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Stanley Cup Final | Golden Knights vs. Capitals

Over The Boards

Mailbag: Ovechkin deserves Conn Smythe Trophy

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the June 6 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday throughout the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

If the Stanley Cup Final ends Thursday, who is your Conn Smythe Trophy winner? Let's say Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov each have two points, and Braden Holtby lets in two goals on 30 shots. -- @fake_teej

If I had a vote (I don't), it would go to Ovechkin if the Washington Capitals defeat the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS), unless Kuznetsov has a monster game and Ovechkin doesn't do much. I don't think one will happen with the other, though, so my vote as it stands now would go to Ovechkin, who has 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists). Ovechkin has been the Capitals' most valuable player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can make the argument, as I have heard others do, that Kuznetsov has been their most outstanding player with a playoff-high 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists), but the Capitals are feeding off Ovechkin's play and his emotion. I've never seen him as all-in and as engaged as he is now. He's setting the tone with speed and with physicality. He's blocking shots and playing as strong defensively as we have ever seen him play. The emotion is pouring out of him and into his teammates. He's the Capitals' leader in every sense. He's been their most valuable player.

Video: Looking at Alex Ovechkin as a Conn Smythe favorite

 

Who has to play the biggest role in Game 5 for both teams? Specifically, is it special teams, even-strength play, defense or goaltending? -- @RyanFines

From the Golden Knights' perspective, it's obviously goalie Marc-Andre Fleury because he's capable of stealing a win and hasn't had his signature moment in the Cup Final. If he wins, the series will return to Washington for Game 6 on Sunday. But he needs help. I don't think you can blame him for the position Vegas is in even though he's allowed 16 goals in four games. He's been hung out to dry way too much. For example, the Golden Knights have to stop allowing the Capitals to make side-to-side plays in front of the net. Good grief, it's killing them.

To a bigger point, though, what has happened to Vegas' top line, especially forward Jonathan Marchessault? He has two assists in four games. That's not acceptable for a top scorer in the Cup Final. He had 14 shots on goal through the first two games, including nine in Game 2. He said he didn't think he had a good scoring chance on any of the nine. Well, he has six shots on goal in the past two games. He did hit the post once. Not good enough. Time to step up. William Karlsson has no points in the past two games and two in the series (one goal, one assist). Time to step up.

Video: VGK@WSH, Gm4: Gallant on how Vegas can rally back

Vegas' penalty kill must be better. The Capitals were 3-for-5 on the power play in Game 4. Yes, one of those goals was a 5-on-3 late in the third period, so maybe you can throw that one out because the game was out of hand at that point. But T.J. Oshie's power-play goal at 9:54 of the first period was big. Two penalty killers covered Nicklas Backstrom, leaving Kuznetsov alone in the lower part of the left circle. He got the puck and got off a good shot. Fleury made the save, but nobody covered Oshie in front for the rebound. Shouldn't happen. John Carlson's power-play goal was off a smart switch between him and Ovechkin. But the Golden Knights have to get in the shooting lane, lay out and block that shot. 

From the Capitals' perspective, there are areas to clean up from Game 4. They need to be better at the start, especially because you know the Golden Knights are going to come out with energy. We can all debate how much Game 4 changes, if at all, if James Neal scores at 4:31 of the first period instead of hitting the right post. We don't know, but the Capitals know they caught a break. They can't bank on catching more.

Video: Can Vegas send the series back to Washington?

 

Assuming the Capitals win either Game 5 or 6, what is the Golden Knights' No. 1 priority in the offseason? -- @jackyc

I don't know if there is a No. 1 priority. There are a lot of things the Golden Knights will have to do after this season. They're still building the franchise and layers within their overall depth chart, so drafting wisely and being honest with the development of their prospects are key parts of this offseason. They have the NHL salary cap space to try to go after one of the bigger names who could be available, potentially New York Islanders center John Tavares through free agency or Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson through a trade. Getting one of those players would be huge because he'd be a core piece in Vegas for years. 

The Golden Knights need to get Karlsson, who can become a restricted free agent, signed to a contract. He's a 25-year-old who scored 43 goals in 82 games this season after scoring 18 goals in his first 183 games. I think he'll average into a center who scores 25-30 goals, and with the two-way game he plays, that's a player who needs to be a part of the core. Defensemen Colin Miller and Shea Theodore are set to become restricted free agents. They should be part of Vegas' future too, so they need to get signed. What is the plan for forwards Neal and David Perron, who each can be an unrestricted free agent July 1? If Neal will go shorter term, he's a player I'd want to bring back. If he wants five or more years in his next contract, which he might, and deserves, I would let him go to market. Same with Perron. 

 

Where does John Carlson play next season and how would winning the Stanley Cup influence that? -- @MeierGilles

The Capitals want him back and I think Carlson wants to stay, but I don't think he should offer a hometown discount, especially if he helps Washington win the Stanley Cup. If the Capitals want Carlson back, his representatives should demand he gets paid what he would get paid if he hit the open market. Is that a seven-year contract with an average annual value of $7 million? Is it more? Less? I don't think I'd go that high for him, but that's probably within the range he'll be asking for. If it doesn't work out for him in Washington, I think the New Jersey Devils are a team to watch. My feeling has nothing to do with the fact that Carlson is from New Jersey and everything to do with the fact that the Devils might think they need a right-handed defenseman with speed and a shot who they can put in their top four. They have Sami Vatanen and Damon Severson now. If they signed Carlson, they could put Severson on the third pair, which would make that side of their defense excellent. I don't know if winning the Cup influences whether Carlson stays in Washington or signs elsewhere other than maybe he can try to ask for a little bit more money because he's been strong in the playoffs (19 points; five goals 14 assists).

Video: VGK@WSH, Gm4: Carlson blasts one-timer for PPG

 

Do the Golden Knights have this amount of success next season or are they one-and-done for a little while? It seems like they lost their magic in the Stanley Cup Final, but could it have an effect heading into next season? -- @BenGriecoSports

It's impossible to predict now because I don't know what the Golden Knights roster is going to look like next season and what other teams in the Pacific Division might do to get better, or worse. Generally speaking, I don't think Vegas will have the same level of success next season as it had this season. Think about everything that had to go right for the Golden Knights to get to where they are now. They needed every skater to play at a level he has never played at, and with that they still needed Fleury to be at his absolute best. To think they can get that again, all of it, would be a leap of faith I'm not willing to make. Can they be a contender? Sure, depending on what they do in the offseason. Will they play for the Stanley Cup again? I won't make that prediction.

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