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No, the Caps are not going to trade Philipp Grubauer for Nate Schmidt

No, the Caps are not going to trade Philipp Grubauer for Nate Schmidt

The Vegas Golden Knights have had an incredible start to the season. They have played eight games thus far in the early season and won seven of them. To put that into context, the Capitals won just eight games total in their first season as an expansion franchise.

But there's a problem. Vegas has lost not one, but two goalies to injury already.

Marc-Andre Fleury is out due to a concussion and is still “days away” from rejoining the team. In response, Vegas snagged goalie Malcolm Subban off of waivers from the Boston Bruins and named him the starter. Now he is on IR and is expected to miss the next four weeks with a lower-body injury.

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So a Vegas team loaded with defensemen is in need of a goalie. The Capitals, meanwhile, are in desperate need of a defenseman and just so happen to have a budding starter currently serving as their backup in Philipp Grubauer.

Sounds like a match made in Heaven.

So a deal has to be in the works, right? Well, not so fast.

For anyone holding out hope that this could lead to the possible return of Schmidt to Washington, that’s just not going to happen. Here's why.

Vegas values Schmidt very highly

Vegas could have taken Grubauer in the expansion draft, but elected to go with Schmidt. The Caps tried not to lose him, but general manager George McPhee’s asking price was apparently far too high.

There’s no reason to think Vegas values Schmidt any less considering he has one goal and three assists in eight games and leads the team in time on ice per game by over two minutes.

Yes, they may be in need of a goalie, but they are not going to trade away the player they view as their best defenseman to get one.

Both Hershey goalies are injured

Let’s make one thing clear, the Caps are not going to trade Grubauer if they don’t have a backup in place and that backup is Pheonix Copley. An impressive preseason by Copley made a Grubauer trade seem like a real possibility, but he is currently dealing with an injury.

If the Caps are interested in trading Grubauer, no deal is going to be made until Copley is healthy. Period.

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What are Vegas’ expectations for the season, really?

It’s really hard for expansion franchises to be good in their first season. McPhee knew that and that’s why he was willing to trade away a lot of good players after the expansion draft in order to obtain more draft picks.

When you end up with three first round draft picks, it’s not because your team is in a “win now” mode.

Yes, the Golden Knights have had an incredible start to the season, but management’s expectations for this season should not change based on just eight games. The Philadelphia Flyers won 10-straight games last season and didn’t even make the playoffs.

While I am sure McPhee would be open to a trade discussion for Grubauer, he is not going to be desperate to make a deal because he doesn’t need to be. Vegas was never expected to make the playoffs this season so he is not going to sell the farm for a goalie. That’s why if your solution to the money problem above was to make Vegas retain salary of one of their defensemen, that seems really unlikely.

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Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

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USA TODAY Sports

Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

The mood in the Capitals locker room following a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday was one of frustration. Forty minutes of strong play from Washington amounted to nothing because of a disastrous opening first period in which the Lightning jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

No one in the locker room was more frustrated than Braden Holtby.

"Obviously you don't want to go down three," he told reporters after the game. "That's on no one else but me. The third goal, especially the third, fourth goal, that's the difference in the game. I thought we played a really strong game against a really good team. We should have got a better result and that's on me why we didn't."

Tampa scored three goals in the first off of only eight shots. For the game, the Lightning managed to pierce Holtby four times off of only 19 shots.

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Frustration seemed to boil over on the fourth goal when a normally stoic Holtby was visibly upset after allowing Nikita Kucherov to beat him on a breakaway in a play similar to what we saw in the All-Star Game.

See for yourself:

"The key to getting better is learning from your mistakes and obviously I didn't do that," Holtby said. "I was just trying to play it patient. I wasn't trying to cheat towards that move and he came at it a different way. That's on me for not recognizing it. That's not a goal I can give up in that situation after our team battled the way they did, especially in the third."

The frustration Holtby feels likely is not the result of one goal, but the culmination of a recent slump that continues to plague the Vezina winner.

Holtby has lost four straight starts and has given up at least four goals in each of those games.

While Holtby was quick to take the blame for Tuesday's loss, head coach Barry Trotz was quick to defend his netminder.

"No one takes the loss," he said. "We all take a loss. I take a loss, the group takes a loss and Braden's part of the group. ... He's had a little tough stretch. It's no different than, we've got guys that haven't scored in 15, 20 games. It's no different than a player."

The challenge now is overcoming that slump.

For a slumping skater, Trotz could try different line combinations or play someone in different situations over the course of the game. Getting a starting goalie out of a slump, however, is more difficult. Most of the work has to be done in practice with the hope that it will carry over into the next game.

"You analyze how the goals are going in, what you're doing differently," Holtby said. "There's always some stuff that you can't control and stuff that you can and it's focusing on those contrallables that you can make a difference at. Like the first goal in Chicago, the last two goals here, those are goals that I could and should stop. You get to practice the next day and you focus on that and work hard until you figure it out so you don't do it again."

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Part of the problem in Washington is that team defense is the Caps' biggest weakness. For most of the season, and even in years past, Holtby has made up for much of the team's mistakes on the backend. Now that he is slumping those mistakes become much more glaring and costly.

"The goaltenders in this league are erasers," Trotz said.

Lately, Holtby has not been able to erase those mistakes.

But the team has already moved to address the defense. Brian MacLellan added a puck-moving defenseman in Michal Kempny to help the team get the puck out of the defensive zone more quickly. Waiving Taylor Chorney could also signify another move may be coming before Monday's trade deadline.

As for Trotz, even during the slump, he made clear his confidence in Holtby has not wavered.

"He has been a rock since the day I've been here the last four years and he's been an elite goaltender and I look at him that way."

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

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USA Today Sports

2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Pavel Francouz stopped all five shooters and Petr Kouka scored the shootout winner as the Czech Republic eliminated the United States with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round and was outshot 29-20.

Ryan Donato and Jim Slater scored for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including speedster Troy Terry. U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski allowed three goals on 29 shots and one in the shotoout, while Francouz stopped 18 in regulation and overtime.

Koukal was the only player to score in overtime. Chris Bourque, Ryan Donato, Marc Arcobello, Terry and Bobby Butler couldn't beat Francouz.

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