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Over The Boards | Dan Rosen

Over The Boards

Mailbag: Backstrom's health key for Capitals' Stanley Cup push

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the May 9 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.

 

Now that the Washington Capitals have won the elusive Second Round Cup, what is it going to take from them to continue winning? The Tampa Bay Lightning have more depth and experience. Does No. 19 have to find a magic stone for his hand in order to stand a chance? I like the Caps' resilience to this point. -- @chris_szimanski

The Capitals better hope No. 19, center Nicklas Backstrom, is healthy and capable of playing effectively in the Eastern Conference Final despite a right-hand injury. They outplayed the Penguins and won Game 6 in overtime without him, but it's not realistic to think they can win four out of seven against the Lightning without Backstrom. The good news is Backstrom is not a shooter, but will he be able to make the plays and control the puck the way he normally does? That's the big question. 

The Capitals will need Backstrom's line, likely to include T.J. Oshie and either Chandler Stephenson or Jakub Vrana, to be productive against Tampa Bay. They will have to outplay the Lightning's top line of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and J.T. Miller. Tampa Bay's second line of Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson probably will be tasked with shutting down Washington's top line of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson. 

The Boston Bruins couldn't get any other line going against the Lightning, and Point's line did yeoman's work shutting down Patrice Bergeron's line in the second round. Boston did not score a 5-on-5 goal in the last three games of the series and didn't have a 5-on-5 goal from a forward in the last four games. The Capitals need production from Backstrom and Oshie at 5-on-5 if they're going to win the series. 

 

What is Brayden Point's ceiling? -- @TheRevTy

I don't know if there is one.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper brought up Bergeron when talking about Point following Game 5 of the second round. 

"He's probably right out of that Bergeron mold, where he's going to end up playing on your power play somewhere, he's going to end up killing penalties, and he's going to end up having those assignments where he's going to have to be the shutdown guy," Cooper said. "But in today's game, a lot of those shutdown guys are just not one-dimensional shutdown players. All those guys can contribute offensively, and that's what he does. That's what makes Bergeron so effective, is he can do it in both ends of the ice. So can [Point]."

Cooper added that it's probably too early to compare Bergeron to Point; Bergeron, 32, is a four-time Selke Trophy winner who is a finalist again this season. He has scored at least 60 points in six of his 12 full NHL seasons, at least 50 in 10 of them. Point had 66 points (32 goals, 34 assists) this season, his second in the NHL. He's 22 years old, and there isn't a shred of doubt in my mind he will eventually win the Selke Trophy and be a perennial favorite. He's terrific in all areas of the game. His skating is his best attribute (watch his edge work, my goodness). He uses it to elude checks when he has the puck and create turnovers when he doesn't. He's one of the most effective 200-foot players in the NHL.

Video: BOS@TBL, Gm5: Point slides home nifty backhander

 

What is the craziest injury you have seen a player play through in the playoffs? -- @ChrisWasselDFS

I think back to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final and what Bergeron went through to play Games 4, 5 and 6 for the Bruins against the Chicago Blackhawks. Bergeron tore rib cartilage in Game 4, broke a rib in Game 5, and then separated his right shoulder and sustained a punctured left lung in Game 6. He did not miss any time. Bergeron went to the hospital after Game 6 and spent three days there. 

I'm not condoning what Bergeron did playing through those injuries or praising him for doing so, or suggesting he's tougher than everybody else. He was seen, treated and monitored by doctors along the way. He trusted them and he played because he wanted to and he was cleared to do so. That he did is nothing short of incredible. 

 

Thoughts on the New Jersey Devils' goaltending situation given the Cory Schneider injury/recovery time and how it ended with Keith Kinkaid and his performances? -- @paulgodfrey

It's hard to answer with any level of certainty because the answer is linked to Schneider's expected full recovery from surgery he had to repair torn cartilage in his left hip May 1. The Devils said the approximate recovery time is five months. That goes right to the start of the season and it leaves open the possibility he won't be ready for the start of training camp, or potentially all of training camp. I have no reservations a healthy Schneider is the Devils' No. 1 goalie, but we don't know for sure when he'll be fully healthy or how much the surgery will impact him when he is cleared to play. What it probably means is the Devils won't be looking to trade Kinkaid this offseason. He has one year remaining on his contract. Devils general manager Ray Shero may have wanted to check the market value of Kinkaid after his strong finish to the regular season, but with this news on Schneider, I just don't see that happening. The Devils might try to add some insurance in goal too. 

Video: NJD@TBL, Gm5: Schneider denies Palat with his glove

 

Why did the Carolina Hurricanes not go outside the organization for any of their major openings? It feels like it's out of necessity, or incredibly lazy -- and I feel like either should really scare fans. -- @everytimeidavid

The Hurricanes officially named Don Waddell president and general manager and Rod Brind'Amour coach Tuesday. There had been speculation for a while that Waddell would take on the role as GM and Brind'Amour would take over for Bill Peters as coach. Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon clearly has developed trust in Waddell and Brind'Amour. He is a new owner and it's obvious now he intends to be hands-on, at least until the organization is running the way he wants it to, so it's not surprising he will go with the people he feels he works well with. That must be at least one reason he chose Waddell and Brind'Amour, who was an assistant in Carolina for seven seasons. Another reason is the candidate pool for the positions may have been thin; Dundon is a new owner, and people looking for these positions are likely more inclined to work with people they know or have a proven track record in the NHL. There is nothing wrong with that. 

I understand if the tried and true Caniacs are worried or aren't big fans of these moves. Dundon's arrival created a wave of excitement and signaled a welcome change for a franchise that has been lagging and hasn't hosted a Stanley Cup Playoff game since 2009. It was expected things would be new, different and better. To see Dundon hire from within the organization to fill the two most important positions in the hockey operations department, GM and coach, would and maybe should create some doubt among the fan base. But my suggestion is to be patient. Brind'Amour might be an excellent coach. He was a terrific player, one of the smartest in the League when he was on the ice, and that could translate. He has seen a lot as an assistant and by now surely has designs on how he wants his team to play, what he thinks will work, and what he knows doesn't. Waddell didn't have success with the Atlanta Thrashers, but Dundon seems like an aggressive owner, so if he's willing to spend, that puts the Hurricanes in the ballgame for some free agents and in the trade market for a blockbuster or two. 

 

Will Joe Thornton finish out his career with the San Jose Sharks? -- @swandad

Yes. 

The 38-year-old center said Tuesday his season-ending injury this season was a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee. He tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee last season, so he knows the recovery process and how to handle it. Thornton also said he wants to return to the Sharks and would be comfortable with another one-year contract. He called himself a Shark, said he bleeds teal, and knows he'll be healthy when he does come back.

I think Thornton and Sharks GM Doug Wilson will figure out a one-year contract that works for both parties. It might have to be less than the $8 million he played for this season, but the Sharks are in a good position with the NHL salary cap, which could go up from $75 million this season to $78 million-$82 million next season. They will have some holes to fill up front. They have to figure out if they want forward Evander Kane back and at what price; he also can become an unrestricted free agent. The only defenseman not under contract for next season is Dylan DeMelo, who can become a restricted free agent.

***

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