MacLellan: Only one weakness holding the Capitals back

Chris Lingebach
November 26, 2019 - 2:02 pm
MacLellan: Only one weakness holding the Capitals back

Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

The Capitals (16-4-5) are leading the NHL with 37 points more than a quarter of the way through the 2019-20 season.

They're a team with few weaknesses, maybe even just one, Caps GM Brian MacLellan told Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier, courtesy of F.H. Furr. MacLellan was asked Thursday what keeps him up at night about his surging club.

"I don't know that anything has me up at night," he said. "I think our specialty teams have both played well. I think the penalty kill has been a pleasant surprise. We tried to address it in the offseason and so far it's turned out the way we hoped it would. Goaltending's been good – (Braden) Holtby's found his game here, he's playing solid; (Ilya) Samsonov's improving."

"Our forward depth is good. We're getting scoring from most lines," he said. "I think maybe one area of concern is our D, when they're playing well, looks good, looks solid and we're a deep group, but there's some inconsistencies there.

"I think if we could tone that up, if the lows weren't as low and they were good, I think we'd be a really good team. And that would be our only weakness, I think."

Asked how sustainable Washington's salary cap situation is, MacLellan said, "We have guys that are depth players or call-up players for a reason, and I think those are the players we're moving around here. I think the main concern is we're having injuries here. You know, we've got (Nicklas) Backstrom out, we've got (Carl) Hagelin out, we've got (Garnet) Hathaway on suspension, we have (Nic) Dowd out."

"I mean any time you have injuries, regardless of your salary cap, you're using your depth players and they're depth players for a reason," MacLellan continued. "You're not gonna be as deep as you were with your full roster. So far, I think we've done a pretty good job of managing our injuries, and I think that's the key part.

"I mean, when we're healthy, I think we're a very good team. And the guys we've called up have actually done a good job. (Tyler) Lewington's been good for us. (Beck) Malenstyn's come up and played well, which has been great. Travis Boyd's done a great job for us. So I feel good about our depth and the guys that are coming in and playing."

On Garnet Hathaway's three-game suspension: "Yeah, I mean, I don't think there was a real precedent for that incident. I think there's a couple things that have probably happened in the past here that are close or somewhat similar, that maybe haven't been addressed the way the league wanted them addressed in hindsight."

"Is that Brad Marchand licking people?" Paulsen asked.

"That could be one of them, yeah," he said. "So I think the league's trying to address it. I mean, I think I get what they're trying to do. It's unacceptable. I mean, we could take a stance that it's too many games and we were counting on less games. I guess that's what we originally thought. But I get what they're trying to do. They're trying to address a behavior that hasn't been addressed, and now they have and it sets the precedent going forward."

"I understand that, Brian," Paulsen returned. "I see nine hits, though, to the head that were illegal that got one- or two-game suspensions over the last year and change, and I'm all for sending messages, but damn if it doesn't annoy me sometimes. I seems like the Caps are the team a lot of the time that gets the message sent.

"Maybe it's just because I'm a Caps fans, but Tom Wilson gets a 20-game suspension that I thought was outrageous. He serves 16 games of a 14-game suspension. I still don't know how that math works. I'd like just once a Penguin or a Bruin to be the guy that has to take the fall so that the league can learn."

"Yeah, I mean, I agree," MacLellan said. "I don't think we're in a habit of crying victim. I mean, we're gonna accept it. We're gonna work through it and I think our team's stronger as a result of it. The guys rallied around Garnett. The guys rallied around Wilson. We'll get through all these things and we'll be a stronger team in the end because of it."