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Over The Boards

Mailbag: Strengths, weaknesses of Capitals; Eberle's role with Islanders

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the Nov. 6 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which runs every Wednesday. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

Do you see any weaknesses on the Washington Capitals? If they make it to the playoffs and face the Pittsburgh Penguins (again), who wins? -- @TrishTheMiddle

They have weaknesses, but right now they have their healthy players slotted in mostly favorable positions and have enough all around to make them Stanley Cup contenders. The Capitals are better than the Penguins in their current state, but I'm sure they would like their goals against to drop. They're allowing 3.06 per game, a stat masked by their 3.94 goals-for per game. They won't continue to score at that clip, so dropping the goals against will be important.

It's already begun, though. They've allowed three goals in their past two games, both wins, after allowing at least three in 10 of their first 14. Their defensemen are being asked to play more aggressive in the offensive zone, a reason why John Carlson has a team-high 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists), but it leaves them vulnerable and they've given up more chances than they'd like. They might want to eventually get an upgrade on defense, potentially to bring in a player who can slide into their top four so Radko Gudas can get dropped to the third pair and Jonas Siegenthaler could become their No. 7. Nick Jensen, at least for right now, appears more suited for third-pair duty even though Washington had hopes he would be in the top four. Overall, though, this is nitpicking because the Capitals have won four in a row and are 8-0-1 in their past nine games. They'll be able to work on their issues as the season goes along.

Video: WSH@TOR: Carlson blasts second goal on power play

 

With all of the trick goals happening this season (i.e. the lacrosse goal, the in-between-the-legs goal, etc.), do you think this will become a norm as more players try to pull off the trick goals during games or is this just a passing phase? -- @CourtFall

I don't know if it will ever become the norm, but this isn't a passing phase. Players today are more skilled and daring, more willing to show off their individual skills for the show, the entertainment value of it, than I think they've ever been. There is no exact science to this, but it certainly seems like there is more personality in the NHL and more coming into it than previously. 

As is the case with most pro sports now, each athlete is his or her own brand. They're keenly aware of the impact of what they do and how they do it. I think we're seeing that with the younger generation of players in the NHL today. Carolina Hurricanes forward Andrei Svechnikov, 19, showed the guts to try to the lacrosse goal because he knew he could do it. Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk, 21, put the puck between his legs to score because it was the best play he had at the time and he could do it. I think it was instincts taking over for them, but these young players have that in their DNA and the instincts to make the standout individual play that can go viral. I hope we see more of it. It shows skill and personality, and when you combine the two you have great entertainment, which is exactly what pro sports is and always should be about.

Video: CGY@CAR: Svechnikov scores lacrosse-style goal

 

Where does Jordan Eberle fit in the New York Islanders lineup now that Derick Brassard is surging? -- @SJS883

What a great problem for the Islanders to have. It's not here yet because Eberle (lower-body injury) still isn't ready to return to the lineup, but he's back skating with the team, so he's close. And that's great for the Islanders, who have won 10 games in a row. The beauty of the Islanders is it doesn't seem to matter where coach Barry Trotz slots his players, who they play with and how many minutes they play. The Islanders are playing the ultimate team game. They pack it in defensively, making it difficult to generate any high-danger scoring chances. When they give them up, goalies Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss have been answering. The Islanders are then dangerous off the rush because they're moving the puck quickly up the ice. They forecheck hard and they force turnovers. 

I'm guessing Eberle would go on the top line with Anders Lee and Mathew Barzal when he's ready to return. Brassard, who had a five-game goal streak end in a 4-1 win against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, would likely stay on the second line with Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier provided he stays hot. Josh Bailey, who has been on the right side of the top line, would drop to left wing on the third line with Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck. That would move Michael Dal Colle down to the fourth line and Oliver Wahlstrom would likely be returned to Bridgeport of the American Hockey League. 

But there's a lot of factors and questions here. Will Brassard stay hot on the second line? If not, would Trotz want him to be a center again, likely on the third line so Cizikas can drop to the fourth line? He's been one of the best fourth-line centers in the NHL the past few seasons. Where will Leo Komarov fit when he's back from an illness that has kept him out seven games? My guess is Ross Johnston or Dal Colle would go back to Bridgeport.

Video: What's the buzz on the Islanders' hot win streak?

 

With Filip Forsberg back in the Nashville Predators lineup, Kyle Turris is back on the fourth line. At what point is Turris going to get frustrated with this and can the Predators keep a $6 million center on the fourth line the entire season, or will he be traded? -- @KevinC60

The Predators have to figure out how to make it work long term with Turris. A trade now likely won't give them the value they'd want in return and might cost them a top prospect to entice another team to take on Turris and the remaining four years and $24 million on his contract. Even then, they might have to retain some salary, which isn't ideal. It's also not ideal to buy him out because similar to retaining salary, a buyout would leave dead money on their salary cap that they may not be able to afford, especially with defenseman Roman Josi's NHL salary-cap charge increasing by more than $5 million next season because of the eight-year, $72.4 million contract extension he signed last week. The Predators will likely need players on entry-level contracts next season, of which they have none this season, and they'd obviously prefer to graduate some of their top prospects to the NHL, including forward Eeli Tolvanen. The last thing they want to do is use a high draft pick or a top prospect in a trade to entice another team to take on Turris and his contract.

Turris is fourth behind Ryan Johansen, Matt Duchene and Nick Bonino on Nashville's depth chart for centers. Turris shouldn't be OK with this, but it's up to him to do something about it with the minutes he gets. He needs to do more with his opportunities, even if they are scarce. Championship teams typically have four lines that are dangerous. Look no further than the St. Louis Blues' fourth line of Oskar Sundqvist, Alexander Steen and Ivan Barbashev last season. They were dynamic and arguably their best line for a stretch late in the regular season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They were productive too. So was the Washington Capitals' fourth line of Jay Beagle, Chandler Stephenson and Devante Smith-Pelly in helping them win the Stanley Cup in 2018. The point is it shouldn't matter if Turris is on the fourth line because if he can make that line be a factor by pressuring defenses and generating chances that lead to points, he'll help make the Predators a championship team. And if that happens, his contract won't be the story.

 

Is Christian Dvorak a Selke Trophy finalist? -- @CochiseJack

Well, not yet, because that's an end-of-season award. But it's an interesting question about a potential under-the-radar candidate in Dvorak, the Arizona Coyotes center. My take is he won't get enough attention nationally to become a finalist (top-three vote getter) for the Selke Trophy, given annually to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that the Coyotes aren't seen regularly on national television but looking beyond that it's a difficult field of candidates to crack and Dvorak isn't quite on that list yet. The list for me includes Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, a four-time winner, Blues center Ryan O'Reilly, who won it last season, along with Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov and Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat.

Dvorak isn't yet seen as a No. 1 center on his team using ice time as the measure. This award typically goes to a No. 1 center. He's behind Derek Stepan and Carl Soderberg in ice time. He's also behind them in defensive zone face-offs taken and in shorthanded time on ice per game. That means as much as Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet trusts him, and that faith is growing, he still doesn't often put Dvorak on the ice in enough defensive situations to warrant him being under considering for the Selke Trophy along with the likes of Bergeron, O'Reilly, Crosby, Barkov and Horvat.

I think Dvorak has the potential to eventually be a Selke Trophy candidate. He embodies what it is to be a 200-foot center, but he's not up to the level of the top candidates yet. 

Video: ARI@NYR: Dvorak rifles overtime winner top shelf

 

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