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How a funny moment in overtime could shift Washington's defensive strategy


How a funny moment in overtime could shift Washington's defensive strategy

The NHL put teams on notice in the preseason. The league's emphasis on faceoff violations was on full display as player after player was kicked out of the circle and some even were sent to the penalty box. Though linesmen have not been as strict in the regular season, those violations are still having impacts on the game. On Monday, another faceoff violation put John Carlson in a tricky situation that could have cost Washington the game.

With the game tied at 2 in overtime, Braden Holtby froze the puck creating a defensive zone draw. Barry Trotz sent Jay Beagle, the team’s best faceoff man, out to take the draw on his strong side along with Carlson and Christian Djoos.

“From a defending standpoint,” Trotz said after the game, “I thought if we get Beags out there, we win the draw and we get possession and then we get a change and we'll get a forward back on, but didn’t work out that way.”


Instead, Beagle was promptly dismissed from the faceoff circle and that put the Caps in a bind. With the only forward already kicked out and the other defenseman a rookie, that meant Carlson would have to take the draw.

It went about as well as you would expect.

“Carly didn't look very comfortable taking the draw,” Trotz said. “It was good that he got the winning goal, guys were joking about it.”

Despite being a defenseman, Carlson was actually annoyed he lost the draw.

“I was pissed,” Carlson said. “I was happy to take the draw, I was just pissed that I lost it. I used to practice all the time, but the centers don't let me practice all the time so I blame it on Beags.”


Fortunately, Arizona was not able to score after gaining possession on the faceoff. The Caps ultimately won the game so the moment is something the team can laugh at now, but the incident may actually cause a shift in how Trotz approaches overtime defensive zone draws in the future.

“We've talked in the past about should we go two D in the 3-on-3 or should we go two forwards?” he said. “We've been bouncing back and forth a little bit on that based on how many minutes our D are playing and that. We might have to rethink that a little bit because that's happening a lot.”

In overtime, every possession is critical. Given the amount of space on the ice and with an extra point hanging in the balance, teams cannot simply yield possession every time a player gets kicked out of the circle, especially when the faceoff is being taken in the defensive zone.

A funny moment? Yes, but it also could spark a shift in the Caps’ overtime strategy.

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.