Questions for 2015-16: Is Alex Ovechkin a Fine Wine?

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Alex Ovechin turned 30 last month, and that is scary. It is scary mostly because age is a dauntless demon who will one day lay waste to all the fun stuff about living like jumping jacks, erections, and hearing above 16 kilohertz, but it is scary also because scoring goals in hockey becomes rarer as players get older.

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Photo: Amanda Bowen

A sampling of TSN hockey experts and NHL GMs were recently polled to rank the top 50 players in the league. Alex Ovechkin (5th), Nick Backstrom (22nd) and Braden Holtby (49th) were the three Caps to make the list. The rankings for Ovechkin and Backstrom seem reasonable (Backstrom might be a little high), but Holtby did not get due respect here.

There were five goalies in the top 50: Carey Price (3rd), Henrik Lundqvist(25th), Pekka Rinne (29th), Jonathan Quick (35th), and Holtby (49th).

Holtby is a better goalie than both Rinne and Quick.

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Hockey Abstract 2015 is Fun, Unassuming, and Indispensible

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Analytics pioneer Rob Vollman is back with the  2015 edition of Hockey Abstract. If you’re not familiar with Vollman’s work, well, you should be. His cheerful, unassuming, and informative writing style makes his annual release an indispensable read for hockey fans of all kinds.

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Bet: Can TJ Oshie Score 30 Goals?

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Illustration by Rob Ullman. You can buy a print from Ullman’s store.

Early in Monday’s preseason game, CSN analyst Craig Laughlin dropped a casual prediction: TJ Oshie could hit 30 goals this season.

Some people scoffed. Some people said heck yeah brah. Over at RMNB, Pat and Peter made a friendly wager. Now it’s our first bet of the season. There is poetry and beer-league hockey on the line now, so read on.

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Questions for 2015-16: Is the Penalty Kill in Trouble?

Jay Beagle may be asked to kill more penalties in 2015-16. This photo has nothing to do with that.

The Washington Capitals aren’t a great penalty-killing team, and they might get worse this season. With the exits of Troy Brouwer and Joel Ward, the Caps have lost two of their top-five penalty killers (in terms of shorthanded minutes played per game). Those departures are going to mark a big shift in PK workloads this season.

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Questions for 2015-16: Can Nick Backstrom Get and Stay Healthy?

Though he’s undoubtedly the Capitals’ best player who is not also a namesake for this website, Nick Backstrom has a worrying pattern of injuries. He got the terrible concussion debacle of 2012 behind him, but a series of rumored and admitted bumps and bruises have made Backstrom somewhat less effective in recent springs.

This summer’s surgery on his hip, which he says had been bothering him since last November, is only the latest of Backstrom’s woes. As of right now, Backstrom is expected to miss the whole preseason and might not be ready for regular-season action come October 8. Though it’s uncertain now, Backstrom’s health and durability may be crucial to the Caps’ success in 2015-16.

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Mike Green was the Caps’ make-it-happen guy on the power play, but in 2014-15 he scored just one goal while a man up. Green’s lack of man-advantage scoring led to his eventual displacement in favor of John Carlson, who has a better point shot anyway. But the Caps power play didn’t do wonderfully in the postseason, and now there may be some worry that Washington’s special teams might not be so special for the first time in a long time.

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Questions for 2015-16: Can Dmitry Orlov Come Back?

Orlov in 2011 (Photo: Kyle Mace)

When the Caps finally and truly return on October 8, it will have been 543 days since Dmitry Orlov last suited up for real NHL play. A shootout loss in April of 2014 was the last time the Capitals saw Orlov healthy and in regular-season action.

Orlov suffered a wrist injury playing for Team Russia that summer, and due to a long and frustrating series of setbacks he missed the entirety of the 2014-15 season, though he did suit up for Hershey in the spring for a conditioning stint.

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Questions for 2015-16: Is Washington’s Top Six Truly Deadly?

Photo: Amanda Bowen

Editor’s note: With the preseason beginning this week, RMNB will spend some time framing the questions about the upcoming season that are on our mind.

In 2014, it took Brian MacLellan just one day to dramatically upgrade the Washington defense, which was his first priority upon taking the job of general manager. In the space of a single afternoon, Mac signed Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, immediately improving a troubled blue line.

In 2015, he did the same for the offense, except this time it took him two full days. In consecutive days at the beginning of July, the Capitals signed Justin Williams and TJ Oshie, two marquee threats from across the league.

I don’t like calling it the “new-look” Capitals offense, but if you want to, I’d totally understand.

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Over Analyzing Lines On the Third Day of Camp

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Photo: Amanda Bowen

Let me be clear: I don’t care about the preseason of any sport, not even hockey. Takeaways from preseason are often worthless, for a wide variety of reasons. Intersquad scrimmages are even further down the ladder of things we should care about and read into. And, considering line combinations aren’t worth getting worked up about on a day-to-day basis during the season, no one should read much into lines from a scrimmage at training camp.

But let’s do it anyway.

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