Here is the Caps Round table panel:
Sky Kerstein, Caps beat reporter with 106.7 The Fan,
Adam Vingan, Kings of Leonsis blog
Dave Nichols, Capitals News Network
Here are you go . . . the Caps Round Table
Ben Sumner, Capitals Outsider (FanSided Partner)DCPSR: Predict the Winter Classic outcome? Who will win? Ben: Caps, 4-3
DCPSR: Who will have a better Winter Classic game, Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin? Ben: Ovie
DCPSR: Looking ahead, what should the Caps do at goal tending? Settle on one? Share duties? Trade for a veteran? Ben: Share duties. Play the hot hand.
DCPSR: Give us a little analysis on the development and progress of Marcus Johansson this season? Ben: He's certainly got some skills, but it'll take him a couple of seasons to settle in and be consistent.
DCPSR: Why are numbers down for Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom? Do you think they will break out of it in the 2011 portion of the schedule? Ben: When one slumps, the other is bound to as well, but they'll break out of it.
DCPSR: What is you number one criticism of the Capitals power play? Ben: They're not scoring. Penalty killers are just playing their hearts out and beating them.
DCPSR: Will the Capitals win the Southeast? Eastern Conference? Ben: They will win the Southeast, but not the Eastern Conference.
DCPSR: Tell us your thoughts on Scott Hannan's impact thus far? Ben: He's been good for a -1 a game so far. That will improve.
DCPSR: Finally, do you expect any other Caps to be moved in a trade or at the deadline? if so, who? Ben: A trade deadline swap won't surprise me, particularly if there are some injuries. With so many unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, any one of them might get traded down the stretch.
Sky Kerstein, Caps Beat Reporter, 106.7 The FanDCPSR: Predict the Winter Classic outcome? Who will win? Sky: Caps 5-4, down early and come back in the 3rd
DCPSR: Who will have a better Winter Classic game, Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin? Sky: Ovi 2 goals, 1 assist...Crosby gets a goal and a helper, Ovi better classic.
DCPSR: Looking ahead, what should the Caps do at goal tending? Settle on one? Share duties? Trade for a veteran? Sky: I think they should settle on one in the last month and get them in rhythm, but this time you gotta stick with it. Last season they let Jose get the majority of work at the end of the year, even with Varly healthy, but we all knew the second Jose struggled in the playoffs he would be pulled. I still think Varly is the playoff goaltender for this team, if he stays healthy, and he should play down the stretch and Boudreau should stick with him during the playoffs. I believe getting the offense going and having a healthy defense is more of a priority, both these goaltenders are solid.
DCPSR: Give us a little analysis on the development and progress of Marcus Johansson this season? Sky: Marcus Johansson got thrown into the fire, literally. The NHL is a totally different animal then what he was used to in every way. He looks a lot more comfortable out there, the pass to Andrew Gordon the other night for the goal was great. But he is still learning and he's going to make a lot of mistakes, will he better off years from now, no doubt, but how much he's going to help in the playoffs is still a huge question mark. Do you trade for a 2nd line center and have Perreault/Johansson as your 3rd...we'll know more in the next few months depending on there play, but as of now I think it's a distinct possibility.
DCPSR: Why are numbers down for Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom? Do you think they will break out of it in the 2011 portion of the schedule? Sky: The biggest issue is they aren't getting the normal amount of points on the power play. Teams are taking them away from their games. The Canadiens built a blue print on how to limit their chances by blocking shots and taking long shots and it's working. I like the move putting Ovi on the side of the net instead of on the point, but I think this is a good thing, they are learning how to play different ways plus the role players are stepping up, both players will be better for this once the playoffs count and that's all that matters.
DCPSR: What is you number one criticism of the Capitals power play? Sky: My biggest problem is putting Ovi at point, he isn't comfortable there, put him on the corners of the net where he can get a one timer and put it in. Also they pass way too much and get too fancy, when they put the puck on the net good things happen.
DCPSR: Will the Capitals win the Southeast? Eastern Conference? Sky: Yes, but it will be close, but again it took an 8 game losing streak to tighten it up, if the Caps play their game consistently they will start getting away from the rest of the division again. Tampa Bay is playing really well, but how long can it last is the real question also the same questions linger with Atlanta as well.
