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Five things Caps can learn from Kings

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Five things Caps can learn from Kings

OK, so another NHL season has come and gone without a Stanley Cup parade through the streets of D.C.

The Capitals flirted with our imaginations and with the Penguins, Flyers and Bruins ousted, the door was wide open for them to come out of the East.

But be honest with yourself. Was anyone going to beat the Kings in these playoffs? Not the way Jonathan Quick was plucking pucks out of thin air.

The eighth-seeded Kings proved once again that the regular season means very little in the NHL. Back in mid February the Kings were a 50-to-1 shot to win the Stanley Cup, which means a 400 bet would have won you 20,000.

Here are five things the Capitals can learn from the Stanley Cup champs:

1. Grow your own. Of the 21 players who dressed for the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final, 10 were drafted by the Kings, including captain Dustin Brown, top-line center Anze Kopitar, top defenseman Drew Doughty and Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick.

Of the 23 players who dressed for the Capitals in the 2012 playoffs, 12 were drafted by the organization, including star forwards Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, the top defensive pair of Karl Alzner and John Carlson and goaltenders Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth.

2. Make bold trades. Kings general manager Dean Lombardi made some bold moves to build a Stanley Cup champion, giving up some of his teams top prospects and draft picks to acquire Mike Richards from the Flyers, Dustin Penner from the Oilers and Jeff Carter from the Blue Jackets.

Capitals general manager George McPhee tried to strengthen his roster last summer by trading for Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward and Tomas Vokoun. Brouwer provided the most punch and Vokouns injury opened the door for Holtby. Will McPhee be daring enough to trade a prospect the rights to Evgeny Kuznetsov, perhaps? and one of his first-round picks for an impact defenseman or top-line forward?

3. Quick fix. Its proven almost every year with the possible exception of Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi in 2010 -- that you cant win a a Cup without a stud between the pipes. Jonathan Quick was absolutely incredible in the playoffs with a 1.41 GAA, .946 save percentage and 16-4 record.

The Capitals believe theyve found a goalie who can do the same. Holtby went 7-7 in the playoffs with a 1.95 GAA and .935 save percentage. He appears to have the mindset to be just as good next spring.

4. Manage your stars. With Kopitar, Brown, Richards, Carter and Doughty, the Kings had plenty of star power and it was coach Darryl Sutters job to distribute ice time accordingly. Sutter pushed all the right buttons and had his team playing unselfishly the entire post-season.

The Capitals have one of the biggest stars in the NHL in Alex Ovechkin but the big guy failed to dominate in the playoffs and seemed unhappy with the amount of ice time he saw down the stretch and in the post-season. The Capitals new coach will need to find a way to keep Ovechkin happy and productive while increasing his defensive reliability. Many believe Devils assistant coach Adam Oates could have the same success with Ovechkin as he did with Ilya Kovalchuk.

5. Stud on the back end. It seems every Stanley Cup winner has a stud defenseman Drew Doughty, Zdeno Chara, Duncan Keith, Chris Pronger, etc. who can simply shut a game down. Doughty was by far the best defenseman on the ice in the Stanley Cup Final, logging more than 26 minutes a game in the playoffs.

If there is one ingredient the Capitals lack it is that snarly blue liner who can make other teams pay when they enter the offensive zone. The biggest goal of the offseason is acquiring that player through a trade, free-agent signing or the draft.

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo may have won the American Century Championships celebrity golf tournament this weekend, but T.J. Oshie definitely had the most fun.

Using the Modified Stableford scoring format for the tournament — which included several pro and retired athletes, such as Steph Curry, Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Charles Barkley and Joe Pavelski — Oshie finished with 11 points, tying for 48th with NFL Hall of Famer Tim Brown and Golf Channel host Lisa Cornwell. 

But the Capitals' winger's score didn't really matter because Oshie was out on the Lake Tahoe golf course in Nevada just having fun with his family and continuing the epic celebration as a new Stanley Cup champion. Obviously, that meant playing and chugging a beer through his t-shirt as 'We Are The Champions' played.

His brother, Taylor, was his caddy, and at one point, Oshie borrowed his brother's beer helmet while putting. He sunk it, and it was amazing.

