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Mailbag: What would you do if you had a day with the Stanley Cup?

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USA TODAY Sports

Mailbag: What would you do if you had a day with the Stanley Cup?

The season is here and you have some questions. Luckily, I have answers.

Josh M writes: What do you think is the timeline for the recently signed Alexeyev who looked real good?

I’m with you Josh, I was very impressed with Alexeyev in development camp and training camp. He also has been great since returning to Red Deer, but it could be a few years before we see him in Washington.

Alexeyev is 18 years old and will spend this season in the WHL playing for the Red Deer Rebels. The CHL and NHL have an agreement in place that prevents 18 and 19 year old junior players from playing in the AHL. Per my understanding, because Alexeyev will not turn 20 until after the Sept. 15 cutoff in 2019, that means his only two options for this season and next are the WHL or NHL, he cannot play in the AHL.

The Caps currently have a logjam on defense with seven players returning from last year’s teams plus Jonas Siegenthaler, Lucas Johansen and Connor Hobbs hoping to eventually crack the NHL squad. Even if Alexeyev looks like he could possibly be ready for the NHL next season, there may not even be room for him just yet.

So, to answer your question, I think we see Alexeyev in the WHL both this season and next and most likely in the AHL at least to start the 2020-21 season. By then, however, I would not be surprised to see him make a real push for the NHL squad.

Also from Josh M: Whats your final roster projection for opening night?

This seemed like a pretty easy question until Sunday’s incident with Tom Wilson. That certainly changes things.

If this team is completely healthy and suspension free, I believe Travis Boyd and Nic Dowd would cycle on the fourth line and Madison Bowey would be the extra on defense with Jonas Siegenthaler back in Hershey.

Let’s assume Tom Wilson is suspended, something that seems like a reasonable assumption at this point. The trickledown effect of losing a top-line player will leave a hole that I do not think Nathan Walker and/or Jayson Megna are going to be able to fill by themselves. What I believe will ultimately happen is that Boyd will be placed on IR, Nathan Walker will be placed on waivers and sent to Hershey and Shane Gersich, who his waiver exempt, will be recalled from the AHL. Siegenthaler does make the opening roster, but as an extra until Michal Kempny returns from injury. Once he does, then Siegenthaler goes to Hershey and Madison Bowey becomes the extra cycling in and out of the third pairing with Christian Djoos and Brooks Orpik.

Yes, I believe Siegenthaler is going back to Hershey. As well as he has played, he is waiver exempt. That matters. If the team kept him, it would most likely mean waiving Madison Bowey. While most players pass through waivers with no issue, Bowey has shown enough potential that I believe teams would take a good long look at claiming him and no team likes to lose a drafted player for nothing.

Richard D writes: What’s a realistic expectation for Ovi’s point total this year? Should we expect Kuzy to beat that mark?

Ovechkin certainly looks like he hasn’t lost a step so far in the preseason. I don’t think he’s going to hit the 50-goal mark, but I do think he goes somewhere between 40 and 50 goals. The last two seasons he had 36 and 38 assists respectively. I also believe he will stick around the 30-assist mark so a realistic point total for next season would be somewhere between 70-80 points. Still a pretty respectable total, but he’s going to get passed by Kuznetsov who I am predicting will have a monster season.

Kuznetsov was over a point-per game producer in both the regular season (83 points in 79 games) and the playoffs (32 points in 24 games). We are seeing Kuznetsov make the jump from good to great and he will build off that success from the 2017-18 campaign. He will lead the Caps in points by a wide margin and flirt with the 100-mark.

I asked several members of the NBC Sports Washington Caps crew what they would do with the Cup. Here’s what they said:

Al Koken: First, Al would coordinate with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to bring the Cup to children undergoing treatment for fundraising efforts. Then, he would hold a party for all the behind the scenes NBCSW and Capital One crew who makes everyone look so good on TV. As for what he would put in the Cup, BBQ and high quality small batch bourbon.

Joe Beninati: Joe B's day is about as meticulously put together as his wardrobe.

