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End of season review: Brooks Laich

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End of season review: Brooks Laich

Throughout the coming weeks, CSNWashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley will evaluate the 2014-15 performance of each player on the Caps roster. One breakdown will occur every day in alphabetical order. Today: Brooks Laich

Position: Left wing/Center

Shoots: Left

Age: 31 [turns 32 June 23]

Ht/Wt: 6-2, 197

Games: 66

Goals: 7

Assists: 13

Points: 20

Penalty minutes: 24

Plus-Minus: Minus-2

Average Ice Time: 14:43

Playoff games: 14

Goals: 1

Assists: 1

Points: 2

Penalty minutes: 0

Plus-Minus: Plus-1

Average Ice Time: 11:56

Contract Status: 2 years remaining on 6-year, $27 million contract RFA [2015-16 salary: $4 million; cap hit: $4.5 million]

Strengths: When he was averaging more than 20 goals and close to 50 points a season from 2008-11, it was hard to imagine Laich anywhere but on the Caps’ top two lines. But after missing parts of two seasons with groin issues, Laich’s greatest contribution to the 2014-15 Capitals came on the penalty kill, where he led all Caps forwards with an average ice time of 1:44 while shorthanded.  Laich said he felt as strong physically as he has since first injuring his groin during the 2012 lockout. “I didn’t put one ice bag on my groin all year and that’s the truth,” Laich said. “I had no issues whatsoever with skating or with my groin.” Laich missed 15 of the Caps’ first 21 games with a shoulder injury but played in all but one game the remainder of the season, sitting out as a healthy scratch on March 3. He finished the season with seven goals, his lowest full-season output since his rookie season with the Caps.

Room for improvement: Quite frankly, the Capitals need more production from someone carrying a $4.5 million cap hit. Laich’s ice time dropped from 14:43 in the regular season, his lowest in seven years, to just 11:56 in the playoffs, also the lowest in his career and well off the 21:54 he logged in 2011.  By the end of the playoffs Laich was playing on a fourth line and killing penalties. For that to change, Laich will need to either change teams or improve on his offensive skills. Laich said he will spend this summer working on his stickhandling skills and his shot, which he hopes will result in a greater role offensively.

Memorable Moment: Laich’s only goal of the playoffs came in Game 5 against the Islanders. With the Caps clinging to a 2-1 lead early in the third period and looking  to take a 3-2 edge in the series, Laich looped around the New York net, fed Jason Chimera for a shot and pounced on the rebound, snapping a rising shot over Jaro Halak for a 3-1 lead. The Caps went on to win beat the Isles 5-1.

Quotable: “My neighbors were out there watching practice and two young girls came up to me and said they need to do some community service for health class and they asked me if they could shovel my driveway.  You tell me I don’t love playing in this city?” – Laich on March 4 after sitting out a game as a healthy scratch

2015-16 Expectations: Don’t be surprised if Laich’s name comes up in trade talks around the NHL draft later this month. The Caps are looking to move salary in an effort to sign their restricted and unrestricted free agents, along with acquiring a top-line right wing, and Laich could draw some interest from a young team looking for leadership. If Laich returns, Barry Trotz will want more offense out of the soon-to-be 32-year-old forward. Twenty goals and 50 points might be a stretch, but 15 and 40 should be attainable.

 

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

It's almost here.

After a lengthy break between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are set to meet on Monday for Game 1.

Who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir give their keys to the series and their predictions for the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, JJ speaks with several member from the local media to get their insights and predictions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?

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