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Capitals get out the grit in win over Blackhawks


Capitals get out the grit in win over Blackhawks

Coming off their most lopsided loss under his watch, Barry Trotz and the Capitals had a chance to prove themselves against the defending Stanley Cup champions and they seized it.

Anchored by a 26-save effort by Braden Holtby (22 of them in the first two periods), the Capitals played a much grittier and fundamentally sound hockey game in Thursday’s 4-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks than they had two nights earlier in a humiliating 5-0 loss to the Sharks.     

“I thought it was a good response to an absolutely terrible game against the Sharks,” Trotz said after seeing his team improve to 2-1-0. “The guys can tell it’s a lot more fun when you put in the full commitment.”

T.J. Oshie and John Carlson each recorded a goal and an assist, and Alex Ovechkin and Matt Niskanen added goals to give the Caps the win. But it was Marcus Johansson who played a role in three of the Capitals’ goals, providing a screen on two of them and feeding Niskanen for another.

“That’s what it’s about,” Johansson said. “We’ve got to get a little dirty. Last game we didn’t get to the dirty areas. As long as someone scores, it doesn’t matter who.  All we want to do is win, any way we can do it.”

Trotz said he liked everything about Johansson’s game against the Hawks.

“He was first on pucks, he was winning battles, he was skating, he was thinking shot, he was making plays,” Trotz said. “I thought he was real solid.”


The same could be said for the Caps’ checking line of Jay Beagle, Jason Chimera and Tom Wilson, who held Patrick Kane to just one shot the entire evening.

And for the first time all season, the Caps’ top line of Ovechkin, Oshie and Kuznetsov looked good in all three zones, creating 14 chances at the net – 10 of them by Ovechkin (6 shots, 3 blocked, 1 miss) – while playing sound defensively.

“As a team as a whole we really simplified our play on our side of the red line and I think that led to more scoring opportunities,” said Oshie, who scored on his only shot of the game. “We were talking a lot more tonight and when you do those little things good it can wear a team down.”

Trotz said he’s starting to see better communication between Oshie and Ovechkin.

“He wants to get the puck to (Ovechkin).” Trotz said of Oshie. “But I think Ovi has gone to him and said, ‘Hey, just make the right play. If you get a chance to shoot it, just hammer it. And if I get a chance to shoot it I’m gonna shoot it.’”

With his top three lines coming off one of their best games, Trotz may have some decision making to do if center Nicklas Backstrom returns to the lineup on Saturday. He said he would “probably” keep his top line together, meaning someone is getting bumped off the second line of Johansson, Andre Burakovsky and Justin Williams.

That decision could come on Friday when the Caps return to practice at Kettler. 

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We have ourselves a goalie rotation in Washington


We have ourselves a goalie rotation in Washington

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.