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Prospect report: Tough decisions for Hershey in net


Prospect report: Tough decisions for Hershey in net

Hershey playoff update: Bears lead Worcester Sharks 2-0 in Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

Playoff schedule:
Game 3 - Wed. Apr. 29 at Hershey 7:00 pm
Game 4 (if necessary) - Fri. May 1 at Hershey 7:00 pm
Game 5 (if necessary) - Sun. May 3 at Hershey 5:00 pm

The Hershey Bears started their playoff quest last week against the Worcester Sharks and they did so without their starting goalie. Philipp Grubauer was recalled by the Washington Capitals on April 16 leaving Pheonix Copley to take the reins in net.

Despite the change, the Bears jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the series with two roads wins in Worcester. A five-minute major against the Sharks was the turning point in Game 1 as Hershey scored three times on the power play en route to the 4-1 win. In Game 2, all four goals came in the second period with the Bears earning the 3-1 victory.

Hershey has really spread around the scoring with all seven goals scored by different players. Three players leas the team with two points apiece.

RELATED: Projected lineups for Caps and Rangers series opener

The real star in the first two games, however, was Copley. Thrust into the starting role by Grubauer’s recall, Copley turned aside 74 out of 76 shots, allowing only two goals for a save percentage of .974. With Tuesday's news that Grubauer had been re-assigned to Hershey, who will head coach Troy Mann turn to in net? Does he stay with the hot hand or turn back to the goalie who has been his top netminder for the entire season?

Captain Steve Oleksy remains day to day with an upper body injury he suffered in Game 1. The hit that gave the Bears their five-minute power play also sent Oleksy to the training room and he has not returned to the lineup since.

As the series shifts to Hershey for the remaining three games, the Bears sit just one win away of advancing.

Other prospect notes:

Two Caps prospects faceoff in the WHL playoffs as Madison Bowey’s Kelowna Rockets and Blake Heinrich’s Portland Winterhawks are locked in a battle for the Western Conference Finals.

After breezing through the first two rounds with only one loss, Kelowna is down 2-1 in the series and very easily could be down 3-0 if not for a shorthanded goal by Bowey in Game 1 that sparked a comeback.

Bowey has one goal and one assist in the series, adding to his 14 postseason points. Heinrich, as a stay at home defenseman, has not yet registered a point in the series. goes in depth on Caps prospect Brian Pinho who recently won a national championship with Providence College. Looks like there’s a lot of upside for the young forward who just wrapped up his freshman season.

MORE CAPITALS: Rangers take subtle jab at Caps on Twitter

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Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game


Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game

You thought the Caps had a goalie rotation before, but now they have added a third netminder in the mix.

Pheonix Copley has been recalled from the Hershey Bears and will backup Philipp Grubauer for Washington's game in Detroit, the team announced Thursday.

The move comes in response to an injury concern for Braden Holtby.


Dallas Stars forward Remi Elie collided with Holtby midway through the third period on Tuesday as Holtby was extending to make a save. Holtby reacted awkwardly to the collision and could be seen skating and flexing his leg during the next stoppage.

With only nine games remaining in the regular season, Holtby's injury is a major concern. Given his recent struggles, the final few weeks of the season offered a chance for Holtby to get his game back to form. Just where his game will be when he is 100-percent healthy again is certainly a storyline to watch.


The good news for Washington, however, is that Grubauer is perhaps more ready this season to lead the team than he ever has been and confidence in him around the team should be high.

Since Thanksgiving, Grubauer has played in 22 games with a 17-11-4 record, a .939 save percentage, 1.85 GAA and two shutouts. No goalie who has played in 20 games or more has registered a better save percentage or GAA. He will certainly be looked upon to carry the load until Holtby returns. Whether this means he now has the inside track on starting in the playoffs, however, remains to be seen. That will depend largely on just when Holtby is ready to return and how Grubauer plays down the stretch.

Copley, 26, has gone 14-16-6 with two shutouts, a .898 save percentage and 2.86 GAA in 38 games in Hershey this season. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Washington in 2014. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the package that netted the Caps T.J. Oshie, but was reacquired by Washington in Feb. 2017 in a trade deadline deal that included Kevin Shattenkirk.

At the time, it was believed Copley would be the team's backup for the 2017-18 season with Grubauer likely headed to Vegas in the expansion draft. Vegas, however, took Nate Schmidt instead which led to Copley spending the season in Hershey. The Caps now will be happy for the extra goalie depth for as long as Holtby's health remains a concern.

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Why the suggested tweak to the goalie interference rule makes sense to Barry Trotz


Why the suggested tweak to the goalie interference rule makes sense to Barry Trotz

Goalie interference has become one of the most controversial calls in hockey and that has led to the general managers calling for a tweak to the rules before the playoffs.

As the general managers wrapped up their meetings in Florida on Wednesday, they issued a recommendation to the league’s Board of Governors that the final decision for all coach’s challenges for goaltender interference come from the Situation Room in Toronto where a retired referee will be included in the process.

If approved, the change will be enacted for the start of the playoffs.

The issue with goalie interference is consistency. It is an inherently subjective call so on any given night, it is hard to know how the rule will be officiated. That is a problem considering these calls can take goals off the board. The hope is that by requiring that all calls be made by the Situation Room, it will bring more consistency.


The news was met by skepticism from Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer.

“I can't tell you right now at this point if that's going to change anything,” he said. “If they still communicate with the linesmen, I'm sure they do, but in the end it's a grey area and it's been a grey area for a bunch of years now.”

One issue with the change is that while the Situation Room will make the final call, it will not always have the same personnel for each game and the retired referee to be included will not always be the same individual. Saying the Situation Room will make the call sounds great, but if the calls are still being reviewed by different people every night, will that really lead to greater consistency?

Head coach Barry Trotz thinks so. He applauded the change Wednesday explaining that different factors can weigh on a referee when he is the one making the call.

“Some referees who are more established and more sure of themselves, they won't reverse their calls,” Trotz said. “They just almost say, that's the way I saw it and that's the way it is and live with it. Others get swayed by what they see or maybe the crowd or another coach or how the game is going. It's no different than the student marking their own papers. Let's have a non-emotional person who has no skin in the game and is not in an emotional environment to make those calls and I think you'll find it'll be more consistent.”


If the main issue of the goalie interference was the referees being made to judge their own calls, then yes, this new rule change will go a long way towards fixing the consistency problem.

But perhaps it is unreasonable to expect calls to ever be black and white on a play and a rule that never is.

“Every situation is different,” Grubauer said. “There's no situation that's the same. Did he get bumped in? Was it intentional? Was the goalie intentional making contact? All points they have to look at and it happens so fast. I hope it's going to get better and I hope they will get a foundation down for it.”