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Friday Six-Pack: Why hasn't Ovi scored on the power play?

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Friday Six-Pack: Why hasn't Ovi scored on the power play?

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: 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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2018 NHL Draft: Caps add 7 prospects, 4 from WHL

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2018 NHL Draft: Caps add 7 prospects, 4 from WHL

The Caps made seven selections in the 2018 Draft this weekend. The group featured three defensemen, three forwards and a goalie. Interestingly, a couple of the picks have fathers who enjoyed lengthy NHL careers.

Meet the newest prospects:

1st round, 31st overall: D Alexander Alexeyev, WHL, 6'4", 196 pounds

The Caps' first first-round pick sine 2016, Alexeyev is a smart two-way defenseman with good size.

Read more on him here.

2nd round, 46th overall (from Florida, via New Jersey): D Martin Fehervary, Allsvenskan (Sweden), 6'2", 194 pounds

A physical style defenseman who is very strong in his own end, but does not have much offensive upside. Sort of a throwback style of play which makes him a surprise pick this high.


2nd round, 47th overall (From Colorado): F Kody Clark, OHL, 6'1", 179 pounds

Kody Clark boasts an NHL pedigree as the son of Wendel Clark, a first-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs who recorded 330 goals and 564 career points in 763 NHL games.


3rd round, 93rd overall: F Riley Sutter, WHL, 6'3", 203 pounds

Riley Sutter also boasts a strong NHL pedigree as the son of Run Sutter and nephew of Darryl Sutter.

Riley is a power forward who played alongside Caps prospect Garrett Pilon on the Everett Silvertips in the WHL and recorded 53 points in 68 games last season.


4th round, 124th overall: G Mitchell Gibson, NAHL, 6'1", 187 pounds

A Harvard commit, Gibson posted a 1.59 GAA and .935 save percentage in the NAHL last season.


6th round, 161st overall (from Vancouver): D Alex Kannok-Leipert, WHL, 5'11", 194 pounds

The Caps certainly saw something they liked in Kannok-Leipert as they traded up from 186 to get him. That pick, along with a sixth-round pick in 2019, went to Vancouver.


7th round, 217th overall: F Eric Florchuk, WHL, 6'2", 174 pounds

Florchuk was taken with the last pick of the draft.

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

DALLAS—The Caps are “really close” to signing star defenseman John Carlson to a long-term extension, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday night.

“We’re getting closer,” MacLellan said following the first round of the NHL Draft. “Hopefully we can get it done here over the next few days. We’re really close.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps cleared significant space under the salary cap ceiling by trading Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round draft pick (47th overall). 

That space will now be used to lock up Carlson, who could become the best defenseman on the open market if he were to reach it.

MacLellan met with Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, here on Thursday night.

MacLellan did not divulge any figures, but it’s expected that Carlson’s new contract could come in at eight years and $8 million per—or perhaps a bit more. 

He earned $4 million last season.

Carlson had a career year in 2017-18 and was critical during the Caps' run to the Stanley Cup. He led all defensemen in the regular season with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists). The 28-year-old also skated a career-high 24:47 per game.

MacLellan has long said that re-signing Carlson was the Caps’ top priority this offseason. And now it looks like that could happen within days, assuming the talks do not hit any snags.

“We’re going to do our best to sign John,” MacLellan said. “We’ve said it all along. We waited until the end of the year. We’ve had discussions. We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

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