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Did MacLellan do enough at trade deadline?

Did MacLellan do enough at trade deadline?

In a wide-ranging interview with reporters on Monday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan addressed a variety of topics, from the team being “angry” and “agitated” about their second-round exit from the playoffs to the need to having better forward depth.

In Part Two, MacLellan discusses his trade deadline decisions, the future of Jason Chimera and the NHL’s playoff format:

RELATED: Interview with Brian MacLellan, part 1

On his decision to add Mike Richards through free agency and Daniel Winnik at the NHL trade deadline:

We tried to reconfigure that top six on the run here, with (Mike)Richards and adding (Daniel) Winnik and the priority for us was to solidify our penalty kill. (T.J.) Oshie was killing penalties, (Justin) Williams was killing penalties and (Nicklas) Backstrom was killing penalties. There’s a lot of energy that goes into that, so we filled that hole in the bottom six with some good guys. Winnik did a great job for us penalty killing. Richards did a good job. And then it’s good to have that, but you still need a little offense from your bottom six I think.

On his summer wish list:

I’m pretty content with the core. I think the 9th, 10th forward are where we’re going to look to improve.

On if he regrets not being more aggressive at the trade deadline, when he picked up Winnik and defenseman Mike Weber:

I don’t know that that type of player was out there. We were restricted because we had a contract situation (Brooks Laich), and most of our conversations were based on taking a contract back to add a guy. And I mean, sometimes the timing doesn’t work out as far as getting that contract out, it doesn’t align with conversations you have, trying to trade for players, and that was the case this year. I mean, we had some conversations of guys we had interest in, as long as they would take the one contract back, and teams weren’t interested, and then we finally traded the contract and it didn’t line up perfectly, timing wise. I mean, we did try to address it.

On the chances of Jason Chimera re-signing with the Capitals as an unrestricted free agent:

Yeah, there’s a chance. I mean, I think our priorities are going to be our restricted guys. I think everything will fall into place off of that, depending on what level of salary we need to get our guys signed and what do we have left and what his contract demands are. I mean, we’re going to have to weigh all those options out, and what the free agent market’s going to look like, too, we think, salary-wise. We’re going to have to balance all those things out, whether we bring him back or not.

On if he thinks the Capitals need to get faster:

I think speed needs to be a factor for us considering any players. Overall, I don’t think we’re a slow team, but I think at times, we get exposed with the really fast teams. Dallas, Pittsburgh, we did struggle sometimes with the pace of the game. I don’t think all of the time. I think sometimes I see it more as we don’t enforce our style of play on the speed team. We sit back and let them do the speed game. The Pittsburgh series,  I think at times their speed took over, and then at times, we took over with a physical, pressure style, physical strength style of play. It went back and forth quite a bit. I think it’s on us, the style we want to play, upon the speed teams, so while speed is a factor, I think we need to enforce the way we want to play on teams, and more consistently.

On speed along the Capitals’ blue line:  

“Ideally, you’d like to have a balance. For me, I try to give the coaches as many options as we can. That’s part of what trading for Weber was. I mean, did we need a higher caliber defenseman? Maybe. But it was difficult to trade those off because you’re going to bring in a guy that’s going to jump in front of Schmitty (Nate Schmidt) and jump in front of (Dmitry) Orlov and jump in front of (Brooks) Orpik.

Or do you just try and protect your depth with a physical, stay-at-home, net-front presence guy for when you play teams like Philly or play teams like the Islanders? I mean, I felt we had Schmitty, we’ve had Orlov, we had (Aaron) Ness in the minors, skating, puck-moving guys. You just try to cover the bases for the coaches, so if they needed to add that element or they felt they needed to add that element, then they could.

On the play of Nate Schmidt and Dmitry Orlov in the post-season:

The level of play in the (regular season) is different than the playoffs. I think they got exposed at times, just like the young defensemen on Pittsburgh did, too. I think it’s important for us to know that our guys made a few mistakes that resulted in goals, but so did their guys. You know, there’s turnovers on both sides. (Brian) Dumoulin turned over a puck. (Derrick) Pouliot turned over a puck that resulted in goals.

They had guys making mistakes, just like our guys were making mistakes. It’s not just, let’s hold our guys accountable. Schmitty did a good job during the year filling in at top four.

I think the issue becomes there’s not much room for error in the playoffs, and when you make a mistake, it gets magnified and the confidence of the player gets shaken a little bit. I think with both Schmitty and Orlov, you see them – they wavered a little bit and became less offensive, less willing to join the rush, less their style of play and more conservative. I think it hurt them in the long run. I know we were well aware of it. I think it’s a process that young guys need to go through. Basically, it was the first year in the playoffs for them, you know? Orlov missed a year. Schmitty, this is his first full year. I think we’ll take that into consideration as we’re evaluating them. We’ve just got to get them to the next level.

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5 fun facts you may not have known about new Capital Ilya Kovalchuk

5 fun facts you may not have known about new Capital Ilya Kovalchuk

On Sunday, the Capitals traded for Ilya Kovalchuk making him the newest player on the team and perhaps the last piece to what Brian MacLellan is hoping will be a championship roster.

Kovalchuk should be a familiar name for most hockey fans considering he was a superstar player in his prime, but here are five fun facts you may not know about the Capitals’ newest forward.

Reirden and Kovalchuk were teammates in Atlanta

Before he was an NHL coach, Reirden had a journeyman’s NHL career with stops in Edmonton, St. Louis, Atlanta and Phoenix. His one season in Atlanta came in 2001-02, which was Kovalchuk’s rookie season.

