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What we learned from the Capitals' preseason

What we learned from the Capitals' preseason

The preseason is (mercifully) over. After a 4-3 win over the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, the next time the Capitals take the ice it will be for the regular season opener on Thursday in Ottawa.

With only two wins in seven preseason contests, there are some nervous Caps fans in Washington. But all preseason results should be taken with a grain of salt, especially the records. The Colorado Avalanche won six of their preseason games last year and finished the regular season as, by far, the worst team in the NHL.

RELATED: OVECHKIN NAMED THE FAVORITE TO WIN THE ROCKET RICHARD

That doesn't mean that everything that happens in the preseason is irrelevant, however. Here are some things that we did learn from the Caps' preseason:

The defense is in trouble

The Caps scored only 12 goals in seven preseason games, but it’s too early to worry about the offense. Players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky are going to show up when the games start to matter. The same cannot be said for the defense, howeer.

Heading into the preseason, the Caps defense looked approximately like this:

Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
??? - John Carlson
Brooks Orpik - ???
Taylor Chorney

The hope was that enough players would distinguish themselves in the preseason to fill out the roster. The competition has been whittled down to Aaron Ness, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey, but really none of those players have “wowed.” Bowey has played fairly well, but Ness and Djoos have both struggled. Both players would have to pass through waivers if the Caps choose to send them to the AHL and whether the team would risk losing either player remains to be seen, but the fact that it is even a matter of discussion is not a good sign.

After trying several different players alongside Carlson, Orpik was moved into the top four for the final preseason game which is an indication of just how dissatisfied Barry Trotz has been with what he’s seen.

Heading into the preseason the Caps were in need of a top-four defenseman and the third pairing looked like a major quesetion mark. Now that the prseason is over, the Caps look like they are in need of a top-four defenseman and the third pairing looks like a major quesetion mark.

Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom will be split

Lines change frequently in the preseason, but one thing that has been consistent is that Ovechkin and Backstrom have not been playing on the same line. Even with the offense was struggling, Trotz did not move these two back together. That doesn’t mean they will never play on the same line this season, but at least to start you will see Backstrom centering a line without the Great 8 on the wing.

Tom Wilson needs to dial it back

Wilson was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for a hit he delivered to Samuel Blais on Sunday in his second game after returning from a two-game suspension. Wilson was suspended for a hit he delivered to St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas in an earlier preseason contest. Following the league’s decision, Wilson stated that he would not change his game.

Well, he needs to.

While the initial suspension was for only two preseason games, it was still significant in that he will now be considered a repeat offender by the league.
The Capitals need Wilson to produce more offensively this season and that’s hard to do if he is in the penalty box or serving a suspension. If it wants to remain a physical player, fine, but he has to be more careful. He is not going to get the benefit of the doubt from referees or the Department of Player Safety.

Whether Wilson gets another call from the Department of Player Safety for Sunday's hit remains to be seen, but the fact that he could not even get out of the preseason without a suspension and an ejection should be a signal to him that he needs to reel it in.

MORE CAPITALS: RINKSIDE REPORT: A SLOW PRESEASON FOR THE CAPS

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D.C. artist turns her love for the Washington Capitals into works of art

kampa.png
@tkopaintings on Twitter

D.C. artist turns her love for the Washington Capitals into works of art

Local artist Taylor Kampa has taken her love for the Washington Capitals and turned it into works of art. 

You can find paintings done by Kampa of Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, John Carlson and Braden Holtby on display at Circa Chinatown – a restaurant neighboring Capital One Arena – along with other D.C. celebrities.

A professional artist for the last decade, Kampa told NHL.com that the pictures were "passion projects," and took about eight hours to finish. She became a fan of the Caps after she began dating her now-husband back in 2009.

Her work has even caught the eye of The Great Eight. After posting a video to Instagram of her painting Ovechkin hoisting the Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner liked and commented on it. 

"I almost died," Kampa said.

"It has been amazing sharing something that I am excited about that resonates with the people in my city," Kampa said. "I've been painting these portraits for a long time, so it's awesome to have them seen by so many people."

Kampa will also create paintings for the Capitals foundation's annual Casino Night fundraiser next year. 

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Key Caps questions: Who will play center on the fourth line?

Key Caps questions: Who will play center on the fourth line?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals correspondent JJ Regan is here to help you through the offseason doldrums as he discusses 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: Who will be the team's primary fourth line center?

With the departure of Jay Beagle, there is a spot open at center on the fourth line. There appears on the roster to be three clear candidates to fill that position: Chandler Stephenson, Travis Boyd and Nic Dowd.

To find out why you should cross Stephenson’s name off the list, you should read yesterday's Key Caps Question about whether or not Stephenson is a wing or a center. To summarize, Washington sees Stephenson as more of a wing which explains why they both re-signed Boyd and brought in Dowd.

So who will it be between those two?

Both players seem to fit the mold as effective centers in the AHL where they were both productive. Dowd has an edge in NHL experience with 131 NHL games as compared to Boyd’s eight.

But Barry Trotz clearly had faith in Boyd at center which is why we saw him fill in on the top line on March 18 in Philadelphia. Boyd rewarded that faith with a spin pass to Alex Ovechkin for an assist, his first career point.

Trotz is now gone and Todd Reirden is in charge, but there is at least a level of familiarity there with the coaching staff and Boyd, more so than with Dowd who is new to the organization.

Second, the Caps may have tipped their hand a bit when you compare the two contracts. Center is an important position and Brian MacLellan has frequently referenced the team’s strength in center depth as a major reason for their Cup run.

Both Boyd and Dowd were signed over the offseason. Both contracts are one-way, suggesting both will be in the NHL, but Boyd’s cap hit is $800,000 while Dowd’s is $650,000. Of course, that will not matter when the players get on the ice. If Dowd outplays Boyd, he will start over him. Plus, the market ultimately dictates price. Even if the Caps wanted Dowd for their top line, if you can get him for $650k, you sign him for $650k.

Considering how important a position center is, however, even on the fourth line, it seems telling that the team was willing to give Boyd, a player with eight games of experience to his name, $800k while Dowd was signed for the minimum. That seems to suggest the Caps at least foresee Boyd having a bigger role which, for two players penciled in for the fourth line, would mean playing him at center.

Other key Caps questions: