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Do the Capitals have to respond to Penguins' trade for Jason Zucker?

Do the Capitals have to respond to Penguins' trade for Jason Zucker?

Monday was not a good day for Capitals fans. While the defense was coughing up a second straight loss at home, the archrival Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a huge trade, acquiring forward Jason Zucker for Alex Galchenyuk, prospect Calen Addison and a first-round draft pick.

Despite a myriad of injuries this season, the Penguins have managed to keep pace with Washington in the Metropolitan Division. Now with Sidney Crosby back in the lineup, the Penguins trail the Caps by just three points, have one game in hand, and a big new addition on offense.

There's no sugar-coating it. This was a great trade for Pittsburgh. The Penguins removed the perennially inconsistent Galchenyuk who had managed only five goals this season, and added Zucker who, not only is a top-six forward, but also has another three years left on his contract. He is locked in at $5.5 million until 2023. That's a long-term gain. In the short-term, a team that was already challenging for the Metro just got better while the Caps have suddenly hit a slump in their season.

The question now is do the Caps have to respond to the Penguins?

The answer is no.

And yes.

I am always wary of general managers making reactionary trades. That's how you get fleeced. While you have to tip your cap to Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford for this one, let's not forget some of the reaction trades he made because Pittsburgh just had to get tougher in response to Tom Wilson. Somehow Pittsburgh added Erik Gudbranson to the roster at last year's trade deadline and they thought that made them better.

You also don't want to make a trade just for the sake of making a trade. It really felt like general manager George McPhee was grasping at straws in 2013 when he traded Filip Forsberg to Nashville for Martin Erat and Michael Latta. Did either of those players really make the team better? Not really. And it took the team's top prospect to make that deal happen.

So no, you don't want to see general manager Brian MacLellan pull of a reactionary trade, because there will be plenty of other general managers more than willing to take advantage.

But the reality of the situation is that the Caps have to make a trade anyway.

The team is going through a major slump right now and, while they may not be as bad as they are currently playing, the defense has been a major question mark for the entire season and it is not hard to spot the hole in the lineup. Nick Jensen and Radko Gudas are both right defensemen and are very capable of handling a third-pair role on the team, but neither has proven they can take on a top-four role. That leaves right defenseman on the second pair a major hole.

It's not a coincidence that Martin Fehervary was recalled a few weeks before the trade deadline and spent the majority of his time playing on the second pair. The goal was to see if the team had an internal solution. But the defense did not seem to improve and, while Fehervary has a bright future ahead of him, clearly a top-four role at this point is too much too soon.

If the Caps want to win a Cup, they will need to add a defenseman. There is no way around it.

So no, the Caps do not need to respond to the Penguins trade because they already needed to make a trade to bolster the defense regardless. If you want to argue the Zucker trade adds more urgency, fine, but even if the Penguins had not made a move, Washington would still need to find a right defenseman to play on the second pair if they hope to make a deep run.

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How to watch classic Capitals games this week on NBC Sports Washington

How to watch classic Capitals games this week on NBC Sports Washington

If you just can't get enough iconic Caps games during quarantine, then NBC Sports Washington is the place for you.

All week long beginning Monday, April 6, NBC Sports Washington will be airing classic Capitals games, including multiple comebacks and culminating with the five games against Vegas in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

The games leading into the postseason re-air will include multiple memorable finishes from the 2019-20 season.

Of course, if you make it that far, you certainly won't want to miss the re-airing of the Capitals championship parade that follows.

Here's a rundown of all the games airing this week on NBC Sports Washington:

Washington Capitals at Vancouver Canucks

Date: Monday, April 6
Time: 8 p.m.
Original Game: October 25, 2019

Backup goaltender Ilya Samsonov had a rough day in net, allowing five unanswered goals in quick succession from the end of the first period into the second. But Evgeny Kuznetsov broke the Caps' drought in the final second of the second period, sparking the team to a remarkable four-goal comeback.

The Caps would eventually win in a shootout, kicking off a six-game winning streak.

Vegas Golden Knights at Washington Capitals

Date: Wednesday, April 8
Time: 8 p.m.
Original Game: November 9, 2019

The game that capped off the Caps' aforementioned six-game winning streak - and extended their point streak to 11 - was an easier win. The Caps pulled ahead early and never looked back, keyed by Backstrom's two-goal day.

Of course, games against the Golden Knights will always have a special place in fans' hearts after the summer of 2018.

