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Trotz not impressed with Caps' season opener


Trotz not impressed with Caps' season opener

Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Capitals enjoy a beautiful Sunday off following their season-opening 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils Saturday night at Verizon Center:

Subdued Trotz: Caps coach Barry Trotz was less than pleased with his team’s execution in the season opener, in which the Caps outshot the Devils 27-24 but were outhit 32-23.

“I’ll take the result,” Trotz said. “I didn’t like our first period. It looked like our team was a little rusty and hadn’t played. (The Devils) were playing at game speed and we weren’t. I thought we were very fortunate to be up 2-0 and we gave it right back.

“… I didn’t like our overall game. Too many turnovers. It wasn’t a solid game for us, but the power play came up big for us (2-for-5) and we had a big penalty kill as well in the third period.”

RELATED: Caps' newcomers make presence felt in first game

Save(s) of the game: With the score tied at 2-2 and the Caps on a 5-on-3 power play in the second period, Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid made a nice stop on T.J. Oshie to keep the Caps off the board.

Seconds later Braden Holtby stayed with Adam Henrique on a clean breakaway and flashed out his right pad to keep the game tied.

“It could have been a real momentum changer if they scored there,” Trotz said.

Holtby, who had 21 saves, said he was not at his best but relied on his memory bank against Henrique.

“It helped a little bit that I had seen him before on a breakaway and that limits his options if I’ve seen one of his good moves,” Holtby said. “I think he knew that and he still made a good move, but the previous knowledge I had helped me out a little bit.”

Scoring shorthanded: The penalty kill combination of veterans Jason Chimera and Justin Williams resulted in the Caps’ first shorthanded goal of the season when Williams dropped a pass for Chimera, drove the net and saw Chimera’s return pass go off the stick of Devils forward Jordin Tootoo.

“You normally don’t try a back pass when killing a penalty,?” Williams said, “but (Chimera) called for it and it was a good heads up play by him to throw it at the net. I tried to get a stick on it but (Tootoo) beat me to it.”

Chimera also picked up an assist on defenseman Brooks Orpik’s first goal as a Capital, a snap shot off a drop pass from Tom Wilson. Orpik already is halfway to this career high in goals for a season.

“The simplicity of it was nice,” Chimera said. “When we have three guys working down low you can use your points. It was a long time coming for Brooks.”

Fourth line troubles: The Caps’ fourth line of Brooks Laich (minus-1), Michael Latta (even) and Sean Collins (minus-1) got off to a rough start. After Orpik scored to give the Caps a 2-0 lead, Trotz sent his fourth line out for the center-ice faceoff and they allowed a goal.

“They have to be (even or plus) or they’re not a good fourth line,” Trotz said. “That’s plain and simple. The reason I put them out there is because I thought they were outperforming another line. They had back-to-back really good shifts, I put them out a third time and they get scored on.

“I want a fourth line I can trust to throw into the defensive end so you don’t have your more offensive guys starting 200 feet from the goal all the time. That’s something they’ll have to fix. If they can’t we’ll try to fix it with other personnel.”

Collins took a holding penalty that led to the Devils’ game-tying power-play goal, but also drew a pair of penalties that twice put the Caps on the power play. Latta also drew a penalty that led to Matt Niskanen’s power-play empty-netter.

By the numbers: With a goal and an assist, Alex Ovechkin now has six goals and six assists in 11 season openers. Chimera now has eight career shorthanded goals. It was his first since 2012 and it was also the first time in franchise history that the first Capitals goal of the season came while shorthanded. Jay Beagle won 10 of 14 faceoffs. Wilson and Latta each led the Caps with five hits, while defenseman Nate Schmidt led the club with four blocks. The Caps are now 7-1-0-1 in season openers at Verizon Center. They were 6-4-0 in season openers at the old Cap Centre. The Caps have sold out the Phone Booth 270 straight games.

