Quick Links

With Gleason hurting, are lineup changes coming?


With Gleason hurting, are lineup changes coming?

Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Capitals spend today pondering how they frittered away a 3-1 series lead against the New York Rangers, setting the stage for Wednesday night’s Game 7 showdown at Madison Square Garden:

Gleason questionable? Caps defenseman Tim Gleason took two trips to the trainer’s room after getting tied up with Rangers forward Dominic Moore in Game 6 Sunday night, finishing with just 8:10 of ice time. With the Capitals recalling Nate Schmidt from the Hershey Bears on Monday, Gleason’s status for Game 7 in New York looks to be in doubt.

Schmidt, 23, has three goals and five assists in seven Calder Cup playoff games with the Bears. In 39 games with the Caps this season, mostly on a third defense pairing with Mike Green, Schmidt recorded one goal and three assists.

Meanwhile, Trotz said center Eric Fehr, sidelined since April 19 with an upper body injury, is “probably unlikely” for Game 7, which leaves center Michael Latta the only possibility to enter the series in Game 7. Latta has not played since Game 6 of the Islanders series.  

What else did Ovi say?Buried under all of the attention Ovechkin received for his Game 7 “guarantee” was a juicy little quote about how the Rangers’ defensemen don’t like getting hit by the Caps, who have delivered 206 hits in the first six games of the series, compared to 188 for the Rangers.

But did Ovechkin say the Rangers’ defensemen are “afraid” of being hit or “fade” because they are getting hit? It’s tough to say, since Ovechkin speaks in broken English. But the meaning is the same.

“You can see they don’t want to play that game,” Ovechkin said. “We knew that. As soon as we put the puck deep and hit their D they fade [or afraid] because we’re big and strong. You see how we score goals. We put bodies in front of Lundqvist and it goes in.”

New line combinations: After falling behind 1-0 just 40 seconds into Sunday night’s 4-3 loss, Caps coach Barry Trotz rearranged his top three forward lines before finally finding one that worked.  Left wing Jason Chimera, center Evgeny Kuznetsov and right wing Joel Ward combined for three goals and four assists in the loss and is likely to stay together for Game 7.

“I went to Plan B real quick and we kept moving people around and we found something that worked that game,” Trotz said. “If someone’s not going next game I’ll have a Plan B and C. Sometimes you don’t use them and other times you have to go to the whip quick.”

The line scrambling resulted in a top unit of Alex Ovechkin [6 shots, minus-1], Nicklas Backstrom [1 shot, minus-1] and Marcus Johansson [3 shots, minus-1], but that unit struggled at both ends of the ice.

It will be interesting to see if Trotz starts Game 7 with Johansson [0 goals. minus-1 for the series] on that top line, with a second line of Andre Burakovsky, Jay Beagle and Troy Brouwer, or if he bumps Tom Wilson onto the top line to give it a little more bite and free up space for Ovechkin and Backstrom.

Complete day off: Having played 13 playoff games in 27 nights, Trotz said he gave his players Monday off. He and his coaching staff met at Kettler Capitals Iceplex to review game tape.

“I think it’s a good day to cleanse the minds a little bit and come up with a plan for what we want to do for practice tomorrow,” Trotz said, “and go into New York and throw our best game out there.”

RELATED: Trotz: 'You have to make your own history'

Late surge: The Caps outshot the Rangers 28-8 in the final two periods of Game 6 and finished with a total of 96 attempts at the net. Forty-five of those attempts got to Henrik Lundqvist, 34 were blocked and 17 missed the net. After Dan Boyle gave the Rangers a 4-1 lead with 4:24 gone in the third period, the Caps had 34 shot attempts to the Rangers’ one.

“Since I’ve been here I can’t remember a total like that,” Trotz said. “We had some good looks. If we get that thing tied up, who knows? But we showed lots of character coming back, lots of will, and we’re going to have to bring all of that for Game 7.”

While John Carlson [15], Ovechkin [12] and Ward [9] paced the Caps in shot attempts, Rangers defensemen Dan Girardi [8] and Ryan McDonagh [7] paced the New York in blocks.

Slow starts: The Rangers have been the NHL’s best first-period team in the playoffs, outscoring their opponents 9-2 in the opening period. However, they’ve been outscored 16-10 in the second and third periods.

Conversely, the Capitals have been outscored 9-5 in first periods in the playoffs, while outscoring their opponents 20-15 in the second and third periods.  

“They’re a quick start team,” Trotz said. “It’s something they’ve been really good at all year. They come out of the box hard. Over the course of the year we’ve been OK in the first, but I wouldn’t say we’ve been fantastic in the first. But you look at our game this year, we’ve been really good in the second and third and I think you’ve seen that in this series.

“I would like to say I’d like to flip the script but it’s easier said than done. We just have to go out and do it. Don’t tell me what you’re going to do, just go out and do it.”

Bad draw: Caps center Nicklas Backstrom won 13 of his 18 faceoffs in Game 6, but his loss to Derek Stepan in the closing seconds of the first period allowed Chris Kreider to score his second of two goals with three-tenths of a second remaining.

MORE CAPITALS: Trotz 'loves' Ovechkin's bold prediction

Quick Links

Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Friday's trade with the Colorado Avalanche seemed to mark the end of Brooks Orpik's time with the Washington Capitals. But that may not actually be the case.

Trading away Orpik also meant trading away his $5.5 million cap hit. That is not an insignificant amount of money especially for a team trying to re-sign defenseman John Carlson to a big-money contract.

But Orpik will not be playing out the final year of his contract in Colorado. The Avalanche placed Orpik on unconditional waivers Saturday for the purpose of a buyout, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

CapFriendly has the details of the buyout. The Avalanche will pay Orpik $3 million and take a cap hit of $2.5 million in the 2018-19 season and $1.5 million in the 2019-20 season.

So why would Colorado agree to take Orpik just to buy him out and take on dead cap space? Because by acquiring him, it lowered the cost of the Grubauer trade.

What this means for Brooks Orpik is that he will become a free agent, free to sign with anyone for the upcoming season. Including Washington.

For a 37-year-old defenseman who does not boast great mobility or speed, a $5.5 million cap hit was a bit too steep for the Caps who were very close to the cap ceiling last season and who need that extra money to re-sign their free agents. But the team did value Orpik's leadership and that could be especially important as young defensemen Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos continue developing plus prospects Jonas Siegenthaler, Lucas Johansen and Connor Hobbs all try to work themselves into contention for a spot on the NHL roster.

If Orpik does return, it will be a masterstroke for general manager Brian MacLellan. MacLellan freed up a lot of cap space to re-sign Carlson without having to buy out Orpik's contract, but could still possibly keep him on the roster at a much-reduced cost.

After a strong playoff performance, there may be other teams vying for Orpik's services next season. Getting traded to get bought out likely isn't a good feeling, but considering he just won a Stanley Cup in Washington, the defensive guru Todd Reirden is expected to be promoted to head coach and that re-signing with the Caps would mean not moving his family for what could very possibly and will very likely be the last contract of his NHL career, there are a lot of reasons why it would make sense for both the team and the player if Orpik stayed with the Caps.


Quick Links

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


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.