Capitals

Quick Links

Capitals vow to keep pounding the rock

Capitals vow to keep pounding the rock

Barry Trotz is a big believer that if his players plays the right way for long enough periods of time, the hockey gods will reward them with a series victory over the Penguins. 

“Pounding the rock” is the expression he likes to use.

In Game 3 on Monday night the Capitals pounded that rock with 49 shots on rookie goaltender Matt Murray. But instead of a wellspring of goals, the Caps only got a late trickle with a pair of third-period goals in a 3-2 loss.

So how does Trotz convince his players to keep pounding that rock? He provides evidence – like the game tape from Monday night, where he could show a 49-23 advantage in shots and a 58-25 edge in hits.

“The result wasn’t what we wanted,” Caps center Jay Beagle said. “But we woke up confident and watched the video today. We played the right way and you’ve got to be happy when you’re playing the right way.  

“I think you get in trouble when you start to get away from the plan because we didn’t get the result we wanted. Then that starts to become a problem.”

RELATED: OVECHKIN IMPOSING HIS WILL ON PENGUINS

Beagle should know. Before the arrival of Trotz, the Capitals were known as a team that would veer off the tracks when things didn’t go their way. They would cheat for chances offensively and leave themselves vulnerable defensively. Trotz is convinced that won’t happen in this series, even though the Capitals trail two games to one.   

“When things didn’t go our way, we would change the plan, everybody would go on their own plan,” Trotz said of his early experiences with the Caps last season. 

“And I think what this group has learned is that you stay to the plan, you execute and do the job well. 

“If you do that, it will turn your way. Guys are not going to change their plan. They all knew we played a pretty darn good hockey game last night. They’re not going to go, `We have to do something totally different because we didn’t win.’ 

“I think that’s where this team has matured. We have good poise. You’ve seen that all year with our team. We don’t get rattled often. We do get, I would say, very determined at times and we’ve shown a lot of resiliency all year. That’s why we were able to have the record we did. We didn’t let things bother us too much. And we’ve got a good leadership group that when things maybe aren’t going the way you want, they seem to be able to put it back on the rails for us. I think that’s the growth of our team the last two years. …

``When we went into this we expected it to go long. We’re OK with that. We’re built for that.’’

In the first two games of their series against the Pens the Capitals were outshot 80-59.But in Game 3 the tables were turned with the Caps holding a 49-23 shot advantage.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby cited a few reasons why. 

“We didn’t get enough zone time,” Crosby said. “We were off the rush and done pretty quick. When you do that, they have the puck longer and they have a lot more energy to play offensively. That was the big difference from the first two in Washington.

“We won (Game 3), but we can’t expect to play like that and continue to win. I think we all understand that and we know we need to better for Game 4.”

If you believe Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals are bigger and stronger than the Penguins and they expect to continue their physical assault on their second-round opponent. The goals eventually will follow, they believe, and so will the wins.

“Every hit matters,” said Caps right wing Tom Wilson, who has 12 of them in this series. “Players will be the first to tell you that when they have a sore shoulder they’re more hesitant to make a play. It’s a physical sport, guys are hard on each other and that’s why people love the game.”

Since Trotz’s arrival last season the Capitals have gone into every playoff series expecting, maybe even hoping, to go seven games. So far, two of the three series he’s coached have gone the distance.

“We’re prepared to go to Game 6, Game 7,” Beagle said. “We love the battle. We’ve talked about it all year and we’re in a good battle right now.”

MORE CAPITALS: HOW WILL LETANG'S SUSPENSION ALTER GAME 4 LANDSCAPE?

Quick Links

Michal Kempny already promoted to top-four at Sunday's practice

usatsi_10653853.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Michal Kempny already promoted to top-four at Sunday's practice

After two games, it looks like Michal Kempny is already moving up in the lineup.

At Sunday’s practice, Kempny played on the team's second defensive pairing, lining up on the left of John Carlson. Previously, the Czech defenseman had been playing on the right of Brooks Orpik. The move to the left allows him to play on his natural side as he is a left-handed shot.

Here are the pairs from Sunday’s practice:

Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen
Michal Kempny – John Carlson
Brooks Orpik – Christian Djoos
Jakub Jerabek – Madison Bowey

Acquired on Monday from the Chicago Blackhawks, Kempny has played in two games for the Capitals and has received glowing reviews thus far.

“He's a really good pro, that's what sticks out,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “He takes care of himself, he works at his game off the ice and with the guys, he has fit in very well.”

RELATED: THE TRADE TO WASHINGTON OFFERS JERABEK THE CHANCE HE NEVER SEEMED TO GET IN MONTREAL

“I've gotten to play a little bit with [Kempny] the last couple games,” Brooks Orpik said. “I think he's a guy that, he moves pretty well and he moves the puck pretty well and likes to keep things pretty simple. He's very consistent and predictable so he's very easy to play with.”

When the Capitals first acquired Kempny, it seemed like the best fit for him would be alongside Carlson. It’s a natural fit with Kempny being a left-shot and Carlson a righty. It also bumps down Christian Djoos to a third-pair role which is preferable to having a rookie in the top-four come the playoffs.

Should Kempny play well with Carlson, that would likely solidify Washington’s top two pairs. The Orlov-Niskanen pair was not going to be changed and Carlson was going to be on the second pair. The only question was who would ultimately play with him in the postseason?

The third pair, however, remains a work in progress.

The Caps will have to wait at least another day for the debut of their second recent acquisition as Jakub Jerabek cannot yet play due to visa issues and will miss Monday's game, reports Isabelle Khurshudyan.

Considering the issues Washington has had on defense, they would not have brought in another defenseman just to be a healthy scratch. He will get his shot to earn a spot in the lineup.

With two new defensemen in tow, obviously the team will need to experiment over the next few days and weeks to find the right combinations.

“We're going to have to probably spend at least the next 10 to 12 games doing that and then we'll have to sort of settle in,” Trotz said. “With eight defenseman, you sort of want to see which guys you’re going to play and who to play as partners and sort of a little bit of ranking. If someone goes down, who's filling that extra role?”

MORE CAPITALS: WHY THERE'S NO REASON FOR CAPS FANS TO WORRY

Quick Links

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.

RELATED: SEE THE 3 STARS FROM CAPS-SABRES HERE

Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.