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Trotz: 'You have to make your own history'


Trotz: 'You have to make your own history'

It’s a safe bet Spanish-born philosopher George Santayana was not referring to Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals when he wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

We know this because the Capitals were not in existence when Santayana passed away in 1952.

But faced with a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday night in New York, Capitals coach Barry Trotz suggested Monday that his players confront their past if they hope to change the course of their own history.

“I don’t see a Stanley Cup banner here yet,” Trotz after taking a break from meeting with his coaching staff to review Sunday night’s 4-3 loss to the Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifnals. “So you have to make your own history.”

Since Ovechkin first carried the Capitals back into the playoffs in 2008, the Caps have never been to the conference finals. They have held a two-game series lead four times during that span but have won just once.

And of the eight times Ovechkin and the Caps have gone to a Game 7, they have won just three times.

Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner says he believes this year’s team has a firmer resolve than any he’s been on in Washington and said the Caps’ furious comeback from a 4-1 deficit Sunday night was proof.

“A lot of teams would just roll over there and we found a way to make it a game at least,” Alzner saud. “It’s a way different team than we’ve had in the past. We all love each other and we want to win so bad that a loss like this, we forget about it. If we come out crazy and play hard – I think if we start [Game 7] the way we finished [Game 6] – we’ll see a better result.”

In their playoff history, the Caps are 4-9 in Game 7s, going 3-7 on home ice and 1-2 on the road. Their only Game 7 victory on the road came in the first round of the 2012 playoffs when Joel Ward scored in overtime to defeat the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. With Henrik Lundqvist leading the way, the Rangers have won five consecutive Game 7s and Lundqvist has allowed four goals in those five victories.   

“I know people are going to write about, ‘Hey we haven’t done this.’ When we’ve been leading [a series] by two our record’s not very good as an organization,” Trotz said. “True, absolutely true.

“But we can change that. Just looking at some of the numbers, the odds are in our favor right now. We can change that history. I do believe the Boston Red Sox won a World Series, right? They had a long stretch there [86 years of the Curse of the Bambino] but they did win, right?

“The odds were in their favor at some point. That’s what I’m saying. The odds are in our favor. This group can do something. If you want to change history, if you want to change perception, you just go out and do it. I think that should motivate you, not bring you down. That, to me, should be very motivating.”

Before this season, NHL teams that have taken a 3-1 lead in a playoff series have gone on to win 248 of 275 series. Trotz said he’s rather feed that positive number than dwell on the Caps’ 4-9 record in Game 7s.

“Everybody brings it up, so why not just deal with it?” he said. “The history hasn’t been that great organizationally, so let’s change it. We’re the ones that can change it. What people think or perceive, you don’t have to accept it.

“If you’re determined and it means that much to you, let’s get it done. We use that term ‘feed the right wolf.’ Go feed the right wolf. All I can say is that I’ve been dealing with this group all year and I have a lot of respect for the group. Everybody in there, there’s a real special tie in the room and they will leave their best game out there. If their best game out there is good enough to win, … If it’s not good enough to win we can walk out and say, ‘Hey, we left it all there and there’s nothing left.’”

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

Braden Holtby has made Barry Trotz’s weekend very difficult, but in a good way.

Back-to-back games against the New York Islanders offered the Capitals an opportunity to play both Philipp Grubauer and Holtby. Grubauer stayed hot earning another win for Washington. On Friday, Holtby got his first start since March 6 and played very well.

“A win is good,” Holtby said after the game. “I felt pretty comfortable. Some things to build off of and things that I want to get better at. It was a step in the right direction.”


A 22 save effort on Friday was bookended by two big saves. The first shot Holtby faced was a turnover on the power play that led to a dangerous shorthanded scoring opportunity for John Tavares early in the first period. Then in the third, with the Capitals leading 5-3 and the Islanders trying to mount a comeback, Holtby turned aside a breakaway opportunity for star rookie Mathew Barzal.

“I thought he was pretty solid,” Trotz said. “He looked really confident.”

“I felt a lot better,” Holtby said. “Not that I was feeling horrible before, it's just you get refreshed. It's like anything, you have a week off work, a holiday or something, you come back a little refreshed.”

And that brings us to Sunday.

On Sunday, the Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are a team in playoff position in desperate need of points after seven of their last eight games.

When asked on Wednesday who he thought would start Sunday’s game, Trotz said, “We're in a result business and we need some results so we'll see who is looking the sharpest and gives us the best chance to win.”

Both Grubauer and Holtby were impressive in their starts over the Islanders. You can’t argue Holtby is suddenly the hotter hand after one win considering how well Grubauer has played of late, but if Holtby remaisn the team’s No. 1, shouldn’t he get the next start after a strong winning performance?


Trotz was asked after the game who would start on Sunday after Holtby’s win.

“They're both playing well so I can't even answer that right now to be honest with you,” he said. “I do know that we have a number of games this week and whatever way go, obviously I'm going to sit down with the coaches and whatever way we go, I think they're both going to get some time this week.”

“I think you have to take it game-by-game,” Trotz added. “Bottom line is that you've got to make a decision and go with it and if your decision is that goalie A is a little hotter or you've just got a gut feel then you go with it and you have to live with it good or bad.”

So for now, it sounds as if we will see a rotation in net as Trotz continues evaluating which netminder gives the team the best chance to win in the playoffs. It is a tough position for the Caps’ bench boss, but, if both goalies continue to perform, having to choose between a hot Grubauer and a resurgent Holtby is a good problem to have and much preferable to having to choose between backup Grubauer and slumping Holtby.

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Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

The Capitals may have won the game Friday against the New York Islanders, but now they will wait to see if they also suffered a significant loss.

Kuznetsov left the game in the third period after taking a slash from Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey which sent him sliding head-first into the boards. The team labeled the issue as “upper body” when it was announced he would not return to the game.

Head coach Barry Trotz was tight-lipped afterward on Kuznetsov’s status.

“They're going to re-evaluate him tomorrow and we'll have some clarity hopefully tomorrow,” he said.


You can see the play here:

When Kuznetsov is first slashed he immediately reacts. His feet then catch the stick of goalie Jaroslav Halak which sends him tripping and sliding hard into the boards. He sat on the ice for several minutes afterward and was looked at by the trainer before getting to his feet and slowly making his way to the locker room.

When asked after the game what he felt about the slash, Trotz said only, “Hockey play.”

One of the Capitals’ biggest strengths as a team is their depth down the middle. Any injury to a center, considering it is arguably the most important skating position on the ice, would be significant. An injury to the team’s top-line center would be even more costly.

Kuznetsov leads the team with 28 assists and ranks second in both goals (21) and points (69).