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Are the Caps relying too much on Braden Holtby?

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Are the Caps relying too much on Braden Holtby?

Braden Holtby turned in another stellar effort on Monday night with 44 saves against the Pittsburgh Penguins. With their win Monday, the Caps moved into first place in the Eastern Conference. Their 44 points is the second most in the NHL, they have not lost consecutive games this season and have won nine of their last 11 games.

All is right with the world...or is it?

The Caps are winning, but they don't seem to be as dominant as they looked at the start of the season. The shots the team is allowing is evidence of that.

In the their first 17 games, the Caps allowed more than 30 shots only once in the loss to San Jose in which Alex Ovechkin was scratched. In the last 12 games, the team has allowed more than 30 shots eight times. In the first 17 games, the Caps were out-shot only three times. In their last 12, they were out-shot six times including the last three-straight.

Sometimes, the amount of shots given up are not an indication of how well a team is playing.

"Every game is different," Holtby said. "A perfect example is back when we played New York (a 5-2 loss on 22 shots on Nov. 3). They had like 13 shots after two periods and six of them were Grade As."

RELATED: Oshie's stellar play provides balance on the top line

Still, the amount of shots Holtby is facing is a troubling trend for the Caps. In fact, Holtby has faced more than 33 shots in six of his last seven starts.

When asked if the Caps were relying too much on Holtby after Monday's game, head coach Barry Trotz answered, "Yeah, we are."

Not many teams can allow 81 shots in two games and give up only two goals. The Caps are not paying for it at the moment thanks to Holtby.

Holtby is currently riding a 12-game point streak which just shows how absolutely incredible he is. Among goalies who have played 10 games or more, Holtby is fourth in save percentage (.933) and leads the league in GAA (1.87).

To further illustrate the Caps' growing dependence on their netminder, Philipp Grubauer has played twice in the past 12 games and played well. In both of those games, the Caps lost in regulation.

This season has already provided a cautionary tale for teams who rely too much on their start netminder.

The New York Rangers jumped to the top of the standings earlier in the season with 11 wins in a 12-game stretch. New York allowed more than 30 shots six times and were out-shot in seven of those 12 games. Since then, the Rangers have gone 2-6-2 and have dropped to third in the Metropolitan Division.

A Vezina-caliber netminder like Holtby is an asset, but he alone cannot carry a team forever.

Luckily for the Caps, the Ottawa Senators, Wednesday's opponent, rank 26th in the NHL in shots on goal per game. The Senators have also allowed at least 30 shots on goal in seven of their past eight games.

For a hot Capitals team, Wednesday presents a "get right" game of sorts, an opportunity to play aggressive and ease some of the pressure Holtby has faced by dominating possession and preventing opportunities.

If called upon again to carry the team, however, Holtby says he is read.

"Right now I'm just trying to give our team a chance to win. We’re battling as hard as we can to keep piling up points."

MORE CAPITALS: Why Ovechkin is rooting for Kane to keep streak going

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Capitals are shaking up the coaching staff in Hershey

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The Hershey Bears

Capitals are shaking up the coaching staff in Hershey

The contracts of Hershey Bears head coach Troy Mann and Bears assistant coach Ryan Murphy will not be renewed for next season, the Capitals announced Wednesday. Hershey finished in last place in the Atlantic Division and did not qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

“Troy is a dedicated and hard-working coach and we appreciate all he has done for the Hershey Bears,” said Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan. “At this point, we feel a fresh approach and a change in leadership is needed in order for us to continue to develop our young players towards the next level and for success at the AHL level. We also want to thank Ryan for his contributions to the Hershey Bears and wish him all the best.”

Just two seasons ago, the Bears under Mann were playing the Calder Cup Finals where they lost in four games to the Lake Erie Monsters. Mann served as an assistant coach for Hershey from 2009-2013 and was hired as the head coach in 2014. He led the Bears to a record of 162-102-22-18 during his tenure, good for sixth all-time among Hershey coaches in wins.

Mann coached several current Capitals players in Hershey including Travis Boyd, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos and Philipp Grubauer, among others. Hershey also currently boasts several of the Caps' biggest prospects such as Lucas Johansen, Connor Hobbs, Riley Barber and Jonas Siegenthaler.

Murphy was with the Bears for all four years of Mann's tenure. He started in video development in Mann's first season and was promoted to assistant coach the following year.

“We’d like to thank Troy Mann and Ryan Murphy for their contributions to the Hershey Bears organization,” said Hershey vice president of hockey operations, Bryan Helmer. “While we are looking to move our hockey club forward, today is certainly an emotional day. I had the pleasure of working with both Troy and Ryan behind the bench for two seasons, and consider them to be great people. We wish both all the best in future endeavors.”

Coaching in the AHL is a tough job as coaches are expected to bring the team success while also developing their NHL club's prospects. There are times when the two goals do not necessarily line up which can make it a difficult balance.

Considering how important it is to develop talent from within, AHL coaches are very significant parts of an organization. Getting the right guy in charge of Hershey won't just boost the AHL team, but will help the Caps down the line with developed players.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: And so we meet again

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: And so we meet again

We all knew this was coming, right?

The Capitals will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs for the third consecutive season and for the 11th time in franchise history. Washington has only beaten Pittsburgh once in their previous 10 series. This season gives them the opportunity to get over the second round and Pittsburgh hump once and for all.

Will this year be different? Will the Caps finally take down their arch nemesis? Will they finally advance to the conference final?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps-Penguins matchup in the Capitals Faceoff Podcast.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page