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With a 1-3 record in shootouts, Caps are spending more time practicing it

With a 1-3 record in shootouts, Caps are spending more time practicing it

ARLINGTON—Over the past few weeks, the Capitals have started dedicating more time in practice to working on shootouts.

Why? A couple of reasons: The standings point awarded for a skills competition victory could prove critical later this season. And, well, right now the Caps aren’t very good at them, despite a bevy of skilled forwards and a top goaltender.

In fact, through 32 games, the Caps have gone to the shootout four times—and they’ve won just once.  

“It’s part of the game,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “If it wasn’t part of the game, we wouldn’t work on it. But it is; they’re valuable points. We've got some dynamic shooters and good goaltending, we just haven’t been on the right side enough. You never know when those two or three or four points during the year could make a big difference.”

RELATED: Power Rankings: Make or break time for the Caps

The Caps’ most recent trip to the shootout—a 3-2 loss in Philly last Wednesday—left Trotz feeling like they had allowed a valuable point to slip.

“We had an opportunity,” Trotz said. “Scored the first one, got a save. If we can score another one or get that extra save, then we’re able to come back. We lost a point that we could have had. We’ll keep working at it.”

Trotz doesn’t incorporate shootout drills into practice every day, but it’s been happening more and more in recent weeks. It typically happens toward the end of practice and takes the form of an intrasquad competition. The Caps divide into two teams and alternate shots on goaltenders Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer, who are stationed at either end. By the end, there’s usually a little trash talk and/or whooping and hollering.

It’s a fun way to wrap up practice. But it also serves a purpose: T.J. Oshie and Co. get to polish their moves, while Holtby and Grubauer can focus on deciphering a shooter’s tells and work on remaining patient as the shooter bears down on the net.

The Caps have a pair of top shootout performers in Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Oshie is a perfect 3 for 3 this season, with one game deciding goal, and Kuznetsov is 2 for 4.

At the other end, Holtby is 0-3 in games decided in the shootout, allowing seven goals on 12 shots against. He’s also not a fan of deciding games in a skills competition. Grubauer, meantime, earned the Caps’ only shootout win, at Carolina on Dec. 16, though it should be noted both Hurricanes’ shooters were officially credited with missing the net.    

“I don’t think there’s such a thing as automatic,” Trotz said, asked if his team should be better based on its collective skill level. “It’s a skill set. It’s not really about natural goal scoring. It’s about reading and deception and being able to sell your wares coming into the goalie and then executing.”

“Like T.J., he goes in there with three or four moves and he executes,” Trotz added. “And that’s why he’s so good. He sells deception. He doesn’t have a lot of tells and when it comes to the execution part, he’s able to do that. We have a lot of guys that can do that. You’d be amazed at some guys that are so skilled and then you throw them out there and they do something totally different and are not able to get it done.”

As the league prepares to return from Christmas break, Detroit has been best in shootouts (5-0) while Toronto has been worst (0-5). The Caps rank toward the bottom, but Trotz feels like they could and should be higher.

And they’ll keep working at it until they are.

“That’s something we can be better at,” he said, “everything from Holts’ patience on those [shots] to us executing. So it’s not one thing. It’s a little bit of both.”

MORE CAPITALS: Who's hot and who's not?: Holtby rediscovering Vezina form

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Tarik's 3 Stars: Wilson and Backstrom shine in Caps 3rd straight win

Tarik's 3 Stars: Wilson and Backstrom shine in Caps 3rd straight win

Tom Wilson scored twice, Nicklas Backstrom recorded four helpers and the assistant coaches chipped in with a big assist in Montreal, where the Caps earned a 6-4 victory over the Canadiens on Saturday night.

The win was Washington’s third in a row and seventh in eight games as they close in on another Metro Division title. Caps Coach Barry Trotz, meantime, claimed victory No. 200 in Washington; his next win will equal Bruce Boudreau for second all-time in franchise history.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Tom Wilson, Capitals

Wilson’s all-around game continues to blossom…and the Caps’ big winger continues to fill up the scoresheet. At Bell Centre, he scored back-to-back goals less than four minutes apart in the first period to put the Caps in command. Wilson also missed an empty net in the closing seconds by just a few inches. The soon-to-be 24-year-old now has 13 goals—six more than his previous career high.  

2-Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals

Backstrom notched four assists and, as usual, he did it quietly. And they weren’t cheapies—three of the four helpers were of the primary variety. Backstrom, who has four goals and 12 assists in his last 12 games, has now notched four or more points 20 times in his career. It was also his 11th-career four assist game.

3-Leonhardt and Ohashi, Capitals

That’s right, I’m giving the third star to assistant coaches Brett ‘Stretch’ Leonhardt and Tim Ohashi. They quickly spotted that the Habs were offside on their second goal. And, after a coach’s challenge, the refs agreed. Instead of 2-0, it remained 1-0 and the Caps took full advantage of their second chance, scoring the game’s next four goals.

Agree? Disagree? Tell us what you think in the comments.

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Game 75 Capitals at Canadiens Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 75 Capitals at Canadiens Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Montreal Canadiens

Where: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Canadiens will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


The Capitals (43-24-7) take on the Canadiens (27-36-12) Saturday, March 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Montreal.


The Capitals-Canadiens game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. for postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals at Canadiens
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime


You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.