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Trotz, Capitals should feast on Game 7 matchups


Trotz, Capitals should feast on Game 7 matchups

News, notes and everything else you need for tonight’s win-or-go-home Game 7 between the Capitals and Islanders at VerizonCenter. Catch the hour-long pregame show beginning at 6:30 on CSN:

Matchup heaven: If there is one tactical advantage to having a Game 7 on home ice, it’s the home coach’s ability to have the last line change. In other words, if the Islanders line up for a faceoff with their third defense pairing of Matt Donovan [one career playoff game] and Scott Mayfield [one career playoff game] you can bet you’ll see the Caps’ top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Joel Ward.

“We’ll see,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz. “For the most part it’s been a lot of head-to-head stuff -- top players against top players.”

In the Islanders’ 3-1 win in Game 6 on Saturday, Isles head coach Jack Capuano did a nice job of getting Nick Leddy [28:59] and Johnny Boychuk [27:00] out against Ovechkin [19:21] and Backstrom [21:30], limiting them to a combined four shots.

In his last three Game 7s, Ovechkin has no points, while Backstrom has no points in his last five Game 7s.

Caps promise more grit: Curtis Glencross will return for the Caps after three games as a healthy scratch. It will be the first Game 7 of his nine-year career.

“The veteran that he is, the good pro that he is, he can be a difference maker for us,” Trotz said. “He’s a guy that’s scored big goals. He can play a gritty game and can score some goals. I expect him to be a good player for us tonight. I just thought his game fell off. He saw it and he knew it.”

Glencross will play on a fourth line with Brooks Laich and Tom Wilson and Trotz said he’ll try to utilize Wilson more than he did in Game 6 when the rambunctious 21-year-old right wing saw just seven shifts and 3:41 of ice time. The Caps were outhit 46-32 in Game 6. 


Words, words, words: Several players said they know everything they need to know about the Islanders and Trotz said there is nothing more he can tell them that they don’t already know.

“I guarantee you the New York Islanders are sick of talking about the Washington Capitals and the Washington Capitals are tired of talking about the New York Islanders,” Trotz said. “It’s time.”

Trotz said the team that can stick with its game plan the longest will prevail. As for pre-game motivational speeches, Trotz said he’ll keep that to himself.

“He’s said all he can say,” Chimera said of Trotz. “We’ve got to go out and prove it and do it. You don’t want to let your buddy down in these moments, just leave it out there.”

Who is louder? In Stanley Cup playoff history, home teams are 91-65 in Game 7s but in 2014 home teams went 1-6 in Game 7s.

The team that scores first is 115-41 all-time in Game 7s, including a 4-3 mark in 2014. Thirty-nine Game 7s have required overtime [25 percent]. Road teams have gone 20-19.

“I’d rather play at home,” Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “That’s a tough building [Nassau Coliseum] to play in on the road. They seem to get a little more energy playing in front of their crowd. I thought we built off the energy of our crowd in Game 5. We’ve been good at home. We got home ice for a reason and we want to take advantage now.”

Look ahead: The Rangers will face either the Capitals or Islanders in Game 1 of their second-round series in New York. In all likelihood the series will open on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, with Game 2 either Saturday or Sunday in New York.  

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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?