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MacLellan: Window for Ovechkin winning is now


MacLellan: Window for Ovechkin winning is now

Capitals first-year general manager Brian MacLellan met with reporters for close to 30 minutes on Monday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. In Part Three of his state of the team, he gives his thoughts on the team’s goaltending depth, the future of defenseman Dmitry Orlov and the window to win a championship with Alex Ovechkin.

On the goaltending plan for next season:

We have good depth, I think. Circumstances dictated that [Justin] Peters didn’t get off to a good start. We needed to establish [Braden] Holtby and work on his game and Peters didn’t get as many reps or as many games as he probably would have liked during the year and that was more centered around a focus on Holtby than it was him. And then we got to a point where he hadn’t played in a long time so we needed to have a guy [Philipp Grubauer] that had played, we thought, or the coaches thought. Unfortunately for [Peters] it hasn’t worked out, but I know [goaltending coach] Mitch [Korn] has worked with him a lot on his game and I would expect that he would come in and we’d see a good result from him next year.

On whether he would like to see Peters back up Holtby next season and keep Grubauer and Pheonix Copley in Hershey:

We’ve got two good guys there. Grubauer is pushing up and Peters has got something to prove to the organization here next year.

On the medical condition of defenseman Dmitry Orlov, who did not play the entire NHL season because of a broken left wrist suffered while playing for Russia in last year’s World Championships:

I think he’s good. I’m not sure he’s at 100 percent and I don’t know that he’ll ever be at 100 percent. But he’s good. It’s been frustrating he hasn’t played. We missed a year of development with him. He’s a good, young defenseman. We’re counting on him coming into our lineup from the beginning of next year and having our coaching staff work with him. I think we’ll see major strides in his development. I think he’s wondering about his options [for another surgery] but I think he’s good where he’s at right now.

On whether any Capitals will require offseason surgeries:

Not that I know of. I know a few guys are still getting things checked out. I would assume they’re not, but I’m not certain on that.

On Alex Ovechkin’s season:

I thought he was great. I mean, he’s more engaged this year and I think he had more fun this year than he’s had in a while. He produced offensively [53 goals, 81 points in 81 games] in a more structured, detailed, two-way game. He basically got the same numbers. I think he’s taken a lot of pride in that. The so-called guarantee [that the Caps would come back and win Game 7 in New York], I thought he did a good job. We had the best first period we had all series against New York. He came out and scored a goal and we were up 1-0 going into the second. I don’t know if I would label it a guarantee. He pretty much came out and said we’re going to beat them and I hope anybody in our room would have said that.

On the impact Barry Trotz had on Ovechkin:

I really think he’s bought in all along. From what I’ve observed he’s done what has been asked of him. We’ve had different coaches ask different things of him and I think he’s done it. Whether it’s been successful or not, that depends on your perspective or judgment of it. I think this has been the best message we’ve had since he’s been here from an experienced coach and he’s responded to it. And he’s bought in. He’s done what Barry’s asked him to do and he’s been successful at it and consequently our team has been.

On whether there are parts of Ovechkin’s game that can still grow:

I think he can grow his game. There are aspects of his game that you noticed more this year, where he goes to the net. There are goals you can get from being so strong. Tipping pucks, rebounds, things he might not have participated in. I know the one-timer involves his spot [in the left-wing circle] and that stuff he’s always going to get. But there are ways to add offense for him that he doesn’t always participate in. You know, the greasy goals. Overpowering a guy in front of the net, getting position on a guy, tipping pucks, that stuff. I saw him do a little bit more of that this year than he ever has. Backchecking, putting pressure on the puck on the way back. Being aware of where to be in our own zone when they’re cycling the puck. Moving it to his defensemen. He’s much more detail-oriented than he has been.

On if the window for winning a championship for Ovechkin, who is 29, is now:

Sure. I mean, we’ve got good young guys coming here, too. Yeah, I’d say the next three or four years is the window, for sure.

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This Caps Stanley Cup tattoo has everyone's beat


This Caps Stanley Cup tattoo has everyone's beat

Since the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup for the first time over one month ago, Caps fans, (and players), have rushed to their local tattoo parlor to get some ink commemorating the win.

We've seen the classic Capitals logo with the Stanley Cup, but nothing that comes close to the masterpiece that is Shane Peacher's tattoo.

Peacher tweeted to Joe B and Courtney Laughlin the finished tat: a work of art featuring Alex Ovechkin kissing the Stanley Cup for the first time as it's hoisted over his head.

Joe B replied making sure Shane had enough room on his other tricep for next year.

