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Will Nate Schmidt's play keep him in the Caps' lineup?

Will Nate Schmidt's play keep him in the Caps' lineup?

Karl Alzner skated for a second straight day on Thursday, though it remains unclear when the Capitals defenseman will be ready to return to the lineup.

He’s missed the last two games with an upper body injury.

“Day to day,” Trotz when asked about Alzner’s recovery.

Alzner took a twirl at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, but there was no contact involved. He was joined on the ice by only a handful of teammates.

RELATED: Trotz surprised by disallowed goal after Andersen grabbed Backstrom

If there is a silver lining to losing a big-minute blue liner in the postseason, it's this: thanks to Nate Schmidt's outstanding play the past two games, the Caps have the luxury of allowing Alzner all the time he needs.

Since entering the lineup in Game 3, Schmidt has been on the ice for five of the Capitals’ eight goals. Conversely, he’s only been on the ice for one Leafs’ goal—and the puck hit him in the visor before going to Auston Matthews in Monday’s game. 

Schmidt's plus-4 rating leads the Caps.

In addition, Schmidt has two assists, which is tied for the most among the Caps’ blue liners (in half the games). He also skated 45 seconds on the critical 5-on-3 penalty kill to start the third period in Game 4.

It's a small sample size and Alzner has been a big part of the Caps for a long time. But it begs the question: If Schmidt continues to play well, will he put the Caps’ coaching staff in a tough spot when Alzner is healthy?

Trotz wasn’t ready to go there on Thursday.

“We’ll see when he’s ready to play what our status on defense is,” is all the coach would offer up

Check out the latest edition of the Capitals Faceoff Podcast!

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Caps work on team building by fighting each other in FBI training

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Caps work on team building by fighting each other in FBI training

How much better would your work environment be if you had a chance to pin a coworker or get them in a chokehold? Probably a lot. That's what the Caps are banking on.

The team visited the FBI Academy on Wednesday in a team building exercise that included raming doors and, of course, hand to hand combat.

Let's break down some of these wrestling matchups.

Braden Holtby appears to be thanking John Carlson for playing 27:33 on Tuesday.

It seems dangerous to pit a goalie against a defenseman. Carlson spends all of his time on the ice trying to protect Holtby. Just how hard was Carlson really trying to take down Holtby?

It's no surprise seeing Tom Wilson enjoying himself with the hand to hand combat. Whoever went up against him (it looks like Jay Beagle) certainly drew the short straw.

And then there's this.

Nicklas Backstrom is having way, way too much fun. Maybe Andre Burakovsky was getting a bit chesty in the locker room after his first NHL fight. Well, it seems Backstrom certainly put him in his place.

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There are no moral victories, but Caps see a defensive effort they can build on in Tuesday's loss


There are no moral victories, but Caps see a defensive effort they can build on in Tuesday's loss

The Capitals probably deserved a better result on Tuesday than a 2-0 loss at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Coming into that game, the Leafs were averaging 5.20 goals per game and had scored no fewer than three in any of their five games to start the season. Yet, a Capitals team fresh off an 8-2 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers managed to hold Toronto’s offense to only one goal, the second coming only after Braden Holtby had been pulled for the extra attacker.

“There's a lot of improvements from our game in Philadelphia, that's for sure,” Barry Trotz said following the game.

Aside from a flurry of chances from Toronto early in the first, the game was largely even between the two sides until Connor Brown put the Leafs up 1-0 in the third period.


Despite their effort, however, do not take this game as proof that Washington has solved all of its blue line issues. Tuesday was just merely a step in the right direction.

“We did some things better [Tuesday],” Braden Holtby said. “The outcome could have been a little worse if luck wasn't on our side today on a few plays. We've got to keep a realistic mindset on that too.  But we did a lot of good things [Tuesday]. Our defense did a really good job at handling their speed and their size.”

Surprisingly, it was not the defense that cost Washington the game, but the offense. When the Caps needed a goal, they simply could not generate one against goalie Frederik Andersen.

Yes, the team needs to find more of a balance and get a full 60-minute effort on both ends of the ice, but there was also hope in the locker room on Tuesday that if they continue to improve in their own zone, it will ultimately lead to more offense in the other end.

“Everything is developed from the defensive zone,” Holtby said. “That's the way we've always had success scoring goals. If you're taking risks offensively, that's not a consistent way to play. You might win some games, but you're not going to win games consistently. That's what our foundation of our team is built around, our breakout, especially on our goal line and that what creates a lot of our offense.”


What the first seven games of the season has shown is that the Capitals’ fate rests on its blue line. Yes, they need more depth scoring from their third and fourth line, but this team’s weakness is its defense. How they respond to their early struggles will determine the fate of the season.

“We'd be kidding ourselves if we're not going to have some growing pains along the way,” Holtby said of the team. “It's just how we handle them and what we do with them. How do we fight through them and get better?”

Tuesday’s game may have ended in a loss, but it was an effort the defense can build around. That is the silver lining. If they do build on this game, the Capitals still have a playoff caliber roster. If they do not, well, there is no telling how far Washington can sink.