If there is anything we are learning about Barry Trotz and 3-on-3 overtimes it’s that he is taking a conservative approach, confident that his skill players and goaltender can get the job done in a shootout.
For the second time this season Trotz began overtime with two defensemen – Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner -- and a two-way forward – Nicklas Backstrom.
Fifty second later he followed with the explosive trio of forwards Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov and defenseman John Carlson, then worked in forwards Justin Williams, Jay Beagle, T.J. Oshie and Marcus Johansson and defensemen Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt.
The Caps generated four shots to the Maple Leafs’ three in the 5-minute overtime, then won it in a shootout when Ovechkin netted the only goal.
“I’m OK with it,” Trotz said of the 3-on-3. “It’s still a work in progress. I like the 3-on-3 better than I like the shootout because it’s a little more team-like.
“I know it’s tough on the top players. It gets wide open and guys are diving and at some point, your top players who are playing big minutes are the ones that have to pay the price. At some point someone’s going to get hurt from being fatigued or having to make a desperation play.”
Ovechkin took two long shifts totaling 2:15 in the overtime period, while Kuznetsov logged 2:20 and Carlson logged 2:26, each in two shifts. Trotz has said his ideal shift is between 35 and 45 seconds but understands it’s hard for players to get off the ice in overtime.
“It’s very entertaining for the fans but teams are learning to hang onto the puck and it’s sort of keep-away until somebody gets tired or makes a mistake,” Trotz said. “As we grow with it I think we’ll either like it more or we won’t like it as much because guys will learn to play it a little better. We started with two D. We’ll defend first and then we’ll take our chances with our depth.”
Clearly, the fans enjoyed Saturday night’s 3-on-3 play, which included a soccer-style drop pass from Backstrom to Braden Holtby, but Trotz believes coaches may start instructing players to stall their way to a shootout.
“I think the fans had fun and that’s the bottom line,” he said. “Us coaches’ and players’ opinions don’t matter because the fans pay the bills.”
Speaking of ice time, fourth-line center Michael Latta (10 shifts, 5:15) did not see the ice in the third period, while Tom Wilson (12 shifts, 6:28) took just two in the third.
Trotz said he thought the Caps’ new third line of Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle and Justin Williams was the Caps’ best line of the night, followed by the all-Swede line of Johansson, Backstrom and Andre Burakovsky.
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