For years the Washington Capitals have played in the often poorly regarded Southeast Division. That’s about to change and there will be little debate about the quality of their competition going into the 2013-14 campaign.
They are entering a division with the rising New York Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Carolina Hurricanes on top of the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, and New Jersey Devils.
Still, Capitals GM George McPhee argued that it won’t be any harder to make the playoffs.
“It’s always difficult,” McPhee told CSN Washington. “It’s as difficult as it can be to make the playoffs. As I said before it’s no small feat to make the playoffs in this league anymore.
“It’s a real good league and the [salary] cap levels the playing field. The real difference now in making the playoffs is managing your coaching and getting the right players. You could this year, but this is the last year you can outspend teams. Some teams were at $70 to $75 million this year. We were $60 million. Going forward it’s level.”
McPhee doesn’t see his team making any roster changes specifically designed to accommodate the change in competition.
“I remember when I first came here [in 1997] we talked about [Eric] Lindros in Philadelphia and how we’d have to get someone to match up with him because if we’d meet in the playoffs it would be an advantage for them if we didn’t have someone. Well, we never met in the playoffs for 10 years,” McPhee said. “So why bother?
“I just try to focus on our club and what we need to really be a complete team and a good team.”
The Capitals certainly looked impressive down the stretch this year and they gave the Rangers a run for their money in the first round. At the same time, they were 15-3-0 against the Southeast Division in 2013 and 12-15-3 outside of it. It’s doubtful that they will have that kind of winning percentage against their new rivals.
This has been a tough postseason for Phil Kessel haters.
The supposed “choker” is on a team that’s in the Eastern Conference Final, but Kessel obviously isn’t just in for the ride with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He scored his 18th point in 17 postseason games by scoring the 1-0 goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6.
(Watch that goal in the video above.)
It was a dramatic first period, with a Jonathan Drouin goal getting disallowed and Andrei Vasilevskiy making some huge saves on tough chances.
Can Pittsburgh protect this slim lead with 1-0 down one period? We’ll see, but either way, what a great postseason for Kessel.
To start the seemingly pivotal stretch, Andrei Vasilevskiy made an outstanding save on Evgeni Malkin on what sure looked like a scary chance.
The play swiftly shifted from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s end to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ side of the ice, and it seemed like Jonathan Drouin scored a big 1-0 goal in Game 6.
As it turns out, the goal was disallowed thanks to an offside goal review.
Here are a few viewpoints on that moment in GIF form … you can get a fuller view via the video above.
The general feeling among those who don’t have a horse in the race is that it was the right call. (Lightning fans were, uh, not happy.)
At some point, it will probably be kind of boring to hear members of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization praise Jonathan Drouin.
At least if Drouin re-signs with the Bolts after quite the affirming postseason and his ascension amid injuries.
These days? It’s still sort of entertaining.
In the latest case, Jon Cooper was asked to compare the development paths for Nikita Kucherov vs. Drouin. After empathizing with the pressure Drouin carries as a high-end pick (vs. Kucherov’s ability to come in under the radar), Cooper had some very positive things to say about No. 27.
” … So many people think, well, you’re just going to step in the league at 18 and be dominant,” Cooper said. “I truly believe Jonathan is going to be dominant in this league, but it’s hard to do at 18. He had to work through it, and that’s it.”
Drouin, now at 21, has 12 points in 15 playoff games.
In other Lightning news, it sounds like the team will roll with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, an alignment that has been working well lately and also came through at times during the 2015 postseason.
The Penguins, meanwhile, replace Beau Bennett with Conor Sheary.
Tonight could be the final game of the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. You can catch Game 6 via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.
Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay (8:00 p.m. ET)
The television broadcast of Game 6 is on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Bolts lead the series 3-2.
Here’s some relevant reading material to get you ready for tonight’s game:
—Malkin guaranteed a Penguins win in Game 6
—Lightning coach doesn’t seem flustered by Malkin’s guarantee
—Kucherov continues to be clutch for the Bolts this postseason
—Marc-Andre Fleury: ‘I should have been better’ in Game 5