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Do Caps have what it takes to bounce back?

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Do Caps have what it takes to bounce back?

The numbers are daunting for a reason. Since 2000, NHL teams that have lost a playoff game of three or more overtimes have gone 5-11 in those series.

Caps fans are all too familiar with that storyline. Twice in their history theyve lost quadruple overtime games and have lost both series.

But people around these Capitals feel differently about this team. Maybe its because they fought so hard to get into the playoffs. Maybe its because nine of their 10 games have been decided by one goal and five have been decided in overtime.

We had to play some tough hockey to get into the playoffs, Dale Hunter said Thursday, less than 12 hours after his team dropped a gut-wrenching 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers in triple overtime.

Playing playoff hockey you have to bounce back and be tough during the game if something happens on the ice. You go down a goal like last night, you just keep battling and good things will happen.

Capitals associate goaltending coach Olie Kolzig said he sees a different mental toughness in these Capitals than hes seen in the teams that failed to get past the second round in each of the previous four post-seasons. And although the Capitals trail the best-of-seven series 2-1, he hardly sees the deficit as insurmountable.

I think the guys have finally bought into Dales type of hockey and theyre realizing what hes been trying to emphasize throughout the year is finally paying off now in the playoffs, Kolzig said. The guys are rising to the occasion. The way they battled against Boston and to go win three games out of four in that building, including Game 7, that says a lot.

The adversity that we faced this year, as opposed to the last two years where we basically solidified a playoff spot in January and kind of cruised into the playoffs, this year we had to scratch and claw.

You see it year in and year out, teams like Philly a few years ago in 2010, they make it on a last minute shootout goal and they go to the finals, Edmonton in 2006, they make it on the last day and they go to the finals against Carolina. So those teams that battle right to the end, if you can stay healthy, then youre going to have the edge over teams that solidified a spot two months in advance and I think thats what were experiencing.

So I dont think that were going to be as down as maybe some other teams would be after a game like that.

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

On Friday, the Capitals shipped out Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to clear space on the salary cap for John Carlson's massive contract extension.

On Sunday night, Carlson signed on the dotted line. 

The 28-year-old became the latest core Cap to sign a long-term deal, inking an eight-year extension that will carry an $8 million average salary. 

His cap hit is now the second highest on the team—behind Ovechkin’s $9.538 million charge and just ahead of Kuznetsov’s $7.8 million hit.

With Carlson locked up, the defending Stanley Cup champion now has the majority of its core signed through at least the 2019-20 season. Among the players with at least two years remaining on their deals are forwards Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nickas Backstrom and Lars Eller, defensemen Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Braden Holtby.

The Carlson news did not come as a surprise.

The Caps wanted to keep him. Carlson, who makes his offseason home Washington, wanted to stay with the club that drafted him 27th overall in 2008. And on Friday night in Dallas, GM Brian MacLellan all but guaranteed that a deal was going to happen when he said, “We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

It ended up taking a little more than 24 hours, but in the end MacLellan got his D-man.

“John has been an exceptional and consistent player for our franchise and has blossomed into being one of the top defensemen in the NHL,” said MacLellan in a statement on Sunday. “Defenseman like John are a rare commodity in our League and, at 28 years of age, we feel he is just entering his prime.”

Indeed, Carlson notched a career-high 15 goals and 53 assists last season, and his 68 points led all NHL defensemen. He also became the eighth defensemen in Caps’ history to record 60 points in a season and the first since Mike Green accomplished the feat in 2009-10. Meanwhile, Carlson’s average ice time (24:47) also marked a career high.

“As a right-handed defenseman, John plays in all key situations and has contributed greatly to our team’s success on the special teams,” MacLellan added. “We are pleased for both parties to have come to an agreement and for him to continue his great career as a Washington Capital.”

With Carlson under contract, the Caps now have a little more than $13 million in cap space underneath the $79.5 million ceiling, according to www.capfiendly.com. Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson and Jakub Jerabek are all unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

Carlson’s signing kicks off a big week for MacLellan.

In addition to negotiating with the free agents he hopes to retain, he’s expected to have a formal interview with associate coach Todd Reirden, who is the leading candidate to replace Barry Trotz as head coach.

So buckle up, there figure to be a few more important announcements in the coming days.

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.

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