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After a rough night in Tampa, it is time to talk about the Capitals' third defensive pair

After a rough night in Tampa, it is time to talk about the Capitals' third defensive pair

It was a rough night for the Capitals’ third defensive pair. With their biggest test of the season, Aaron Ness and Taylor Chorney clearly struggled against the high-powered offense of the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 4-3 overtime loss on Monday

Ness’ rough night started in the first period when he took two minor penalties, one for a cross check and another for hooking. He now has four minor penalties on the season. He also gave up a number of turnovers as he struggled against the pressure of the Tampa offense.

You can see an example here:


Ness found himself boxed into the defensive zone by Tampa’s forecheck. He then attempted an ill-advised pass to Devante-Smith Pelly that was easily stolen away by Ryan Callahan forcing Philipp Grubauer to make a very good save at the top of the crease on Victor Hedman.

But it wasn’t just Ness who struggled. In the third period, Ness and Chorney were put on the ice with the task of protecting the team’s 3-2 lead. A slick pass by Alex Killorn put Nikita Kucherov in a one-on-one situation with Chorney. The result was not good for the Caps as Kucherov was able to use his speed to easily turn the corner on Chorney and backhand the shot into the top shelf for the game-tying tally. Chorney would not see the ice again for the rest of the game.

If you are into the fancy stats, the numbers for this third pairing are not good at all.  One could potentially dismiss those numbers as simply being a small sample size, but you cannot dismiss Barry Trotz's apparent distrust of that pair and the tangible impact it had on Monday's game.


If you thought it looked like the Caps were worn down as the game went along, you're right. The ice clearly titled in Tampa Bay’s favor in the third period and it was not hard to see why. Here is the playing time for the Caps’ defensemen on the night:

Matt Niskanen - 25:55
Dmitry Orlov - 27:33
Brooks Orpik - 22:47
John Carlson - 26:15
Taylor Chorney - 10:17
Aaron Ness - 8:56

The Capitals were virtually playing with four defensemen and the team ran out of gas in the third, getting outshot by a whopping 17-6 margin in the final frame.

So what are the Caps' options? Christian Djoos remains on the active roster and has been a healthy scratch for each of the Capitals’ first three games. Madison Bowey meanwhile was sent down to Hershey despite looking like one of the better defensemen in training camp and the preseason. It would not be surprising if one of those players found their way into the lineup for Wednesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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3 reasons the Caps lost to the Canadiens

3 reasons the Caps lost to the Canadiens

The Caps battled through the rust on Thursday to earn a point in New Jersey. On Friday, rust cost them yet again as they fell 3-2 to the Montreal Canadiens.

Here's why they lost.

4 shots on goal in the first period

Canadiens goalie Antti Niemi has had his struggles this season. Yes, he has played better since getting claimed off waivers by Montreal, but getting to play against Niemi instead of Carey Price wass a golden opportunity for the Caps to generate some offense. Washington, however, had very little offense to speak at the end of the night. How did they respond with Niemi in net? By getting only four shots in the first period. Four. They finished with 26 shots on goal for the game, but had they come out swinging in the first and put pressure up early on Niemi, they could have gotten a much different result.


Bad passing

After the game, Lars Eller said "It was one of the sloppiest games we've played if not the sloppiest. I don't think we've given up so any odd-man rushes or chances in one game." In no aspect were the Caps more sloppy than with their passing. Here are just a few examples.

A cross-ice backhand pass in the defensive zone? Really? You are not going to be successful trying to make those type of plays and it cost the Caps. They could not maintain possession of the puck or breakout of their zone and it led to several odd-man rushes for Montreal.


It's not an excuse. The Caps should have played better on Friday regardless, but there's no arguing the fact that rust was a factor. It was abundantly clear that the Caps were out of sync. That will happen when you are playing on the second leg of a back-to-back with no practice time.

Saturday's practice will be absolutely critical since Washington faces a matinee game on Sunday, their third contest in four days.

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3 stars of the game: Grubauer's heroics not enough against the Habs

3 stars of the game: Grubauer's heroics not enough against the Habs

The first time the Caps hosted the Montreal Canadiens this season, Alex Ovechkin tallied four goals as the Caps dominated in a 6-1 thrashing.

Friday's game featured considerably less offense as Montreal just managed to squeak by Washington 3-2.

Philipp Grubuaer got the start and did everything he could to keep Washington in it, but the Caps struggled to find much offense.

Alex Ovechkin did manage to register assist No. 499 as he set up John Carlson on the power play and Lars Eller scored late, but it would not be enough for the Caps to come back.

Here are the three stars of the game.


1. Max Pacioretty: The Canadiens struggled to get anything past Grubauer in this one, but Pacioretty finally did in the second period on the power play. It was simple enough, he found the puck at his feet, turned and shot.

When goalies start to frustrate teams, we see a lot of players respond by looking for the perfect play and give up good opportunities for more difficult passes. Pacioretty was smart, he just shot. He also added an assist on Paul Byron's goal as the puck bounced off the board and off Pacioretty's skate right to Byron.

He ultimately put the exclamation point on the win with an empty-net goal as well to complete a three-point night.

2. Philipp Grubauer: Grubauer certainly didn't look like a backup goalie in this one. He was strong in net all night long, but his best save came in the first period. Pacioretty hit the side of the net to Grubauer's left on a pretty passing play, but the puck bounced out to the slot and Charles Hudon passed it over to Paul Byron on Grubauer's right. Grubauer dove with his arm outstretched and managed to corral the puck into his body to keep it out of the net.

He would finish the game with several more fantastic saves, 23 in all despite the loss.

3. Andre Burakovsky: It would be hard to draw up a better return to the lineup for Burakovsky.

He started on the fourth line, but he wasn't there for long. He had four shot attempts in a first period in which the Caps struggled to get anything going offensively at all. He also had a breakaway opportunity in the third period as he came out of the penalty box. He had Antti Niemi beat, but hit the post.

It was the second time Burakovsky struck iron in the game. Hedid just about everything right, but just couldn't light the lamp.