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4 reasons the Caps beat the Bruins


4 reasons the Caps beat the Bruins

The Capitals just can't seem to lose to the Boston Bruins. The Caps extended their win streak over the Bruins to 11 games on Thursday thanks to their 5-3 win in Boston.

Here's how the Caps extended the streak.

Braden Holtby, especially in the first and second period

Here is one where the box score won't tell the whole story. Braden Holtby gave up three goals on 37 shots. Looking at that, you may think to yourself that he was good, but not great. Let's be clear, Holtby was great in this game, especially early. The Bruins were buzzing in the first and second period—Washington was outshot 13-3 in the second—yet after 40 minutes Washington held a 2-1 lead. Holtby was brilliant allowing the Caps to take control of the game.


Finally solving Boston's penalty kill

The Bruins entered Thursday's game with the 3rd best penalty kill in the NHL. Washington failed to score on any of its first three power play opportunities in the first period so they changed things up. In the Caps' normal power play, there is some movement, but the setup is largely based on positioning. Players have spots they are supposed to be in and their movement is largely restricted to their specific areas. That changed in the second period. The players cycled frequently and managed to catch Boston's penalty killers off guard. Instead of playing the wall like he usually does, Backstrom was in front of the net for the easy tip-in off a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov.


Jakub Vrana scored one of the prettiest goals you will see this season as he split the defense and turned what looked like a normal play into a breakaway. In the third period, the ice began tilting in Boston's favor, but Christian Djoos slammed the door shut. Djoos took a pass at the blue line and had room to skate. He drove in, deked around Anders Bjork and set up Alex Chiasson beautifully right on the tape for the goal to make it 3-1.


Alex Chiasson

Chiasson not only scored off of the great setup by Djoos, but he also was able to turn a blocked shot into a breakaway shorthanded goal. The Caps entered the third period up 2-1. Chiasson scored the next two to make it 4-1 and really iced the game away.

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

USA Today Sports

Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

Braden Holtby has made Barry Trotz’s weekend very difficult, but in a good way.

Back-to-back games against the New York Islanders offered the Capitals an opportunity to play both Philipp Grubauer and Holtby. Grubauer stayed hot earning another win for Washington. On Friday, Holtby got his first start since March 6 and played very well.

“A win is good,” Holtby said after the game. “I felt pretty comfortable. Some things to build off of and things that I want to get better at. It was a step in the right direction.”


A 22 save effort on Friday was bookended by two big saves. The first shot Holtby faced was a turnover on the power play that led to a dangerous shorthanded scoring opportunity for John Tavares early in the first period. Then in the third, with the Capitals leading 5-3 and the Islanders trying to mount a comeback, Holtby turned aside a breakaway opportunity for star rookie Mathew Barzal.

“I thought he was pretty solid,” Trotz said. “He looked really confident.”

“I felt a lot better,” Holtby said. “Not that I was feeling horrible before, it's just you get refreshed. It's like anything, you have a week off work, a holiday or something, you come back a little refreshed.”

And that brings us to Sunday.

On Sunday, the Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are a team in playoff position in desperate need of points after seven of their last eight games.

When asked on Wednesday who he thought would start Sunday’s game, Trotz said, “We're in a result business and we need some results so we'll see who is looking the sharpest and gives us the best chance to win.”

Both Grubauer and Holtby were impressive in their starts over the Islanders. You can’t argue Holtby is suddenly the hotter hand after one win considering how well Grubauer has played of late, but if Holtby remaisn the team’s No. 1, shouldn’t he get the next start after a strong winning performance?


Trotz was asked after the game who would start on Sunday after Holtby’s win.

“They're both playing well so I can't even answer that right now to be honest with you,” he said. “I do know that we have a number of games this week and whatever way go, obviously I'm going to sit down with the coaches and whatever way we go, I think they're both going to get some time this week.”

“I think you have to take it game-by-game,” Trotz added. “Bottom line is that you've got to make a decision and go with it and if your decision is that goalie A is a little hotter or you've just got a gut feel then you go with it and you have to live with it good or bad.”

So for now, it sounds as if we will see a rotation in net as Trotz continues evaluating which netminder gives the team the best chance to win in the playoffs. It is a tough position for the Caps’ bench boss, but, if both goalies continue to perform, having to choose between a hot Grubauer and a resurgent Holtby is a good problem to have and much preferable to having to choose between backup Grubauer and slumping Holtby.

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Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

The Capitals may have won the game Friday against the New York Islanders, but now they will wait to see if they also suffered a significant loss.

Kuznetsov left the game in the third period after taking a slash from Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey which sent him sliding head-first into the boards. The team labeled the issue as “upper body” when it was announced he would not return to the game.

Head coach Barry Trotz was tight-lipped afterward on Kuznetsov’s status.

“They're going to re-evaluate him tomorrow and we'll have some clarity hopefully tomorrow,” he said.


You can see the play here:

When Kuznetsov is first slashed he immediately reacts. His feet then catch the stick of goalie Jaroslav Halak which sends him tripping and sliding hard into the boards. He sat on the ice for several minutes afterward and was looked at by the trainer before getting to his feet and slowly making his way to the locker room.

When asked after the game what he felt about the slash, Trotz said only, “Hockey play.”

One of the Capitals’ biggest strengths as a team is their depth down the middle. Any injury to a center, considering it is arguably the most important skating position on the ice, would be significant. An injury to the team’s top-line center would be even more costly.

Kuznetsov leads the team with 28 assists and ranks second in both goals (21) and points (69).