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Capitals blue line braces for life without Green

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Capitals blue line braces for life without Green

With players starting to trickle into Kettler Capitals Iceplex from all corners of the world, we’re spending this week looking at the Capitals’ depth chart at each position and what we can expect heading into what promises to be a very interesting 2015-16 season. Today, we’ll analyze the Caps’ defensive depth:

John Carlson

Age: 25

Games: 82

Goals: 12

Assists: 43

Points: 55

Plus-minus: Plus-11

Penalty minutes: 28

Power play goals: 3

Shorthanded goals: 1

Game-winning goals: 3

Average ice time: 23:04

Shorthanded time on ice: 2:57

Power play time on ice: 1:44

Blocked shots: 200

2015-16 cap hit: $3.96 million

Analysis: Without question, Carlson is coming off the best all-around season of his six-year NHL career. He established career highs in goals, assists and points while finishing third in the NHL in blocked shots (200). Credit Carlson for his long hours spent with Caps assistant coach Todd Reirden, who helped him fine-tune the little things in his game, like retrieving pucks off the wall and getting shots through traffic while off-balance.

Projection: Carlson will return to a top pairing with Brooks Orpik and look to improve on a very strong 82-game season, his fifth straight season of playing every game for the Capitals. With Mike Green now in Detroit, look for Carlson to work more closely with Alex Ovechkin on the power play and build on his assist totals. With the players around him, 15 goals and 50 assists are within Carlson’s reach.

Brooks Orpik

Age: 34

Games: 78

Goals: 0

Assists: 19

Points: 19

Plus-minus: Plus-5

Penalty minutes: 66

Average ice time: 21:47

Shorthanded ice time: 2:47

Hits: 306

Blocked shots: 192

2015-16 cap hit: $5.5 million

Analysis: On the ice and off, Orpik gave the Caps everything they expected when they signed him to a five-year, $27.5 million contract last summer. A warrior on the ice and in the weight room, he provided the stay-at-home, hard-hitting blue liner the Caps have lacked for years. Because of his dedication to diet and training, Orpik has shown no deterioration in his game and should be able to handle top-unit minutes for at least another season.

Projection: Still looking for his first goal in a Capitals uniform, Orpik is well overdue to eclipse last season’s total. He reportedly is recovering well from offseason wrist surgery and is on target to begin training camp with no restrictions. The Caps will need another big season from Orpik if they hope to crack the safe on an elusive championship.

RELATED: What will Backstrom's absence mean for Burakovsky?

Matt Niskanen

Age: 28

Games: 82

Goals: 4

Assists: 27

Points: 31

Plus-minus: Plus-7

Penalty minutes: 47

Average ice time: 22:21

Power play ice time: 1:03

Shorthanded ice time: 2:17

Hits: 143

2015-16 cap hit: $5.75 million     

Analysis: Feel free to flip-flop Niskanen and Orpik on the Caps’ defensive depth chart. Both provide different but valuable assets to the Caps’ blue line. While Niskanen’s numbers dropped from his last season in Pittsburgh (career highs of 10 goals, 36 assists, plus-33) to his first season in Washington, he led the Caps in even strength time on ice at 19 minutes and was an excellent first-pass complement to Karl Alzner on the Caps’ second pairing.

Projection: With Mike Green gone, look for Niskanen to see more power-play time and look for those offensive totals to climb closer to the numbers he put up with the Penguins two seasons ago. Eight goals, 35 assists and a plus-15 ratio seems more than attainable for the eight-year NHLer.

Karl Alzner

Age: 26

Games: 82

Goals: 5

Assists: 16

Points: 21

Plus-minus: Plus-14

Penalty minutes: 20

Average ice time: 19:25

Shorthanded ice time: 2:11

Blocked shots: 165

2015-16 cap hit: $2.8 million

Analysis: It’s fair to say Alzner did more with less last season. His average ice time of 19:25 was his lowest in five seasons but he still managed a career high in goals (5), points (21) and plus-minus (plus-14). A steady and reliable veteran who plays his position well, Alzner is capable of using his heavy shot more often and could be a little meaner in front of and behind the net and in the corners.

Projection: Alzner does enough things well that it’s hard to notice him for long stretches of a game. He is still young enough to make the subtle improvements in his game that Carlson made last season.

Dmitry Orlov

Age: 24

Games: 0

2015-16 cap hit: $2 million

Analysis: It wouldn’t be a stretch to say Orlov spent more time practicing last season than Allen Iverson has his entire life. After suffering a broken wrist with Russia in the 2014 World Championships, Orlov sat out all of last season as he tried to regain strength in his hand and wrist. Orlov has been working out at Kettler and appears to be ready to return to the dynamic player he was back in 2011-12, when he recorded three goals, 14 assists and averaged close to 17 minutes a game as a rookie.

