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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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4 reasons the Caps beat the Bruins

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USA TODAY Sports

4 reasons the Caps beat the Bruins

The Capitals just can't seem to lose to the Boston Bruins. The Caps extended their win streak over the Bruins to 11 games on Thursday thanks to their 5-3 win in Boston.

Here's how the Caps extended the streak.

Braden Holtby, especially in the first and second period

Here is one where the box score won't tell the whole story. Braden Holtby gave up three goals on 37 shots. Looking at that, you may think to yourself that he was good, but not great. Let's be clear, Holtby was great in this game, especially early. The Bruins were buzzing in the first and second period—Washington was outshot 13-3 in the second—yet after 40 minutes Washington held a 2-1 lead. Holtby was brilliant allowing the Caps to take control of the game.

RELATED: CHECK OUT TARIK'S 3 STARS OF THE GAME

Finally solving Boston's penalty kill

The Bruins entered Thursday's game with the 3rd best penalty kill in the NHL. Washington failed to score on any of its first three power play opportunities in the first period so they changed things up. In the Caps' normal power play, there is some movement, but the setup is largely based on positioning. Players have spots they are supposed to be in and their movement is largely restricted to their specific areas. That changed in the second period. The players cycled frequently and managed to catch Boston's penalty killers off guard. Instead of playing the wall like he usually does, Backstrom was in front of the net for the easy tip-in off a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Rookies

Jakub Vrana scored one of the prettiest goals you will see this season as he split the defense and turned what looked like a normal play into a breakaway. In the third period, the ice began tilting in Boston's favor, but Christian Djoos slammed the door shut. Djoos took a pass at the blue line and had room to skate. He drove in, deked around Anders Bjork and set up Alex Chiasson beautifully right on the tape for the goal to make it 3-1.

MORE CAPITALS: CHECK OUT THE LATEST CAPITALS FACEOFF PODCAST

Alex Chiasson

Chiasson not only scored off of the great setup by Djoos, but he also was able to turn a blocked shot into a breakaway shorthanded goal. The Caps entered the third period up 2-1. Chiasson scored the next two to make it 4-1 and really iced the game away.

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Tarik's 3 stars: Caps make it 11 straight against Boston

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USA TODAY Sports

Tarik's 3 stars: Caps make it 11 straight against Boston

The Caps simply don’t lose against the Bruins. Not with Barry Trotz as head coach, anyway.

On Thursday night, Nicklas Backstrom and Co. extended their dominance vs. the B’s to 11 straight victories thanks to a 5-3 decision at TD Garden. The winning streak dates back to 2014, Trotz’s first behind the Washington bench.

Overall, the Caps have now won nine of their last 11 games. Brad Marchand and the Bruins, meantime, lost for the first time in four games.

RELATED: LISTEN TO THE LATEST CAPITALS FACEOFF PODCAST

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Alex Chiasson, Capitals

The winger struck twice in the third period, including a shorty, to put the game on ice. Chiasson gave the Caps a 3-1 lead when he whacked in his own rebound following a setup slick pass from Christian Djoos.

No. 39 then sealed the victory on the penalty kill, blocking a shot and taking off on a breakaway. At the net, he flipped a backhander over Anton Khudobin for his first two-goal game of the season and second multi-point performance.

Chiasson now has six goals on the season, including five in the last 15 games.  

2- Jakub Vrana, Capitals

Late in a scoreless opening frame, No. 13 controlled the puck in the neutral zone, turned on the afterburners, split the Boston defense and sniped a shot over Khudobin to put the Caps up 1-0.

The goal was Vrana’s 10th of the year and 6thin the past 11 games. It also marked the fifth time Vrana this season scored Washington’s first goal of the game. (We won’t mention that he was in the penalty box for the Bruins’ goal).

MORE CAPITALS: THE CAPS HAVE COME A LONG WAY IN THE LAST MONTH

3-Braden Holtby, Capitals

As I’ve said on many occasions, Holtby (34 saves) could be one of the Caps’ stars every night, especially after victories. Against the Bruins, though, he might have been the best player on the ice when the outcome was still in doubt. His best sequence came late in the opening period. First he made a point-blank stop on David Krejci and, moments later, he used a perfectly-timed poke check on Patrice Bergeron. Vrana put the Caps up 1-0 a short while later.

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