DCPSR: Tell us your thoughts on Scott Hannan's impact thus far? Sky: It took a while for Hannan to get comfortable in system and he is still learning. It's not an easy system to learn and that's why its good that this move happened now and not at the trade deadline like last year. Him and Green have looked really good together, will be interesting what happens when Schultz is ready to go. But I think Hannan's biggest contributions will be when the playoffs start and he's that stay at home defenseman this team has needed.
DCPSR: Finally, do you expect any other Caps to be moved in a trade or at the deadline? if so, who? Sky: I think they will look for a second line center at the deadline, Eric Fehr is a definite candidate to be moved. Fehr had a breakout year last year, but has struggled this season and been a healthy scratch multiple times.
Adam Vingan, Kings of Leonsis blogDCPSR: Predict the Winter Classic outcome? Who will win? Adam: I would expect another closely-contested game where the onus is on defense and goaltending. I’ll say 4-2 Capitals.
DCPSR: Who will have a better Winter Classic game, Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin? Adam: As weird as this may sound, Ovechkin will have a better game due to the fact that Crosby can’t play much better than he already is. His 24-game point streak as of Tuesday has propelled him to the top of the NHL leaderboards. Ovechkin, on the other hand, just scored his first goal since December 6 and his assist against Carolina gave him his first multi-point night since November 26. Ovechkin has nowhere to go but up, so he will make his presence felt with plenty of shots and hits.
DCPSR: Looking ahead, what should the Caps do at goal tending? Settle on one? Share duties? Trade for a veteran? Adam: During the second episode of HBO’s “24/7” miniseries, Capitals goaltending coach Arturs Irbe spoke about the development of Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth. He said that “they have to realize that if they want to be No. 1 goalies, and I know they do, they have deliver right now.” The Capitals are incredibly fortunate to have two promising goaltenders, but eventually, one will have to step up. Bruce Boudreau said during the losing streak that there isn’t really a concrete plan in regards to rotation, but a “they win, they’re in” mentality. Both Neuvirth and Varlamov have proven themselves worthy of the starting job, but it remains to be seen who will take it. It’s Neuvirth’s incredible progression v. Varlamov’s slight edge in experience. The Caps need stability in net and it starts with there being a starter and a back-up, not 1A and 1B. Yet, what the Capitals definitely don’t need is a veteran. Jose Theodore did his job admirably for two years, bridging the gap between Olaf Kolzig and the rookies. Bringing in a veteran to eat minutes will only delay the development of Varlamov, Neuvirth and Braden Holtby.
DCPSR: Give us a little analysis on the development and progress of Marcus Johansson this season? Adam: There was much discussion (AKA Twitter fights) regarding Marcus Johansson and his slow start at the beginning of the season. While MJ90 took some time to get acclimated to the NHL style of play, he is starting to find himself. His statistics (3G, 3A) are not much to brag about, but he is an excellent two-way center that has become a threat with his stick and his legs. Johansson and his normal linemates, Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr, give the Capitals a formidable energy line that can pack a scoring punch when needed. All Johansson needs to do right now is bulk up, but he should become a fixture in the Capitals’ lineup for the foreseeable future.
DCPSR: Why are numbers down for Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom? Do you think they will break out of it in the 2011 portion of the schedule? Adam: Backstrom’s numbers (or lack thereof) are much harder to explain. But Ovechkin’s have to do with his style of play. Ovechkin leads the league with 169 shots on goal (as of Tuesday), but his shooting percentage is 7.7%. To put that into perspective, Ovechkin’s career low in a season is 10.6%. Not only that, but Ovechkin is on pace for 28 goals this season, which would also be a career low by 18 goals. It seems like Ovechkin is forcing many of his shots; more often than not, his shots are blocked or miss the net entirely. Opposing defenses have adapted to Ovechkin’s style, which means that he will need to adapt, too. As much flack as I may take for saying this, perhaps Ovechkin should take a page from Crosby’s book and plant himself in the crease. His goal against Carolina came from crashing the net and putting in a rebound. Something to consider. Once Ovechkin gets back on track. Backstrom’s assist numbers (24 assists) will skyrocket as his favorite target returns to his typical scoring self.
DCPSR: What is you number one criticism of the Capitals power play? Adam: Overpassing. It seems lately that when the Capitals have two minutes on the power play, they spend about 45 seconds of it trying to make a fancy pass to set up a highlight reel goal instead of firing the puck and looking for rebounds. How a power play unit with the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich doesn’t score at will is beyond reason.
DCPSR: Will the Capitals win the Southeast? Eastern Conference? Adam: The Caps should eke out a division title this season based on the fact that they’ve been so successful within the Southeast for a few years now. It will be a tight race with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Atlanta Thrashers, but the Capitals will win the division by no more than 10 points. On the other hand, the Capitals are on the outside looking in when it comes to winning the Eastern Conference. The Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers have been playing incredible hockey for most of the season and I don’t see any eight-game losing streaks in their future. The Montreal Canadiens will also pose a threat, but the Capitals should be a top-three seed come playoff time. DCPSR: Tell us your thoughts on Scott Hannan's impact thus far? Adam: Hannan, much like the Capitals as a whole since he arrived November 30, got off to a slow start, but has quickly turned things around and has carved his niche in the defensive corps. Hannan is one of those players when less is heard about him, the better he is playing. He got off to a rough start (minus-8 in 12 games with the Capitals), but has become a vocal leader on the ice and does not hesitate to direct traffic and help his teammates out. He averages about 20 minutes of ice time per game with Washington and actually led the team in ice time against both Pittsburgh and the Carolina Hurricanes last week. His presence is most felt on the penalty kill, where the Capitals have killed off 36 of 44 penalties since Hannan’s first game December 2 (81.8%). When Jeff Schultz and Tom Poti get healthy, the Capitals will have eight capable defenseman, which is never a bad thing.
DCPSR: Finally, do you expect any other Caps to be moved in a trade or at the deadline? if so, who? Adam: With Hannan filling the “veteran defensive defenseman” void for now, the Capitals are in need of a second-line center. The issue lies in how the Capitals will obtain that center. Mathieu Perreault has done a great job lately and could be the answer to that problem. The Capitals have been steadfast in their “building-from-within” system and it has worked wonders. Tomas Fleischmann was the most expendable Caps player and he was exchanged for Hannan, so there isn’t a player on the current roster that I think is worth giving up for a rental center, especially considering that none of last year’s trade deadline acquisitions (Joe Corvo, Scott Walker, Eric Belanger and Milan Jurcina) are with the team now. Last year, the Caps got away with trading just one of their regular players during the deadline (Brian Pothier), but draft picks and prospects aren’t going to get the Caps the center they desire. Washington’s prospect pool is deep with talent and they should utilize that instead. I can’t see any Capitals being traded at the deadline.
Dave Nichols, Capitals News NetworkDCPSR: Predict the Winter Classic outcome? Who will win? Dave: Caps 5-3.
DCPSR: Who will have a better Winter Classic game, Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin? Dave: I hope Ovi breaks out, but Sid is just too consistent right now.
DCPSR: Looking ahead, what should the Caps do at goal tending? Settle on one? Share duties? Trade for a veteran? Dave: I have no problem with the "win and you're in" strategy. Varly needs competition to succeed. I will say I think Neuvy will eventually be the clear-cut No. 1.
DCPSR: Give us a little analysis on the development and progress of Marcus Johansson this season? Dave: He's shown flashes, but No. 2 center is the Caps' biggest weakness.
DCPSR: Why are numbers down for Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom? Do you think they will break out of it in the 2011 portion of the schedule? Dave: I think Ovi is still suffering from his Olympic hangover letting his country down, and maybe playing reserved after all the suspensions and negativity last season. Backstrom has been injured/ill and will rebound in the second half.
DCPSR: What is you number one criticism of the Capitals power play? Dave: Mike Green has been hurt and incapable of playing his best, allowing PKs to sit and not necessary challenge him at the point.
DCPSR: Will the Capitals win the Southeast? Eastern Conference? Dave: Yes, and no.
DCPSR: Tell us your thoughts on Scott Hannan's impact thus far? Dave: Hannan has been fine, despite the ugly plus/minus numbers. Getting Schultz back in the lineup will help everyone.
DCPSR: Finally, do you expect any other Caps to be moved in a trade or at the deadline? if so, who? Dave: I expect McPhee to get an impact player at 2C. I think he'll deal from depth, and not move Semin.