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Sunday Capitals Practice Report: Praise for the penalty kill

Sunday Capitals Practice Report: Praise for the penalty kill

The Capitals hit the ice at Capital One Arena for the very first time Saturday night and skated past the Canadiens 6-1, with Alex Ovechkin leading the way with his second consecutive hat trick.

There were no changes to the Capitals’ lines or D-pairs on Sunday in Arlington, where practice was a relatively quick one as the team scrambled to the airport for a charter flight to Tampa. Capitals vs. Lightning begins at 7:30 p.m. ET Monday night (NBCS Washington)

So here’s the lineup you can expect Monday night at Amalie Arena (based on rushes):

Capitals vs. Lightning Lineup: Forward Lines

Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Vrana
Burakovsky – Backstrom – Oshie
Connolly – Eller – Chiasson
Walker – Beagle – Smith-Pelly
Extras: Graovac and Wilson

Capitals vs. Lightning Lineup: Defense Pairings

Orlov – Niskanen
Orpik – Carslon
Ness – Chorney
Extra: Djoos

Capitals vs Lightning Lineup: Goalies


Some notes, quotes and observations from Arlington:

  • One night after watching Walker make his debut and score a goal, his parents were in the stands at Kettler Capitals Iceplex taking in practice. Walker took the first rush with the fourth line, while Tyler Graovac rotated in, suggesting Walker stays in vs. the Lightning.
  • Asked if there’s any concern that Walker could drop off as many young players do during their first NHL stint, Coach Barry Trotz said: “No. That’s the foundation of his game, that he always brings it. That’s his personality. I haven’t seen him, in the whole time I’ve been around him, have a day where he doesn’t have some juice.”
  • Braden Holtby is off to a strong start, posting a 2-0-0 record, a .929 save percentage and a 2.40 goals against. But he’ll give up the net at some point this week so that backup Philipp Grubauer can get in, Trotz said. The Caps play at the Lightning on Monday, host the Penguins on Wednesday and then have back to back games at New Jersey and Philly on Friday and Saturday.
  • The penalty kill continues to perform well. In fact, the unit hasn’t surrendered a goal yet, having snuffed out all nine shorthanded situations the Caps have faced. Jay Beagle and Devante Smith-Pelly have seen more shorthanded ice time than any other Washington forwards. “It’s attention to detail,” Smith Pelly said. “We’re game-planning and doing what we need to do. Guys are blocking shots. And when stuff kinda breaks down, which is going to happen, Holts is there to close the door. So far so good.”
  • Trotz on the perfect PK: “The best penalty killer is your goaltender. We had some big [shot] blocks [Saturday]. Guys like Beagle. [T.J. Oshie] had a block. You talk about times when it breaks down and it looks like they’re going to get a good look… and then guys commit.”
  • The Lightning are off to a 1-1-0 start after earning a split with the Panthers. Trotz said he thinks the Bolts are one of the best teams in the league, despite missing the playoffs last season. “They had a horrible season in terms of injuries and they never really could pile up a long winning streak at the end when it was a little bit too late,” he said. “I think they are a hell of a hockey team. They have skill on all of their lines. They've got all world defensemen on the backend. Good goaltending. They have speed. A lot of good elements.”  

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Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Friday's trade with the Colorado Avalanche seemed to mark the end of Brooks Orpik's time with the Washington Capitals. But that may not actually be the case.

Trading away Orpik also meant trading away his $5.5 million cap hit. That is not an insignificant amount of money especially for a team trying to re-sign defenseman John Carlson to a big-money contract.

But Orpik will not be playing out the final year of his contract in Colorado. The Avalanche placed Orpik on unconditional waivers Saturday for the purpose of a buyout, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

CapFriendly has the details of the buyout. The Avalanche will pay Orpik $3 million and take a cap hit of $2.5 million in the 2018-19 season and $1.5 million in the 2019-20 season.

So why would Colorado agree to take Orpik just to buy him out and take on dead cap space? Because by acquiring him, it lowered the cost of the Grubauer trade.

What this means for Brooks Orpik is that he will become a free agent, free to sign with anyone for the upcoming season. Including Washington.

For a 37-year-old defenseman who does not boast great mobility or speed, a $5.5 million cap hit was a bit too steep for the Caps who were very close to the cap ceiling last season and who need that extra money to re-sign their free agents. But the team did value Orpik's leadership and that could be especially important as young defensemen Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos continue developing plus prospects Jonas Siegenthaler, Lucas Johansen and Connor Hobbs all try to work themselves into contention for a spot on the NHL roster.

If Orpik does return, it will be a masterstroke for general manager Brian MacLellan. MacLellan freed up a lot of cap space to re-sign Carlson without having to buy out Orpik's contract, but could still possibly keep him on the roster at a much-reduced cost.

After a strong playoff performance, there may be other teams vying for Orpik's services next season. Getting traded to get bought out likely isn't a good feeling, but considering he just won a Stanley Cup in Washington, the defensive guru Todd Reirden is expected to be promoted to head coach and that re-signing with the Caps would mean not moving his family for what could very possibly and will very likely be the last contract of his NHL career, there are a lot of reasons why it would make sense for both the team and the player if Orpik stayed with the Caps.


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2018 NHL Draft: Caps add 7 prospects, 4 from WHL


2018 NHL Draft: Caps add 7 prospects, 4 from WHL

The Caps made seven selections in the 2018 Draft this weekend. The group featured three defensemen, three forwards and a goalie. Interestingly, a couple of the picks have fathers who enjoyed lengthy NHL careers.

Meet the newest prospects:

1st round, 31st overall: D Alexander Alexeyev, WHL, 6'4", 196 pounds

The Caps' first first-round pick sine 2016, Alexeyev is a smart two-way defenseman with good size.

Read more on him here.

2nd round, 46th overall (from Florida, via New Jersey): D Martin Fehervary, Allsvenskan (Sweden), 6'2", 194 pounds

A physical style defenseman who is very strong in his own end, but does not have much offensive upside. Sort of a throwback style of play which makes him a surprise pick this high.

2nd round, 47th overall (From Colorado): F Kody Clark, OHL, 6'1", 179 pounds

Kody Clark boasts an NHL pedigree as the son of Wendel Clark, a first-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs who recorded 330 goals and 564 career points in 763 NHL games.

3rd round, 93rd overall: F Riley Sutter, WHL, 6'3", 203 pounds

Riley Sutter also boasts a strong NHL pedigree as the son of Run Sutter and nephew of Darryl Sutter.

Riley is a power forward who played alongside Caps prospect Garrett Pilon on the Everett Silvertips in the WHL and recorded 53 points in 68 games last season.

4th round, 124th overall: G Mitchell Gibson, NAHL, 6'1", 187 pounds

A Harvard commit, Gibson posted a 1.59 GAA and .935 save percentage in the NAHL last season.

6th round, 161st overall (from Vancouver): D Alex Kannok-Leipert, WHL, 5'11", 194 pounds

The Caps certainly saw something they liked in Kannok-Leipert as they traded up from 186 to get him. That pick, along with a sixth-round pick in 2019, went to Vancouver.

7th round, 217th overall: F Eric Florchuk, WHL, 6'2", 174 pounds

Florchuk was taken with the last pick of the draft.