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Prospect Report: A rough week for Liam O'Brien


Prospect Report: A rough week for Liam O'Brien

Hershey update: 14-6-1-5, 2nd in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 1-2-0-0

Tom Wilson is not the only one in the Caps organization who is building a "reputation." Prospect Liam O'Brien is building a reputation of his own in Hershey after getting suspended twice in a just three days.

On Friday, O'Brien was issued a match penalty for hitting the head of Lehigh Valley forward Mark Alt. He was suspended for Hershey's game on Saturday and returned Sunday to face Syracuse. In that game, O'Brien earned a game misconduct for hitting Henri Ikonen into the boards.

You can see the hit here:

A lot of people may see that hit and think it was not worth a misconduct penalty, but it is a clear boarding call. The severity of a boarding penalty requires a lot of judgement from the referee. If you're just coming back from suspension, that's not a hit you can afford to make.

The AHL Issued a three-game suspension to the 21-year-old O'Brien who will now be out of action until the Bears' game on Dec. 31.

For his part, O'Brien said all the right things following the hit.

"It's kind of tough when it happens two games in a row," O'Brien said. "It looks really bad. [Sunday's incident] was stupid. I've got to control that situation a lot better than I did."

O'Brien currently leads the team with 53 penalty minutes.

In what was a difficult week for the Bears, a few of the Caps prospects really shined.

Travis Boyd's arrival in Hershey was a bit overshadowed by Jakub Vrana and Riley Barber, but he is proving to be a very talented player. Check out the stick work on his late goal against Lehigh Valley:

Very little went right for the Bears on Saturday night in a 6-2 loss to Toronto. Madison Bowey assisted on both goals, however, and made a tremendous play to setup Aaron Ness' goal in the first period:

A busy week has Connor Carrick back where he started in Hershey. After some terrific play with the Bears, Carrick earned himself a call-up to the Caps on Dec. 17. Carrick was a healthy scratch for three Caps' games and was then sent back down to Hershey on Tuesday.

The move leaves the Caps with six healthy defensemen, plus Brooks Orpik. That could signal that Orpik is nearing a return or that the Caps will soon make another recall.

RELATED: Alex Ovechkin places second in the top 10 DMV athletes of 2015

Other prospect notes:

Defenseman Connor Hobbs had himself a game on Friday. He recorded two assists for the Regina Pats in their loss to Saskatoon. He also pulled off a brilliant hip check and was in a fight. A defenseman with offensive instincts capable of playing a physical style, think there could be room for someone like that in the NHL?

You can see the highlights of Friday's game here:

Vitek Vanecek started in net for the Czech Republic in a junior exhibition game against Canada. He allowed only one goal in the 1-0 loss.

The game was a tuneup for the IIHF World Junior Championship set to take place in Finland starting Saturday. Both Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov are expected to start for the Czech Republic and Russia respectively. Defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler will also be there representing Team Switzerland.

Vrana was expected to participate, but his wrist injury will prevent him from playing for team up with Vanecek on the Czech team.

The tournament begins on Saturday.

MORE CAPITALS: Holtby highlights list of individual accomplishments for Caps

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Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders


Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

The mood in the Capitals locker room following a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday was one of frustration. Forty minutes of strong play from Washington amounted to nothing because of a disastrous opening first period in which the Lightning jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

No one in the locker room was more frustrated than Braden Holtby.

"Obviously you don't want to go down three," he told reporters after the game. "That's on no one else but me. The third goal, especially the third, fourth goal, that's the difference in the game. I thought we played a really strong game against a really good team. We should have got a better result and that's on me why we didn't."

Tampa scored three goals in the first off of only eight shots. For the game, the Lightning managed to pierce Holtby four times off of only 19 shots.


Frustration seemed to boil over on the fourth goal when a normally stoic Holtby was visibly upset after allowing Nikita Kucherov to beat him on a breakaway in a play similar to what we saw in the All-Star Game.

See for yourself:

"The key to getting better is learning from your mistakes and obviously I didn't do that," Holtby said. "I was just trying to play it patient. I wasn't trying to cheat towards that move and he came at it a different way. That's on me for not recognizing it. That's not a goal I can give up in that situation after our team battled the way they did, especially in the third."

The frustration Holtby feels likely is not the result of one goal, but the culmination of a recent slump that continues to plague the Vezina winner.

Holtby has lost four straight starts and has given up at least four goals in each of those games.

While Holtby was quick to take the blame for Tuesday's loss, head coach Barry Trotz was quick to defend his netminder.

"No one takes the loss," he said. "We all take a loss. I take a loss, the group takes a loss and Braden's part of the group. ... He's had a little tough stretch. It's no different than, we've got guys that haven't scored in 15, 20 games. It's no different than a player."

The challenge now is overcoming that slump.

For a slumping skater, Trotz could try different line combinations or play someone in different situations over the course of the game. Getting a starting goalie out of a slump, however, is more difficult. Most of the work has to be done in practice with the hope that it will carry over into the next game.

"You analyze how the goals are going in, what you're doing differently," Holtby said. "There's always some stuff that you can't control and stuff that you can and it's focusing on those contrallables that you can make a difference at. Like the first goal in Chicago, the last two goals here, those are goals that I could and should stop. You get to practice the next day and you focus on that and work hard until you figure it out so you don't do it again."


Part of the problem in Washington is that team defense is the Caps' biggest weakness. For most of the season, and even in years past, Holtby has made up for much of the team's mistakes on the backend. Now that he is slumping those mistakes become much more glaring and costly.

"The goaltenders in this league are erasers," Trotz said.

Lately, Holtby has not been able to erase those mistakes.

But the team has already moved to address the defense. Brian MacLellan added a puck-moving defenseman in Michal Kempny to help the team get the puck out of the defensive zone more quickly. Waiving Taylor Chorney could also signify another move may be coming before Monday's trade deadline.

As for Trotz, even during the slump, he made clear his confidence in Holtby has not wavered.

"He has been a rock since the day I've been here the last four years and he's been an elite goaltender and I look at him that way."

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Pavel Francouz stopped all five shooters and Petr Kouka scored the shootout winner as the Czech Republic eliminated the United States with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round and was outshot 29-20.

Ryan Donato and Jim Slater scored for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including speedster Troy Terry. U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski allowed three goals on 29 shots and one in the shotoout, while Francouz stopped 18 in regulation and overtime.

Koukal was the only player to score in overtime. Chris Bourque, Ryan Donato, Marc Arcobello, Terry and Bobby Butler couldn't beat Francouz.