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Barry Trotz moves Aaron the right


Barry Trotz moves Aaron the right

It was clear after the Capitals’ loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday that change was needed on the blue line. Barry Trotz did indeed change the third defensive pair ahead of Wednesday’s rivalry game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but it was perhaps not the change many expected.

It will be Taylor Chorney, not Aaron Ness, who comes out of the lineup as Christian Djoos is set to make his NHL debut. That is a bit surprising considering Ness has taken four minor penalties in three games this season and Trotz limited his playing time Monday to less than nine minutes.

But despite not coming out of the lineup, Ness will still see a change. With Djoos coming in to play on the left side, Ness, a left-handed shot, will move to the right. Chorney, who is also a left-handed shot, had previously played on the right the first three games with Ness on the left.


Trotz explained the move after Wednesday’s morning skate saying Chorney had hit a “rough patch” of late and that Ness has played both sides previously.

Despite a reprieve from the press box, however, both Trotz and Ness know he has to play better going forward.

“There's a couple games where you'd like to see his skating stand out more and I think early in the first couple ones you didn't see that,” Trotz said. “…I really like Ness when he's come up in the middle of the season both years where he's got his game really in order and he's getting lots of minutes and he's flying around, we bring him up and it's slower. It's early in the season so he'll get there. I think if you talk to Nesser he could be a little bit better as well.”

“I think there's another level for me,” Ness said. “I think I can play better and contribute more offensively and just continue to be reliable as much as possible and continue to get better and better every game. That's always the goal I think throughout the season and it's a challenge, but it's a fun one.”


Step one will be taking fewer penalties, something Ness has not struggled with in the past.

“I don't even know if I had five penalties all year last year so it's not something I'm worried about,” he said. “I'm just going to keep playing hard and as physical as possible and hopefully cut down on the minutes obviously.”

While the Capitals may have earned five of a possible six points through their first three games, the defensive struggles have been troubling. With Madison Bowey playing in Hershey waiting for his crack at the NHL, Ness, Djoos and Chorney have to justify their spots on the Caps’ roster.

Ness and Chorney got the first chance on the third pair and they struggled. Now we will see what Djoos can do and if Ness can handle playing on the right.

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Was Columbus' travel a factor in the Caps' series comeback?

Was Columbus' travel a factor in the Caps' series comeback?

Whenever a playoff series ends, the analysis begins soon after. Why did this team win? Why did this team lose? Why did this player perform while this one did not?  This is an exercise performed by media, players and coaches alike, especially for teams that walk away from a series believing they let an opportunity slip away.

The Columbus Blue Jackets fell to the Washington Capitals in six games despite taking a 2-0 series lead by winning both opening games in Washington. Head coach John Tortorella will have all summer to think about what he could have done differently and what went wrong for his team, but it sounds like he already has at least one theory as to why they lost.

In a series that featured four overtime games, Game 4 stands out as being far more one-sided than the others. Washington turned in the most dominant performance of the series in a 4-1 win that knotted the teams at two wins apiece.

That game stood out to Tortorella too and he thinks he knows why the Blue jackets laid an egg that night: Travel.

"I think we should’ve stayed in Washington after that second overtime game, the second game there," Tortorella said. "I think that comes back and gets you later on in the series. We should’ve stayed in Washington and let them get a good night sleep. They got in here so late. I don’t think it affected us in Game 3. It comes the next days, so that falls on me."

When analyzing why the Caps won the series, chances are travel is not going to be a reason many people consider. Perhaps there is some merit to this. After all, as the father of an infant, I can certainly vouch for how much of a difference one good night of sleep can make.

But perhaps there is another message being sent here by Tortorella.

Tortorella is a master at using the media to his advantage. He uses the media to send messages to his team or draw attention on himself and away from the players.

Tortorella just saw his young team give up a 2-0 series lead and lose four straight games. Those are the kind of losses that can stick with a player and create doubt in the mind of a team the next time they reach a tough spot in the postseason.

So what did Tortorella do? He came out and put the worst loss of the series on his own shoulders. Why was it his fault? Yeah, let's go with travel.

The Blue Jackets are not the first team to play overtime on the road or the first team to deal with travel concerns. To hear a coach say it was a reason they lost a game and not even the next game after the travel? Well, that's a first.


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Alex Ovechkin's evolution as a player was on full display in Game 6

Alex Ovechkin's evolution as a player was on full display in Game 6

We all know that Alex Ovechkin is a world-class goal scorer. He is the best goal scorer of his generation and perhaps the best of all time.

He tallied another two goals Monday in the Capitals' 6-3 victory Game 6 over the Blue Jackets, but that’s not what really impressed head coach Barry Trotz.

While Ovechkin's career is full of highlight reel goals, it was the ugly plays that really caught Trotz's eye on Monday.

"[Ovechkin's] evolved in areas of his game," Trotz said after the game.

"He’s not just at that dot. He’ll go to the front of the net, he’s not scared to do that. It’s just adding layers to his game."

Ovechkin's first goal of the game was not pretty. It won't make any Top 10 lists, it won't be shown throughout the U.S. and Canada. It was an ugly rebound goal...and it was beautiful.

Just four minutes after Nick Foligno tied the game, Ovechkin put the Caps back ahead with a rebound goal. He parked himself in front of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and was in perfect position when Bobrovsky made a kick out save to backhand the rebound into the empty net.

Those are the type of plays we did not always see from "The Great 8." But his performance on Monday did not stop there.

As Washington attempted to shut the door on the game and the series, Ovechkin did what veteran leaders do, laying out to block a Ryan Murray shot with less than three minutes to go.

"I’m probably as proud of him right at the end of the game blocking shots and doing that type of thing," Trotz said. "That’s full commitment. When that was necessary, that’s where you get your street cred with your teammates. You’ve got to block a shot when it’s necessary and get a puck out when it’s necessary. I’d probably give him more props on that than even scoring goals because that’s what you really expect of him."

Few expected a 32-year-old Ovechkin to rebound from a 33-goal season, but he did just that with 49 goals in 2017-18 to win his seventh Rocket Richard Trophy as the league-leader.

The reason why was on full display on Monday. His game has evolved, as cliche as it sounds.

Instead of relying just on the quick rushes, pretty one-timers and incredible dekes, Ovechkin has committed more to getting to the contested areas. He's altered his game. He is scoring the type of ugly, dirty goals the Capitals desperately need in the playoffs.

That commitment on offense seemed to translate to the defense as well on Monday night, putting his body is a dangerous position laying out for blocked shots.

"Those are the necessary things, those necessary details that allow you to win," Trotz said. "If you don’t have them, then you’re not going to win."

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