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Williams 'not even close' to where he wants to be

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Williams 'not even close' to where he wants to be

On the surface, Justin Williams seems to be having a pretty good start to his first season as a member of the Capitals. Through 12 games he has two goals, eight assists and is a plus-4 while averaging 16:24 of ice time, and he has yet to take a penalty.

So is Williams happy about the 14-goal, 69-point pace he’s on right now?

“No,” he said emphatically on Friday. “I’m not even close to where I want to be. I’m not even close. I’m not sure there’s a reason for it but the trick is for me to find it.”

Twice in Thursday night’s 4-1 win over the Bruins, which improved the Caps’ record to 9-3-0, Williams got caught on extended shifts because of his own defensive zone turnovers. On one them, a blind pass to the middle of the ice resulted in two prime scoring chances for the Bruins, one of which Williams smothered with a blocked shot just above the crease.

“That’s not the norm for him,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who yanked Williams off the second line and replaced him with Andre Burakovsky, who will stay in that spot  Saturday night when the Toronto Maple Leafs visit Verizon Center (7 p.m., CSN).

“When he says he’s not happy with his play I can understand that a little bit because he’s so reliable on the walls all the time and in the last little while he hasn’t been as reliable there as we’d like to see him,” Trotz said. “But he’ll get it back. Sometimes you shake one or two guys on the lines and it works better. He’s a real good pro and a tremendous player. He’s a top-six forward that’s going to produce.”

Williams, who turned 34 earlier this month, will play on a third line with left wing Jason Chimera, 36, and center Jay Beagle, 30, a pair of forwards known for playing a north-south game.  

“If I do end up playing with Chimmer and Beags it’ll be good,” Williams said. “I’ll be able to simplify a lot more and maybe that’s what I need.”

Williams, who has seen more penalty kill time this season (16:10) than he did all of last season with the Kings (11:28), said he had grown accustomed to certain breakout patterns in Los Angeles that are not employed by the Capitals.

“It seems like the whole game is a different way of playing right now,” Williams said. “Everything’s just kind of get it out of the zone and bring speed to it. It’s not like three or four passes to get out of the zone like it was in LA. It’s not D-to-D to the low center or wing. It’s get it out and get going. That’s why it’s so fast.”

Because so many NHL teams play a pressure game, Williams said more teams are changing their breakout strategies by keeping their wingers along the boards near the center-ice red line. Defensemen are being asked to make long stretch passes to those wingers, who are responsible for either deflecting pucks into the offensive zone, or making quick passes to a center or defenseman coming through the neutral zone with speed.

“It makes it a lot simpler,” Williams said, “but when there’s pressure and you turn the puck over there’s not someone to help you out immediately. But if you learn to do it right, more often than not you’re successful.”

MORE: Why hasn't Ovi scored on the Power Play? 

 

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Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

When Mike Babcock essentially dismissed any concern over the impact Tom Wilson could have on a series, Wilson responded. In the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017, the Caps' forward scored the overtime winner in Game 1 and saved the series in Game 3 with a sweep of the puck off the goal line followed by a goal of his own soon after.

If you dismissed Wilson after Game 1 and Game 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Barry Trotz believes you can expect a similar answer this year after how he played in Game 3.

"I think his game was really good and that will maybe give some trust and confidence in him going forward," Trotz said Wednesday on a conference call with the media.

Wilson's impact in the first round against Toronto was immediate. As a top-line winger this season, expectations for him were high heading into the playoffs. His start to the series, however, left a lot to be desired.

Through the first two games, Wilson did not record a single shot on goal. What's worse, he took a critical penalty in each game that allowed the Blue Jackets to tie the score on each resulting power play.

You can't compare Wilson's impact on the Caps to that of a player like Alex Ovechkin, but a top-line player has to have some sort of positive impact or, at the very least, not be a detriment to his team.

In Game 3, postseason Tom finally delivered.

Wilson recorded six shots on goal and scored Washington's first goal of the game, deflecting in a shot from Matt Niskanen.

"[Wilson's] taken a lot of criticism for his first two games and some of the penalties and the effect it's had on the game," Trotz said. "I think it's given him some confidence. He's a bright young man, he's a leader, he's an all-in guy."

The key now will be for Wilson to build on that confidence.

Columbus has a number of star players such as Artemi Panarin, Seth Jones and Sergei Bobrovsky. What they do not have, however, is the scoring depth to match the Caps. Getting key contributions from players like Wilson in addition to the top playmakers like Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov will make it very hard for the Blue Jackets to keep up.

"[Wilson] had a big effect last year in the first round," Trotz said. "I think he can have a big effect in this series, in this first round."

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Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

With a thrilling double-overtime victory in Game 3, the Capitals are right back in the series. Trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1, the Caps will look to even up the series at 2-games apiece before returning to Washington for Game 5.

As the Caps take the ice for Game 4, you can be certain that Braden Holtby will be the man to lead the team in net. His stellar performance in Game 3 resolidified him as the team' starter and ended whatever goalie tandem there was between him and Philipp Grubauer.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 4

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 4 on Thursday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Columbus currently leads the series 2-1.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME ON?

Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jakub Vrana -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

SEE THE CAPITALS VS. BLUE JACKETS FULL SERIES SCHEDULE HERE

CAPITALS SCHEDULE