Welcome to another edition of our Friday six-pack, where we answer the top six Capitals questions of the week. To participate, just tweet me a Caps question at @ChuckGormleyCSN. Let’s get started:
Will Beagle have as good a year as last year? - @averagecapsfan
Last season Caps center Jay Beagle put up career highs in goals (10), assists (10) and points (20) while splitting time between the Caps’ third and fourth lines and averaging 12:48 in ice time. This season he’s nailed down the No. 3 center spot and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, anchoring a unit with Jason Chimera on his left and Tom Wilson on his right. Beagle’s primary responsibilities this season have been killing penalties, winning faceoffs and shutting down opponents’ top lines. Heading into tonight’s night’s game in Edmonton (9 p.m., CSN) he has won 62.8 percent of his faceoffs, has helped the Caps kill off 15 of 18 penalties and is aplus-1 in his first six games. As for his scoring, he now has one goal and two assists after picking up a goal and an assist in Thursday night’s 3-2 win in Vancouver. Those numbers should increase as Beagle becomes more comfortable with his new linemates. If you’re asking if Beagle will produce more offense this season than last, I’d say anything more than last season would be a bonus. But if Beagle’s line can keep top lines off the scoresheet most nights the Caps will win a lot of games this season with the firepower they have on their top two lines.
what's your thoughts on #21 this year? A lot of money for a 4th liner. Will he step up or continue to take up cap space? - @MgregorioMike
Yes, Brooks Laich will make $4.5 million this year and next. And yes, that is a lot of money for a fourth-line player who enters tonight’s game without a point in his first six games. Through his first six games Laich’s average ice time of 11:51 is below the 14:43 he averaged last season and far below the 18:17 he averaged back in 2009-10 when he posted career highs in goals (25), assists (34) and points (59). Given his limited ice time it’s hard to see Laich providing the kind of offense that will move him up on the depth chart. That said, Capitals coach Barry Trotz said that if Laich performs well on the defensive side of the ice – he leads all Caps forwards in shorthanded ice time -- he will be rewarded with opportunities on the offensive end of the ice. Realistically, with the depth the Capitals added over the summer with the additions of T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams, Laich probably ranks 11th on the Caps’ forward depth chart, ahead of only Chandler Stephenson, Michael Latta and Stan Galiev. Because of that he’ll find it difficult to reach double figures in goals.
Q: With the surprising play of both Chorney & Stephenson, who might be on the outside looking in & HER bound? - @CapsYapp
Let’s start with Taylor Chorney. The Caps, especially assistant coach Todd Reirden, liked what they saw in Chorney during the Penguins’ first-round playoff loss to the New York Rangers last season, so I wouldn’t say his steady play early this season has been a surprise. I think the Capitals are trying to see if Chorney’s calmness and strong positioning is the perfect complement to defenseman Dmitry Orlov, who can freelance a little bit with his desire to make a big hit or jump up in the play. Orlov and Nate Schmidt were back together again Thursday night and both finished a plus-1, with Orlov starting the 2-on-1 that led to Evgeny Kuznetsov setting up Alex Ovechkin for the game-winner. If the Caps like what they see in Orlov and Schmidt, they’ll keep Chorney as their seventh defenseman. But if the Orlov-Schmidt pairing shows too many holes, you may see the Caps experimenting with Chorney alongside Schmidt. So, in a nutshell, I don’t see anyone on the Caps’ blue line being sent to Hershey any time soon.
The play of Chandler Stephenson will determine whether the Caps send one of their two extra forwards – Stan Galiev and Michael Latta – back to Hershey. Through his first four games Stephenson was used sparingly (9:00 of ice time) but did not look out of place at the NHL level. Since Trotz prefers to carry 13 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies, look for Galiev to be placed on waivers with the intent of sending him to Hershey, possibly when the Caps return from their Canadian road trip on Saturday. (I’m not sure how other NHL teams feel about Galiev, but there may be enough interest in him to be claimed). If Galiev clears waivers and is re-assigned, it would leave Stephenson and Latta to battle it out for the role of fourth-line center.
Will Kuzy continue to play on the 1st line? @KHwarrior
For now, yes. I like the chemistry Evgeny Kuznetsov has shown with Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie. But like everyone, including Barry Trotz, I’d like to see how Nicklas Backstrom would look on that top line and I wouldn’t mind getting a glimpse of Kuznetsov between wingers Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams. Since about the midway point of last season we have seen incredible strides in Kuznetsov’s game and at 23 I think the best is yet to come. Kuznetsov is an NHL star in the making and this may be the season everyone takes notice. Trotz certainly has, throwing this comparison out after last week’s win over the Blackhawks, in which he took the puck off Kris Versteeg to set up a goal by Ovechkin. “I talked to (Kuznetsov) a few days back about staying in the battle a little bit longer. That’s a good example of staying in the battle when he was hounding that guy. One of the best players in the world that I know Kuzy admires as a role model is Pavel Datsyuk and he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen doing that and Kuzy’s starting to add that to his game and that’s a real good thing he can add.” Kuznetsov once again showed off his passing skills by setting up Ovechkin’s game-winning one-timer Thursday night in Vancouver.Getting back to your question, I think it would only take a game or two of the top line going dry for Trotz to switch things up and flip-flop Kuznetsov and Backstrom.
Do you see Trotz making a change within the 3rd line anytime soon for more scoring (only 6 pts so far)? - @CapsYapp
Not necessarily. If the Caps’ top two lines keep producing three goals a game and the third line of Jay Beagle (1 goal, 2 assists), Jason Chimera (3 goals, 1 assist) and Tom Wilson (2 assists) can be even or better on the score sheet most nights, Trotz will keep things just the way they are. As I mentioned above, I see Beagle being a mainstay on that third line, but I could see Brooks Laich or Andre Burakovsky replacing Chimera or Wilson, and I could see Wilson and Justin Williams flipping places to give the Caps a fresh look.
@tom_wilso had 58 pts in 48 games in the ohl. Do you see this type of production coming soon in the nhl? – @Danilo4Sandoval
Not to the extent he showed in Plymouth, where he was a man among boys. But yes, I see Wilson’s offensive production (2 assists, zero penalty minutes) improving over the next few seasons. At some point in the very near future the Caps will showcase Wilson in the diamond spot on the power play, a place currently reserved for T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams. But with the Caps’ power play humming along so nicely with the current personnel it’s hard to justify a switch. Wilson spent the summer working on his puck-handling and shooting skills and if that third line keeps funneling pucks to the net Wilson’s points should start piling up. He can’t be fooled into thinking he’s a perimeter player, however, and if he can learn to hit the brakes in the goal crease he should be able to pick up at least five garbage goals a season.
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