Capitals

Quick Links

NHL Power Rankings: A turning point for the Caps

usatsi_10438034.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

NHL Power Rankings: A turning point for the Caps

Mark this week down.

If you were looking ahead when the schedule first came out, you likely had Nov. 24-25 circled on your calendar as the Caps were playing back-to-back games against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Many thought both of those teams would be good this season. We were wrong. They are both even better than expected.

SEE THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Given the opposition and how the Caps have struggled in back-to-backs this year, had Washington won just one of their games it would have felt like a success. Yet, Washington was able to win both.

Philipp Grubauer was magnificent for about 58 minutes against Tampa in a 3-1 win on Friday. Washington followed that up with a big road win in Toronto on Saturday thanks to a hat trick performance by Alex Ovechkin.

The Caps have now won three games in a row, four of their last five and six of their last nine.

Whatever success Washington goes on to have this season, this will be a week we remember as a tipping point. This is when a team that struggled to find its identity in the first quarter of the season finally “got it.” This is when things clicked.

The important thing now is to keep it going. What the Caps do over the course of the next few weeks will determine whether this week’s success stands out as the turning point of the season or whether it is just another high point scattered among the other peaks and valleys of the NHL season.

See how far the Caps climbed here in this week’s power rankings after Washington’s big week.

Quick Links

Key Caps questions: Who will play on the team's third defensive pair?

3rdpair.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Key Caps questions: Who will play on the team's third defensive pair?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals correspondent JJ Regan is here to help you through the offseason doldrums as he discusses key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: What will be the team's primary third defensive pairing?

Barring any PTOs or breakout performances in training camp, we can reasonably assume Brooks Orpik, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey are going to be the three players battling it out to be on the third pair.

General manager Brian MacLellan went through some salary cap gymnastics to get Orpik back for next season at a much smaller cap hit, Djoos played 22 playoff games in the Caps’ Stanley Cup run and Bowey was signed to a one-way, two-year contract for $1 million per year. Clearly, all three are expected to be on the Caps’ roster next season and play a role, but that role will be limited considering the top-four is pretty much set with Michal Kempny-John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov-Matt Niskanen.

Orpik will be 38 years old at the start of the season. His on and off-ice contributions are much greater than many were willing to acknowledge, but he was never a fast player and at his age, holding him to 60 games or fewer will make him a more effective player.

Djoos and Bowey are 24 and 23 respectively and, while both are ready for bigger roles, both are far from finished products. While they may be part of the future of Washington’s blue line, putting in two young, second-year players as their own pair is a risk.

But even if head coach Todd Reirden is not ready to turn the reins over to his two young defensemen just yet, he still needs to get both players plenty of playing time.

This is why Orpik may get a lot more playing time than many people think. The best thing for both Djoos and Bowey is for them to play. If you have concerns about them playing together, however, and neither is ready to supplant anyone in the top four, then you are going to see them cycle in and out of the lineup fairly frequently to play alongside Orpik.

That’s not to say we will never see a Djoos-Bowey pairing this season. They will probably have their chances and the better they look, the longer that pair will last. If they were ready, it would be a safe assumption that they would get the bulk of games together with Orpik serving more of a reserve role.

But a Djoos-Bowey pairing would be too vulnerable to opposing offenses at least at the start of the season and so we should expect a lot of Orpik.

While Reirden will work his defensive magic to bring Djoos-Bowey along as quickly as possible, I would anticipate Orpik-Djoos will see a majority of games this season as the team’s third defensive pairing.

Other key Caps questions:

Quick Links

D.C. artist turns her love for the Washington Capitals into works of art

kampa.png
@tkopaintings on Twitter

D.C. artist turns her love for the Washington Capitals into works of art

Local artist Taylor Kampa has taken her love for the Washington Capitals and turned it into works of art. 

You can find paintings done by Kampa of Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, John Carlson and Braden Holtby on display at Circa Chinatown – a restaurant neighboring Capital One Arena – along with other D.C. celebrities.

A professional artist for the last decade, Kampa told NHL.com that the pictures were "passion projects," and took about eight hours to finish. She became a fan of the Caps after she began dating her now-husband back in 2009.

Her work has even caught the eye of The Great Eight. After posting a video to Instagram of her painting Ovechkin hoisting the Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner liked and commented on it. 

"I almost died," Kampa said.

"It has been amazing sharing something that I am excited about that resonates with the people in my city," Kampa said. "I've been painting these portraits for a long time, so it's awesome to have them seen by so many people."

Kampa will also create paintings for the Capitals foundation's annual Casino Night fundraiser next year. 

MORE CAPS NEWS: