Washington Capitals GM George McPhee says this 'might be the best team' they've had in years

georgemcpheecapsgm.jpgEven if you highlight Jaroslav Halak’s incredible three game run after his team was down 3-1, it’s hard to argue against the fact that the Washington Capitals’ first round loss was a disappointment. After all, the team ran away with the Presidents Trophy and boiled over with hubris and swagger.

Some GMs would take part in at least some housecleaning after another Game 7 loss at home, but George McPhee is staying the course with a young team that keeps producing in the regular season. In fact, McPhee thinks that the current Capitals roster might be the best they’ve had in the Alex Ovechkin years.

Here’s more from Michelle Scalise of CSN Washington.

Instead of making big moves in the offseason, McPhee has been adamant that the necessary pieces are in place to reach the finals this season.

“We have a team that we haven’t lost a lot of players, and all of the players are familiar with the club,” Finalist for GM of Year, McPhee told Comcast SportsNet’s Russ Thaler. “I just think with the combination of our skill and experience and our young guys like [Alex] Ovechkin, [Nicklas] Backstrom, [Brooks] Laich, and [Mike] Green, they’re men now. They came into the league young and they’ve learned, but they’re men now and I think it’s time for them to compete for the [Stanley] Cup as we all believe we can.”

[Snip]

With minor changes to the roster, the Capitals keep to their focus on reaching the Stanley Cup Finals.

“We believed we could have been there in any of the last couple of seasons, McPhee told Thaler. “This might be the best team we’ve had in the last three of four years, so, we are certainly capable of getting there.”

The Capitals were an amazing regular season force last year, so it’s understandable that McPhee would rather count on internal improvement rather than the blind gamble that free agency can be. Still, I think the team could use an upgrade in its second center spot and would also benefit from adding a shutdown defenseman along the lines of rugged (but injury prone) veteran Willie Mitchell.

Even in a rapidly improving (or at least drastically changing) Southeast division, the Capitals are strong favorites to take a top seed in the Eastern Conference and maybe – possibly – finally make good on all that promise. McPhee certainly feels that way.

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    Ducks likely to recall Khudobin after Gibson injury

    Chicago Blackhawks' Richard Panik (14), of Slovakia, collides with Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson (36) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Chicago. Anaheim won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
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    “Costly victories” may have been one of the themes of Saturday night, as some teams paired impressive wins with worrisome injuries.

    The good news is that, in each case, it appears that the early word is optimistic about those players (Tyler Seguin got stitched up in the Stars’ win, for example).

    The Anaheim Ducks are reportedly readying to recall Anton Khudobin on Sunday after John Gibson suffered an upper-body injury during a collision with Chicago Blackhawks forward Richard Panik.

    Again, so far the hope/expectation is that this might not be a major issue:

    The pessimistic take would be to wonder “Uh oh, is the Ducks goalie carousel starting again?”

    Frederik Andersen has seen some runs as Anaheim’s No. 1 guy, so maybe this issue is a reminder that the Ducks may be better off keeping both Gibson and Andersen around … at least while they can.

    Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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    For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

    They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

    • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
    • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
    • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

    Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

    Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

    Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

    Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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    The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

    (Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

    Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

    You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

    It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

    Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

    Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

    Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

    Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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    If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

    You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

    The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

    For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

    (Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

    The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

    Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.