JP over at Japers' Rink was kind enough to take time out of his schedule and answer five burning questions in preparation for the game tonight.
Kevin Kraczkowski, LitterBoxCats: Will Alex Ovechkin always be a Washington Capital?
JP, Japers' Rink:
Does anyone ever play an entire lengthy career with one team these days? That rhetorical question aside, while I could imagine an older Ovechkin playing for someone else as a complementary piece searching for that elusive Cup (like a Brett Hull post-St. Louis or whomever), he's not going anywhere for a long time, probably not during the life of his current contract. And just think... he was almost (but not really) a Panther!
KK: With Michal Neuvirth on the IR, we've had an advance look at this Philipp Grubauer guy, and he looks pretty good. When Neuvirth recovers, who gets sent down to the AHL?
JP: Grubauer. Neuvirth isn't waiver-exempt, while Grubauer is, so it's an easy decision, transactionally. Morever, Grubauer needs something closer to a starter's workload, and he'll get that down in Hershey (as opposed to in Washington, where he'd likely backup Holtby, a workhorse in his own right). Neuvirth, for what it's worth, needs to stay healthy and play well when he gets his chances - it's an important year for him.
KK: Is Nicklas Backstrom really as good as his numbers would indicate or is he merely lucky to be on the same team with a gifted scorer like Ovechkin?
JP: Backstrom is a great player. Ovechkin is a great player. Together they're better than either one is with other players. Obviously, having a wing like Ovechkin is every playmaking center's dream, but having a distributor like Backstrom is every high-volume shooter's dream as well. Backstrom lucked into a great situation playing alongside Ovechkin and has made (and continues to make) the most of it.
KK: The Caps seem to be back in solid contention. Although they're probably not in the running for the Presidents' Trophy this season, do you envision this group as capable of bringing Washington DC their first Stanley Cup?
JP: The current team has flaws. Big ones. They're at least one top-four defenseman and probably a top-nine foward away, roster-wise, and still struggle with puck possession (which is likely more of a systems issue). That said, they have a goalie who can get as hot as anyone and a decent group of skaters, and play in a conference that doesn't look all that intimidating. Winning the Cup doesn't sound particularly realistic for 2013-14, but stranger things have happened... I think.
KK: Consider this hypothetical question - The Panthers win tonight - what went wrong for the Caps?
JP: The Caps came out flat (as they have before in Sunrise), didn't take the Panthers seriously, and quickly found themselves down 2-0 (at least one of which Holtby should've stopped). They tried to come back, but came up short and didn't have any good answers for another questionable effort.
Many thanks to JP for his honest answers. Check back here later for all of your Panthers news, including the GameThread. Pay Japers' Rink a visit in the meantime to read more about the competition.