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.

Senators blank Canadiens in NHL 100 Classic

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One win, even in the frosty outdoors for the NHL 100 Classic, only means so much.

Still, the Ottawa Senators probably experienced some ice-cold relief on Saturday, beating the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 during a tightly defended outdoor bout.

It was 0-0 for much of the game until Jean-Gabriel Pageau tipped an Erik Karlsson shot for the first goal with about five minutes remaining in the second period. Bobby Ryan then capitalized on a rough Jonathan Drouin turnover to make it 2-0, while an empty-netter iced the icy evening for Ottawa.

For a night, it was a fun time, and Karlsson reminded us what all the fuss is about, as he logged a ridiculous 32:55 of ice time. And he seemed to be having a good time doing it.

This night laid the “Canadian” on thick, with Bryan Adams performing during the event, and Gary Bettman posing for photos with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?

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Weird, but OK then.

Generally speaking, things haven’t been that OK for the Senators lately. Such headaches did surface during this frosty-mug-on-ice event, as owner Eugene Melnyk inspired a #Melnykout hashtag on Twitter, not to mention icy barbs like these.

Fair criticisms about the Sens’ bigger picture aside, Ottawa looked nice tonight, with Karlsson shining and Craig Anderson pitching a rare shutout outdoors (shutoutdoors)?

Carey Price generated some nice saves of his own, but couldn’t will Montreal to win in his 10th consecutive start. The Habs rarely got things going against the Senators, seen most easily in Ottawa’s 38-28 advantage in shots on goal.

Nights like these make a bigger impact on fans’ memories and bottom lines, but this marks consecutive wins for the Senators either way. Considering the fact that the Senators hadn’t put back-to-back wins together since they faced the Avalanche in two contests in Sweden, it might not be a big deal, yet it’s far better than the nothing they’ve been coming up with far too often lately.

Also

In other news from the event, Mario Lemieux’s “five goals, five different ways” was named as the NHL’s greatest moment, voted by fans:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Sadly, Capitals aren’t selling this collection of Christmas songs

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Let’s be honest, virtually any time a team gets its players to embrace a holiday theme, it’s in the name of goofiness. And bless NHL teams for this.

When it comes to Movember, you get the fantastic combination of mustaches and charitable contributions.

The holidays are rapidly approaching (hey, I see that Amazon tab open), so we’ll start to see various New Year’s/Christmas/Festivus/etc.-themed fun. Even with that in mind, the Washington Capitals will be tough to top with their collection of Christmas tunes.

Sadly, there’s no Volume 1:

Question: which performance stood out to you the most? While Braden Holtby was fantastic (with a Tomas Plekanec-level turtleneck game), the simple entertainment of watching Alex Ovechkin sing is tough to top.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

 

Video: Michael Grabner totally meant to do this for Rangers

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Depending upon how things go for each team, the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins may very well grapple for a wild-card spot in the East.

Thankfully, it won’t come down to Michael Grabner‘s deeply weird, memorable, and fun goal against Tuukka Rask, a “bank” goal that Grabner totally meant to do. Right?

(Watch that goal in the video above this post’s headline.)

That was Grabner’s 16th goal of 2017-18, which isn’t half-bad for a guy carrying a $1.65 million cap hit this season. Prediction: the speedy winger will cost quite a bit more than that in 2018-19.

As you can see in this video, Alain Vigneault points to Grabner gathering steam in his second season with the Rangers as part of the reason this team is turning things around:

J.T. Miller added a beauty of a goal to make it 2-0, but the Bruins dug deep to tie it 2-2, so we’ll see how the rest of that game goes.

Update: The Rangers ended up edging the Bruins 3-2 in overtime thanks to Mats Zuccarello‘s patient, OTPPGWG.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH NHL 100 CLASSIC LIVE: Montreal Canadiens at Ottawa Senators

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PROJECTED LINES

Montreal Canadiens

Forwards

Pacioretty – Danault – Byron

Galchenyuk – Drouin – Shaw

Hudon – Plekanec – Gallagher

Deslauriers – Froese/de la Rose – Carr

Defense

Alzner – Petry

Benn – Weber

Schlemko – Jerabek/Morrow

Starting Goalie: Carey Price

[NHL On NBCSN: Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators Meet In NHL 100 Classic]

Ottawa Senators

Forwards

Ryan – Duchene – Stone

Dzingel – Brassard – Hoffman

Smith – Pageau – Pyatt

Burrows – Thompson – Dumont

Defense

Oduya – Karlsson

Phaneuf – Ceci

Claesson – Chabot

Starting goalie: Craig Anderson