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Why Barry Trotz believes Caps’ horrid start to Game 1 is a good thing

Why Barry Trotz believes Caps’ horrid start to Game 1 is a good thing

Not surprisingly, Barry Trotz was not all that thrilled with how Thursday’s Game 1 started.

Less than 10 minutes into the game, the Caps founds themselves down 2-0 at home to a plucky Toronto Maple Leafs team. Justin Williams got Washington on the board, but Toronto came out swinging again in the second period and was outshooting the Caps 10-3.

“The first 30 minutes, I’m not happy with our game,” Trotz said.

“They came at us hard, they came out with a good gameplan,” Trotz continued. “They got on our D, we turned some pucks over, we game them real easy access to the puck I thought today in the first 30 minutes.”

But, just when visions of past playoff failures began to dance in the heads of Caps fans everywhere, Washington was able to escape with the overtime win to take Game 1.

MORE CAPS-LEAFS: Wilson responds to Babcock in best way possible

In what was widely expected to be the most lopsided series of the first round, Toronto showed at least in Game 1 that they can go toe-to-toe with the Presidents’ Trophy winners. If you’re the Caps, the last thing you want to do is to give the young, inexperienced Maple Leafs confidence that they can make this a series.

And yet, Trotz is glad Game 1 started the way it did.

“It's a real good wakeup call for us,” Trotz said. “You get in the playoffs there is no easy games. The Leafs are well prepared, they're a good hockey team. Their kids are exceptional talents and they can play and you've got to play them hard. I know we're getting another level so I think it's great that we didn't have the start that we had and we're able to come out on the positive end. We can build on that I think.”

Granted, the Caps won so it is easier for Trotz to see the positives of the poor start. Had they lost, it may be a different story. But the point remains, there’s a lesson to be learned from how Game 1 started. Washington may be the best team, but there won’t be any easy games in the playoffs.

RELATED: Justin Williams says 'enough is enough' before putting team on his back

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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).

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3 stars of the game: Caps win brutal rematch to sweep home-and-home with Islanders

3 stars of the game: Caps win brutal rematch to sweep home-and-home with Islanders

The Caps rocked the green in warmups, the red for the game and left a bit black and blue after a brutal 6-3 win over the New York Islanders.

Based on how things went in Brooklyn on Thursday, odds were that there would be some bad blood when the two teams met Washington on Friday. One night after giving up seven goals, the Islanders gave up another six in Washington and frustrations over a rough season boiled over all game long.

Ross Johnston was ejected for continuing to fight Tom Wilson even after the referees intervened, both teams combined for 56 PIMs and Evgeny Kuznetsov left the game in the second period after a slash from Thomas Hickey as he went headfirst into the boards.

The sting of the rough night was mitigated somewhat, however, by the 6-3 score as the Caps won their fourth straight.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Chiasson: Playing in his first game since March 8, Chiasson made the most of his opportunity with a three-point night. Jakub Vrana did the legwork as he drove the net with the puck. Jaroslav Halak stuck out his stick catching Vrana which spun the netminder around and out of the crease. Chiasson came up behind for the easy layup.

He would repay the favor with an assist for Vrana's goal later in the third. Chiasson's first assist on the night came in the second period as his initial shot was saved, but he stayed in the face of Halak long enough to prevent him from making the save on Matt Niskanen's goal.

2. Nicklas Backstrom: When things were getting ugly, Backstrom made the Islanders pay with a power play goal on the two-man advantage.

After Johnston lost his marbles and Cal Clutterbuck was called for interference on Oshie, the Capitals needed to take advantage and put the Islanders away or watch New York build momentum. That was the critical juncture of the game. Backstrom also added an assist on the two-point night.

3. Braden Holtby: The recent struggles of Holtby have been well documented. After yielding the crease to Philipp Grubauer the last four games, Holtby got the start on Friday and played very well in the winning effort. The defense in front of him certainly helped allowing only 13 shots in the first two periods, but the Islanders were buzzing in the third period. New York battled back to make it 5-3 and Mathew Barzal had a breakaway opportunity with a chance to cut the deficit to one. Holtby made the save to deny Barzal and shut the door on the comeback attempt.

In all, Holtby turned aside 22 of the 25 shots he faced.