Capitals are Cup contenders despite flaws

Alex Ovechkin and rookie Tom Wilson are enjoying a 7-2-1 mark in the past 10 games. Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

He took the ice Friday with his teammates at the Capitals' morning skate, but by the time you looked for him again, he was gone. Mike Green is hurt again, this injury being described as a contusion, and based on the way he carefully and gingerly exited the building later, it’s a painful one.

On Sunday, the Capitals placed Green on injured reserve, calling up Dmitry Orlov, once considered the answer to their top-four defenseman void.

To their credit, these Capitals have learned to survive without Green.

“He’s our top D, it’s not a secret. Of course, we’re going to miss him,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “It’s a good time for young guys to get ice time and step up their game.”

In this case, it’s been John Carlson on the rise. The American defenseman played a Suter-like 32:26 in a win over the Red Wings and another 25:01 against the Blues. In his past five games, he has three goals and two assists. Coach Adam Oates has already deemed him worthy of a spot on the Olympic team.

The Capitals' impressive 4-1 win over the Blues on Sunday was their third straight and puts them at No. 1 in the Metropolitan Division by a point. To borrow from Bruce Boudreau, being first in the Metropolitan Division is a little bit like being the first something in a something contest.

So we lead off our Monday Next Question debate with the Capitals:

Is it time to upgrade Washington to one of the few legitimate Stanley Cup contenders in the East?

As we like to do with the Capitals, we turn to our beacon of truth and the player with firmest grasp of reality on the roster.

Forward Troy Brouwer.

“We’ve let some points get away from us,” Brouwer said when we chatted about how the Capitals were playing heading into last Friday’s game. “The Phoenix game, we’re up two goals with six minutes left [before losing 4-3 in a shootout]. Tough goal and penalty. Other than that, we’re playing all right. We’ve just got a few things to clean up as far as finishing games strong and making sure we’re not letting teams back into it.”

Isn’t that always the criticism regarding the Capitals? No issues scoring goals, just a little too fast and loose when it comes to preventing them.