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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Alexander Alexeyev’s teammates in Russia nicknamed him “poker face” because of his poise with the puck. And, yeah, he asked Alex Ovechkin about the fountain celebration during their FaceTime conversation yesterday. Haha. #ALLCAPSpic.twitter.com/iVguNmidFq
Wendel Clark was mowing the lawn at his Muskoka cottage when son Kody came running outside to tell dad he'd been picked No. 47 by Stanley Cup-champion #caps. "It's more exciting than when I was picked (1st overall, #leafs, '85)," Wendel said. "It's part of being a dad." #tmltalk
“Watching both of those young men play, they do a lot of the little things properly.” — #ALLCAPS Assistant GM Ross Mahoney on Kody Clark and Riley Sutter, both the sons of longtime NHLers (Wendel Clark and Ron Sutter). pic.twitter.com/aK9d1FnJvB
A Harvard commit, Gibson posted a 1.59 GAA and .935 save percentage in the NAHL last season.
Gibson is a Harvard commit from the Philly suburbs. He joked that he'll know his way around KCI at Dev Camp next week, having played for Valley Forge, Team Comcast, etc. in the @AYHL. So he faced the @LittleCapitals a lot.