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Brent Burns' second period goal proves to be the turning point in Caps' loss

Brent Burns' second period goal proves to be the turning point in Caps' loss

Although a lot went wrong for the Capitals in Tuesday’s  3-0 loss to the Sharks, Coach Barry Trotz said he thought the game turned on a single play late in the second period.

San Jose defenseman Brent Burns capitalized on a defensive zone mix-up and sneaked a seeing-eye puck past Braden Holtby, giving the visitors a 2-0 lead that would not be challenged.

“I thought the second goal really hurt us,” Trotz said. “The way they were playing, [when] they got the second goal, I thought it would be a little bit of a tough hole to come out of because I thought they were playing a real solid game.”

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Trotz added: “For the most part it was a fairly close game. Give a lot of credit to San Jose. I didn’t think we played poorly at all. I didn’t think we converted on some chances. They did a really good job defending so you had to really fight to get into the interior. I don’t think we had the desperation in our game until the third period, that we needed [earlier].”

On Burns’ goal, Andre Burakovsky and Tom Wilson momentarily ended up on the same side of the defensive zone, allowing Burns enough time and space to get off a good shot. It also didn’t help that the puck hit a couple of things on the way into the net.  

“He was going high, and it hits Burky’s stick and [Brooks Orpik’s] leg and it goes in,” Holtby said. “When you put traffic to the net and you put pucks on net, they go in usually.”

Trotz said there needed to be more communication between Burakovsky and Wilson.

“Two wingers got on the same side there,” Trotz said. “There wasn’t a lot of communication. And they bumped it back to Burns, and Burns is the top scoring defenseman. He’s got a hell of a shot and there a little bit of screen on Holts, and that thing just jumped by him. We got to have a little more detail, a little more communication on that one.”

The Capitals had a handful of scoring opportunities in the third period, including a point-blank shot that Alex Ovechkin fired wide and a late power play was frustrated yet again by Martin Jones and the Sharks’ penalty killers.

“In the third period, we had some good looks,” Trotz said. “We had some opportunities and didn’t convert on them. We were chasing the game a bit.”

But, in Trotz’s estimation, it was all uphill for the Caps after Burns’ tally.

“They had a lot of desperation,” Trotz said. “They had been on a three game losing streak and they had a tough [5-0 loss] against Pittsburgh at home [on Saturday]. They were dialed in. You could tell their top guys were dialed in.”

MORE CAPITALS: Sharks snap Caps' win streak behind stifling defense

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Get to know newest Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny

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Get to know newest Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny

On Monday, with the NHL trade deadline approaching, the Washington Capitals addressed a need for blue line depth by acquiring Michal Kempny from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a conditional third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

But before you begin to analyze how the move impacts the Capitals' outlook heading forward, lets take some time to get to know the newest member of the Caps.

Who is Michal Kempny?

Michal Kempny is a 27-year-old defenseman from the Czech Republic. He was born on Sept. 8, 1990 in Hodonin, a small town in southwestern Czech Republic near the border of Austria and Slovakia. Kempny began his hockey career playing for SHK Hodonin. Kempny knew very little english upon arriving to the NHL, but credited his girlfriend Showtime shows to helping him become more comfortable speaking the language. 

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What International Experience Does Michal Kempny Have?

Michal Kempny played professionally for HC Kometa Brno of the Czech Extraliga and Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League. Kempny was a standout player on the international stage, playing for the Czech Republic U18, U20 and Men's National teams.

MORE ON THE TRADE: WHERE DOES KEMPNY FIT IN THE CAPS ROSTER

When Did Michal Kempny Make His NHL Debut?

Michal Kempny was signed to a one-year contract as an undrafted free agent by the Chicago Blackhawks in May, 2016 and made his NHL debut in October, 2016. Kempny scored his first NHL goal on Dec. 30, 2016 against Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward. Kempny appeared in 50 games for the Blackhawks during the 2016-17 season, recording two goals and six assists. The Blackhawks re-signed Kempny to a one-year extension during the offseason. Kempny played in 31 games this season before being traded to the Capitals.

What Type of Hockey Player is Michal Kempny?

Kempny is a 6-0, 194-pound defenseman with a strong left-handed shot. Known for his play on the offensive end, Kempny was never able to gain the trust of Joel Quenneville on the defensive end. But Kempny has a good bit of offensive upside, thanks to his passing skills and strong shot, which is why the Blackhawks took a flier on him in the first place and why he was an ideal trade candidate for the Capitals. But again, Kempny's size is less than ideal for a top-tier blue-liner and while he doesn't shy away from contact, he is rarely much of a physical presence. 

What Does Michal Kempny's Contract Look Like?

Michael Kempny is set to become an unrestricted free agent the the end of the 2017-18 season and has a cap hit of just $900,000.

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Where Michael Kempny fits in the Caps' lineup

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Where Michael Kempny fits in the Caps' lineup

If there was one thing the Caps needed to address at the trade deadline, it was defense.

Washington ranks only 20th in the NHL in defense with 2.98 goals against per game. Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos have played well in their rookie seasons, but their play has also been marked with rookie mistakes. To have both in the lineup in the playoffs would present an obvious weakness and matchup opportunities for opposing coaches to exploit.

On Monday, the Caps attempted to address their need for defensive depth by trading for defenseman Michal Kempny, a 27-year-old blue liner with good skating ability and offensive upside.

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So what does this mean for the lineup?

Given the immediate need the Caps have on defense, it would not make sense to make a trade for a No. 7 defenseman who won't play. Having Kempny sitting in the press box does not address any of the team's issues on the blue line. Unless Brian MacLellan is planning on making another move, Kempny was brought in to play.

As a left-shot defenseman, he will most likely play on the left. Barry Trotz may ultimately need someone to play someone on their off-side, but asking a player who has played in only 31 games this season to step into a new team and play on the right is a lot to ask.

Let's get this out of the way: Kempny was not brought in to replace Brooks Orpik. His addition will not push Orpik to No. 7 in the lineup. Moving Orpik into the top four, however, certainly does not make this team better. If Orpik is staying put on the third pair, it seems most likely that Kempny will ultimately play to the left of John Carlson.

Here's a possible lineup:

Dmitry Orlov-Matt Niskanen
Michal Kempny-John Carlson
Christian Djoos-Brooks Orpik

Extras: Taylor Chorney, Madison Bowey

If this is the route the Caps choose to go, this would most likely mean moving Bowey to Hershey for the rest of the regular season as he is still waiver exempt. Placing Chorney on waivers to move him to Hershey, however, would not be out of the question.

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The Orpik-Bowey pairing has looked slow in recent weeks and moving Djoos to that pair provides a lot more mobility. Trotz will ultimately need to shelter the third pair, but it is easier to shelter one defensive pair than shelter two rookies playing on two different pairs which was the situation facing Washington before the trade for Kempny.

Kempny may start on the third pair and have to work his way up, but, barrig any further moves or glaring chemistry issues, the most likely scenario is that we will ultimately see Kempny in the top-four.

A third-round draft pick may seem like a steep price for a defenseman who played only 31 games this season, but he played well whenever he was in the lineup. If he is able to step into Washington's top-four, that third-round pick ultimately will not look like such a high price tag.