With the NHL trade deadline coming up at 3 PM ET on Monday, we spoke to NBC Sports' NHL ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst Pierre McGuire about what the Capitals had done so far - and what he thinks about their chances for that ever so elusive title repeat.
Let's start with the Carl Hagelin deal. Is that a big deal for Washington?
Really solid deal, they add a Stanley Cup winner, a player that’s played as many playoff games as anybody over the last seven years in the league, he’s got tremendous speed. He’s going to really help the Capitals. It was a really slick acquisition. They did not have to mess with the integrity of their roster -- smart move
The Caps have not had the dominant season many expected. What can they do to be back in the conversation as a top team?
Even though they haven’t done very much going into the trade deadline, they’re still a legitimate contender. They’ve got the goaltending, they’ve got the defensive depth, they’ve got an impact player in the back end in John Carlson. They’ve got arguably the best goal-scorer that's played in the history of the National Hockey League in Alex Ovechkin. They’ve got two dominant centermen in Nick Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov. They’ve got an elite third center in Lars Eller.
Part of this is you know you go through the turbulence of winning a Stanley Cup, it’s an amazing run and it beats you down and it breaks you down mentally and physically. It takes a long time to recover from that. I think this team is starting to recover. I saw a team last [week] in Toronto that played a really solid road game and a playoff style game and the right components kick in. I’m encouraged. I don’t think Washington is anything less than a Stanley Cup contender, I see them as a legitimate contender.
Thoughts on the trade for Nick Jensen?
One of the things that Nick Jensen brings is he brings a little bit of of physicality, a lot of skating, he’s a mature player. Madison [Bowey], for whatever reason, could never get over the hump to find the consistency that they needed him to have to be an everyday player for them. I know both players really well, and Detroit’s trying to go younger, Nick Jensen has been there for a while. This reminds me a lot of the Michal Kempný deal last year for Washington, Jensen’s that type of a player. Kempný did a really good job of that for the Capitals last year, I think Jensen will do a really good job for the Capitals. Information was obviously key in this deal, and I think Washington probably had a lot of information on Jensen and they’re very comfortable then making that deal.
Let's talk Blue Jackets/Duchene trade. Are they the team to watch in the Metro Division? Blue Jackets & Caps match up in playoffs?
Matt Duchene is going to make an impact -- he won’t be their first line center, he’ll be their second line center. Pierre-Luc Dubois is a superstar in the making. I think, one of the things that Duchene will do, he’ll take some matchup pressure away from Dubois, who is only 20 years of age. So that’s really positive I think.
Columbus’ biggest thing is what are they going to do with Artemi Panarin and what are they going to do with Sergei Bobrovsky. If they keep both before the deadline it tells you they’re going for it. They think they have a team that can go for it. If they trade or one or both of them, it will tell you they’re not nearly as confident that they got a legitimate chance to win the [Stanley] Cup. A lot of [it] goes into what the future of Monday at 3’oclock is in terms of a playoff series.
I think if Columbus loses Panarin and Bobrovsky, I don’t think it’s a good matchup for them to play Washington. If they keep both, and Duchene can be as good as I expect him to be, it makes for very interesting theatre if they play in the first round of the playoffs.
Washington, looks to me, like they’re warming to the form they aught to have to be a contender again. That’s the positive part for them. Their center ice step is so overwhelming, that makes them a very difficult matchup for any team in the league. There’s a certain street cred that goes into being a Stanley Cup champion. Especially people who have been through it.
Can the Islanders be caught?
I would expect the Islanders will try to do something. They’ve given themselves an amazing chance. Barry Trotz will probably be coach of the year, he deserves that. He’s done a magnificent job with that team. Do I think people can catch them? Yes I do. I do think somebody can catch them. They’ve had a tough time out on the road in Calgary and in Edmonton, they go into Vancouver for their next game. So yeah they can be caught, but what they’ve accomplished this year has been phenomenal. They deserve as an organization a lot of respect and congratulations, it’s been outstanding watching them build their brand.
What should Caps fans know to ease their worries?
It’s not easy to repeat, number 1. Pittsburgh did it in 1991 and 1992, and they did it 2016 and 2017. It’s not easy. It’s really hard to repeat, you have to have a lot of things to go your way. The one thing that I like about Washington for playoff hockey, is that now they know how deep they have to dig to win. Especially if you consider last year’s first round against Columbus, being down two games to nothing, going into Columbus, having to win Game 3 and doing it double overtime with the Lars Eller game-winner. That is a huge benchmark. It’s a huge benchmark, and when you can achieve that, it gives your organization a lot of armor going forward, because you know what it takes.
I’m really confident about this team because of their depth down the middle, their experience of having faced a lot of dangerous situations in the playoffs, and more than anything else, they won the [Stanley] Cup on the road. And it takes something special to win a knock out game on the road for the Stanley Cup and the Capitals found that. So they know what they need to do to win, and that gives me a lot of confidence in that group.
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