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Friday Six-Pack: Are the refs targeting Tom Wilson?


Friday Six-Pack: Are the refs targeting Tom Wilson?

Good Friday morning and welcome to our weekly six-pack of questions, where we answer your most pressing questions on the Capitals. We’ve had a lot of Tom Wilson reaction the last few days, so we’ll start there. Thanks for all the questions. Let’s get started:

@mikebailey97: Doesn't rule 21.1 say it's an automatic suspension though...? Can they just make exceptions like that? Confused.

Yes, Mike. Rule 21.1 states that a player who receives a match penalty shall be ejected and suspended. The length of that suspension is to be determined by the Commissioner. However, when I asked game supervisor Don Koharski about that rule after Wednesday night’s game he said the suspension was not automatic. Really, the wording should be changed to say that a match penalty results in an ejection (game misconduct) and an automatic review by the Director of officiating (Stephen Walkom) and the Director of Player Safety (Stephane Quintal). A ruling by the NHL will take place today and I anticipate the league will rescind Wilson’s match penalty. It will not rescind the fact Braden Holtby lost a shutout because of Wilson’s penalty, but that’s another matter.

@MNMDkid: is there anything the Caps can do to bring attention to the zebras targeting Willy?

General managers are in the ears of the league all the time. If one of their players is injured on what they believe to be a dirty hit, they are on the phone with someone from the Department of Player Safety saying they want a long suspension for the perpetrator. The same can be said on the other side. I saw Caps GM Brian MacLellan talking with Koharski after Wednesday night’s game and I guarantee you they weren’t discussing Christmas plans. MacLellan wants to see Wilson, who is reportedly on a “Watch List” treated fairly by referees.

@shawndonaghue: how does tom Wilson fix his reputation But continue to play with the same intensity that we've grown to love.

From the time he arrived in Washington a little more than two years ago I’ve loved watching Tom Wilson play the game of hockey. He plays hard, plays to the whistle, defends his teammates, draws penalties and inflicts his 6-foot-4, 220-pound body on his opponents. Most importantly, he plays the game within the rules. Like any physical player, he gets penalized for some of his hits and deservedly so. But he is not malicious and he’s certainly not a head hunter. In fact, I was told by a source within the league that there is no such thing as a “Watch List” being distributed to league officials. That said, referees look at players’ penalty minutes before every game and I believe (as do many of Wilson’s teammates) that Wilson’s reputation is putting him in the penalty box more often. I’m actually hoping this latest incident will make referees think twice about raising their arms because of the number on the back of a player’s jersey.

@GianluT67: how much could be JoJo's trade value at next draft?

That’s an interesting question. The Caps can begin negotiating with their potential free agents in January and if Brian MacLellan follows the pattern he established last season, they won’t. MacLellan let RFAs Braden Holtby and Johansson go all the way to arbitration, signing Holtby to a five-year, $30.5 million contract, while accepting a $3.75 million award for Johansson. Johansson, 25, is on pace for 14 goals, 28 assists and 42 points, slightly off the pace he set last season when he netted a career-high 20 goals and 27 assists for 47 points. (Johansson has a career average of .54 points per game in the regular season and .34 in the playoffs). Given those numbers, it’s safe to assume Johansson probably would get between $3.5 million and $3.75 million from an arbitrator. The Caps will also need to sign RFAs Tom Wilson and Dmitry Orlov, along with Connor Carrick and maybe Michael Latta. The Caps’ interest in trading Johansson will depend on two things – how he performs through the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs, and the development of Andre Burakovsky as a top-six forward. As far as value, NHL trades are usually dollar-for-dollar transactions and a $3.75 million salary could get you a quality second pair defenseman or perhaps a solid second- or third-line forward.  

@joeolsen23: do you see the caps making a move to pick up another d-man with the absence of Orpik?

@jonlester1981: I know Orpik's injury is "long term"...but do you have any idea if it could be season ending?

