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Abrupt end to Caps practice: 'Barry told us to get off the ice'

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Abrupt end to Caps practice: 'Barry told us to get off the ice'

After 30 minutes of drills and a quick team stretch, Capitals coach Barry Trotz ordered his players off the ice at Kettler on Wednesday – all of them at the same time.

Normally, small groups of players remain on the ice after practices to work on faceoffs, passing or shooting. But not on Wednesday.

“Barry told us to get off the ice without touching another puck,” Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik said, “and everybody listened.”

Orpik said he didn’t get the sense Trotz was angry with his players following practice, saying “It was probably as good a practice as we’ve had in a long time.”

Instead, Trotz said he wanted his players to exhibit a show of solidarity after their most lopsided loss of his tenure, a 5-0 setback to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night in which Alex Ovechkin was scratched from the lineup for arriving late to the morning skate.

“If we’re going to have any success it’s going to be together,” Trotz said. “We need each other. We need to rely on each other and we need to play the game as a group better than we have and that was sort of the reason.”

“We have stuff to work on, but I think the message was more important than shooting pucks today. We haven’t been our best. We’re 1-1 and we could be in a worse situation than we are. We just need to know we can play a better team game and play better as a group.”

Trotz said the abrupt end to Wednesday’s practice will be the exception rather than the norm and Orpik said he was fine with that.

“Sometimes (staying on the ice after practice) is actually counterproductive in terms of energy levels or precision and accuracy with what you’re doing. We played (Tuesday) night and we have another one (Thursday against the Blackhawks). Maybe it’s about quality over quantity.”

Ovechkin, who had never missed a game due to disciplinary reasons before Tuesday night, said he expects to see a different Capitals team on Thursday, and not just because he’ll be back in the lineup.

“I think the guys know we didn’t have success because we didn’t have work ethic and we didn’t manage the puck and we didn’t create any chances,” Ovechkin said. “We played a bad game and (Thursday) is going to be a different game.”

[RELATED: Ovechkin gives explanation for missing Sharks game]

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!

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Tarik's 3 stars: Caps come up empty on an emotional night in Florida

Tarik's 3 stars: Caps come up empty on an emotional night in Florida

Vincent Trocheck scored on the power play with 18.7 seconds remaining and the Panthers escaped with a 3-2 victory on an emotional night in Sunrise, Fla.

Trocheck’s goal was Florida’s second in the final four minutes…and the Caps were left to lament yet another incomplete performance. Washington has now lost three of its last four games and fell to 4-5-2 in February.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Vincent Trocheck, Panthers

Trocheck did what Trocheck does in the third period: The Florida forward scored a clutch goal in the final seconds, redirecting a Jonathan Huberdeau shot through Brooks Orpik’s legs and past Braden Holtby.

Eller was in the penalty box when Trocheck scored his 13th third period goal of the season.

2-Andre Burakovsky, Capitals

After losing a goal to Eller in the first period, Burakovsky made sure he didn’t go home empty-handed. No. 65 scored on the power play in the second period to put the Caps ahead 2-1.

It was Burakovsky’s third goal in six games. He also earned a secondary assist on Eller’s redirection score.   

3-Braden Holtby, Capitals

Following a handful of un-Holtby-like performances lately, Holtbeast roared Thursday night at BB&T Center. He made at least one game-saving stop in each period: an arm save on Trocheck in the first period; a pad stop on Denis Malgin in the second and another extended pad stop on Evgenii Dadonov in the third. Holtby finished with 30 stops.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.