Shane replied that he's thinking of Evgeny Kuznetsov's iconic celebration that has since been dubbed the "birdman."

Shane got his Caps tattoo at the Helix Tattoo Lodge in Rising Sun, Maryland, by tattoo artist, Justin Holcombe.


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Key Caps questions: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing long-term?

Key Caps questions: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing long-term?

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: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing a long-term contract?

Tarik: When a player has a career year and it coincides with the final year of his contract, the reaction from some fans and media is often a sarcastic, ‘Well, of course he did.’

And I’m sure there are some folks who wonder about Carlson’s breakout season and whether there was a connection between the uptick in his production and the potential of an enormous payday.

Indeed, the 28-year-old established highs in goals (15), assists (53), points (68) and ice time (24:47). He was outstanding in the postseason, too, amassing five goals and 15 assists while playing solidly in his own end to help lead the Caps to their first championship.

The financial reward came a couple of weeks later when he signed an eight-year, $64 million contract to remain in Washington.

Which brings us to today’s question.

It’s obviously impossible to say for sure what’s going to happen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he had another big season. Why? A few reasons:

  • As good as he was, last year wasn’t a total outlier, either. Carlson racked up 55 points (12 goals, 43 assists) in 2014-15, which was tied for fifth best among blue liners that year.
  • He was at his best last season skating with trade deadline addition Michal Kempny. Kempny, of course, also re-upped, agreeing to a four-year extension. So, in theory, Carlson should be able to pick up where he left off.
  • Carlson has credited Todd Reirden with helping him take his game to new heights. Well, Reirden is now the guy in charge of the whole operation. How could that not help?
  • A major reason Carlson puts up so many points is his role on the power play. And that unit, which really hit its stride in the postseason (29.3-percent), returns all five skaters.
  • Carlson has also been pretty durable, which is critical to being productive. In fact, last season he skated in all of the Caps’ games for the sixth time in eight full-time seasons.

So, yeah, it’s all setting up nicely for Carlson to have a strong 2018-19.

To me, the only unknown is whether he’ll have the same hunger and determination now that he’s got long-term security and that previously elusive championship ring.

Again, that’s impossible to predict. But I can tell you this: Over the course of two decades in this business, I’ve covered lots of players who inked life-changing contracts. With a few of them, I had immediate concerns.

I have no such reservations about Carlson's ability to play up to his new deal, particularly in the first several seasons of it.

JJ: There's nothing wrong with a player being motivated by a new deal, but I am always wary when players have career years on the last year of their contract.

The issue is whether or not a player can continue to play at the level they showed when a new contract is no longer a motivating factor. After signing a new deal for eight years and $64 million, Carlson won't have to think about money or contracts for a long time.

When it comes to motivation, a lot of the questions surrounding the Capitals this year will depend on how they react to winning the Cup. Of course everyone wants to repeat, but psychologically will they come into camp more motivated than ever to defend their title or will they be satisfied with finally winning it all?

For Carlson, there are several reasons to be hopeful. Tarik went over a number of those reasons above, but the two biggest for me are Michal Kempny and Todd Reirden.

This season, Carlson will have Kempny as his partner to start, rather than a cycle of practically every left-handed defenseman on the ice depending on the situation. Second, what Mitch Korn is to goalies, Reirden is to defensemen. With him as the head coach, I believe the ceiling for Carlson will only continue to climb.

Let's also go beyond the numbers. Matt Niskanen suffered an injury early last season that forced Carlson into a primary role on both ends of the ice. He was playing nearly 30 minutes a night and, with two rookies on the blue line who Barry Trotz did everything he could to shelter, those were very hard minutes. Yet, Carlson excelled. The offensive upside was always there, but the way he played defensively was a revelation.

While Dmitry Orlov and Niskanen will remain a solid pair for the Caps, I believe Carlson will be the guy heading into the season which will mean more minutes and more responsibility.

Plus, despite what he meant to the team's defense and despite leading all defensemen in points with 68, Carlson was not selected to participate in the All-Star Game, he was not one of the three finalists for the Norris Trophy and he was not among the four defensemen named to the end of season All-Star team. His incredible season earned him no recognition at all other than his new contract. A $64 million contract is a heck of a consolation prize, but his season deserved more recognition than that.

You don't often see a player of his caliber enter a season with a chip on his shoulder, but Carlson should have a fairly sizable one.

Other key questions

How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?
Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?
Can Alex Ovechkin still challenge for another Rocket Richard Trophy?
Has Evgeny Kuznetsov made the jump from really good player to superstar?