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Despite success, Barry Trotz still finding ways to improve the team and the players are listening

Despite success, Barry Trotz still finding ways to improve the team and the players are listening

Tuesday’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes had a very familiar feel to it for the Caps. It was yet another commanding performance at home in which Washington was able to establish control early then pour it on late as the game spiraled out of control for the opponents. The win was Washington’s tenth straight at home. It was the ninth straight time the team scored five or more goals at Verizon Center and it was the fifth time in those 10 wins that the opponent was shutout.

Things have been going so well lately, the media is running out of new questions to ask.

“I feel like we’ve been talking about this a lot lately,” Marcus Johansson said when asked about depth scoring as everyone has been asked throughout this stretch.

But winning as impressively as the Caps have done of late is not without its challenges. For head coach Barry Trotz, he still must critique what he sees, fix the holes that he finds and convey his message in a way to make sure it does not fall on deaf ears.

RELATED: Caps extend home dominance to 10 straight wins

It’s easy to ignore the coach when things are going so well, but no game is perfect as Trotz stressed after Tuesday’s blowout win.

“I didn’t like our second period,” he said. “Just too much risk in our game. We’re giving up odd man rushes, just sloppy and not securing the puck. They had a couple guys in front of our net and the D were gone, leaving the zone before we really had the puck secured. Just not managing it really, really well.”

It sounds like Trotz is nitpicking, but he’s not wrong. Washington held a 2-0 lead after the first period but could not build on that lead in the second. The issue wasn’t the offense, ti was sloppy play in the defensive zone.

For Trotz, who always stresses the importance of strong defensive play, the second period served as a teachable moment.

“When you have a 2-0 lead, you don't want it to be 2-1,” Trotz said. “It's not that we're going to go into a defensive shell or anything, it's just manage the situation correctly.”

But how do you get that message across to the players given how this team is playing?

“I think they understand,” Trotz said. “I think they enjoy the fact that we can make plays, we can score goals, but I think they know that they take pride and responsibility to each other to defend well and they know that if they defense well they're going to have the puck more.”

That’s not just coach speak, the players echoed that sentiment about never being satisfied.

“We keep playing because we want to keep getting better,” Johansson said. “We're all competitive in here. Really competitive and that's one of our strengths I think.”

From the outside looking in, it’s easy to worry about the players taking their foot off the gas or tuning out the coaches because of the team’s success. It’s happened before to many teamsnot just in hockey, but in every sport. What makes this team different, says Trotz, is that the recent stretch hasn’t made coaching the players more difficult, it’s actually had the opposite effect because the team is seeing the results of its hard work night in and night out.

“Really once you start seeing on the ice where you're good defensively and you get the puck more, it's an easier game for you,” Trotz said. “You get more offense out of it, then it's an easy sell.”

MORE CAPITALS: Kuznetsov scores Caps' 2nd goal in less than a minute

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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

USA Today Sports

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.