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Caps have bigger goals in mind than the Presidents' Trophy


Caps have bigger goals in mind than the Presidents' Trophy

With one point, the Capitals will earn the second Presidents' Trophy in franchise history. Given the 82-game grind that is the NHL season, it is an incredible accomplishment for any team, but it's also one the Caps have already mentally moved on from.

"It's a nice accomplishment," Matt Niskanen said.  "We should be proud of it, sure. We've had a heck of a year, but I don't think that was the number one goal on our list for the season. It means we had a hell of a year and we're proud of where we're at, but we're playing for something else."

Nicklas Backstrom was a bit less diplomatic.

"Honestly, it doesn't mean anything."

The first time the team won the Presidents' Trophy was in 2010. That year, the team's regular season exploits seemed to be a bit more celebrated than now, that is until the Caps lost in the very first round of the playoffs to the Montreal Canadiens in a stunning upset.

RELATED: 350,000 reasons Caps want to win Presidents' Trophy

It's a season Backstrom has no interest in repeating.

"It's good to have home ice clinched through the playoff but at the same time, it doesn't matter," Backstrom said. "It doesn't even mean anything because we lost last time in the first round when we won the Presidents' Trophy."

For his part, Barry Trotz said he knew how the players felt. Coaches often work to keep their players from looking ahead, but in this case, Trotz understands why his players are already looking past being the top team in the regular season.

"When they're growing up, no matter when they started playing the game, they were playing for the Stanley Cup," Trotz said. "They never played for the Presidents' Trophy."

Winning the Presidents' Trophy does carry playoff implications as it guarantees the winning team home ice throughout, even in the Stanley Cup Finals. There's also something to be said for being the top NHL team in an 82-game stretch. In a professional league in which every game is difficult to win, that's not something that should just be dismissed as unimpressive.

The Caps have been the league's best team almost from start to finish. That's hard to do.

But no one, from the players to the coaches to the front office, no one will be satisfied with that accomplishment if it does not come with a deep playoff run.

Said Trotz, "We all would like to be in that position to play for the one Cup that we all dreamed about when you were playing on the streets or in the hallways of the house or a hotel or whatever. That's the one that we want to play for."

Lines at morning skate:

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Justin Williams

Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie

Jason Chimera - Marcus Johansson - Jay Beagle

Daniel Winnik - Mike Richards - Tom Wilson

Extras: Michael Latta, Stanislav Galiev

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen

Nate Schmidt - John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov - Brooks Orpik 

Extras: Mike Weber, Taylor Chorney

Goalies: Braden Holtby (starter), Philipp Grubauer

MORE CAPITALS: Caps' celebration on ice after 4-0 shoutout loss to Blues

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3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning


3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

After a rough start, the Caps battled back to make a game of it against Tampa Bay, but ultimately fell 4-2 to the Lightning. Here's why.

The first period

To put it simply, this game was lost in the opening period. Washington was the better team for the second and third but they could not overcome the 3-0 lead they spotted the Lightning in the first. Beyond the goals, the Caps just did not play well. Even the simplest of plays looked difficult as Washington struggled to get the puck out of their own zone, gave up numerous turnovers and scoring chances and just looked overmatched. Braden Holtby also looked shaky allowing three goals on just eight shots. Usually he is able to cover up some of the mistakes the defense makes it front of him, but he was not there to bail the team out on Tuesday in what was a really rocky start.


Taking a penalty 34 seconds into the game

Entering Tuesday’s game, Tampa Bay boasted the second best power play unit in the league. Playing a disciplined game is part of every game plan, but that is especially true against such a dominant unit. Giving up a penalty just 34 seconds into the game was not an ideal start. The call itself was debatable. Brett Connolly was called for interference when he knocked over Dan Girardi in the offensive zone. The puck was just behind Girardi as he had lost control of it in his skates. The sticking point here is that Girardi no longer had possession and Connolly could have played the puck instead of the player. Most referees would probably let that go with the puck so close, but Connolly was not so lucky. Whether it was a good call or not, the Caps found themselves down a man and down a goal soon after as Brayden Point scored the power play tally.

A missed opportunity from Kuznetsov on one end, a goal for Nikita Kucherov on the other

Even after spotting the Lightning a 3-0 lead, the Caps made a game of it. Lars Eller struck on the power play in the second period and Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington to within one with about nine minutes left to play. Just over a minute later, Evgeny Kuznetsov stole the puck away from Nikita Kucherov, the frontrunner for league MVP this season, at the Tampa blue line giving the Caps a short 2-on-1. Defenseman Andrej Sustr was textbook on the play forcing Kuznetsov as far wide as he could go while still covering the passing lane and Kuznetsov elected to shoot from the faceoff dot rather than attempt the pass to T.J. Oshie.Andrei Vasilevskiy made a routine blocker save to deny what looked like a great opportunity to tie the game. As always happens in hockey, a failed opportunity on one end led to an opportunity in the other direction. Less than a minute later, Kucherov made up for his mistake by scoring a breakaway goal to put the game out of reach at 4-2.


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3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps


3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

The first 20 minutes of Tuesday's game did not go well for Washington. The Tampa Bay Lightning scored three times in the opening frame and rode that lead all the way to the 4-2 win.

With the game heading towards a repeat of their blowout loss to Chicago, the Capitals rebounded in the second period to make a game of it as Lars Eller scored on a power play. Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington within one in the third period, but Nikita Kucherov slammed the door shut with a breakaway goal to extend the lead back to 2.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Brayden Point: Tampa Bay won this game in the first period when they took a 3-0 lead. Point scored two of those three goals. His first came at the 2:30 mark of the game. He retreated to the blue line on the power play believing Jay Beagle would clear the puck. When Beagle turned the puck over, he recognized it and immediately crashed the net, taking a Ryan Callahan pass in the slot and shooting it through the five-hole of Braden Holtby. On his second goal, Anton Stralman saw an opportunity on the Caps’ line change and passed the puck up to Point at the blue line. Point turned on the jets to get behind the defense and went five-hole again on Holtby to make the score 3-0.

2. Alex Ovechkin: After the first period, Washington slowly took this game over for much of the remaining 40 minutes. Ovechkin was a big part of that as he totaled an incredible 19 shot attempts for the game. Nine of those shots were on goal and he found the back of the net in the third period for career goal No. 594.

3. Tom Wilson: Through the first period, the Caps looked well on their way to a repeat of the 7-1 debacle they suffered Saturday in Chicago. They had nothing going in this game until Wilson drew a trip from Vladislav Namestnikov in the second period. Eller would score on the resulting power play giving Washington some much-needed life. The Namestnikov penalty was the 29th drawn penalty of the season for Wilson, which moves him into a tie with Matthew Tkachuk for the most drawn penalties in the NHL.