Yeah, Oshie had a great weekend. Here's a look at some other moments from his weekend on Lake Tahoe.

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Key Caps questions: How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

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Key Caps questions: How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: How will the Caps look different under new head coach Todd Reirden?

Tarik: It’s an important topic, but let’s not overthink this one. Since winning the Stanley Cup on June 7, the organization has pretty much telegraphed EXACTLY what it hopes will occur in 2018-19. Consider:

  • Todd Reirden was promoted after spending four years as Barry Trotz’s assistant, including the last two years as an associate coach with an expanded role. Reirden already knows everyone, from the players to the trainers and other support staff. He knows what buttons to push and when to push them. There’s a built-in comfort level and trust that should allow everyone to hit the ground running in September.
  • Four of Reirden’s assistants are holdovers, too. The one newcomer, Reid Cashman, is joining the group from Hershey and is a Reirden disciple. So, no adjustment period there, either.
  • Assuming restricted free agent Tom Wilson re-ups (and that would seem to be a very safe assumption), the Caps are bringing back 11 of the 12 forwards that were on the ice for Game 5 in Las Vegas. They’re also bringing back five of six defensemen. And the starting goaltender. Chemistry is a hard thing to explain and/or quantify. But you know when a team has it. And the Caps had it at the end of last year.

So if you look at what GM Brian MacLellan has been doing in recent weeks—and have been listening to what Reirden has been saying publicly—you can only come to one conclusion. The decision-makers feel they discovered the right mix of personnel and systems play at the end of the playoffs, from the defensive structure to special teams. In fact, they were first in goals per game, second-best on the power play and the fourth stingiest team in the postseason.

“Many of my [philosophies] were involved in how we were going to play, how our team was going to look, the identity that we had,” Reirden said on The Junkies recently, referring to last year’s game plan. “So, from a systems standpoint, I would say not much is going to change, at least initially, just because it seemed to work. …You’ll see much of the same.”

That doesn’t mean Reirden won’t make adjustments. He will because he’ll have to over the course of an 82-game regular season and, hopefully, another long postseason run. But it does underscore the fact that the foundation upon on which last year’s championship team was built is going to look awfully familiar. And that's clearly by design.

JJ:  The message from the Caps ever since Reirden was promoted to head coach has been one of consistency as they try to make a seamless transition to the new head coach. In that sense, we probably won't see many changes at all to start the season.

The Capitals just won the Stanley Cup and general manager Brian MacLellan worked to bring almost the exact same roster back for next season. Coming into the locker room saying there's a new sheriff in town and making drastic changes is not the way to go here

But that doesn't mean Reirden will do things the same way.

Reirden has coached at the college, AHL and NHL level. He has seen firsthand how Dan Bylsma won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins and how Trotz did it in Washington. He also saw what didn't work.

Reirden got to this point by developing relationships with the players. He is much more of a players' coach than Trotz and that will be evident in training camp. I also expect there will be a much greater emphasis on development. Trotz famously said to the media that the NHL was not a development league, but a performance league. I expect Reirden to take a different approach.

After failing to win with veteran-laden teams, the Caps finally hoisted the Cup last season after getting significant contributions from young prospects such as Jakub Vrana, Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey. Like it or not, the Caps' core will not last forever. Every year those players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson get another year older. I do not believe a coach who is as good at reaching players and developing them as Reirden is will be quite as reluctant to reach down onto the farm and sprinkle youth throughout his lineup whenever the team needs a spark.

It should not be lost on anyone that one of Reirden's new assistant coaches this year will be Reid Cashman, promoted from being an assistant with the Hershey Bears in the AHL. This is all good news for players like Lucas Johansen, Jonas Siegenthaler and Connor Hobbs, the team's three best defensive prospects who are hoping to have an impact at the NHL level sooner rather than later. The Caps roster is pretty loaded, but at the very least you can expect Reirden to have a hand in helping those players along at training camp.

Ultimately, the product on the ice is going to look almost exactly the same at the start of the season with the biggest changes coming off the ice. We won't see who Reirden is as an NHL coach, however, until we let the full 82-game season play out.

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