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20 offseason Caps questions: Who'll be on the Caps' opening night roster?

20 offseason Caps questions: Who'll be on the Caps' opening night roster?

Another playoff disappointment—as well as a host of expiring player contracts—has left the Capitals with a ton of questions to answer this offseason. Over the next month, Jill Sorenson, JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir will take a close look at the 20 biggest issues facing the team as the business of hockey kicks into high gear.

In 85 days, the puck will drop on the Capitals' 2017-18 season. And while the lineup on Oct. 5 will have a familiar feel to it, there will be some significant changes. Gone are Justin Williams, Marcus Johansson, Daniel Winnik, Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk. Who'll serve as the replacements? That's a good question. Below, Jill, J.J. and Tarik make their opening night lineup predictions using players who are currently under contract. 

Sorenson: Wow. Well when I lay it all out on the screen in front of me, those lines sure look weird! It becomes so apparent how much the Caps actually lost. The Marcus Johansson trade leaves a big hole in that top six, and on my second line, I will be looking for Brett Connolly to really step up. I chose Connolly in that second right wing spot over Wilson, because at this point, I’m looking for more speed with Ovechkin on the other side. I would change that in a second if Ovechkin comes to training camp 15-20 pounds lighter (and thus faster) and put Wilson on the other side of Kuznetsov as the net-front presence and protector on that line. Troy Mann has called on Jakub Vrana to up his mental game, and I’m confident he will do that. But the most exciting addition from a forward perspective is to see Nathan Walker make his historic NHL debut! I predict that opening night he will become the first Australian to play in an NHL regular season game. As for the defense, Taylor Chorney is a no brainer to start the year- a steadying presence that will allow John Carlson to add on the offensive side. And I really look forward to Madison Bowey’s NHL debut.

Vrana -Eller-Wilson



El-Bashir: Not only have the names changed, so has the makeup and structure of the Caps' capped-out roster. Basically, there's going to be a bunch of vets who count $5 million or more against the cap (Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Backstrom, Oshie, Niskanen, Orpik, Orlov and Holtby) and, well, everyone else. It's not ideal, but it's what you end up with after going "all in" for a few years. Now, on to my lineup. The key for the forwards, in my opinion, is going to be Vrana. If he can lock down a spot in the top-six, things kinda fall into line. If he doesn't, that'll cause some problems as Coach Barry Trotz will need to move up someone who is probably better served playing in the bottom-six. As you can see, I've got Walker and Stephenson securing roles (think waivers), but I also don't think DSP (266 NHL games) will go to the pressbox quietly. On the backend, I suspect Ness' experience (39 NHL games) could give him an edge over the kids, at least to start. Ditto for Chorney, who has appeared in 73 games for the Capitals the past two seasons. Djoos sticks (again, waivers) and sees his role grow as he gains experience. Overall, I think there's going to be a decent amount of tinkering along the blue line. At various points, whether it's due to injury or someone struggling, I'd also expect to see Bowey, Lewington and potentially Johansen and Siegenthaler, too, in Washington's lineup. Is that a Presidents' Trophy winning lineup? Probably not. But it should be good enough to get the Caps into the tournament. 




Extras: Djoos (D), Smith-Pelly (RW) 

Regan: To do this, I went back and reread the transcript from Brian MacLellan’s conference call with the media following the Marcus Johansson trade. MacLellan always says a lot if you read between the lines. He praised the Burakovsky-Backstrom-Oshie line, said Vrana has “a legitimate ability to play in the top-six level” and basically spelled out that Connolly-Eller-Wilson would be the third line. He also talked about the need to have good penalty killers like Walker and Stephenson. Ultimately Barry Trotz and not MacLellan will pick the lines, but Trotz is entering the last year of his contract and has not gotten an extension yet so perhaps MacLellan’s words will carry more weight. Since Djoos would have to clear through waivers, I see him spending most if not all of the NHL season with the Caps. Let’s also remember that the opening night lineup is often a reward for good work in training camp and the preseason. If I had to guess, I would say Chorney plays more games this season than Djoos, but I could see the young prospect getting the early reward with a spot on opening night.

Andre Burakovsky –Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie
Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Jakub Vrana
Brett Connolly – Lars Eller – Tom Wilson
Nathan Walker – Jay Beagle – Devante Smith-Pelly

Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen
Christian Djoos – John Carlson
Brooks Orpik – Madison Bowey

Braden Holtby
Philipp Grubauer

Healthy scratches: Chandler Stephenson, Taylor Chorney

Previous questions:

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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues shutout Sharks 5-0 to win Game 5

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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues shutout Sharks 5-0 to win Game 5

The St. Louis Blues won a decisive Game 5 against the San Jose Sharks 5-0, pushing the Sharks to the brink of elimination.

The Blues are now one win away from their first Stanley Cup Final since the 1969-70 season, where they lost to the Boston Bruins in a sweep.

St. Louis started the scoring early when Oskar Sundqvist netted his second goal of the series in the first five minutes of the game. 

Jaden Schwartz then tallied his first goal of the game off a juicy rebound in front of Martin Jones to start the scoring in the second period. It was Schwartz's 10th goal of the playoffs, which tied him for third all-time in Blues history for goals in the postseason.

Vladimir Tarasenko added to the Blues lead off a penalty shot. He's the first player in Blues franchise history to score a penalty shot goal in the playoffs.

Schwartz then added two more goals in the third period for a hat-trick. The first came on a 5-on-3 power play advantage off a scramble in front of the net, and the second came from a backdoor one-timer pass from Tarasenko.

Schwartz now has 12 goals these playoffs, and it's his second hat-trick of the playoffs.

Blues goalie Jordan Binnington recorded 21 saves for a shutout, and he's the first rookie goalie to accomplish that feat for the Blues.


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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues pull even with Sharks with 2-1 win

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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues pull even with Sharks with 2-1 win

The St. Louis Blues' two-goal first period powered them to a win over the San Jose Sharks, and the series is now tied.

The Blues started with a goal 35 seconds into the game. Ivan Barbashev picked off a Brent Burns exit pass and flung it towards the net for the games opening goal. 

Barbashev is the second Blues player to score in the first minute of a game these playoffs. Jaden Schwartz is the other player.

Tyler Bozak scored the game-winning goal for the Blues on a power play off a scramble in front of the net.

The Sharks responded when Thomas Hertl poked the puck past the goal line after Jordan Binnington thought he had the puck covered. Hertl now has 10 goals this postseason for the Sharks, and the team now features 10 or more players to score 10+ goals in the playoffs for the second time in franchise history.

Binnington's 29 save performance gave him his 10th win of the playoffs, the most of any Blues goaltender in franchise history.