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Caps' Barry Trotz forced to change up defense lineups

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Caps' Barry Trotz forced to change up defense lineups

Lars Eller did not practice on Monday, and coach Barry Trotz shuffled his injury-depleted defense corps.

Here’s how everyone lined up:

Forwards

Burakovsky – Backstrom – Oshie

Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Vrana

Connolly – Graovac – Wilson

Smith-Pelly – Beagle – Chiasson

Walker

Defense

Orpik – Bowey

Djoos – Carlson

Orlov – Chorney

Ness

Goalies

Holtby

Grubauer

RELATED: Caps destroyed by Flyers in lopsided road loss

Some notes, quotes and observations from KCI:

  • Trotz said Eller showed up sick and was sent home to recover and avoid spreading whatever he’s got. Trotz also isn’t sure whether the veteran center will be able to suit up against Toronto on Tuesday. “I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t answer that right now. We’ll see where his energy level is.”

 

  • The coaching staff shuffled the D-pairs with speedy Toronto coming to town. But Trotz also cautioned not to read too much into the tandems, since they’re likely to change throughout Tuesday’s game. Trotz even hinted that a final decision on which six D-men will suit up had not yet been made. “They’re going to be shuffled from now until we get people back,” Trotz said, referring to the injured Matt Niskanen, who is week-to-week with an upper body injury. “There are pairs for practice. There are pairs for parts of games. It’ll be a little bit situational.”

 

  • If defenseman Taylor Chorney does get back into the lineup, he knows that he needs to make a positive impression after sitting out the last three games as a healthy scratch. “I’ve been through this quite a bit over the last couple of years, but at the same time you probably want to make a little bit of a statement,” he acknowledged. “So for me, if I do get the opportunity to play, it would be a big game.”  

 

  • Speaking of the Leafs, they’re off to a 4-1-0 start with Auston Matthews (5 goals, including two OT winners) leading the way. Overall, Toronto is averaging a league-leading 5.2 goals per game. As you might imagine, Trotz had a lot of praise for last season’s first round opponent in general and Matthews specifically. “If he was playing 20 years ago, we’d be saying he’s Mario Lemieux-like,” Trotz said. “He’s six-foot-[three]. He skates great. He’s got unbelievable hands. And a hockey I.Q. and he’s strong on the puck.”  

 

  • As Washington attempts to turn the page from Saturday’s 8-2 clunker in Philly, Trotz said one area he’d like to see shored up is the number of shots the Caps have been allowing. Through six games, they’re yielding 34.5 shots on goal per game (tied for ninth most). Last year, they allowed 27.8 (fourth best). “We’re not as structured defensively,” Trotz said. “We haven’t put as big an emphasis this year as we did last year. We’ve put a little more emphasis on trying to replace some of the goals that we lost. But right now we have to get a little more balance. …We have to get that back into balance; we practiced some of that today.”

 

  • As you may remember, Madison Bowey’s father, Will, jumped on the first flight out of British Columbia that he could find in the hopes of catching his son’s NHL debut Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center. As it turned out, though, he experienced a couple of travel delays and didn’t make it. Dad will, however, be in attendance Tuesday night.

 

MORE CAPS: Nicklas Backstrom shines among NHL's top stars

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How did the Caps let Johnny Gaudreau get so wide open on his goal?

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How did the Caps let Johnny Gaudreau get so wide open on his goal?

A 4-1 win for the Calgary Flames looks like a pretty comfortable margin on the scoresheet, but it was the Capitals who jumped out to the 1-0 lead early in the first period. Just when the Caps had all the momentum on their side, however, Calgary forward Johnny Gaudreau received a tip up pass from Sean Monahan and had nothing but ice in front of him to work with.

Gaudreau is the wrong player to give that much room to. He scored to tie the game at 1 in a moment that seemed to turn the game.

LISTEN TO THE LATEST EPISODE OF THE CAPITALS EXTRA PODCAST ON THE CAPS' LOSS TO CALGARY

You can see the replay of the goal and the play that led up to it here.

From the replay, you can see defensemen Brooks Orpik and John Carlson were both caught on the right side of the ice leaving Gaudreau open on the left.

So what happened? How did Gaudreau get so wide open?

The play begins in Washington's offensive zone. Carlson and Orpik are the defensive pair on the ice, but instead of playing on their normal sides, Orpik is on the right and Carlson is on the left to put him in a better position to shoot off the draw. When the Caps lose the faceoff, Carlson and Orpik want to switch back to their natural positions at the first opportunity, but can't because Calgary has the puck and is pushing up the ice.

The Flames lose possession of the puck in the neutral zone, Orpik recovers and pushes the puck up to Devante Smith-Pelly.

"Brooks pushed it over to [Smith-Pelly] just at the blue line and he went laterally with the puck where he probably should have put it in," Trotz said.

MORE CAPITALS: 4 REASONS WHY THE CAPS LOST TO THE FLAMES

Smith-Pelly was immediately boxed in when he crossed the blue line and he should have dumped the puck to the corner. Instead, he tries a difficult pass left to Alex Ovechkin that is badly off the mark as the puck goes right to Dougie Hamilton. The problem is that, since Washington had possession, Carlson took the opportunity to move back to the right, but Orpik did not yet have the chance to go left because he was in the play. Once the puck gets off his stick, Smith-Pelly turns it over almost immediately and Calgary's quick transition up to Gaudreau catches the Caps with Carlson already back on the right, but before Orpik could get back to the left giving him a free side to skate on.

The result was a goal for Calgary, an ugly replay for Washington and a turning point in a game in which the Caps had jumped out to an early lead.

"They moved it up quickly," Trotz said, "And Gaudreau, if you give him that much space, he's been the hottest guy in the National Hockey League here and we weren't able to shut him down."

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4 reasons why the Caps lost to the Flames

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4 reasons why the Caps lost to the Flames

After winning five straight at home a confident Capitals team was dealt a tough blow in a 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames. Lars Eller scored 62 seconds into the game, but the Flames scored the next four straight goals for the win.

Here's why the Caps lost.

Calgary's quick response to the first goal

The Capitals took the lead just 1:02 into the game, but it lasted only 3:47. The Caps are a team that seems to thrive off early energy. They looked lethargic in the first period in both Nashville and Colorado and they lost because of it. The quick response by the Flames did not allow Washington to take advantage of the energy, the momentum or the crowd after taking the early lead.

RELATED: SEE TARIK'S THREE STARS OF THE GAME FOR CAPS-FLAMES

A bad defensive lapse in the first period

Covering only half of the ice is an inadvisable defensive strategy. In the first period, John Carlson and Brooks Orpik were both caught on the right side of the ice leaving nothing but open ice for Johnny Gaudreau to work with.

From the replay, it did not appear the Caps’ defensemen were caught on a bad line change, it was just a bad defensive lapse. Unfortunately for Washington, Gaudreau is the wrong player to leave wide open and he was able to score Calgary’s first goal.

The second period

The Caps were outshot 13-6 in the middle frame and three of Washington’s six shots came in the final three minutes of the period. Calgary completely dictated the play in the second and took the 2-1 lead on a power play goal by Sean Monahan.

MORE CAPITALS: SEE THE LATEST NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Special teams

Calgary had the worst penalty kill in the NHL coming into Monday’s game with a kill rate of just 70.6-percent. Advantage Washington, right? Not so much. Washington had three power play opportunities and did not score on any of them. The Caps were also called for five minor penalties of their own. Of Calgary’s four goals, two of them came on the power play and another came one second after a penalty had expired. What should have been an advantage for Washington turned into a disadvantage as the Flames outscored the Caps 2-0 on special teams.