The 2020 postseason will be unlike any other and, as a result, there are a lot of unknowns. As the July 10 start to training camp approaches, let's look at the biggest unknowns facing the Capitals.
Today's question: How much will the extra rest help the Caps' veteran players?
When Game 7 between the Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes hit overtime in 2019, it was clear the Caps were hanging on for dear life. They were out of gas.
The good news is that the year before they won the Stanley Cup and had an abbreviated offseason as a result so it was easy to see why this happened. Not everyone adjusted well and the performance of some players was inconsistent throughout the season. By the final game of the first round of the playoffs, no one seemed to have much left in the tank.
The bad news is that as the core continues to grow older, this is going to be a growing problem for the team with every passing year, regardless of how deep they go in the playoffs. Nicklas Backstrom is 32, John Carlson is 30, Lars Eller is 30, Carl Hagelin is 31, Braden Holtby is 30, Ilya Kovalchuk is 36, T.J. Oshie is 33 and even the ageless Alex Ovechkin is 34.
When a team is built around a core of players all on the wrong side of 30, what's a good way to mitigate any fears of fatigue? How about pausing the season for several months right before the playoffs?
Perhaps age and fatigue would have been an issue again in the 2020 postseason had it been played on time immediately after an 82-game season. After several months off, however, this should no longer be an issue.
But there is a downside to all of the extra rest. It's not just the Caps who are benefitting from it.
The Boston Bruins have been the best team in the NHL almost from start to finish. One advantage Washington had over them heading into the postseason, however, was a longer offseason. While the Caps exited in the first round, Boston made it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last year. Perhaps they would have run out of gas in the playoffs the way Washington did against Carolina. After all, the Bruins are a veteran team as well with Patrice Bergeron (34), Jaroslav Halak (34), David Krejci (33), Brad Marchand (31), Tuukka Rask (32) and Zdeno Chara (42).
Now, fatigue won't be an issue for Boston, or any other veteran team for that matter. Yes, Ovechkin and Co. will be well-rested for the 2020 postseason, but so will everyone else.
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