The Washington Capitals have 33 games left to play in the regular season, also known worldwide as the rego season. The post-All-Star stretch of the season begins Monday night in Montreal, and with it will come answers to the six biggest questions looming over the team.
Washington’s franchise goalie picked a bad time to have his worst season. Sporting a .897 all-situation save percentage, Holtby may enter free agency having been the Caps’ single biggest problem of 2019-20. It’s very unlikely that Washington will extend him, and it’s also not certain he’ll have a starting spot as rookie goalie Ilya Samsonov continues to rack up wins.
Will Holtby get even 20 more starts down the stretch? Can he rebound in those appearances? Is his downturn a function of aging or injury? Is he noticeably worse in lateral movements, a la Cory Schneider, or late-career Olie Kolzig? Will Samsonov start in the playoffs, an echo of Grubauer doing the same in 2018? How will Holtby fare in free agency, one year after Sergei Bobrovsky destroyed the market for 30-plus goalies?
Holtby is a foundational player of the Washington Capitals, but right now he’s surrounded by question marks.
Carlson, 30, leads all NHL defenders with 60 points (twelve ahead of Roman Josi in second place). He’s just ten points away from tying his single-season best, which was last season. Carlson’s offensive output is undeniable, and he’s certainly in a good position to rack up more, given his teammates and deployments.
There are only a couple of factors working against him. The big one is the other half of the ice, the defensive half, where Carlson has been roughly in the bottom quartile among defenders and has a pretty worrying on-ice impact. The other is his nationality: an American has not won the Norris since Chris Chelios in 1996.
If you were distracted prior to the All-Star break, you may have missed full-on eight goals in three games by Alex Ovechkin. Ovi now sits in second place, just three shy of David Pastrnak, whom we’ll discuss later. Ovechkin has scored the most goals in six of the past seven seasons, despite officially being An Old.
The Caps’ schedule actually gets a bit kinder in the remainder of the season, though Ovechkin will miss one game because he skipped the All-Star Game, which was absolutely the right decision for the record.
Every individual five-on-five offensive rate suggests Ovechkin is even more fearsome now at age 34 then he was last season. While I wouldn’t expect 2.6666666 goals from him every game, I wouldn’t be surprised either. Ovi forever. Rocket number nine.
One thing about Brian Maclellan is that he calls his shots. Prior to each year’s big roster events (deadline and free agency), he will be frank about what he wants to accomplish, and then he’ll do pretty much exactly that.
We haven’t heard that candor from GMBM yet, but the safest bet is that Washington’s moves at the deadline will be restricted to depth positions. The team has a lot of defensive option on the farm, but their comfort with some of those players in the playoffs is shaky (sorry, Christian Djoos). The Caps also have the best fourth line in the league, but acquiring some contingencies may be wise as well.
In any case, I expect this to be the quietest deadline of Maclellan’s tenure. Then again, I’m so very often wrong.
Oh, I doubt it. As much as the league is getting brainier about skipping morning skates, forcing big-minute star players to skip anything except game 82 seems like too much to ask right now — even for a team that should cruise to a playoff berth and are favored to win the Presidents’ Trophy. The puritan work ethic is just too powerful in the NHL. For now.
Photo: Cara Bahniuk
On January 25, Caps owner Ted Leonsis posted to Twitter a contest to win tickets to a Caps game.
— Ted Leonsis (@TedLeonsis) January 25, 2020
One minute later, private citizen and David Byrne superfan Peter Hassett correctly responded.
it’s from David Byrne’s show
— Peter Hassett 🌮 (@peterhassett) January 25, 2020
And yet, in defiance of Justice Itself, Leonsis awarded the tickets to someone else, using the veil of evasive legalistic language.
— Kurt Proctor, Ph.D. (@KurtProctor) January 25, 2020
…And the first fan to answer the entire question correctly is… – @KurtProctor – You have won my glass seats to a future @Capitals game – Congratulations! @americanutopia | @DBtodomundo https://t.co/ZvrQdqa0oH
— Ted Leonsis (@TedLeonsis) January 26, 2020
The internet outrage was immediate and widespread. Here is but one example:
🤔 devastated https://t.co/MXg7yziVwU
— Peter Hassett 🌮 (@peterhassett) January 26, 2020
As of now, there has been no public explanation for the lapse from Leonsis, Monumental Sports and Entertainment, the Washington Capitals, or the US Department of Justice. We will keep you posted. Oh, also we’re calling this #TedGate.
A second half of this story about the rest of the league is coming soon. In the meantime, what questions do you have for the rest of the season?
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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