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Caps, Flyers sacrificing themselves to block shots

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Caps, Flyers sacrificing themselves to block shots

Things to consider as the Capitals and Flyers turn the page from Thursday night’s Game 1 and enter tonight’s Game 2 at Verizon Center (6 p.m. Pregame Live, CSN):

Man, that hurt: The Capitals (23) and Flyers (21) combined for 44 blocked shots in Game 1, including two doozies -- one each by Nick Schultz on Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov on Shayne Gostisbehere.

“It takes big … to go into that shooting lane," Jake Voracek said of Schultz getting in front of an Ovechkin blast.

Kuznetsov took Gostisbehere’s shot in his upper thigh and skated in pain to the bench, but returned for his next shift.

“I didn’t like how we came back in the zone, so he had to (block the shot),” Trotz said of Kuznetsov. “He had no choice. But at the same time, some guys conveniently don’t get in those lanes. In that situation he was all in.”

Kuznetsov was not alone. Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Orpik each blocked four shots in a game in which 11 different Capitals blocked shots.

“It just means everybody’s in,” Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said. “Guys don’t care how you get the job done, just get it done. Whether you have to block shots or take hits or give hits, you do whatever it takes. You’d like those guys (Backstrom and Kuznetsov) not to have to block shots, because you don’t want to take any chances (getting injured), but if there’s an opportunity and a need for it, it’s good to see them step up.”

Trotz said the teams that block the most shots in the playoffs are the ones that go deep.

“Those are great signs of wanting to win,” Trotz said.

Schmidt-uation: Caps defenseman Nate Schmidt saw just 7:02 of ice time in Game 1 and took just one shift in the third period. Schmidt’s ice time was reduced after his defense partner, Dmitry Orlov took a tripping penalty 8:50 into the second period.

“We took a penalty,” Schmidt said. “We can’t take a penalty.”

Schmidt viewed his benching as a “flow of the game” decision by the Caps’ coaching staff and nothing else.

Said Trotz: “It was  Schmitty’s first playoff game in the National Hockey League. You can’t replicate it. It’s chaotic out there. It really is a different level. The great thing about Schmitty and Stan (Galiev) is they come to work every day with a smile. … If you were a fan and you had the ability to be on the bench you would be smiling, too.”

Schmidt and Orlov are expected to be paired again in Game 2.

The Caps’ blue line ice times from Game 1 looked like this:

  • Matt Niskanen (25:43 – 3:20 PP, 5:01 SH)
  • John Carlson (23:50 – 6:58 PP, 2:22 SH)
  • Karl Alzner (22:19 -- :13 PP, 5:01 PK)
  • Brooks Orpik (21:56 -- :01 PP, 1:40 PK)
  • Dmitry Orlov (11:18 – 1:42 PP)
  • Nate Schmidt (7:02 – 1:56 SH)

Schmidt and Orlov are expected to be paired again in Game 2.

What’s a penalty: Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik was penalized twice (illegal check to the head of Nick Cousins, interference) in the first 14 minutes of Game 1.

Cousins is 5-foot-10; Orpik is 6-foot-2. And while Orpik was clearly unhappy with the interference call, slamming his stick against the glass, he made it through the remainder of the game without a penalty.

“Whether or not you agree with the calls is a different story, but that’s something you can’t let frustrate you,” Orpik said. “You’ve just got to play physically. Everybody knows that in a seven-game series you want to wear teams down.”

Spreading the wealth: The Caps’ forward lines saw a very even distribution of ice time in Game 1, with Alex Ovechkin leading the way with 19:22 and Andre Burakovsky playing the least (9:12). Fourth line left wing Daniel Winnik saw 12:10 of ice time, including 2:52 on the penalty kill, where the Caps were 4-for-4.

“We have four great lines, the four best lines in the league to match up against,” Caps right wing Justin Williams said. “I believe that and we need to use that to our advantage.”

Trotz called Winnik, who was acquired prior to the NHL trade deadline in exchange for Brooks Laich, is a “very useful” forward at this time of year.

“You get into a long playoff series, those guys become invaluable,” Trotz said. “Guys like Beags (Jay Beagle) and Winnik and (Tom) Wilson. They don’t give the opposition easy ice. You have to work through them.”

RELATED: Capitals react to Couturier missing series

 

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!

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Tarik's 3 stars: Caps come up empty on an emotional night in Florida

Tarik's 3 stars: Caps come up empty on an emotional night in Florida

Vincent Trocheck scored on the power play with 18.7 seconds remaining and the Panthers escaped with a 3-2 victory on an emotional night in Sunrise, Fla.

Trocheck’s goal was Florida’s second in the final four minutes…and the Caps were left to lament yet another incomplete performance. Washington has now lost three of its last four games and fell to 4-5-2 in February.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Vincent Trocheck, Panthers

Trocheck did what Trocheck does in the third period: The Florida forward scored a clutch goal in the final seconds, redirecting a Jonathan Huberdeau shot through Brooks Orpik’s legs and past Braden Holtby.

Eller was in the penalty box when Trocheck scored his 13th third period goal of the season.

2-Andre Burakovsky, Capitals

After losing a goal to Eller in the first period, Burakovsky made sure he didn’t go home empty-handed. No. 65 scored on the power play in the second period to put the Caps ahead 2-1.

It was Burakovsky’s third goal in six games. He also earned a secondary assist on Eller’s redirection score.   

3-Braden Holtby, Capitals

Following a handful of un-Holtby-like performances lately, Holtbeast roared Thursday night at BB&T Center. He made at least one game-saving stop in each period: an arm save on Trocheck in the first period; a pad stop on Denis Malgin in the second and another extended pad stop on Evgenii Dadonov in the third. Holtby finished with 30 stops.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.