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Caps blank Canes, set franchise record in the process

Caps blank Canes, set franchise record in the process

With their 5-0 win over Carolina, the Capitals won their 10th straight game at Verizon Center.

While that’s impressive, it might not have been their most significant accomplishment Tuesday night. That’s because Braden Holtby’s 23-save effort also gave the Caps their 10th shutout of the season, a new franchise record.

Holtby now has seven shutouts, tying him for the league lead with Kings’ netminder Peter Budaj. Holtby’s backup, Philipp Grubauer, owns the other three.

“Our goalies have all year been unbelievable for us,” Marcus Johansson said. “It’s fun to play right now. The confidence in the group is outstanding. And the goaltenders are giving us a chance night in and night out.”

RELATED: Trotz still finding ways to improve the team and the players are listening

Indeed, Holtby and Grubauer have been great. But you don’t earn 10 shutouts in 54 games with great goaltending alone. It requires a team effort. And right now, no one in the NHL is playing better as a unit than the league-leading Caps.

“Both of those guys have been outstanding,” Coach Barry Trotz said of his goalies. “In the locker room [Justin Williams] said every night we could hand the [game MVP] award out to those guys because they’ve been very, very good.”

“But,” Trotz continued, “at the same time, it’s a team. …Our overall five-on-five has been solid for the most part. Our goaltending has been solid. A lot of areas have been really good.”

The Caps’ previous high for shutouts in a season was nine, which the team managed in 2014-15 (all with Holtby in net) and 1995-96 (all by Jim Carey).

Two more interesting factoids about the double-digit shutout total: nine have come at home, which is also a record, and three times the Caps have pitched shutouts in back-to-back games, including consecutive 5-0 wins over the Kings and ‘Canes.

It’s even more ridiculous when you look at the scores of the shutouts, particularly the last four.

  • Oct. 18: 3-0 vs. Avalanche.
  • Nov. 18: 1-0 vs. Red Wings
  • Dec. 11: 3-0 vs. Canucks.
  • Dec. 23: 4-0 vs. Lightning.
  • Jan. 5: 5-0 vs. Blue Jackets
  • Jan. 7: 1-0 at Senators
  • Jan. 13: 6-0 vs. Blackhawks
  • Jan. 15: 5-0 vs. Flyers
  • Feb. 5: 5-0 vs. Kings
  • Feb. 7: 5-0 vs. Hurricanes.

Asked about the Caps’ ridiculous run of blanking opponents, Holtby said he and Grubauer don’t give shutouts much thought as they’re unfolding.

“Shutouts are a funny thing because some games you play better than you do in shutouts and the puck goes in,” Holtby said. “So you can’t really look into that [too] much. I think we’re more focused on giving our team a chance to win based on the night that’s been handed to us. Philipp has done a phenomenal job of that.”

Then Holtby channeled his inner Bill Belichick.

“We’re just trying to do our job,” he said.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps extend home dominance to 10 straight wins

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NHL Power Rankings: The Caps are singing the bye week blues

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NHL Power Rankings: The Caps are singing the bye week blues

A Capitals team that struggles after lengthy breaks is now indeed struggling after its return from the bye week. Since returning on Thursday against the New Jersey Devils, the Caps have lost three straight games including two at home with only two points to show for their efforts.

Heading into the bye, Washington looked like one of the top teams in the NHL with 14 wins in 19 games. Now, they have taken a step back and are working at returning to the level they were playing just a week ago.

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Oh, and to make matters worse, the Caps do not play again until Thursday and then are off for the All-Star break.

It's Jan. 22 and Washington has only two more games this month. Even if they do figure things out on Thursday against the Florida Panthers, they will have to figure it out all over again when they return from the All-Star break on Jan. 31 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

So where do the Caps rank after their recent slide and how far could they fall if they do not right the ship? Find out here in this week's NHL Power Rankings!

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Think Jakub Vrana's ice time shows Barry Trotz was unhappy with his play? Think again

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Think Jakub Vrana's ice time shows Barry Trotz was unhappy with his play? Think again

It was a bit of a surprise to see Jakub Vrana in the lineup against the Philadelphia Flyers. On Saturday in practice, Barry Trotz mixed his lines up and it appeared that Vrana would be the odd-man out. On Sunday, however, when the team took to the ice for warmups prior to the game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Vrana lined up on the fourth line with Jay Beagle and Devante Smith-Pelly.

Did the near scratch spark Vrana to more production? Not exactly.

RELATED: HERE'S WHY THE CAPS LOST TO PHILADELPHIA

Vrana played a career-low 6:25 against the Flyers. He had zero shot attempts or hits. There were only two stats on his stat line from the final box score: One giveaway and one drawn penalty.

Despite that, Trotz was complimentary of the 21-year-old forward following the game.

"What I like about Jake, he competed," Trotz said. "I know he doesn't have the minutes tonight, but he competed and that's what the message was. I met with him this morning and a little bit on the ice the other day and I just said the skill doesn't come out unless that level of desperation and compete is there night in, night out and then you'll have production. He didn't get a lot of ice time, but I was happy with his effort."

Trotz said Vrana's ice time was low because he the team was "hard matching" later in the game against Philadelphia. It was not because of how he played.

MORE CAPITALS: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FOR CAPS-FLYERS

But ultimately, the key is to get Vrana producing again and the fourth line is not the best place to spark that. Vrana has only one point in his last 12 games which is why it seemed to make sense that he would be a healthy scratch on Sunday. For a player with his offensive skill, it is harder for him to make an impact on that back line given the limited minutes and the more defensive role. Ultimately he has to play in the top-nine in order to reach his potential on a game by game basis.

If Trotz wanted to spark more compete and more effort from Vrana, the move to the fourth line may have done the trick. But did he play well enough to warrant moving back into the top-nine? That's the ultimate question.