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Caps are quick to defend Thornton's character, but still hated his hit on Oshie

Caps are quick to defend Thornton's character, but still hated his hit on Oshie

When a team leader goes down after an awkward check, chances are someone is going to be called to task. That was what happened on Monday between the Washington Capitals and the San Jose Sharks when Joe Thornton ended T.J. Oshie's night with a hit to the head.

While checking Logan Couture into the boards, Oshie lost his balance and his body and head went low to the ice. A trailing Thornton came in to finish his check and hit Oshie's head into the boards. The hit was a little late as the puck was already gone and the point of contact certainly looked like the head. But with Oshie being lower to the ice Thornton struck him with his butt. Not the butt of his stick, his actual butt.

Do you really think that was his plan?

The Caps didn't, evidently, as they were actually quick to defend Thornton after the game.

"Joe's not a dirty player," Barry Trotz said.

"He's an honest player," Tom Wilson said. "He was one of my favorite players growing up. He's what's good for the game."

Thornton is in the 20th season of his incredible career in which he has amassed 953 points. Whenever he decides to retire, if he is not a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, then the voters are doing something wrong. Bottom line, he's not a goon.

Given who he is and the respect he carries around the league, that changes the conversation as you can tell by the Caps' comments.

But that doesn't mean they were fine with the hit.

"In that instance, that hit, I didn't like personally and I don't think our team liked," Wilson said. "Anytime a guy is down, it's kind of a no-hit zone."

Wilson called Thornton to account for the hit in the third period and Thornton obliged as the two dropped the gloves and fought.

Whether there will be any supplementary discipline remains to be seen. Neither Wilson nor Trotz would comment on whether they felt the hit was dirty and Trotz said he would let the Department of Player Safety handle it.

Problem solved, right? Well, not for San Jose coach Pete DeBoer. DeBoer took issue with the fact that the Caps waited until the third period to demand satisfaction.

But to the Caps, a bad hit is a bad hit no matter when it happened.

"It looked like Osh was in a very vulnerable spot and he gets head contact," Wilson said. "That's what it is. That's the truth. That's the fact of the matter. Hockey's a sport where you're able to go out and stand up for your teammate."

He also threw in one more compliment Thornton's way.

"He stood up for himself afterwards and I respect him for that."

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Can Pittsburgh's past be a goalie rotation blueprint?


Can Pittsburgh's past be a goalie rotation blueprint?

It’s happened. The Caps no longer seem to have a No. 1 goalie anymore, they have a No. 1 and 1a.

That’s right, we have a goalie rotation in Washington.

“There's no sense riding one,” Barry Trotz said after practice on Monday. “[Braden Holtby] is coming back and looking better every game and [Philipp Grubauer] played pretty well for a long stretch so why not have both of them going?”

Grubauer got the start Sunday in Philadelphia and Holtby is slated to get the start Tuesday against the Dallas Stars. After that we will have to wait and see.


Trotz has no layout for which goalie he wants to start and when in the remaining ten games. He is not thinking about each goalie splitting five games or which one he wants to use more.

Nope. Trotz has just one thing on his mind. It is all about who starts the next game, that’s it.

“I think you just go with a guy that's hot at the time and your team feels comfortable with and go from there,” Trotz said.

So where does this leave the goaltending situation when it comes to the playoffs? A goalie rotation is all well and good in the regular season, but he has to have one starter for the postseason, right?

Not necessarily.


When Trotz was asked if he philosophically believed in having one starter for the playoffs, Trotz initially said he would not answer, but then said, “Why don't you ask Mike Sullivan what he thinks.”

Sullivan, of course, is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins who has led his team to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons despite turning to both goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in both seasons.

While Pittsburgh’s goalie rotation was largely based on injury, however, it still provides an example of how using both goalies can work in the playoffs and that seems to be the path the Caps are headed on at the moment.

Said Trotz, “You just have to go with your gut who you think is going to get the job done.”

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NHL Power Rankings: The home stretch

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NHL Power Rankings: The home stretch

We are down to the home stretch. Only 10 games remain in the Capitals' regular season. Those 10 games will ultimately decide if the Caps finish in first place in the Metropolitan Division and who they will play in the first round of the playoffs.

Washington currently sits in first place in the division, two points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and four points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers. Of those 10 remaining games, only three come against teams currently in playoff position. The most critical of these comes on April 1 when the Caps travel to Pittsburgh in a game that could ultimately decide the division.

The Caps still hold a narrow lead in the standings, but where do they stand in the rankings? See this week's updated NHL Power Rankings here.