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Caps' Tyler Graovac is the silver lining in an ugly loss to the Blues

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Caps' Tyler Graovac is the silver lining in an ugly loss to the Blues

Barry Trotz didn’t like a whole lot about Friday’s 4-0 preseason loss to the Blues.

One thing he didn’t mind so much, however, was the play of 6 foot 5 center Tyler Graovac.

The fourth liner had a handful of scoring chances and finished the game tied for the team lead in shots on goal with four. The 24-year-old also recorded a couple of hits, won nine of 11 draws and saw a prominent role penalty kill.  

“He’s had two pretty good games,” Trotz said of Graovac, who made his debut against the Devils earlier this week. “We’re getting to know him as a player and a person.”

RELATED: CAPS DEFENSE OVERMATECHED IN LOSS TO BLUES

Graovac was acquired via trade from Minnesota in June so that Washington could protect Lars Eller in the expansion draft. Given that the Caps already had four NHL centers, it was believed that Graovac would eventually end up in AHL Hershey, despite a one-way contract that will pay him $650,000 this season.

That thinking, however, might need to change after his eye-opening performance against St. Louis.

“He’s competing,” Trotz said. “He’s a big man, he’s skating well, he’s creating some things. There’s a lot of good things that he’s done. His faceoffs have been good. We said there are opportunities and he’s trying to grab one.”

Although Graovac is a center by trade, the Brampton, Ontario native said he’d be comfortable skating on the wing if that’s what it takes to win a job.

“Last year in Minnesota, I played right wing, left wing. I really see myself as a forward,” he said. “I’m just trying to show all aspects of my game really. [Penalty kill]. My defensive side. Tonight, I tried to show a little more offense. Speed. I’m going to show them everything I’ve got to the best that I can.”

Graovac said he was playing softball when he found out that the Wild, which had selected him in the seventh round of the 2011 draft, had dealt him to the Caps for a fifth round pick. Once the shock wore off, he came to the realization that a change of scenery might turn out to be good for him. He had split the 2016-17 season between the Wild and the minors.

“It was bittersweet,” he said. “I was with Minnesota since I was 18, but I was thrilled that Washington wanted me. To go from a top-place team in the West to a top-place team in the East that’s closer to home…it was a great change for me.”

Graovac heard the reports that the Caps made the move with an eye on the expansion draft. It’s also likely he’s noticed that his name is often absent from media reports about the youngsters who are vying for jobs in Washington.

But he hasn’t allowed any of that to deter him.

“That’s the vision,” he said of claiming a spot on the 23-man opening night roster. “I try to tell myself that every morning. You put a picture on your wall and you go for it. I try not to look into too many things. Washington wanted me for a reason and I’m really trying to show, ‘Wow, we got this kid and he can do a couple of things here for us and actually make us better.’”

MORE CAPITALS: OVECHKIN'S SURPRISE PUTS A SMILE ON KIDS' FACES

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How the Caps got Alex Ovechkin wide open for the overtime winner in Detroit

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How the Caps got Alex Ovechkin wide open for the overtime winner in Detroit

The Washington Capitals are back in the win column thanks to a 4-3 overtime win in Detroit on Friday. Alex Ovechkin netted the game winner on a wide-open one timer that beat goalie Petr Mrazek.

How does Ovechkin get wide open in overtime? Because the Detroit Red Wings all got caught watching Nicklas Backstrom on a beautiful cycle by the Caps.

When you have to cover Ovechkin in a four-on-three penalty kill, you have your hands full. There is a lot open ice for the power play to work with in those situations. In a regular power play, we often seen teams play Ovechkin closely, sometimes even dedicating a player specifically on him and going four on three with the rest of the power play.

RELATED: ANDRE BURAKOVSKY WAS CHALLENGED BY HIS COACH AND HE RESPONDED

Look how closely the Red Wings were covering Ovechkin on a power play earlier in the game.

There’s not a lot of room to work with, but you can’t play that tight on a four on three penalty kill.

With only three penalty killers on the ice, they have to play closer into the net. You may leave end up leaving Ovechkin open for the shot, but at the very least you can get a body in front of him to either block the shot or pressure him when he has the puck.

Here is what Detroit’s three-man penalty kill looks like when it is set up.

The Red Wings are yielding the point to John Carlson but are tight in front and in good position to attack the players set up in more dangerous areas.

But this all breaks down if the players get caught watching the puck instead of focusing on their assignment. We saw this in the second period when, on a five-on-four, all four of Detroit's penalty killers move too far over to one side leaving Ovechkin wide open for a one-timer.

Somehow Mrazek stopped it, but I am sure his life flashed before his eyes when he saw the Great 8 stepping up for the clear shot. Even though it did not result in a goal, it was a clear breakdown by the defense as the Caps were able to draw the penalty killers out of position.

On a three-man penalty kill, the penalty killers do not want to move. They want to stay in position and attack you when you come too close. So how do you draw them out of position? You cycle.

Watch how much the Caps move with and without the puck on this power play.

MORE CAPITALS: WHO STOOD OUT IN DETROIT?

What the Caps are essentially doing here is fishing. They have their line out and are waiting to catch one of the penalty killers. Backstrom eventually does as Luke Glendening chases after him and the puck. The result?

Yeah, can’t leave that guy open twice and live to tell about it.

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Game 9: Capitals vs. Panthers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 9: Capitals vs. Panthers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Florida Panthers

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET. Coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. ET with Capitals FaceOff.

How to Watch: Capitals vs. Panthers will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals vs. Panthers game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME?

The Capitals (4-3-1) take on the Panthers (2-4-0) Saturday, October 21 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Capital One Arena.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME ON?

The Capitals-Panthers game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Capitals FaceOff gets things started at 6:30 p.m. ET followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington following the game for Caps Extra followed by Caps Overtime and Caps in 30 for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:30 p.m. — Capitals vs. Panthers
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps OverTime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME?

The Capitals-Panthers game, as well as the pre and postgame shows, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

WHAT ARE THE LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME?

Here are the projected lines:

Forwards
Tom Wilson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Jakub Vrana
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Devante Smith-Pelly - Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Taylor Chorney

Goalies
Philipp Grubauer starts with Braden Holtby as backup

Scratches
Nathan Walker, Aaron Ness, Tyler Graovac (injured), Matt Niskanen (LTIR)

CAPITALS-PANTHERS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.