How much longer will this Capitals’ Stanley Cup window remain open?

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Barring some sort of unforeseen blockbuster move in the coming weeks, it seems as if the Capitals are prepared to enter next season with largely the same roster they had during the 2020-21 season.

Evgeny Kuznetsov has not been traded.

T.J. Oshie did not end up in Seattle. Actually, nobody ended up in Seattle after they sent a second-round pick to the Kraken to reacquire goalie Vitek Vanecek (Seattle’s initial pick).

Alex Ovechkin re-signed, as expected, and the rest of the team’s core remains in place.

The only real changes have been to trade Brenden Dillon to Winnipeg for two second-round draft picks and allow Michael Raffl to leave in free agency. Otherwise, it is the exact same team. That is not necessarily a bad thing. (We’ll see what happens with Zdeno Chara, a current UFA)

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

It is a very good team. Excellent, even. A team that finished this past season tied for first place in its division and over the past three seasons has the third best points percentage in the league behind only the Lightning and Bruins.

But it is also a team that has lost in the First Round of the playoffs three years in a row, winning just two total games the past two years. If you break each series down individually you can easily explain each of them away. In 2019 they were coming off a Stanley Cup run and lost an overtime Game 7 to an on-the-rise Hurricanes team that was just starting to become a contender. Nobody should fault them for that. The next year was the bubble year where, quite honestly, no result should be overanalyzed. Things were weird. Then this past season they got a brutal opening round draw against one of the best teams in the league (Bruins). Sometimes somebody is just better than you on the ice. It happens.

But three years without a series win for a franchise that had won at least won series (including a Cup) in each of the previous four years is still a little eye-opening. Especially given the success the team has had during the regular season, so it is understandable that sweeping changes are not viewed as necessary.

This is an old team

If there is a concern for the short-term future in terms of a “Stanley Cup window” it is the simple fact that this is one of the oldest rosters in the NHL. And when it comes to the skaters it is really not even close to the rest of the leaggue. As rosters stand right now the Capitals are the only team in the league whose forwards and defense both have an average age of 30 or older. Most teams sit in the 26-28 range for both groups, and there are only one or two other groups in the entire league over 30 years of age.

Not only that, every defender currently under contract and on the NHL roster is over the age of 30. That is an old group by NHL standards.

The only forwards on the team currently under contract that are under the age of 29 are Tom Wilson (27), Anthony Mantha (26), and Daniel Sprong (24).

[Related: Tom Wilson’s undeniable impact on Metropolitan Division]

Age is obviously far from the only deciding factor into whether or not a team wins, but it is at least somewhat of a factor. Older players are not as productive as they decline, they get injured more, they are not in their prime, they are not as fast. There is a reason teams that win the Cup and go deeper into the playoffs are not usually among the oldest teams in the league. They usually have an average in the 27-28 range.

Given all of that you cannot help but wonder if this is sort of a “one more run” with this current group. They are obviously not getting any younger, and there is going to have to be a point where some changes have to be made if they keep losing in the First Round of the playoffs.

Kuznetsov and the goalies will be the X-factors

Even with all of the aforementioned concerns there are two things that can dramatically change the shape of the Capitals’ season.

The first is Kuznetsov rebounding and once again being an impact player. Even though his name was floated in trade speculation for a while it should not be a major surprise that he is still on the roster. Or if he opens the season on the roster. Trading him right now would be a massive risk for the Capitals because the return would almost certainly fail to match the potential impact he can still make. Yeah, he has struggled (by his standard) the past two years. He has seemingly been a source of frustration for the organization at times. But he is still Evgeny Kuznetsov, he still has impact ability, and trading him now would have been a lowest possible value move, especially given his remaining contract. Who is paying a premium price for that right now?

You do not want to move that guy for pennies on the dollar and then watch him return to being a point-per-game impact player for somebody else.

Along with (apparently) bringing back Kuznetsov, the Capitals also seem prepared to use the same goaltending duo of Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov. There was nothing really wrong with the way they played a year ago, but they were not game-changers, either. Samsonov is the player with the potential, but we have not yet consistently seen it. He is still only 24 years old and has only 48 games of NHL experience on his resume. He is far from a finished product. If he becomes the player the Capitals have hoped he could be, that changes a lot. Combine that with Kuznetsov returning to form and suddenly an old, very good team could again be a major threat come playoff time.

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    Malkin’s late goal lifts Penguins past Ovechkin, Caps 4-3

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    Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

    PITTSBURGH — Evgeni Malkin remains a live wire. Even now, 17 seasons into a career that is likely destined for the Hall of Fame, there’s an unpredictability the Pittsburgh Penguins star plays with that can be both endearing and exasperating to teammates and coaches alike.

