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Caps need to rewrite same old script

Caps need to rewrite same old script

PITTSBURGH – For the past eight months the Capitals have been telling anyone who would listen that this team is different than the ones that disappointed their fans in the past.

Now they have a chance to prove it.

After a crushing 3-2 overtime loss to the Penguins Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center, which gave Pittsburgh a commanding  3-1 series lead, the Capitals were saying all the right things.

“It’s a totally different year,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. “Last year we (were) winning 3-1 against the Rangers and we lost. We just have to have the mentality of shift to shift, period by period, and try to turn it around. Try to win the next game.

“We have to take this experience and turn it around our way. I think it sucks, you want to (win) the game and tie the series, but overall I think we have to play our game.”

Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, who stopped 30 of 33 shots on Wednesday and has allowed two more goals than rookie Matt Murray in this series, said the Capitals need to rely on what got them this far.

“We’re a good team,” he said. “We have the experience, the composure. It’s just a matter of bringing it to use now. We’ve got to keep pushing forward and hopefully the bounces will go our way sooner or later. Focus on the next game and all you can do it put your best effort out there.”


The Caps and Penguins played a pretty even game through two periods, with the Penguins taking a 2-1 lead on goals by Tevor Daley and Matt Cullen and the Capitals tying it on a second-period goal by John Carlson.

But with 2:34 gone in overtime, Penguins forward Conor Sheary threw a puck at the net that went off the heel of the stick of Capitals defenseman Mike Weber, who swiped at the puck and sent it directly to Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist fired a shot between the pads of Holtby as he scrambled back to cover his left post.

“We were OK with (Weber) out there,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “It was more of an unlucky play than anything. We had the puck a little bit earlier and sort of lost it.  It sort of just tied him up and he moved his stick and it went right to Hornqvist. That’s the way it goes.”

Holtby slammed his stick in frustration as he left the ice, realizing the opportunity the Caps had just squandered with Penguins defenseman Kris Letang out of the lineup due to a suspension.   

“It was tough,” Trotz said. “That’s why it’s sudden death. That’s what it feels like. We’ll have to deal with it. 

“This group has dealt with a lot of things. They’ve handled adversity well all year and they’ll do it again. We dug ourselves a hole and we’ll have to see if we can dig ourselves out of it.”

The Caps have not trailed 3-1 in a playoff series since 2009, when they stormed back to beat the Rangers in seven games. But this road looks a lot steeper. 

The Penguins managed to dodge a bullet by winning Game 4 without their top defenseman. And they have not lost three games in a row since late December, let alone three in a row.  

“We’ll have to come up with a Grade A effort on Saturday night,” Trotz said. “The Verizon Center has been a good place for us. I have a lot of trust in this group. It’s shown a lot of resiliency, just as Mike (Sullivan’s) group has shown a lot of resiliency all year. We’ll have to prove it.”

Yes, they will.


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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.