Quick Links

With penalties on the rise, Barry Trotz has begun to take action

With penalties on the rise, Barry Trotz has begun to take action

On at least two occasions during Thursday’s practice, T.J. Oshie skated laps around Kettler Capitals Iceplex as his teammates looked on.

It was a dose of public punishment, doled out by coach Barry Trotz, for Oshie’s trio of penalties in Wednesday’s 5-2 win over the Penguins.

The infractions were for slashing (two) and holding, and the total represented a season-high for the first-line right wing.  

“Apparently you’re not supposed to take three,” Oshie cracked. “It's been a lot of stick penalties. For me, I was caught in a couple of bad positions, and on two of them I felt like they were going to get a quality chance, so I had to make a play on it.”

Explained Trotz: “It’s a reminder. Sometimes a visual is better than just talking about it. He hasn’t had a lot of penalties in a while but he stacked them up last night. …You’re going to get penalties in this game. I’m not going to skate every guy for every penalty. But when you get a couple or multiple ones, [you might] need a little reminder. It’s a visual for guys like okay, ‘Why is Osh skating?’ It’s a reminder without hurting anybody.”


In all, the Caps were whistled for seven minor penalties against the Penguins. It probably wouldn’t have been a topic of discussion on Thursday had the rash been an aberration. But it wasn't. It’s become a trend for a Caps’ team that is managing to win despite the growing problem thanks to the league’s third-ranked penalty kill as well as goaltender Braden Holtby’s stellar play as of late.

During the Caps’ seven game winning streak, in fact, they’ve taken more minor penalties than their opponent in each of those contests. They’ve also taken more minors (41, including a couple of bench minors) than any other team during that time frame.

That's probably not sustainable—and Trotz and his players know it.

“[Trotz] can handle the fighting majors and the sticking-up-for-teammates penalties,” winger Brett Connolly said. “It’s the hooking and holding and the penalties when you’re not moving your feet. The penalties in the offensive zone.”

In addition to making players do laps, Trotz has also talked to his team about staying composed when dealing with referees, whether or not they feel the call is justified. Why? Refs are humans, too, and being disrespectful rarely helps matters.

“Last week it was me,” Justin Williams said, referring to taking laps. “I took quite a few [penalties], so I had to do a little bit of skating. T.J. did a little bit of skating today. We have to be accountable for what we do out there, regardless of whether we agree with the calls. I know our bench has gotten a lot better and a lot more calm in the last couple of weeks.”

Williams, who is tied with Alex Ovechkin for the most minors on the Caps (16), added: “Sometimes you’re just better off just going to the box. They’re not going to rescind your penalty. If you’re calm and you’re courteous and respectful of the officials, maybe you’ll get a break later in the game or maybe they might not call a coincidental minor. We’ll feel we’re a much better team 5-on-5,” anyway.

Connolly concurred with Williams’ assessment.

“Those refs take a lot of grief,” he said. “If you’re yelling at them all game, they are going to remember that in the third period. And you might not get a call late in the game when you really need it. Ovi and [Nicklas Backstrom] and our leaders, they can talk to the refs. It’s not really going to change anything if we’re yelling at the refs. They make the call, just go to the box.”

It may not be known for weeks whether skating laps and/or being calmer in their dealings with officials makes a difference for the Caps. But as other parts of the team’s game are starting to come together, players know it’s time to start being more disciplined, too.

“He’s just trying to prove a point,” Connolly said. “We know we can’t be taking penalties down the stretch and into the playoffs. Obviously our penalty kill has been really good, but we want to take some minutes off them. Those are hard minutes for those guys.”

“That,” Trotz added, “is a part of a game where we can still learn and still work on.”


Quick Links

Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

USA Today Sports

Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

Evgeny Kuznetsov has been declared day-to-day with an undisclosed upper body injury, the Caps announced Saturday afternoon.

He will not play Sunday against the Flyers, marking the first time in four seasons that the durable 25-year-old center will have missed a game.

Kuznetsov, the Caps’ assists leader and first line pivot over the past week, was injured in the second period of Friday’s 6-3 win over the Islanders. On the play, he slashed on the arm by New York defenseman Thomas Hickey before he tumbled awkwardly into the end boards.


Kuznetsov did not return to the contest.

The Caps did not practice on Saturday as they made their way to Philadelphia, where they'll look to extend their winning streak to five games.  

The team, per usual, did not elaborate about the extent or nature of Kuznetsov’s injury. But it does seem to be a good sign that he was not listed as week-to-week—the designation the Caps typically reserve for more severe injuries. And with a two point lead on Pittsburgh in the Metro Division standings—and a game in hand—they can actually afford to be cautious with one of their most important players.


The injury does, however, come at a time when Kuznetsov appeared to be hitting his stride. Including the two assists he had racked up prior to leaving Friday’s game, Kuzy has amassed five goals and 11 assists in 10 games.    

Without Kuznetsov on Sunday, Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller and Jay Beagle will be the team’s most experienced centers. Travis Boyd and/or Chandler Stephenson figure to be deployed as the fourth pivot.

Coach Barry Trotz is expected to meet with reporters prior to Sunday’s game. It’s possible he’ll shed some more light on Kuznetsov’s outlook at that time.

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Quick Links

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.

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!