Welcome to our Friday six-pack, where we address your most pressing questions on the Washington Capitals. Some good questions this week. Let’s get started:
@ChuckGormleyCSN Ovi has yet to post a PPG. How much of this is defensive adjustments, how much can be attributed to no Mike Green on point
— Jim Dean (@paprmanjim) November 6, 2015
It’s certainly unusual that after 12 games, each of Alex Ovechkin’s seven goals have come at even strength. Every coaching staff in the NHL game plans against stopping Ovechkin on the power play. You see it at every opposing morning skate, teams putting a player in Ovechkin’s favorite spot in the left circle, and making sure he is covered like a blanket. Yet over the past two seasons Ovi has led the league with 24 and 25 power-play goals. I don’t see much in the way of defensive adjustments from opposing teams and I don’t see any real problems with John Carlson getting pucks to Ovi’s sweet spot. (Carlson and Ovechkin practiced one-timers from the top of the left circle after practice today, much to the delight of their teammates and a smattering of fans along the glass). It should be noted that with the addition of T.J. Oshie, some of the power-play goal distribution will change this season. Through 12 games, Oshie and Carlson each have two power-play goals and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson and Matt Niskanen each have one. With those offensive weapons -- we saw Kuznetsov replace Johansson on the top unit Thursday night – Ovechkin’s power-play numbers may dip this season, but I don’t anticipate a prolonged slump on the man-advantage.
@ChuckGormleyCSN 9-88 are tilting the ice pretty well lately. Do you see two stars in the making?
— DaniloASandoval (@Danilo4Sandoval) November 6, 2015
I don’t know if I’d call them stars just yet, but you’re right. Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt are coming off perhaps their best game as a pair and bring a lot to the table in terms of speed and offensive upside. I asked Barry Trotz about them today. “Orlov is continuing to play at the level I think he exited before the (wrist) injury. He’s able to defend, making the right reads offensively and defensively and when you’re making good decisions with that skill set, that really makes the game pretty easy for everybody. I think Schmitty’s biggest assets are his legs. He’s using his legs to pressure, to create offense. He’s got a lot of jump in his step right now. He’s not watching the game, he’s playing the game.” According to Puckalytics.com, Orlov has a Corsi For percentage of 55.4 and Schmidt is at 51.6. Together they are at 62.3 percent. If both players can make the steps Todd Reirden thinks they can make this season the Caps should have a solid defensive six as they head toward the post-season.
— Shea Angus (@Sheangus) November 6, 2015
A lot can happen between now and the NHL’s Feb. 29 trade deadline, especially when it comes to injuries. Last season the Caps were remarkably healthy throughout most of the season and they’ve started this season the same way. The next three months should determine whether the Capitals need to address that third defense pairing or not. I like the progress Schmidt and Orlov have shown in the early part of this season and I think keeping them together will help stabilize both of them. The Caps seem to have found some good penalty kill pairs as well. One question that may need addressing is the fourth line. What kind of identity would Trotz like to have on that unit? Ideally, he says, he’d like it to be gritty and capable of playing in all three zones, like the Islanders’ fourth line of Matt Martin, Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas. If Justin Williams winds up on the Caps’ third line, they could have a gritty fourth unit of Tom Wilson, Michael Latta/Chandler Stephenson and Brooks Laich. But if a piece is missing that could make that line better, I could see the Caps addressing it in February, maybe at the center position.
@ChuckGormleyCSN is there some new rule about fighting this year? We haven't seen much this year.
— Ronnie (@MNMDkid) November 6, 2015
Nope. In fact, Michael Latta’s fight with Tyler Randell Thursday night was the Caps’ first of the season. Through the first month of the season fighting is down roughly 40 percent from last season at this time, with more than half the fights occurring in the opening period. The biggest reason is that on most nights, two teams do not employ one-dimensional players and the few that still exist are hesitant to put their teams at a disadvantage by taking instigator penalties. Some players, including Brooks Orpik, believes the game is better than ever without an excess of fisticuffs and while I like the occasional unscripted scrap, I agree.
— Vince Buggio (@DCSPOR7S4LIFE) November 6, 2015
No. Although I love the skill set Evgeny Kuznetsov brings to the table, I see him more as a setup guy than a finisher, especially if he stays with a pair of snipers like Ovechkin and Oshie. I’ve had scouts from other teams tell me they think Kuznetsov is very capable of putting up point-a-game numbers and with 14 points in 12 games (5 goals, 9 assists), he’s proving them right. At his current scoring pace, Kuznetsov would finish the season with 34 goals, 62 assists and 96 points. I think that’s unreasonable, but 30 goals and 50 assists are within reason. As for Ovi, he’s on pace for 52 goals and 52 assists for 104 points. I don’t see that pace continuing, but I do think 50 goals and 35-40 assists are attainable for Ovechkin.
@ChuckGormleyCSN too many good centers is a good problem, but how long do we keep Burakovsky relegated to the 4th line? He needs more TOI
— Fred Lamartin (@local_fredneck) November 6, 2015
I think the Andre Burakovsky at center experiment is over. Unless, of course, a center gets injured. Burakovsky saw some time on the Caps’ second line with Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson Thursday night and practiced there again on Friday. “I thought the skill sets of the players match. Justin has done a really good job in that role but I felt Bert’s (Burakovsky’s) skill set wasn’t being maximized with (Jay) Beagle and (Jason) Chimera," Trotz said. "They’re more of a three-man cycle versus a two-man, scissor cycle, where Bert is really good at cutbacks. It might not be permanent. It might be for just a game or two.”
MORE CAPITALS: Galiev sent to Hershey, Burakovsky moved onto all-Swede line