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30 in 30

Offense dominates Capitals' six questions

Monday, 08.06.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

From the time coach Bruce Boudreau arrived in November 2008 until the 2010 playoffs, the Washington Capitals wowed with their offense while at times the defense and goaltending proved less than satisfactory.

In two of the past three postseasons, offense has become the problem for Washington. First it was goalie Jaroslav Halak and the Montreal Canadiens' penalty-killers in 2010, then it was a wide-range of issues from player performance to team philosophy with new coach Dale Hunter in 2012, but as the Capitals’ ability to prevent goals has improved, they have struggled to score enough when it counts.

Much of the intrigue with the 2012-13 Capitals again, almost strangely, revolves around offense. Goalie Braden Holtby had a great postseason, and though both are still young, he and Michal Neuvirth should be a solid tandem. The defense could be better at helping the goalies in their own end with the subtraction of Dennis Wideman, the addition of Jack Hillen, and a return to regular playing time for Dmitry Orlov.

That leaves the offense, which is far from the certainty it once was in Washington, to dominate the six questions facing the Capitals entering this season.

Capitals could split lines to create more offense

Monday, 08.06.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

Say this about the 2011-12 season for the Washington Capitals: It did not lack intrigue.

After four straight division titles and back-to-back years as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Capitals were all over the place last season. They won the first seven games before losing 10 of the next 15 to cost coach Bruce Boudreau his job.

The transition to Dale Hunter’s preferred playing style wasn’t exactly smooth, and in the end the Capitals might have missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs if not for the 7-0-0 start. Still, they had a chance to win the Southeast for a fifth straight year on the last day of the season, but the Florida Panthers ended their reign.

Washington nearly salvaged the disappointing season by upsetting the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in the first round and pushing the top-seeded New York Rangers to seven games in round two. In the end, it was another season when the Capitals did not make to the second half of the playoff bracket, something that has yet to happen during their era of regular-season success.

Elusive Kuznetsov best of Capitals' top 10 prospects

Monday, 08.06.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Washington Capitals’ rise to consistent contender status in recent seasons was fueled by the organization’s success in the NHL Draft, particularly in the first round.

Few teams in the League deployed as many homegrown, first-round picks as the Capitals did shooting to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. A few of those players have moved on, and being a contender has led general manager George McPhee to trade some high picks (including his first-rounder in 2011 for Troy Brouwer).

The backbone of the 2012-13 Capitals still will be the team’s recent No. 1 selections -- Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Mike Green and Marcus Johansson. Washington’s top two prospects also were first-round choices, but neither will play on this side of the Atlantic Ocean this season.

A problem for the Capitals for many years was too few later picks panning out, but that trend is starting to turn. Braden Holtby, Michal Neuvirth, Dmitri Orlov and Mathieu Perreault all were drafted after the first round and could have significant roles for the Capitals this season, and there are a few later-round picks among the team’s top prospects who could help soon as well.

Green holds key to Capitals' resurgence

Monday, 08.06.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

There have been times in the past two seasons when the Washington Capitals looked like just another pretty good hockey team, not the unique bunch that could light up opposing goaltenders with skill and clinical precision in the years before that.

Mike Green
Defense - WSH
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 7
SOG: 64 | +/-: 5
Washington’s system has changed on a couple of occasions, and a pair of coaches tried to shift the philosophy away from those halcyon days of run-and-gun hockey. But one of the biggest reasons the Capitals haven’t been what they once were offensively has been the absence and/or diminished effectiveness of defenseman Mike Green.

In a two-season span from 2008-10, Green had 50 goals and 149 points. He was the first NHL defenseman with at least 18 goals and 70 points in back-to-back seasons since Boston Bruins star Ray Bourque in 1992-93 and 1993-94.

The past two seasons have been filled with frustration and disappointment -- concussions, an ankle injury, and a lingering groin injury have limited Green to 82 regular-season games, and a shoulder injury knocked him out of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After bumpy season, Caps look for smoother ride

Monday, 08.06.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

The ambition in Washington remains the same, but for the first time in several seasons when prognosticators compile a list of Stanley Cup contenders the Capitals are not likely to be near the top.

There are enough questions about the Capitals that despite five straight postseason appearances, there are likely to be several NHL teams considered better bets to claim the Stanley Cup in 2013. But if Washington can find enough answers, the Capitals just might squeeze their way back into the League's elite.