San Jose Sharks at Washington Capitals

Date: Thursday, April 9
Time: 8 p.m.
Original Game: January 5, 2020

This was as wild a finish as the Caps have had in a long time. Down 3-2, they pulled Braden Holtby late in the third period, and the Sharks took advantage with an empty-netter. Then, miraculously, the Capitals scored twice in the final 47 seconds of the game to force overtime, where they won the game.

The Caps would have considered themselves lucky just to come away with a point here, and instead, they got two in one of the most memorable finishes in franchise history.

How to watch the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, Washington Capitals vs. Las Vegas Golden Knights

All-day Sunday, April 12

Game 1
9 a.m.
Location: Las Vegas
Original Game: May 28, 2018

The first team in the nation's capital to make even a semifinal run in 20 years, the hype surrounding the Capitals in the Stanley Cup Final was immeasurable. The Golden Knights hosted Game 1 with a breathtaking opening ceremony, and the two teams jumped on each other early with a 2-2 first period. 

Washington took the lead 4-3 early in the third period, but Braden Holtby struggled during the frame and the Caps fell 6-4 to fall behind in the series, as they had throughout the postseason run.

Game 2
11:30 a.m.
Location: Las Vegas
Original Game: May 30, 2018

The Caps fell behind early in the game, but bounced back to steal a close Game 2. Alex Ovechkin scored his first goal of the series, Braden Holtby was superb - including an all-time legendary save - and the Capitals headed home tied 1-1 in the series.

Game 3
2 p.m.
Location: Washington
Original Game: June 2, 2018

The first home championship game Washington hosted in years, Game 3 was as hot a ticket as you'll ever find.

Holtby was terrific once again, allowing his only goal in the third period. Evgeny Kuznetsov recorded a goal and an assist, and to nobody's surprise, it was Ovechkin who scored the Caps' first home goal of the series.

Game 4
4:30 p.m.
Location: Washington
Original Game: June 4, 2018

Game 4 was the Caps' biggest explosion. They scored six goals in the game, including three on the power play. Six different players netted goals for the Capitals in a well-rounded effort, boosted by Backstrom's three assists.

After their easiest win of the series, the Caps were riding high up 3-1 heading back to Las Vegas.

Game 5
7 p.m.
Location: Las Vegas
Original Game: June 7, 2018

The one that needs no introduction, right? After a scoreless first period, the teams exploded for five combined goals in the second period, including a power play goal from Ovi.

Trailing 3-2 entering the third period, the Caps needed someone else to step up, and they got it. Devante Smith-Pelly tied the game midway through the frame, and Lars Eller gave them the Cup-clinching goal a few minutes later.

Holtby held on the rest of the way, and the Capitals became your 2018 Stanley Cup Champions.

Championship Parade

Time: 9:30 p.m.
Original Date: June 12, 2018

What more needs to be said? The Capitals kicked off the great summer of celebration in style, parading through Washington, D.C. and sharing the glory of their title runs during an unforgettable afternoon with thousands of fans.

If you somehow missed this live, you don't want to miss re-living it now.

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Lars Eller may be the Tiger, but Caps coach Todd Reirden is not about to lump him in with the people from 'Tiger King'

Lars Eller may be the Tiger, but Caps coach Todd Reirden is not about to lump him in with the people from 'Tiger King'

Like everyone during this time of social distancing because of the coronavirus, Todd Reirden is getting some extra time to catch up on some TV. Also like everyone, one of the shows he has watched during the NHL's pause in the season is the Netflix docuseries "Tiger King."

"I did take myself through the 'Tiger King,'" Reirden said on a conference call Monday. "That I did watch. I watched that one on my own. I did not have my wife and son in on that one. I wanted to be prepared for discussion points with the players if they had seen it. So I did watch that. I'll just leave it at that, but I did watch it."

So Reirden has watched it, but just for reference. Right.

"It's just one of those things that you want to be prepared for as a coach because you know they all have watched it and I saw the amount of people that have watched it," Reirden said. "I have not gotten into in-depth discussions but when I do get together with the players one day when things become normal again for us."

While Reirden was diplomatic about what he thought about the people featured in the series, he also made it clear he was not about to compare any of the Capitals players to Joe Exotic or any of the other...colorful characters. That includes Lars Eller.

Eller's nickname, of course, is 'Tiger' after he chose the tiger for his spirit animal in a talk with Tony Robbins. When Reirden was asked Monday if Eller was the team's "Tiger King," Reirden was pretty quick to shut that down.

"Lars Eller, I mean he is our Tiger for sure on our team," Reirden said. "I hate to couple him into the same kind of personality that's going on with the 'Tiger King, 'but certainly he has the name for it. So that's an interesting thought that I need to spend some more time on before I commit to it."


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