First, he would organize a street hockey tournament for kids to play for the Cup and invite the top Squirt and PeeWee teams in the area. Then he would have the Cup as the guest of honor for an NBC Sports Washington luncheon, sharing it with everyone who helps put Caps hockey on the air. After that, he would take the Cup on a trip to Walter Reed Hospital or Children's National Medical Center or both if possible to share it with the kids and bring smiles to the faces of those who really need it. Finally, he would team up with Craig Laughlin for a big charity fund-raiser to gives Caps fans the chance to spend time with the Cup while also raising money for a good cause. He would definitely want his family along for the ride as well, especially at the party.

Being a wine aficionado, of course you can expect a bottle or two to end up in the Cup. The key would just be choosing the right one for such an occasion.

Rob Carlin: Rob lives in Annapolis, Md. and is inspired by equipment manager Craig ‘Woody’ Leydig who took the Cup around Annapolis on his day. Everyone Rob knows in town managed to find the Cup and have a special moment with it so he would like to have a similar experience of bringing it to Annapolis.

Of course for someone who went to the University of Maryland and who now calls Maryland home, it should come as no surprise that he would put crabs in the Cup and have a crab fest.

…And beer. Can’t forget the beer.

Craig Laughlin: If he could, Craig would take the Cup to his mom and family back in Waterloo, Ontario. Either that, or take it around his home in Crofton, Md. for charity and enjoy a six-pack of his favorite IPA.

Once again, can’t forget the beer.

As for me, first thing is the cereal: Cap’n Crunch. T.J. Oshie got it right. I would take it to the nearest children’s hospital and then to the nearest military base to share with them. To close out the day, I would have a party with my closest family and friends.

Thanks for your questions! If you want to have your question answered on next week’s mailbag post, send it in to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com

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A first period to forget, a strong night for Holtby and hope for the third line

A first period to forget, a strong night for Holtby and hope for the third line

 

WASHINGTON -- The Capitals returned home only to have their six-game winning streak snapped by a Columbus Blue Jackets team that had lost its last four.

Check out the recap of the game here.

Observations from the loss

The first period is in the running for worst of the season

Washington was outshot 20-6, could not get possession and could not get the puck out of the defensive zone. Things were getting comically bad as Michal Kempny accidentally shot the puck on his own net which forced a save from Braden Holtby and then a trip as he tried to keep Pierre-Luc Dubois from getting to the loose puck. Later in the period, Gustav Nyquist got a breakaway chance when Jakub Vrana basically passed the puck right to him.

Why was it so bad? Maybe it was the jet lag, maybe the Caps came into this one thinking they would have an easy time against a bad team or maybe it was just one of those nights. Regardless, it was bad. While Washington played better as the game went along, that first period really set the tone for the entire 60 minutes.

Holtby was the only reason the Caps were in this game

The Caps will likely have to choose between Holtby and Ilya Samsonov in the offseason as their goalie of the future. Because of that, some fans are already drawing lines in the sand and declaring themselves for Team Holtby or Team Samsonov. Those Holtby detractors take every opportunity to declare every bad game as Holtby’s fault, but that was just not the case on Monday.

Holtby was the only thing, the only thing keeping Washington in this game.

Holtby made 33 saves for the game, 19 of which came in just the first period alone. The third goal Holtby allowed was soft as he showed Riley Nash too much daylight off the post allowing Nash to bank the puck off him and in, but besides that, it was a really strong game for the Caps' netminder overall.

The third line showed signs of life but remains a work in progress

Coming into this game, Carl Hagelin, Lars Eller, and Richard Panik had played less than 24 minutes together at 5-on-5 this season. Having a full lineup back, Reirden was able to utilize this line and the results were good. They ultimately did not produce any points, but the line looked very good to start and it looks like there is potential there.

"They did some good things," Reirden said. "I thought early on they were probably one of our better lines to start the game. They were the group that was giving us some offense and giving us some possession time and I thought executing at probably the highest level."

Look, I know many fans out there are done with Panik already, but give him time to actually play on the line he was signed to play with. The Caps have banked a ton of points and sit first in the entire NHL. They have the flexibility to experiment with the third line and see if that trio can build some chemistry together.

Keep an eye on the home record

The loss drops Washington's home record to 8-3-4 for the season. Not terrible, but not great either especially when compared to their 14-2-1 record on the road. I'm not ready to think there is something wrong with theCaps at home yet, but this is something that is worth monitoring.

