often in tribute to those players of the past. Also, individuality is important to Ovechkin. He was very vocal about how much he disliked the NHL’s jersey tuck rule
“We individuals, everybody wants to do their own thing,” he said. “It’s stupid.”
Yellow laces are a way for Ovechkin to express his individuality while also paying tribute to the past, two things that are very important to him.
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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