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Protecting Holtby key for Caps against physical Flyers


Protecting Holtby key for Caps against physical Flyers

The lasting image from the last game between the Capitals and Flyers is that Sean Couturier bowling over Braden Holtby in overtime. That's not something the Caps want to see happen multiple times in a playoff series.

Holtby's importance to the Caps' success is well known and given the Flyers' physical style of play, Washington can expect plenty of traffic in front of their net and plenty of pressure on Holtby.

"They're a team that plays hard in front of the net and I don't see why they would change their game now," Karl Alzner said. "You'd expect them to go to the net hard and battle in front."

The always stoic Holtby said he was more focused on their skill the their physical presence and does not expect to see anymore intensity from the Flyers than he has seen from other teams around the league.

"For myself, it's not a big deal," Holtby said. "I just battle to see the puck as much as I can and that's really what it comes down to."

The task for the defense will be to make that as easy as possible for Holtby.

RELATED: Barry Trotz gives Mike Richards a playoff promotion

As the Caps prepare for slugfest of a series with the Flyers, protecting their star netminder will be a key to the series. As physcial as Philadelphia is, the Caps have plenty of size to go with their skill and are prepared to match Philadelphia's physicality in the defensive zone.

"We recognize that they're going low to high and trying to get to the net," Mike Weber said. "Not that you get away with more in the playoffs, but you're allowed to play a little more physical and a little more aggressive and maybe that's putting them in the boards for an extra half second so that he can't get to the net and allows Holts to see pucks easier and to maybe stop them and get the whistle."

It's a fine line to take.

In very physical playoff series, teams can often get baited into taking foolish penalties by reacting to the other team's aggressiveness. The tricky part for the Caps will be matching the Flyers' physical play without going over the line and taking penalties. 

"I think that everyone realizes how much is on the line," Alzner said. "You can't afford to do things that cross the line."

For his part, head coach Barry Trotz is not overly concerned with anyone taking liberties with his star netminder citing the coach's challenge as evidence of the NHL's emphasis on protecting goalies.

"Everbody wants traffic in the playoffs," Trotz said. "Everybody wants to get to the net hard. ... With the coach's challenge now you've got that tool, you also have the referees that watch that a lot more than they ever have. We'll do a good job for [Holtby]."

Even if, however, Trotz is reasonably sure the Flyers won't be able to take Holtby's body, however, the defense will still need to protect his eyes. Making sure the defense keeps Philadelphia out of the front of the net will remain important throughout the series as the Flyers are a team that loves to create traffic, screen goalies and score deflections.

"Wayne simmonds leads the league in goals from 10 feet or closer," Trotz said. "It's going to put a lot of emphasis on our defense to maintain the blue area."

MORE CAPITALS: Why Tom Wilson wants Flyers fans to hate him

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Red Wings

3 reasons the Caps beat the Red Wings

Not much separated the Washington Capitals and the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. A late 2-on-0 goal for Brett Connolly proved to be the difference.

Here's why the Caps ultimately walked away with the 1-0 win.

A first period goalie interference call

Andreas Athanasiou thought he had given the Red Wings a first period lead, but Barry Trotz challenged the call for goalie interference. The review showed that Tyler Bertuzzi clipped Philipp Grubauer in the head with an elbow right before the shot went in. Given how long it took the Caps to get going in this game, it is fair to say an early deficit would have been hard to overcome.


Killing off a full two-minute 5-on-3

Two man advantages are hard to kill. Killing off a full two-minutes at 5-on-3, that's a tall task. With the game still scoreless in the second period, T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller were both assessed penalties giving Detroit two-full minutes at 5-on-3. The Red Wings managed four shots on goal, but Washington was able to successfully kill off the penalty and keep the game scoreless.

Philipp Grubauer

There were few players who had strong efforts on Tuesday, but Grubauer was phenomenal. Even when the game felt sleepy in the first two periods, Detroit still managed 28 shots on goal, all of which were turned aside by the German netminder. When Washington finally took the lead in the third, the Red Wings woke up and began pushing the offense, but Grubauer was in the zone at that point and could not be beaten. His best save came in the third period when he stared down a breakaway from Athanasiou and extended the pad to deny the shot.


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Tarik's 3 stars: Grubauer, Caps shut down the Red Wings

Tarik's 3 stars: Grubauer, Caps shut down the Red Wings

It wasn’t pretty but the Caps eventually got what they needed in Detroit: two points.  

After a sleepy first 40 minutes, Brett Connolly scored midway through the third period and then Philipp Grubauer made sure it stood up at Little Caesars Arena, where Washington eked out a 1-0 victory Thursday over the scuffling Red Wings.


Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Philipp Grubauer, Capitals

For much of the game, Grubi was left to fend for himself. Good thing for the Caps he was up to the task. The German netminder, who has been one of the NHL’s top goaltenders since Thanksgiving, turned aside 39 shots, including three stops on a pivotal 5-on-3 penalty kill in the second period.

2-Brett Connolly, Capitals

The Caps didn’t get many Grade-A opportunities vs. Jimmy Howard. But Connolly buried one of the few they got…on a 2-on-0, set up by Jakub Vrana in the third period.

Connolly’s goal was his 15th of the season in his 63rd game, equaling the career-high he set a year ago in 66 contests. Vrana, meantime, has three goals and five assists since getting scratched 12 games ago.

3-Lars Eller, Capitals

Eller didn’t record a point, but he was all over the puck in Motown. The veteran center finished with a game-high six shots on net. He also had a key backcheck against Darren Helm, on a shorthanded breakaway, in the first period.

Eller was good in the dot, too, winning eight of 12 faceoffs.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.