Turning point

The Caps had nothing going for them through 40 minutes, but it would not be the first time they were able to rally from a multi-goal deficit in the third period to get the win. Heck, I'm not sure people would even be surprised by it anymore. When Alex Ovechkin scored less than a minute into the third, my gut reaction was OK, here we go. Here comes the rally.

Nash's goal put an end to all of that when he was able to bank the puck in off of Holtby from behind the goal line. At that point, you knew the game was over.

Play of the game

On the first period breakaway Nyquist received courtesy of Vrana, Nyquist tried to beat Holtby with the backhand through the 5-hole. The Caps' netminder recovered well and swept out the pads to deny him the goal. Had Washington come back to make a game of this one, this save would have been one of the pivotal moments of the game.

Stat of the game

Congratulations to Craig "Woody" Leydig!

Quote of the game

Reirden on what went wrong in the first period:

"There wasn't a whole lot going right. That was, to me, one of our worst two periods of the year."

Fan predictions

You got the score right, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had one goal and one assist. I'm pretty sure you meant that the Caps were going to win though so you didn't nail this one as much as it looks like you did.

Umm...just a narrow miss there.

Go home Mike, you're drunk.

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Caps finally lay an egg to end six-game winning streak

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Caps finally lay an egg to end six-game winning streak

WASHINGTON - Put it away. 

Honestly, what else can the Capitals say after a 5-2 loss to the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday at Capital One Arena. 

They had won six games in a row. They had just swept a four-game road trip to Detroit and the three California teams (San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim). Things were going great. That's always dangerous in the NHL.  

Use any excuse you want - a trap game before playing the powerhouse Bruins visit in two days, a letdown coming home for the first time since Nov. 29, a sleepy Monday night crowd in early December - but the Capitals were having none of it. 

"Even if you had a winning streak like this, I think it's important - when you lose, there's no easy games in this league, that's for sure,” Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said. “You’ve just got to bounce back right away. We have a good test on Wednesday against Boston. I think, right?"

Forgive Backstrom if he wasn’t quite certain that a showdown loomed with the Bruins, who have the second-most points in the NHL behind Washington (22-5-5). It’s a tough time of year for players and the calendar gets away from them.

But after eight games out of the lineup with an upper-body injury, Backstrom was just happy to be back on the ice. He even scored a goal late in the third period to cut the Columbus lead to 4-2 before an empty-netter put things away. 

Up in Ottawa, the Bruins (20-5-6) were also losing a game you wouldn’t expect: 5-2 to Ottawa. Combine the Blue Jackets and Senators have just 55 points. That’s barely more than Washington (49) and Boston (46) on their own, but in the NHL there’s too much parity to take any game for granted.

“You've got to be on top of your game or you're susceptible to ending up on the wrong end of things,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “We’ve been really consistent, obviously, through 30-plus games of doing that. Tonight, we weren't. Had a bad start to the game. It cost us.”

Consider it a humbling lesson. Just like when the New York Islanders won a game at Tampa Bay on Monday night and the lead in the Metropolitan Division is seven points for the Capitals. No reason to panic, no reason to do anything other than start a new streak against a top-level opponent on Wednesday that should give both Washington and Boston a good sense of where their game is.

Take the good and toss the bad: Backstrom is back and scored. The penalty kill, with Lars Eller playing a bigger role, was solid again at 5-for-5 and the third line of Eller. Carl Hagelin and Richard Panik played as a unit for the first time since early October. 

Braden Holtby (33 saves, 37 shots) had a great first period in goal, but gave up an ugly bad-angle shot in the third to Riley Nash just a few minutes after Alex Ovechkin had cut the lead to 2-1 in the first minute of the third period with his 21st goal. But Columbus scored three times in the third - once on an empty net. A game Washington was chasing almost the entire way turned into a deserved Blue Jackets win. Things have gone so well so far in 2019-20. Time to flush it fast. The Bruins await.  

“We were lucky it was only a 1-0 game because of the way [Holtby] played,” Hagelin said. “We started getting better and better as the game went on, but it wasn’t enough. That’s one of those games where you have to forget about it and move on.” 

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