One offseason ago Washington general manager George McPhee was feted for his alterations, adding Tomas Vokoun, Joel Ward, Roman Hamrlik and Jeff Halpern to a club that had just finished back-to-back regular seasons atop the Eastern Conference.

A turbulent campaign followed, as the Capitals failed to win the Southeast Division title for the first time in five years. Some of the enthusiasm from upsetting the defending Stanley Cup champions in the first round was stunted by the Capitals' passive style of play, and then-coach Dale Hunter's decision to limit playing time for stars Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.

Canucks ready for Schneider's ascension to No. 1

Sunday, 08.05.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Cory Schneider has been biding his time since being the Vancouver Canucks' first-round pick in the 2004 NHL Draft.

It appears his wait is over.

Despite winning the Presidents' Trophy in back-to-back seasons and going to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2011, the Canucks are expected to have a major change at arguably the most important position on the ice this season. Schneider, 26, will likely take over for Roberto Luongo as the No. 1 goalie in Vancouver after signing a three-year, $12 million contract in late June.

Luongo, who is 33 and still has 10 years left on his contract, is expected to get traded.

Luongo, Kassian among six questions facing Canucks

Sunday, 08.05.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Roberto Luongo is still with the Vancouver Canucks, but the general assumption is that he won't be for too much longer because Cory Schneider is ready to take over as the No. 1 goalie.

Canucks general manager Mike Gillis is shopping Luongo, the gold-medal-winning goalie who has 10 years left on his contract, and hopes to ship him out of town soon. Gillis wants a fair return, but his options are limited because A) there aren't too many teams in need of a No. 1 goalie at this late date; B) Luongo is owed $40 million over the next six years of his deal; C) Luongo has a no-trade clause.

Luongo has already said his time in Vancouver is done, but he's not about to go somewhere that doesn't appeal to him. The Florida Panthers are considered his choice destination because he used to play there and his wife's family is from the area, but the Toronto Maple Leafs are in the market for a goalie and Luongo also publicly expressed an interest in the Chicago Blackhawks.

Healthy Kesler can make difference for Canucks

Sunday, 08.05.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler is expected to miss the start of the season for the second consecutive year after undergoing surgery in May. It's fair to ask if he'll ever get back to being the dominant two-way pivot he was two seasons ago, when he scored 41 goals and won the Selke Trophy.

"I think he can be, but you've got to give his body a chance to follow his will and heart," NHL Network analyst and former Flames general manager Craig Button told NHL.com. "You're never going to question Kesler's determination to be an impact player, but if the body can't follow he's just not going to be the same player."

A year ago, Kesler was rehabbing during the summer after having labrum surgery on his hip. He missed the first five games of the season and later admitted he returned too soon. Making matters worse was the shoulder injury he incurred Feb. 9 -- an injury that basically stopped his productivity dead in its tracks.

Net prospects Lack, Cannata a strength for Canucks

Sunday, 08.05.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The Vancouver Canucks built their veteran core through the draft, but they've picked in the top-10 only twice since 2005, and neither player selected is still with the organization. Cody Hodgson (No. 10 in 2008) was traded to Buffalo last season, and Luc Bourdon (No. 10 in 2005) was killed in a motorcycle accident four years ago.

It's possible the Canucks won't have any Calder Trophy-eligible skaters in their opening-night lineup this season, but they have some guys that will challenge for roles and several others that are up-and-coming despite the fact that they have picked perennially low in the draft for years.

With the assistance of Dave Gagner, Vancouver's director of player development, here is a list of the Canucks' 10 best prospects.

Without Kesler, Canucks have hole in lineup

Sunday, 08.05.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Vancouver Canucks won the Presidents' Trophy in 2011-12 for the second straight season, but this one ended in far different fashion. A concussion for Daniel Sedin left the Canucks shorthanded at the start of their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series with the Los Angeles Kings, and it was over before he could return to have much of a say.

Given the path of destruction the Kings were in the process of carving out, the Canucks' defeat doesn't look as bad in hindsight -- even if that's probably not a view shared by many in the Pacific Northwest. Cory Schneider replaced Roberto Luongo in net during the series, and the ongoing wait for a resolution to Luongo's playing address for 2012-13 has dominated the discussion about Vancouver this offseason. Like Rick Nash, it is something of a foregone conclusion that Luongo will end up elsewhere, but like the former Columbus Blue Jackets captain, a no-trade clause is limiting the options.

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