    The latest proof came against Washington on Saturday.

    An untimely roughing penalty in the third period helped spark a Capitals’ rally from a three-goal deficit. Malkin made up for it by burying a breakaway with 1:20 left in regulation that lifted the Penguins to a 4-3 victory.

    “His care factor and his compete level for me is off the charts and that’s what I love about him and usually when the stakes are high that’s when he’s at his best,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “He gets a huge goal for us tonight at a key time.”

    Malkin’s 25th goal of the season – a low wrist shot to the far post – helped the Penguins avoid a potentially messy collapse. Pittsburgh appeared to be ready to cruise to victory after Jake Guentzel‘s power-play goal 27 seconds into the third period made it 3-0.

    Washington instead stormed back, with Alex Ovechkin right in the middle of it. Ovechkin scored his 42nd goal of the season and 822nd of his career from his favorite spot in the left circle with 6:42 to go in regulation. Washington drew even when Dylan Strome flipped the puck into an open net with 2:44 to go in regulation.

    Yet instead of sagging, the Penguins surged. Malkin stripped Washington’s Anthony Mantha near center ice and broke in alone on Kuemper. Seconds later, the puck was in the net and Malkin was on one knee celebrating while pumping his fists, the kind of display of raw emotion that’s become one of his trademarks.

    “It’s a huge goal for me, and two points for the team,” Malkin said.

    Pittsburgh moved three points clear of Florida after the Panthers lost to the earlier Saturday. Both teams have nine regular-season games left.

    Ryan Poehling and Chad Ruhwedel scored a little over two minutes apart in the second period for Pittsburgh. Jake Guentzel added his team-high 32nd goal early in the third before Washington scrambled back. Casey DeSmith played spectacularly at times while finishing with 31 saves.

    Tom Wilson started the Capitals’ comeback with his ninth goal of the season 5:19 into the third. Kuemper stopped 36 shots, but was outplayed by DeSmith as Washington’s hopes of making a late push for a playoff berth took a serious hit. The Capitals are six points behind Pittsburgh with only eight games remaining.

    “It’s a tough one,” Washington center T.J. Oshie said. “I don’t think that last play was the only thing that lost the game for us. I know that (Mantha) feels terrible about it, but we trust him with the puck. It just wasn’t a good enough 60 minutes against a good hockey team over there.”

    It felt like old times for much of the night for teams that usually enter late March battling for a spot near the top of the Metropolitan Division.

    Not this season.

    While the 35-year-old Crosby is averaging over a point a game as usual and the 37-year-old Ovechkin is steadily making inroads on Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal record, their teams have spent most of the year skating in place.

    Pittsburgh has been wildly uneven thanks in part to goaltending that has fluctuated between solid and shaky, the main reason a 17th straight playoff appearance is hardly assured. Washington, meanwhile, appears to be pointing toward the future after injuries and a small sell-off at the trade deadline.

    Pittsburgh put itself on slightly firmer footing with DeSmith making a compelling case that he should supplant Tristan Jarry as Pittsburgh’s top goaltender down the stretch.

    DeSmith was spectacular at times, including stoning Ovechkin on a breakaway near the end of the second period in which Ovechkin deked DeSmith to his knees, only to see DeSmith extend his left leg just enough to knock the puck out of harm’s way.

    “I’m not very tall,” the 6-foot DeSmith said. “But I had that one inch that I needed.”


    Capitals: Host the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

    Penguins: Visit Detroit on Tuesday.

    Devils defeat Senators 5-3, clinch playoff berth

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    NEWARK, N.J. — Jack Hughes had a goal and an assist, Mackenzie Blackwood had 25 saves and the New Jersey Devils defeated the Ottawa Senators 5-3 and clinched a playoff berth on Saturday night.

    “It means everything to the group. I went into the dressing room after the game and just said that I was proud of the work that was put in, proud of where we got to clinch tonight to be one of three teams that have an X next to their name,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “All the work that’s been put in, the adversity they face during the year. The adversity they face right at the start of the season to where we’ve got to now.”

    New Jersey could have clinched its first postseason berth since 2018 with a win, but it happened before their first intermission when the Florida Panthers lost to the New York Rangers in regulation.

    “I had a lesser role then,” said Jesper Bratt, who was a rookie for the Devils in 2017-18. “I would say at a younger age, it’s kind of like you think that just because it happened your first year that it might happen every year. And then it goes pretty fast with reality that was not the case and you got to work extremely hard for it.

    “It’s a really tough league. So this feels really good. It’s been a lot of years with struggle, not winning, and it’s just awesome coming out now playing these kinds of games and getting that.”

