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Despite their success, slow starts continue to plague Caps


Despite their success, slow starts continue to plague Caps

In a season in which everything seems to be going right for the Capitals, the team has shown very few weaknesses. If there is one, however, it would be their slow starts.

The Caps were held scoreless in the first period of Monday's game against the Arizona Coyotes, and then allowed the first goal of the game to Kevin Connauton in the second period. It was the 12th time in their last 15 games that the Caps allowed the first goal. In fact, out of 58 games this season, the Caps have allowed the first goal in exactly half of them.

Not what you would expect from a team that has been so dominant all season. The reasons why seem to be both external and internal.

For teams that aren't leading their division by a mile, the games are becoming more and more critical as everyone is vying for playoff position.

"Sometimes the teams play desperate hockey right now," Alex Ovechkin said. "It's maybe 20, 22 games left and they need some points so they just want to get the results."

The real issue, however, seems to be more a mental one.

"It's always tough in February," Braden Holtby said. "These types of games, it's hard to get your mind into it sometimes."

RELATED: Richards' first goal lifts Caps over Coyotes 3-2

That sentiment was echoed by head coach Barry Trotz.

"I want to say it's as easy as, 'Hey we're up by 25 points, let's go get 'em!'" Trotz said. "I think sometimes the other team's looking at our record and say 'Hey, man we've got to jump on these guys. We can't let them get a lead,' and so you get a maximum effort in the first period.

"It's not that we're not giving our max effort, we're probably not as emotionally engaged."

There's an interesting mental dynamic developing within the team. Given how far ahead they are in the standings and how long they have left to go until the postseason begins, it would seem difficult to get mentally up for every game. That's when good teams start to slump.

"That first period is kind of what we're using right now to get our team body going," Holtby said.

What makes the Caps so interesting is that they are the first period. They just have the talent and confidence to overcome that.

"I think we have a lot of confidence that if we can manage the first period we'll take it over later," Trotz said.

So far, it hasn't hurt the Caps. Despite giving up the first goal in 12 of their last 15 games, Washington has gone 11-3-1 in those games. They are also the only team in the NHL to boast a win percentage above .500 when giving up the first goal (.552).

Still, given their disappointing playoff history, it would be fair to be concerned over what these slow starts may mean come playoff time. For now, however, the Caps don't seem to mind.

Said Holtby, "It's one thing we want to improve on, but I don't think we're too worried about it."

MORE CAPITALS: Ailing Johansson will not play against Coyotes

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Game 73 Capitals vs. Stars Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 73 Capitals vs. Stars Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Dallas Stars

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

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Stars will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

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


The Capitals (41-24-7) take on the Stars (38-27-8) Tuesday, March 20 at 7:00 p.m. ET at Capital One Arena.


The Capitals-Stars game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Stars
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30


Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Stars game:

Alex Ovechkin -  Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Travis Boyd - Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Michal Kempny - Jakub Jerabek

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body injury), Alex Chiasson, Brooks Orpik (lower body injury)


The Capitals-Stars game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, 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.


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.

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Can Pittsburgh's past be a goalie rotation blueprint?


Can Pittsburgh's past be a goalie rotation blueprint?

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.”