Projection: Last summer, Reirden called Orlov the “X-factor” on the Caps’ blue line, but never got to see him in game action. Now in the final year of his contract, Orlov has the ability to draw fans out of their seats with his offensive instincts and open-ice hits. The wrist surgery may have taken some velocity off his shot, but if Orlov can stay healthy, he’s a solid No. 5 defenseman.

Nate Schmidt

Age: 24

Games: 39

Goals: 1

Assists: 3

Points: 4

Plus-minus: Minus-2

Penalty minutes: 10

Average ice time: 13:53

2015-16 cap hit: $812,500

Analysis: If not for a broken shoulder blade sustained in a rehab stint with the Hershey Bears, Schmidt might have played most of the 2014-15 season in Washington. His injury forced the Caps to add some defensive depth (Tim Gleason) at the trade deadline, keeping Schmidt in the minors, where he finished with three goals and six assists in 19 games with the Bears.

Projection: An excellent first-pass defenseman who can stretch opposing defenses, Schmidt needs to prove he can handle the physical grind of a full NHL season. Playing alongside the heavy-hitting Orlov would help, but the duo would need to limit their risk-taking for Barry Trotz to keep them together.

Taylor Chorney

Age: 28

Games: 62 (AHL)

Goals: 4

Assists: 15

Points: 19

Plus-minus: Plus-26

Penalty minutes: 42

Power play goals: 3

2015-16 cap hit: $700,000

Analysis: Chorney’s history with Todd Reirden in Pittsburgh likely had something to do with the Caps signing him to a one-year, one-way deal on July 1. Considered a solid positional player, Chorney is expected to serve as insurance in the event Orlov’s wrist does not respond to game action.

Projection: Chorney’s NHL experience is limited to 68 games over five NHL seasons, so don’t expect big things from him in his first stint with the Capitals. In fact, look for Connor Carrick, 21, and Madison Bowey, 20, to challenge Chorney for a roster spot with the Capitals at some point this season.

MORE CAPS: LW lock: Ovechkin missing only one thing on his resume

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Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

LAS VEGAS—Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom weren’t expecting to lose their head coach less than two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup.

But business is business, Ovi said, and Barry Trotz is handling his by attempting to capitalize on claiming the championship.

“It’s sad,” Ovechkin said on the red carpet at the NHL Awards, where he accepted his seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy on Wednesday night. “Obviously, we won together.”

The Caps’ captain also thanked Trotz for directing him—and his teammates—to new heights.  

“First of all, [I want to] thank him for a great job to be our coach, to be our dad, to give us a chance to win,” Ovechkin said. “But then again, it’s a business. You never know what’s going to happen. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be fine and I wish him luck.”

Backstrom, meanwhile, said he was caught off guard by Trotz’s decision to step down over a contract stalemate with the team. Trotz asked for $5 million per for five seasons; the Caps balked over the terms Trotz’s camp sought.   

“I was a little surprised, obviously,” Backstrom said. “I heard the scenario.”

Like Ovechkin, though, Backstrom praised the job Trotz did during his four-year tenure.

“He’s done a great job in Washington,” Backstrom said. “We obviously have him to thank for a lot. He’s done a tremendous job of schooling us and winning a championship. No one is going to take that away from him.”

Trotz’s next move is unclear, but he’s a free agent and currently eligible to negotiate with any team. The Islanders are the only team with an opening for a head coach.

As for Washington, GM Brian MacLellan said that associate coach Todd Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz.

Ovechkin said he thinks Reirden would be a good fit.

“We all respect Todd,” Ovechkin said. “We all like him. Again, it’s not our thing to say who’s going to be head coach, but if it’s going to be Todd, it’s going to be fun.”

MORE CAPITALS COVERAGE:

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A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

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Daniel Duffy on Twitter/@RealArtOfWords

A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

How do you make a photo of Alex Ovechkin hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time even more memorable?

You make it out of all the Capitals' game scores this year, of course.

Capitals fan and artist Daniel Duffy (@RealArtOfWords) posted a phenomenal finished piece commemorating the Cup win on Wednesday, June 20. It's a little meta and astounding to look at, but very fun to try and read. If you want to relive the glory that was the parts of the 2017-18 Capitals season, check out the piece.

The piece, which appears to be done in a traditional medium like pen or marker, holds the team faced, arena played at, and final score of every game. It uses six colors and over sixty lines of text. Ovechkin roars as he holds the Stanley Cup overhead, the white away jersey shaded with bits of grey text. It takes a skilled eye to sort text and colors into shapes and shading, but Daniel did a fantastic job! It's awesome to see a fanbase create different interpretations of iconic moments. We'll surely see more of Ovechkin in this moment.

Just as we thought we were going to get tired of the celebration, fans find new ways to surprise us. Stay creative, Caps fans!

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