    Bratt, Dawson Mercer and Dougie Hamilton scored for the Devils and Tomas Tatar scored an empty netter with 42.3 seconds left to put things away.

    Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot and Mark Kastelic scored for the Senators and Dylan Ferguson had 30 saves.

    Tkachuk scored his 33rd goal of the season to give the Senators the 1-0 lead 3:14 into the first period. The Devils responded midway through the first period with Hughes’ 40th goal of the season on a breakaway, going five-hole to tie it.

    Nick Holden gave the puck away and Bratt scored his 31st goal of the season on the breakaway 2:24 into the second period to give New Jersey the 2-1 lead. Mercer’s 23rd of the season came just over a minute later.

    The Senators answered midway through the second period when Thomas Chabot scored his 11th goal of the year to cut the deficit to 3-2. They knotted things up 16:03 into the second when Kastelic scored his fifth of the season.

    “We were confident going into the third period. We felt like the game was there for our taking,” Travis Hamonic said. “They score on their chance, and that’s game.”

    Hamilton scored 3:34 into the third period to give the Devils the lead. His 19th goal breaks the franchise record for goals in a season by a defenseman, surpassing Scott Stevens – the Devils great whose number is hanging in the rafters – record of 18 in 1993-94.

    NOTES: This was the first game for the Devils backup Blackwood since Feb. 19. … Nico Hischier has a six-game point streak after recording two assists.


    Senators: Host the Florida Panthers on Monday night.

    Devils: Play at New York Islanders on Monday night. —

    AP NHL: and

    Kings tie franchise mark with point in 11th straight game

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    Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

    LOS ANGELES — Viktor Arvidsson had two goals and the Los Angeles Kings matched their longest point streak in franchise history with a 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday afternoon.

    Drew Doughty had a goal and an assist and Alex Iafallo netted a power-play goal for Los Angeles, which has earned points in 11 straight games for the fourth time. The last occurrence was 2013-14, when the Kings won their second Stanley Cup championship.

    Joonas Korpisalo stopped 25 shots for Los Angeles.

    Pierre-Luc Dubois scored for Winnipeg and Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves.

    Arvidsson – who has 22 goals on the season – has four in the last four games while Doughty has found the net four times in the last five games.

    Arvidsson’s first goal came 82 seconds into the game. Trevor Moore won the faceoff in the offensive zone and made a backhand pass to Arvidsson, who snapped it into the net from the back of the left faceoff circle.

    He also had an empty-net goal late in the third period.

    The Kings extended their lead to 2-0 five minutes into the second period on the power play. Phillip Danault made a great pass between Jets defenseman Brenden Dillon and Hellebuyck as Iafallo buried it into the short side of the net.

    Doughty extended the lead to 3-1 27 seconds into the third period with a wrist shot from outside the right faceoff circle near the boards after Anze Kopitar won the faceoff.


    Winnipeg got its first power-play goal in seven games with 1:23 remaining in the second period when Dubois took a cross-ice pass from Kyle Connor and scored from the left faceoff circle to get the Jets within 2-1.

    The Jets got a five-minute power play after Los Angeles’ Blake Lizotte received a five-minute match penalty for a vicious cross-check to Josh Morrissey’s face. The goal came with 33 seconds left in the man advantage.

    NOTES: Danault picked up his 300th career point and 200th assist. … Winnipeg’s Connor set a career high for most assists in a season when he got his 47th on Dubois’ goal.


    Jets: Travel to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.

    Kings: Host the St. Louis Blues on Sunday.

    Coyotes minority owner suspended by NHL following arrest

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    NEW YORK — Arizona Coyotes minority owner Andrew Barroway was suspended indefinitely by the NHL on Friday following his arrest for domestic violence in Colorado.

    Online court records show Barroway was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of second-degree assault strangulation, a felony, and third-degree assault, a misdemeanor. He appeared in court Friday to be advised of the possible charges he is facing and is scheduled to back in court on April 3.

    Barroway spent Thursday night in Pitkin County Jail after police arrested him at an Aspen hotel, according to a police report obtained by the Aspen Daily News.

    “The National Hockey League is aware of the arrest of Arizona Coyotes’ minority owner Andrew Barroway,” the NHL said in a statement. “Pending further information, he has been suspended indefinitely.”

    The 57-year-old Barroway was arrested after a verbal altercation with his wife turned physical, according to the police report. He is prohibited from having contact with his wife, except when it involves their children, and can’t consume alcohol under a court order.

    A prominent hedge fund manager, Barroway owns 5% of the Coyotes.

    “We are aware of the allegation regarding Mr. Barroway and we are working with the League to gather more information,” the Coyotes said in a statement. “When we have enough information, we will have an appropriate response. Until the investigation is complete, we will have no further comment.”