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3 reasons why the Caps should make a trade deadline move

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3 reasons why the Caps should make a trade deadline move

Now that the All-Star Game has come and gone, the next major date in the calendar is Feb. 26. That day at 3 p.m. is the NHL trade deadline.

It may be hard to believe, but the NHL season is now in full playoff mode. Either you are in a push for the postseason or you are gearing up to sell your assets to the highest bidder.

So what should the Caps do? Should the Caps make a move at this year’s deadline or should they sit this one out?

We will look at both sides of the argument on Tuesday starting with the case for making a move.

The window is still open…for now

No one was sure what to expect from the Caps this season. Through 49 games, they sit in first place of the Metropolitan Division. They are not the dominant team of the past few seasons, but clearly they are still a playoff team…for now. But just how long that window will remain open is a fair question to ask.

Alex Ovechkin is 32 and is already defying Father Time with 30 goals in 49 games. Nicklas Backstrom is 30 while T.J. Oshie and Matt Niskanen are both 31. John Carlson is having a career year and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, as is Lars Eller and Jay Beagle.

RELATED: WHERE DO THE CAPS NEED TO IMPROVE IN THE SECOND HALF? 

If you think the Caps are overachieving this season, what are the odds they do it again next year with an aging core?

The fact is, Ovechkin is still a special player, but we do not know how much longer that will be true. Braden Holtby is in his prime and is one of the best netminders in the league. There is still enough talent on this team for a run. The Ovechkin era window may well be over by the end of this season. If this is the last shot this team has in that era, shouldn’t they go all in? After all, you never know how long it will take to get back to this level.

Obvious need

From a more practical standpoint, this is a team with an obvious need that it can address via trade: defensive depth. Washington has not one, but two rookies playing on the defense right now. While both Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey have played admirably to this point, they are both rookies and the playoffs are a whole different animal from the regular season.

Barry Trotz has done a good job sheltering his rookie defensemen this season, but give an opposing coach a chance to game plan for a best of seven series, he will find a way to get his top playmakers on the ice against the Caps’ young blue liners, especially if you have two in the lineup.

Even if you are okay with having Djoos and Bowey in the top six, what happens if there is an injury? Taylor Chorney is capable of stepping in for a game or two if needed, but Washington is one injury away from having him in the top six for the postseason. That is not ideal. There also is no one down in Hershey you can feel confident in stepping up as a No. 6 or 7 right now in the NHL.

READ ALSO: CAN THE CAPS AVOID A STUMBLE OFF ANOTHER BREAK?

Teams may actually make significant moves this year

The trade deadlines of the past few years have lacked any blockbuster deals, but this year there are several teams, including teams within the Caps’ division, who have a lengthy list of needs. The Pittsburgh Penguins are never shy about jumping into the trade market and they desperately need center depth. The Toronto Maple Leafs need defensemen. Both Columbus and New Jersey are in need of new blood to knock their respective teams out of their recent malaise. Philadelphia is making a real playoff push and could load up. The New York Islanders need goaltending help.

There could be a lot more movement this year with the wild card spots up for grabs. Do the Caps really want to be the only team to sit out while everyone around them gets better?

That’s why the Caps should make a move at the trade deadline. Here's a counter argument.

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Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

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Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

The mood in the Capitals locker room following a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday was one of frustration. Forty minutes of strong play from Washington amounted to nothing because of a disastrous opening first period in which the Lightning jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

No one in the locker room was more frustrated than Braden Holtby.

"Obviously you don't want to go down three," he told reporters after the game. "That's on no one else but me. The third goal, especially the third, fourth goal, that's the difference in the game. I thought we played a really strong game against a really good team. We should have got a better result and that's on me why we didn't."

Tampa scored three goals in the first off of only eight shots. For the game, the Lightning managed to pierce Holtby four times off of only 19 shots.

RELATED: WHY THE CAPS LOST TO THE LIGHTNING

Frustration seemed to boil over on the fourth goal when a normally stoic Holtby was visibly upset after allowing Nikita Kucherov to beat him on a breakaway in a play similar to what we saw in the All-Star Game.

See for yourself:

"The key to getting better is learning from your mistakes and obviously I didn't do that," Holtby said. "I was just trying to play it patient. I wasn't trying to cheat towards that move and he came at it a different way. That's on me for not recognizing it. That's not a goal I can give up in that situation after our team battled the way they did, especially in the third."

The frustration Holtby feels likely is not the result of one goal, but the culmination of a recent slump that continues to plague the Vezina winner.

Holtby has lost four straight starts and has given up at least four goals in each of those games.

While Holtby was quick to take the blame for Tuesday's loss, head coach Barry Trotz was quick to defend his netminder.

"No one takes the loss," he said. "We all take a loss. I take a loss, the group takes a loss and Braden's part of the group. ... He's had a little tough stretch. It's no different than, we've got guys that haven't scored in 15, 20 games. It's no different than a player."

The challenge now is overcoming that slump.

For a slumping skater, Trotz could try different line combinations or play someone in different situations over the course of the game. Getting a starting goalie out of a slump, however, is more difficult. Most of the work has to be done in practice with the hope that it will carry over into the next game.

"You analyze how the goals are going in, what you're doing differently," Holtby said. "There's always some stuff that you can't control and stuff that you can and it's focusing on those contrallables that you can make a difference at. Like the first goal in Chicago, the last two goals here, those are goals that I could and should stop. You get to practice the next day and you focus on that and work hard until you figure it out so you don't do it again."

MORE CAPITALS: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-LIGHTNING

Part of the problem in Washington is that team defense is the Caps' biggest weakness. For most of the season, and even in years past, Holtby has made up for much of the team's mistakes on the backend. Now that he is slumping those mistakes become much more glaring and costly.

"The goaltenders in this league are erasers," Trotz said.

Lately, Holtby has not been able to erase those mistakes.

But the team has already moved to address the defense. Brian MacLellan added a puck-moving defenseman in Michal Kempny to help the team get the puck out of the defensive zone more quickly. Waiving Taylor Chorney could also signify another move may be coming before Monday's trade deadline.

As for Trotz, even during the slump, he made clear his confidence in Holtby has not wavered.

"He has been a rock since the day I've been here the last four years and he's been an elite goaltender and I look at him that way."

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Pavel Francouz stopped all five shooters and Petr Kouka scored the shootout winner as the Czech Republic eliminated the United States with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round and was outshot 29-20.

Ryan Donato and Jim Slater scored for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including speedster Troy Terry. U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski allowed three goals on 29 shots and one in the shotoout, while Francouz stopped 18 in regulation and overtime.

Koukal was the only player to score in overtime. Chris Bourque, Ryan Donato, Marc Arcobello, Terry and Bobby Butler couldn't beat Francouz.

RELATED: OVECHKIN HAS LITTLE DESIRE TO WATCH 2018 WINTER OLYMPICS