Despite Their Importance, the Capitals Should Not Have Compromised the Health of Their Top Players

John+Carlson+Karl+Alzner+Philadelphia+Flyers+9V0ZLld_kEwlRob Carr/Getty images

opinion While excuses are nonexistent with the Capitals right now after their devastating second round series loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, the news that came out of Kettler Capitals Iceplex today was shocking and a little hard to believe.

According to CSN MidAtlantic’s Chuck Gormley, defensemen Brooks Orpik played through a cracked femur in his thigh and a concussion and neck injury in Round One. Additionally, The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan revealed fellow blueliners Karl Alzner and John Carlson also played through severe injuries (though, Carlson’s were during the regular season).

In the playoffs, the Capitals’ defense was, at times, uncharacteristically beaten by the opposition. While they played well against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Penguins often were the faster team. The Caps had trouble getting the puck out of their own zone and looked very different from the regular season team that had been outstanding defensively. While these three defensemen are vital to the Washington blueline, head coach Barry Trotz and the training staff should not have played them until they were truly 100% healthy. Alzner’s and Orpik’s injuries in particular are nothing to try and shortcut. Concussions are one of the biggest controversial topics in all of sports and it has been proven to affect athletes after their playing days are over. For a 35-year old physical player like Orpik, it is crucial that he recovers fully. Alzner’s injury, in my mind at least, is troubling. Groin injuries can have long-lasting effects on a player, something that is perfectly illustrated in the career of former Capitals defenseman Mike Green.

In the first few years of his career, Green was one of the NHL’s brightest young rearguards, putting points up consistently. But after aggravating his groin in the 2010-11 season, Green has struggled since then to return to his previous form and stay healthy. Luckily for Alzner, he has a full offseason to fully recuperate from his ailment. Even still, the Capitals should have put the health of their key players first and foremost. While the absences or Carlson and Orpik in the regular season weakened the blueline, the Caps showed their exceptional defensive depth with youngsters Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt stepping up their game tremendously and veteran Taylor Chorney proved to be a great pick-up by General Manager Brian MacLellan. Trade Deadline acquisition Mike Weber proved to be an unsuccessful addition and the blueline faltered in the playoffs, with both Orlov, Schmidt, and Weber making mistakes that, at times, cost the Caps dearly.

Washington Capitals v Colorado Avalanche
Doug Pensinger/Getty images

The point is that the Caps played with potential fire with these severe inuries to three key players. No matter how important they are, the Caps simply cannot afford to lose them, especially when they need them the most.

By Michael Fleetwood

About Michael Fleetwood

Michael Fleetwood was born into a family of diehard Capitals fans and has been watching games as long as he can remember. He was born the year the Capitals went to their first Stanley Cup Final, and is a diehard Caps fan, the owner of the very FIRST Joe Beninati jersey and since then, has met Joe himself. His favorite player became former Capital Nate Schmidt after he met Schmidt in a Hershey hotel while in Hershey PA to see the Bears play, shortly after Schmidt was injured during a conditioning stint. Michael is also a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Orioles, and enjoys photography, watching WildEarth TV's SafariLive live safaris, and watching animals in his spare time. (Photo by Adam Vingan in 2014 at the Capitals Development Camp).
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