Why Caps GM George McPhee didn't do more in the off-season

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for georgemcpheecapsgm.jpgA lot of fans and observers around the NHL are going to be watching the Washington Capitals with a curious eye this season. After a shockingly disappointing playoff exit in the first round at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, many thought that this off-season would bring changes to the Capitals lineup in the form of a big-name defenseman, a playmaking second-line center and even perhaps a goalie.

As it turns out, the Capitals did nothing significant at all, choosing to go with their home-grown youth to lead them into this season. Defensemen John Carlson and Karl Alzner will get the chance to prove themselves worthy of full-time NHL play while Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth will be the goaltending tandem in D.C.

If it seems shocking that a team wouldn’t make drastic moves after a miserable playoff performance that followed a brilliant regular season, Capitals GM George McPhee inserts some of his own logic to the mix courtesy of Caps Insider’s Katie Carrera.

“We had a fabulous season last year and for about six and a half months we were a terrific team and in five days we lost it. We came to camp expecting to do good and we had a real good season with really no adversity.

“We start the playoffs three games to one and in five days it fell apart. We didn’t play well enough in game five (against Montreal); we couldn’t have played better than we did in game six. That was probably the best game we played all season. We were pretty good in game seven but the goalie was great, our powerplay didn’t work and we scored one goal a game the last three games and our strength last year was scoring.

“It didn’t work out but I cant allow five days to get in the way of what we think is a terrific team. So we’d like to keep them together and see how they do this year.”

What McPhee says makes a world of sense. The Caps were a great team last year that got ushered out by a team with a system and a game plan that they stuck to to the letter. In the NHL playoffs, these things happen sometimes and it usually leads to that losing team getting a chip on their shoulder the following season to correct those wrongs.

The catch with the Caps is that they’ll be doing that with a handful of guys that aren’t just new to the Caps but are new to the NHL as well. It’s somewhat like playing with fire for both McPhee and head coach Bruce Boudreau, but with the amount of talent the Caps have it’s a risk worth taking.

After all, guys like Alzner, Carlson and Neuvirth have done their part in winning the Calder Cup in the AHL so they’ve done that much. Adapting the skills learned there and trying to make the Caps a Stanley Cup winner might prove to be McPhee and Boudreau’s most daring challenge to date.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber celebrates after scoring a goal against the San Jose Sharks during the second period in Game 3 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinal playoff series Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.

Islanders believe Boyle should be suspended for hit before OT goal

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Thomas Hickey is involved in a controversial hit, yet the greater debate may revolve around the one he received rather than the one he delivered.

In the second period, the New York Islanders defenseman connected for a thunderous hit on Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin, which sidelined Drouin for a chunk of Game 3.

Many believe that hit was legal:

The Islanders are upset about the Brian Boyle hit on Hickey in overtime, which came moments before Boyle scored the game-winning goal. You can see the full sequence here, with the hit happening around the 50-second mark:

Islanders head coach Jack Capuano believes that it was a suspension-worthy hit.

You’re not going to believe this, but the Lightning disagree.

Boyle clearly didn’t receive a penalty on that sequence, yet one would imagine that the league will at least take a look at that hit.

Lightning take dramatic OT win vs. Islanders, go up 2-1 in series

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Brian Boyle was part of the fight before Game 3 even started … and then he ended it in overtime.

In a Tampa Bay Lightning win in which they just kept rolling with the New York Islanders’ punches, it only seems fitting that Boyle battled to land a big hit and then score the clinching goal for a 5-4 overtime victory.

This gives the Lightning a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4.

Also fitting? Boyle landed a big hit on Thomas Hickey, the guy who sidelined Jonathan Drouin for a chunk of this contest.

That sequence prompted a brief goal review, but it ultimately stood:

(Was that Boyle hit on Hickey dirty, by the way?)

Drama was in the air from the beginning, yet Drouin really stole the show when he came back from what some believe was a concussion to assist on Nikita Kucherov‘s last-minute goal, which sent the game to overtime.

In some ways, this win feels like a microcosm of the Lightning’s season. They keep getting hit in the mouth with injuries and near-injuries, yet they just won’t stay down.

The Islanders saw three leads disappear in this contest, but one would think that they won’t roll over, either.