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Sports News:
Capitals don’t see aging core as issue

Look across the roster of the Washington Capitals — the squad that was simply bounced from the primary spherical of the playoffs for a 3rd straight yr — and it’s simple to see: There’s no scarcity of expertise.

Many of the important thing contributors in that group helped the Capitals break by means of in 2018, successful the primary Stanley Cup in franchise historical past. But the dropoff since has been extreme. The veteran-heavy membership has gained simply 5 of 17 playoff contests since incomes the title.

After its newest first-round fold, dropping to the Boston Bruins in 5, the large query for Washington coming into the offseason is whether or not its core group can realistically problem for an additional Stanley Cup.

The reply, in accordance with these within the group, is sure, although including a couple of youthful items to the combo will definitely assist, the Capitals say.

“I believe that this team can still win,” coach Peter Laviolette mentioned. “I believe that we can win rounds in the playoffs. That’s what’s disappointing and frustrating for us, is that we didn’t get it done.”

Alex Ovechkin will grow to be a free agent this offseason, however either side have expressed their curiosity in a brand new contract to maintain him in Washington. Beyond the 35-year-old objective scorer, the Capitals must also return T.J. Oshie (34), Nicklas Backstrom (33), John Carlson (31) and Dmitry Orlov (29) as the spine of the workforce.

Laviolette has careworn it’s that group of veterans who helped Washington clinch the No. 2 seed within the East Division and ending with the seventh-best level share within the NHL.

They additionally nonetheless produced. Oshie, who might be a candidate for the Seattle Kraken’s growth draft, scored 22 objectives in 43 video games — one in every of his best seasons. If 2021 had been an 82-game season, Ovechkin was on tempo for a 43-goal yr, which might have made him the fifth participant in NHL historical past to achieve that mark at age 35 or older. Backstrom’s 0.96 factors per recreation was his highest since 2016-17.

Those gamers helped make up the oldest workforce within the NHL, with a median age of 30.3.

“I really don’t think the age of the players are that much of a factor,” mentioned heart Lars Eller, who, at 32, completed with the third-highest single-season factors per recreation common of his profession (0.52). “I think you shouldn’t put too much into that, but more that you look at the way they’re still capable of playing and the numbers they can put up and all that.”

The prime six forwards didn’t produce as effectively within the 5 playoff video games, although, a part of the explanation Washington crashed out once more. So whereas there’s a perception that the veteran core must be round for at the very least a couple of extra seasons, Capitals basic supervisor Brian MacLellan acknowledged the necessity to get youthful and quicker.

“I think we’ve got some guys coming that we can consider,” MacLellan mentioned. “We’ll look for opportunities.”

He pointed to Daniel Sprong, who at 24 produced 13 objectives and 7 assists in 42 video games. Martin Fehervary, a 21-year-old defenseman chosen within the second spherical of the 2018 draft, “is ready,” MacLellan mentioned. 23-year-old heart Garrett Pilon and 21-year-old defenseman Alexander Alexeyev might see time.

And whereas MacLellan mentioned they gained’t pressure 20-year-old heart Connor McMichael into the lineup, the highest prospect made the AHL All-Rookie Team, with 27 factors in 33 video games.

“I think there’s opportunity to add youth into the lineup,” MacLellan mentioned. “We’ll get younger, but we’re still going to have a veteran team because that’s our core.”

When the concept that the playoff window may’ve closed on Washington was introduced to defenseman Brenden Dillon, he pointed to the work ethic and management amongst his teammates as proof there’s extra left within the tank.

With Ovechkin, top-of-the-line objective scorers in NHL historical past, there all the time appears to be a shot for a playoff run. Keeping him with the Capitals might be the primary main piece of enterprise this summer season, earlier than MacLellan and Co. look to fill holes round Ovechkin and different veterans with youthful expertise.

But both method — if Washington will get youthful or not — there’s nonetheless perception on the within that successful could be very a lot inside attain for this group.

“I think we have top-tier caliber players up and down our lineup,” Carlson mentioned. “Obviously, we underperformed and didn’t even reach close to anyone’s expectations. But with that said, I think we have the horses in there to win again.”

 

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