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Second thoughts on timeouts, replays, Ovi, yankings


Second thoughts on timeouts, replays, Ovi, yankings

Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Capitals return to Kettler Capitals Iceplex today (11:30 a.m. practice) to address what went wrong in Tuesday night’s 5-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks.

Precious timeouts: Now that the NHL has instituted a coach’s challenge for goals in which goalie interference or offsides is in question, NHL coaches may be far more judicious on when they utilize their one allotted timeout.

On Tuesday night, Caps head coach Barry Trotz called a timeout 7:25 into the second period after the Sharks took a 3-0 lead. It was one of those “stop-the-bleeding” timeouts coaches often call to settle down their shaken players.

And then there are the “breather” timeouts coaches often utilize after tired players have iced the puck and must stay on the ice for defensive zone faceoffs. If there is a possibility for a coach’s challenge later in the game, would a coach need to think twice about burning a timeout in those situations?

“You have to, yeah,” Trotz said. “I called mine. I’m trrying to keep the game at (3-0) not (4-0). But you will think twice. If they score a goal in a tighter game and I don’t have a timeout and I know it’s interference, I won’t be able to call it.

“That’s why puck management and having guys who can play against top guys on an icing call, those are important faceoffs,” Trotz said. “Players need to know the importance of all those details.”

Getting it right?: It took referee Tim Peel and his officiating crew a total of 3 minutes to take away what would have been Dmitry Orlov’s first goal in 19 months. Although minimal, it was determined Jay Beagle made contact with Sharks goalie Martin Jones on the play and several players said they were concerned about the impact those calls could have on the game.  

“We might see a lot of goals taken away this year,” Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said. “I think it depends on the (officiating) staff that’s out there. Sometimes they might let that go and sometimes they might not. But it slows the game down, too.”

Without Ovechkin: Alex Ovechkin is expected back on the ice for the Capitals at today’s practice. Without him in the lineup, the Caps went 0-for-4 on the power play and were shut out at home for the first time since Nov. 14, 2014.  

“They don’t cheat as much when Alex is not there,” said Trotz, who used Stan Galiev and Matt Niskanen in Ovechkin’s favorite spot in the left circle. “Alex is a big part of our power play. He gets a lot of power-play goals because he’s got a great release. But he’s very unselfish. Their guy will stand right next to him and he’ll move to make more space (for his teammates).”

Early yanking: Trotz went for broke Tuesday night when he pulled goaltender Braden Holtby with 5:06 remaining in the third period while trailing 3-0. The Sharks responded with a pair of empty-net goals to complete the rout.

“We were saying, ‘If we’re going to go down, we’re going to go down swinging.”

Trotz is following an increasing trend of coaches pulling their goalies far earlier than in the past. The end result could mean far greater margins of defeat and that could have an impact on who gets into the playoffs.

If two teams are tied in points at the end of the regular season, the first tiebreaker is regulation and overtime wins. The second tiebreaker is head-to-head record between those two teams. And the third tiebreaker, if needed, is goal differential. 

MORE CAPITALS: Braden Holtby: 'We were slow against a fast team'

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.


A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.


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3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.