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Braden Holtby brilliant again in shutout win vs. Buffalo


Braden Holtby brilliant again in shutout win vs. Buffalo

Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ 2-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres Monday night at Niagara Arena:

How it happened: Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring 19 seconds into the second period with his team-high 18th goal of the season on a nice Nicklas Backstrom pass from behind the net. Jay Beagle made it 2-0 with his sixth goal of the season at the 12:55 mark when a shot by Tom Wilson caromed wide of the net and banked right to Beagle in the slot. Caps goalie Braden Holtby did the rest, stopping all 31 shots he faced to earn his second shutout of the season and 22nd of his career.

What it means: The Caps (27-6-2, 56 points) have rung up eight straight wins, all of them in regulation, to move within one point of the NHL-leading Dallas Stars (27-7-3, 57 points), who have played two more games.


Scary moment: With 4:10 remaining in regulation Buffalo forward Tyler Ennis crashed the net with the puck lying at the feet of Holtby and made helmet-to-helmet contact with the Caps’ netminder. After the play, Holtby removed his mask and took a knee but remained in the game and finished off the shutout with an incredible glove save on Evander Kane. Holtby (23-4-1) stopped Jack Eichel four times.

Pay back for Deslauriers?: With 8:09 gone in the second period, Sabres left wing Nicolas Deslauriers shouldered Caps right wing Justin Williams hard into the boards, clipping him in the face with his stick on Williams’ way to the ice. 

While Williams’ face was getting repaired in the trainer’s room, Deslauriers took his next shift at 10:46 and 3 seconds later Michael Latta defended Williams by fighting Deslauriers. Latta got the worst of the fight, taking a pair of hard rights to the head and did not return to the game with an upper body injury.

Deslauriers celebrated wildly on the ice and in the penalty box and likely will be watched closely by Tom Wilson when the two teams meet again at Verizon Center on Wednesday night.

Statistically speaking: The Caps are now 13-0-0 when leading after one period and 19-0-0 when leading after two periods. They are also 22-0-5 whenever Jay Beagle scores a goal in his career.    

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Can Pittsburgh's past be a goalie rotation blueprint?


Can Pittsburgh's past be a goalie rotation blueprint?

It’s happened. The Caps no longer seem to have a No. 1 goalie anymore, they have a No. 1 and 1a.

That’s right, we have a goalie rotation in Washington.

“There's no sense riding one,” Barry Trotz said after practice on Monday. “[Braden Holtby] is coming back and looking better every game and [Philipp Grubauer] played pretty well for a long stretch so why not have both of them going?”

Grubauer got the start Sunday in Philadelphia and Holtby is slated to get the start Tuesday against the Dallas Stars. After that we will have to wait and see.


Trotz has no layout for which goalie he wants to start and when in the remaining ten games. He is not thinking about each goalie splitting five games or which one he wants to use more.

Nope. Trotz has just one thing on his mind. It is all about who starts the next game, that’s it.

“I think you just go with a guy that's hot at the time and your team feels comfortable with and go from there,” Trotz said.

So where does this leave the goaltending situation when it comes to the playoffs? A goalie rotation is all well and good in the regular season, but he has to have one starter for the postseason, right?

Not necessarily.


When Trotz was asked if he philosophically believed in having one starter for the playoffs, Trotz initially said he would not answer, but then said, “Why don't you ask Mike Sullivan what he thinks.”

Sullivan, of course, is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins who has led his team to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons despite turning to both goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in both seasons.

While Pittsburgh’s goalie rotation was largely based on injury, however, it still provides an example of how using both goalies can work in the playoffs and that seems to be the path the Caps are headed on at the moment.

Said Trotz, “You just have to go with your gut who you think is going to get the job done.”

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NHL Power Rankings: The home stretch

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NHL Power Rankings: The home stretch

We are down to the home stretch. Only 10 games remain in the Capitals' regular season. Those 10 games will ultimately decide if the Caps finish in first place in the Metropolitan Division and who they will play in the first round of the playoffs.

Washington currently sits in first place in the division, two points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and four points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers. Of those 10 remaining games, only three come against teams currently in playoff position. The most critical of these comes on April 1 when the Caps travel to Pittsburgh in a game that could ultimately decide the division.

The Caps still hold a narrow lead in the standings, but where do they stand in the rankings? See this week's updated NHL Power Rankings here.