We’ll answer both at once. With each passing day that he is not on the ice, the concern for Brooks Orpik’s lower body injury deepens. The team has been vague in its description and treatment of Orpik’s injury but it’s pretty clear that by shutting him down, at least in terms of on-ice workouts, the Caps are hopeful that Orpik will be able to salvage the second half of the season. So I don’t see it as season ending. It would be my guess that Orpik will not try skating again until after the Caps’ Christmas break but when that would be would be strictly a guess. If February rolls around and Orpik is not seeing significant progress, yes, I think the Caps will make acquiring a defenseman a priority leading up to the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

@The_Big_Nic: If the Flyers offered Lecavalier (50% retained) for Brooks Laich would you take it? It could help 3C

Hmm. Vinny Lecavalier is 35 and scheduled to make $4.5 million for two more seasons after this. Would I carry him on my roster until 2017-18 at $2.25 million per season? No. Like many others, I wonder how Lecavalier’s game could have dropped so much so soon. But he’s now on his second coach in Philadelphia and he’s been a healthy scratch for all but seven games this season. I’d rather go another route to address a need at third-line center, which could become secondary depending on Orpik’s health.  

@Joe68159455: Bonus question: Will Trotz retire after he wins the Cup this year.

No. But I’m sure if you told him he could have one or the other he’d choose the Cup over retirement.

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

USA Today Sports

Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

Braden Holtby has made Barry Trotz’s weekend very difficult, but in a good way.

Back-to-back games against the New York Islanders offered the Capitals an opportunity to play both Philipp Grubauer and Holtby. Grubauer stayed hot earning another win for Washington. On Friday, Holtby got his first start since March 6 and played very well.

“A win is good,” Holtby said after the game. “I felt pretty comfortable. Some things to build off of and things that I want to get better at. It was a step in the right direction.”


A 22 save effort on Friday was bookended by two big saves. The first shot Holtby faced was a turnover on the power play that led to a dangerous shorthanded scoring opportunity for John Tavares early in the first period. Then in the third, with the Capitals leading 5-3 and the Islanders trying to mount a comeback, Holtby turned aside a breakaway opportunity for star rookie Mathew Barzal.

“I thought he was pretty solid,” Trotz said. “He looked really confident.”

“I felt a lot better,” Holtby said. “Not that I was feeling horrible before, it's just you get refreshed. It's like anything, you have a week off work, a holiday or something, you come back a little refreshed.”

And that brings us to Sunday.

On Sunday, the Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are a team in playoff position in desperate need of points after seven of their last eight games.

When asked on Wednesday who he thought would start Sunday’s game, Trotz said, “We're in a result business and we need some results so we'll see who is looking the sharpest and gives us the best chance to win.”

Both Grubauer and Holtby were impressive in their starts over the Islanders. You can’t argue Holtby is suddenly the hotter hand after one win considering how well Grubauer has played of late, but if Holtby remaisn the team’s No. 1, shouldn’t he get the next start after a strong winning performance?


Trotz was asked after the game who would start on Sunday after Holtby’s win.

“They're both playing well so I can't even answer that right now to be honest with you,” he said. “I do know that we have a number of games this week and whatever way go, obviously I'm going to sit down with the coaches and whatever way we go, I think they're both going to get some time this week.”

“I think you have to take it game-by-game,” Trotz added. “Bottom line is that you've got to make a decision and go with it and if your decision is that goalie A is a little hotter or you've just got a gut feel then you go with it and you have to live with it good or bad.”

So for now, it sounds as if we will see a rotation in net as Trotz continues evaluating which netminder gives the team the best chance to win in the playoffs. It is a tough position for the Caps’ bench boss, but, if both goalies continue to perform, having to choose between a hot Grubauer and a resurgent Holtby is a good problem to have and much preferable to having to choose between backup Grubauer and slumping Holtby.

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Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

The Capitals may have won the game Friday against the New York Islanders, but now they will wait to see if they also suffered a significant loss.

Kuznetsov left the game in the third period after taking a slash from Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey which sent him sliding head-first into the boards. The team labeled the issue as “upper body” when it was announced he would not return to the game.

Head coach Barry Trotz was tight-lipped afterward on Kuznetsov’s status.

“They're going to re-evaluate him tomorrow and we'll have some clarity hopefully tomorrow,” he said.


You can see the play here:

When Kuznetsov is first slashed he immediately reacts. His feet then catch the stick of goalie Jaroslav Halak which sends him tripping and sliding hard into the boards. He sat on the ice for several minutes afterward and was looked at by the trainer before getting to his feet and slowly making his way to the locker room.

When asked after the game what he felt about the slash, Trotz said only, “Hockey play.”

One of the Capitals’ biggest strengths as a team is their depth down the middle. Any injury to a center, considering it is arguably the most important skating position on the ice, would be significant. An injury to the team’s top-line center would be even more costly.

Kuznetsov leads the team with 28 assists and ranks second in both goals (21) and points (69).