MORE CAPITALS: Another 'world-class goal' for Ovechkin

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The Caps will win Game 6 if they win, or at least survive, the first period

The Caps will win Game 6 if they win, or at least survive, the first period

The last three games have been pretty awesome if you're a Caps fan. For one minute, however, let's consider what it must feel like for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Columbus has seen a 0-2 series lead evaporate, they have lost both of their home games and now they face elimination after three straight losses including two overtime games and in two of those games, the Blue Jackets outplayed the Caps.

Oh, and head coach John Tortorella kinda, sorta guaranteed the Blue Jackets would force a Game 7.

As the series shifts back to Ohio for Game 6 on Monday, do you think the Blue Jackets may be a tad motivated when they take the ice in front of their home fans?

"We’ve got a chance in front of our home crowd to push this thing to seven games and we’re excited about it," Columbus forward Matt Calvert said Sunday. "... Got home last night and I was here a little earlier, got a chance to watch the news and they’re interviewing fans and how they’re pumped up, already saying it’s going to Game 7, so I can’t wait. The atmosphere’s going to be great. I know they’re going to give an all-out effort and so are we.”

In the third period of Game 5, the enormity of their situation began to set in for Columbus. Down 3-2 and facing their third straight loss, the Blue Jackets made a tremendous push to try to win the game. They tied the score at 3 early in the period and ultimately outshot Washington 16-1. If not for the tremendous effort of Braden Holtby in net to force overtime, the roles of this series could easily be reversed with Washington facing elimination in Game 6.

Now imagine that effort, plus the home crowd plus the desperation of a team facing elimination. An early lead for the Jackets could start a snowball effect in which their momentum and the crowd carry them through the rest of the game. But the longer the Caps can survive, the more doubt will begin to creep into Columbus, the antsier the fans will become and the more confident Washington will play.

The Caps better be ready.

The good news for Washington is that its been here before. Just last season, the Caps went to Toronto in Game 6 with an opportunity to close out the Maple Leafs. Toronto outshot Washington 14-10 in the first period, but they could not get the early goal and the game was scoreless through the first 20 minutes. Auston Matthews scored in the third period to break a scoreless tie, but Marcus Johansson scored five minutes later and then again in overtime to close out the series.

After experiencing last year's series in Toronto, the Caps know what they are going to be up against in Columbus.

"It's the toughest game to win because the other team is desperate," head coach Barry Trotz said Sunday on a conference call with the media. "Their backs are against the wall. They're there. They're going to give their absolute max effort tomorrow, and we've got to make sure that we have a max effort. If we do that, then we have a chance to win in Columbus."


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NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: The West is set while the Caps still have work to do


NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: The West is set while the Caps still have work to do

There are only two series left in the first round that have yet to be decided. The Caps just so happen to be playing in one of those series.

After falling into a 0-2 hole to start, Washington has rattled off three straight wins and now sits just one away from putting away the Columbus Blue Jackets and advancing to the second round.

Should the Capitals advance, they will play the Pittsburgh Penguins for the third consecutive season.


The Penguins ended their series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday in Game 6. Jake Guentzel scored four goals in the effort proving once and for all that yes, goaltending is important in the playoffs. Head coach Mike Sullivan has still yet to lose a playoff series as the head coach of Pittsburgh as he led the Penguins to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons.

In the Atlantic, the Tampa Bay Lightning await the winner of the Boston Bruins - Toronto Maple Leafs series after dispatching the New Jersey Devils in five games. After a strong regular season, the Maple Leafs looked poised to take the next step, but Auston Matthews has only two points in five games and Toronto faces elimination at the hands of the Bruins Monday in Game 5.


All four series in the West, meanwhile, have already been decided. Both the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks managed four-game sweeps in the first round and will face one another in the second  The miraculous season of the Golden Knights continues and it would be hard to argue at this point that they are not legitimate Stanly Cup contenders considering all they have accomplished in both the regular season and the playoffs.

Wins by the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets now sets up a second-round battle between the top two teams in the league from the regular season.