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Can Barry Trotz, New York Islanders' transformed defense take down the Capitals?

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USA TODAY Sports

Can Barry Trotz, New York Islanders' transformed defense take down the Capitals?

The Capitals play the New York Islanders for the first time this season Monday (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington Plus) and there will be a familiar face behind the bench for New York. Here are a few things to watch.

Going against Barry Trotz

The last time we saw an NHL head coach leave after a championship run was in 2002 when Scotty Bowman retired after winning a third Stanley Cup in six years with the Detroit Red Wings. You have to go back to 1994, however, to find a coach who left after winning a Cup who then returned the following season with another team. Mike Keenan went from the New York Rangers to become the head coach and general manager of the St. Louis Blues.

Trotz led the Caps to the first Stanley Cup in franchise history in the 2017-18 season and then abruptly stepped down as head coach in the offseason after a failed contract negotiation with the team. Three days later, he was named the head coach of the New York Islanders.

There will be nothing but positive emotion for the Caps’ former bench boss heading up to Monday’s game. Along with Lane Lambert and Mitch Korn, Trotz will receive his Stanley Cup ring prior to the game. The impact he had on this team is undeniable and he will go down as one of, if not the best coach in franchise history.

But all of that will be forgotten once the puck drops.

Trotz knows the Caps about as well as anyone. In his first season on Long Island, New York is exceeding just about everyone’s expectations after star John Tavares left in the offseason. What tricks will Trotz have up his sleeve for his former team?

Islanders' much-improved defense

Andre Burakovsky ruffled some feathers after a 7-3 Caps win over the Islanders last season.

“My first three shifts, I was skating around and around and around with the puck and making plays,” Burakovsky said last season. “I mean, we didn’t really expect that out of them. We were expecting a little bit harder pressure when we had the puck. But, yeah, they just gave us a lot of ice to skate on.”

Even though he was not the head coach of the Islanders at the time, those comments must have resonated with Trotz when he took the job. That is not an acceptable defense for a Trotz-coached team, and he has dramatically improved the blue line since he got there.

Through 24 games, the Islanders are allowing 2.86 goals per game, better than the 3.13 goals the Caps are giving up this season and a lot better than the 3.57 goals New York was allowing last season.

Tom Wilson, the villain

Wilson has been fantastic since his return from suspension. He has given Washington an obvious spark and is playing exceptionally well with four goals and nine points in seven games.

But there’s always more to the story whenever Wilson visits New York.

Wilson has become somewhat of a villain among the 30 other NHL fan bases, but there are a handful of teams that take their dislike for Wilson to the next level. Pittsburgh is obviously No. 1 on that list, but the Islanders are not far behind.

The Caps and Islanders met in the playoffs in 2015, and Wilson delivered a devastating hit to Lubomir Visnovsky that still resonates with Islanders fans.

The fact that Trotz is now coaching the Islanders also adds an added wrinkle to this as he has been one of Wilson’s biggest supporters in recent years as his head coach. How do things change now with Trotz coaching the other team?

Dominating the Metro

Washington currently sits in first place of the Metropolitan Division, but the Islanders surprisingly sit in third. One of the reasons they have managed to climb the standings is how dominant they have been against divisional teams. New York is currently 9-1-0 against teams within the division with their first loss coming just last week to the New York Rangers. To compare, the Caps are only 3-2-1 within the division.

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Kuznetsov tips in OT winner for Caps' 6th straight simulation win

Kuznetsov tips in OT winner for Caps' 6th straight simulation win

A two-goal rally for the Minnesota Wild forced overtime, but Evgeny Kuznetsov proved to be the hero for the Capitals in a 4-3 win in the latest NHL 20 sim. The win is Washington's sixth straight simulated win.

Result: Caps 4, Wild 3 OT

1st period

0-1 Wild goal: Joel Eriksson Ek from Mats Zuccarello and Zach Parise

2nd period

1-1 Caps goal: Jakub Vrana from Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie

2-1 Caps goal (power play): Evgeny Kuznetsov from Tom Wilson and Dmitry Orlov

3-1 Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin from Nick Jensen and Nicklas Backstrom

3rd period

3-2 Wild goal: Joel Eriksson Ek from Zach Parise and Ryan Suter

3-3 Wild goal: Alex Galchenyuk from Kevin Fiala and Mikko Koivu

Overtime

4-3 Caps goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov from Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson


How the Caps won

1. The second period

Minnesota held a 1-0 lead after the first, but Washington rallied to take control with three goals in the second period. Jakub Vrana got things started with a backhand goal off his own rebound less than three minutes into the second frame. Later in the period, Tom Wilson forced a kick-out save from goalie Devan Dubnyk and the rebound went right to Kuznetsov on the back door for the open net. Alex Ovechkin made it 3-1 with a breakaway goal.

2. Rebounds

This was not Dubnyk's best game. All three of Washington's regulation goals came off of rebounds and Dubnyk showed poor rebound control, giving the puck up in high-danger areas. Even on Ovechkin's breakaway goal, Dubnyk denied the initial opportunity but Ovechkin was able to grab his own rebound and backhand it in.

3. A critical faceoff

Kuznetsov won the opening faceoff to start overtime and that was it. That was the game. Kuznetsov would go on to score on that first shift to win the game as the Caps never gave up possession of the puck. They controlled it from the faceoff to the goal ensuring Minnesota never had an opportunity to win it.

Next game

The Caps were scheduled to play the Florida Panthers on the road Saturday. The game will be simulated with NHL 20 on NBC Sports Washington at 7 p.m.

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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T.J. Oshie invites fan to Caps game after he made every NHL team's logo out of dominos

T.J. Oshie invites fan to Caps game after he made every NHL team's logo out of dominos

A young Caps fan who has spent the last week making all 31 NHL team logos out of dominos got a shoutout on Twitter and an invite to a game from his favorite player, T.J. Oshie. 

Alex, the 12-year-old behind this project, created a Youtube video which shows all of the domino creations in action. 

The video ends with Alex decked out in a Caps jersey talking about the hard work required to accomplish this feat. 

He also explains that Oshie is his favorite player and that he planned to see the Capitals play at home this season, but the pause on the NHL season caused a change in plans. 

Alex’s incredible work came to Oshie’s attention when his brother reached out to him on Twitter and linked Alex’s video. 

Not only did Oshie respond to Alex’s brother's tweet with praise, but invited the brothers to a Caps game when the season resumed. 

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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