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: What will the Caps' top-four on defense look like?
The key weakness for the Caps all season has been the defense, namely the right side of the second pair. Washington has one of the best right defensemen in the NHL in John Carlson and then two bottom-pair right defensemen in Nick Jensen and Radko Gudas. What they are missing is a second-pair right defenseman.
Jensen, who was a deadline pickup in 2019, has struggled to adjust to the Caps, but finally looked like he was starting to gel with Dmitry Orlov just as the season paused. The question now is will he be able to pick up where he left off if and when play finally resumes?
The team looks pretty set on the left. Brenden Dillon has stepped in and very quickly took a spot on the top pair left of Carlson. The benefit there was moving Michal Kempny to the third pair as he has struggled this season. With Dillon, Orlov and Kempny, that's a strong trio on the left. Jonas Siegenthaler is also a left defenseman, but can play on the right as well. As much as the defense has struggled, really the key is that second pair because they certainly appear to otherwise have the personnel to be successful. They need Jensen to continue stepping up because, if he can't, there really is no good answer for what to do at that position.
Orlov has long been touted as a player who can play on either side, but I have yet to see him look comfortable playing on the right side at all this season. When Dillon was acquired, general manager Brian MacLellan was very clear that he saw him only as a left defenseman. Gudas is a right defenseman, but Jensen has outplayed him for the majority of the season so it seems unlikely that he would prove to be a better solution than Jensen against tougher competition.
Maybe a team can get by with a suspect third pair, especially considering the attrition that goes on in the playoffs. Other players will most likely be needed at some point and teams adjust accordingly. But having a hole in the top-four is a glaring weakness and the only real answer the team has is Jensen.
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