"He was very underrated I think,” Kovalchuk said of Reirden. “He had big shots, scored some goals, but I think he was more a stay-home defenseman, but great off the ice. We spent a lot of time together on the road and he teach me some English, I teach him some Russian. I think he knows more than I expect, Russian words.”

It may have only been one season, but Kovalchuk and Reirden hit it off. Reirden credits the very little Russian he knows to the time he spent with Kovalchuk that year. He even had him and fellow teammate, Dany Heatley, over for Thanksgiving that year.

“[Kovalchuk] was the one that we first started on the word exchange,” Reirden said. “Obviously now his English is perfect and my Russian still is not perfect. That was when I was realized, I was a sixth, seventh defenseman on the Atlanta Thrashers and our team wasn't very good. We got to Thanksgiving time and I didn't feel like enough time was being spent with those players to help them get ready to play in the NHL. So I remember Thanksgiving having both of them over to my house and my wife cooking a Thanksgiving meal for them. So that was the first time we really started to connect.”

Kovalchuk is on the cap for four different teams

As part of the trade that brought him to Washington, Montreal agreed to retain half of Kovalchuk’s salary. That means he is counting $350,000 against the cap for both teams. In addition, Kovalchuk is still on the books in Los Angeles for $6.25 million for both this year and next after his contract was terminated. And, though it feels like a long time ago at this point, Kovalchuk continues to count against the cap for the New Jersey Devils. That massive 15-year contract that Kovalchuk signed in 2010 will continue to cost the Devils $250,000 in cap recapture penalty through the 2024-25 season.

Kovalchuk is an Olympic gold medalist

Alex Ovechkin has a Cup, but Kovalchuk has something that Ovechkin does not and that is an Olympic gold medal. Since the NHL chose not to participate in the 2018 Olympics, Ovechkin was not able to suit up for the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) team. Kovalchuk at that time was playing in the KHL so he was free to represent his country, or at least he was free to play for a team of a bunch of people from the same country but who definitely weren't representing that country...or something like that. The OAR team went on to win gold, the first for Russia since the country participated as the Unified Team in 1992 with all the countries that made up the Soviet Union.

Kovalchuk has two different-colored eyes

Move over, Max Scherzer. You’re not the only athlete with different color eyes.

Heterochromia iridium is the condition in which one eye is a different color from the other. Scherzer has it and so does Kovalchuk.

Many of you out there are trying to Google a picture of Kovalchuk right now or are wondering how you never noticed this before. The reasons is because Kovalchuk’s heterochromia is much more subtle than Scherzer’s. Instead of having two completely different eye colors like Scherzer has with one brown and one blue, Kovalchuk’s eyes are light brown and dark brown. Most people wouldn’t notice unless you stood close to him or got a very up-close picture.

The Caps are one of two teams with two of the top-five active goal scorers on the roster

Ovechkin obviously has the most goals among all active players with 701. In Kovalchuk, the Caps added the No. 4 active scorer with 442 career NHL goals. Only one other team in the league can boast having two of the top five and, of course, that team is the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Sidney Crosby is third among active players with 459 goals and he is now teammates with Patrick Marleau, who was acquired in a deadline trade. With 561 goals, Marleau is second only to Ovechkin.

That’s a lot of goals between those four players. Ovechkin and Kovalchuk have a total of 1,143 goals with Crosby and Marleau combining for 1,020.

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Not enough grit and not enough power from Capitals in Winnipeg

Not enough grit and not enough power from Capitals in Winnipeg

The Capitals were shutout for the first time since Dec. 16 as they failed to build off their two-game win streak. Connor Hellebuyck was tough to beat, but did the Caps do enough to get to him?

Check out a recap of the game here.

Observations from the loss

This team has to play physically to win

If you want to know the importance of physical play, compare this game to the last few the Caps have played. The Caps did not dictate the physical play in this game nearly as much as they had in their last two wins and it was very noticeable. You have to take the "hit totals" with a grain of salt because it varies from building to building, but in this game the Caps out-hit Winnipeg 17-16. On Tuesday, Washington led in hits 25-17. In Tuesday's win, the Caps used the physical play to dictate the game as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead. They just did not do that at all on Thursday.

Make life difficult for the goalie

Give all the credit in the world to Hellebuyck, he was great. He was on his game and seeing the puck really well. When that happens, the Caps have got to make life more difficult for him. It felt like there was not enough traffic in front of Hellebuyck and not enough battling to win rebounds. It was going to take an ugly goal to beat him and it looked like the Caps could not deliver that. You can't always win with skill, sometimes you have to get dirty.

Turning point

Down 1-0 late in the second period, Washington got its first power play of the game when Neal Pionk was called for hooking Alex Ovechkin. Just three seconds after Pionk's penalty expired, Anthony Bitetto was caught hooking Ilya Kovalchuk giving the Caps almost four continuous minutes of power play time. Washington could not take advantage and suddenly when the team headed into the locker room it was clear Hellebuyck was going to be tough to beat.

Play of the game

Hellebuyck was great, but the save of the night came from Ilya Samsonov when he denied Jack Roslovic with the toe.

Stat of the game

Hellebuyck's performance overshadowed what Samsonov was able to do, but he had a solid night overall as well.

Quote of the game

Considering all the talent on this roster, it is always staggering when the Caps get shut out. It happens to everyone, the league is really good and really tough, but it is still surprising. The players feel the same way.


Fan predictions

You got the one from Dmitry Kulikov, but that was it.

The dream was over 23 seconds into the game as Patrik Laine took a puck off the heel and was forced to leave the game.

He got really close from the Ovechkin spot on the power play.

They have to score to do that.

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