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A more mature Jakub Vrana is taking his fourth line demotion in stride

A more mature Jakub Vrana is taking his fourth line demotion in stride

After a rough performance against the Dallas Stars on Saturday, Jakub Vrana found himself moved from the top line to the fourth for Monday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.

There was a time in his career in which Vrana would not have handled such a move very well, but on Monday a motivated Vrana played like he had been shot out of a cannon and scored less than three minutes into the game.

“That says a lot to me about him as a young player maturing,” Reirden said after the game. “That was a strong statement by him.”

Vrana’s reaction to getting bumped to the fourth line shows just how much he has matured as a player since being drafted in 2014.

As a first round draft pick, Vrana hit a wall while playing with the Hershey Bears. He had the talent to be an NHL player, but could not crack the Caps’ loaded lineup. Frustration over being stuck in the AHL translated into poor play leading to instances in which then head coach Troy Mann would scratch Vrana from the lineup altogether.

Vrana has demonstrated he has the talent to be a top-six talent in the NHL, but with multiple turnovers and an uneven performance on Saturday against the Stars, Vrana was moved down to the fourth line.

Unlike how he responded to being stuck in the AHL, the move from the top line to the bottom motivated him to work harder.

“If you have a game like I had, you have to forget it right away,” Vrana said Tuesday after an optional skate for the team. “I know it's really hard for some players. Obviously you think about it, right? It's not easy to forget. But you have to find a way back your confidence [sic]. The best way to find it is on a training pitch. I just tried to work hard.”

With the way he played, it is likely Vrana won’t be stuck in the bottom-six for very long.

The maturity of Vrana’s mentality and the skill he continues to show have not been lost on Reirden.

“I talked to him earlier [Monday] and I wasn't in the least bit concerned about his game,” Reirden said. “Showed him some video earlier and just explained -- again for me communication with players is really important and letting them know why you had certain ideas on what you're going to do and explaining to them what's expected. That's today's player. Good or bad, you have to tell them ok you're going from the first line to not the first line. How are you going to react?”

Vrana found instant chemistry Monday playing alongside his former Hershey teammate Travis Boyd. Considering how well the Vrana, Boyd, Devante Smith-Pelly line looked on Monday, it would not be surprising to see it again for Wednesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But as good as it looked, that fourth line is not likely to remain intact for long. With four goals and seven points on the season, Vrana continues to show off his top-six skill. Now he also has the maturity he needs to consistently perform at the NHL level.


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Blue Jackets troll Capitals on Twitter after pulling even atop Metro Division

Blue Jackets troll Capitals on Twitter after pulling even atop Metro Division

The Columbus Blue Jackets threw some serious shade at the Caps Tuesday night after their 7-2 blowout loss to the Predators.

The Jackets are now tied for the Metro lead after the Caps lost their third straight game, and they let them have it on Twitter.

That's a bold jab coming from the team that lost to the Caps in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs...

The GIF comes from Saturday night's overtime loss to the Jackets where Columbus celebrated Artemi Panarin's game-winner with Evgeny Kuznetsov's signature bird celly.

When asked about the copycat celebration last Saturday, Kuzy said, "That's fine. It's nice to get some people that think about me, same as in April last year.”

The Capitals meet the Blue Jackets again Feb. 12 where the only bird celly should come from Kuzy.


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Caps suffer third straight loss as they get rocked in Music City

Caps suffer third straight loss as they get rocked in Music City

The final score of a game can often be deceiving, but that was certainly not the case on Tuesday. The Capitals lost 7-2 to the Nashville Predators in a game every bit as one-sided as the score indicates. Viktor Arvidsson scored a hat trick and Nick Bonino added another two goals in a game that was well in hand before the end of the second period.

Here are three reasons the Caps lost.

Viktor Arvidsson

Arvidsson came into this game with 14 goals this season and 21 points in 23 games. He is one of the best players in the league that no one talks about and that was certainly on display in this game. He wasn’t a one trick pony either. His first goal came on the breakaway, his second was a deflection and his third was a shorthanded breakaway.

Arvidsson’s third goal

As one-sided as the game was, there was a moment in the second period when it looked like Washington was going to claw its way back into it. Down 3-0 in the second period, Nicklas Backstrom scored on the power play to make it 3-1. Less than five minutes later, T.J. Oshie drew a tripping call from Calle Jarnkrok. Suddenly it looked as if the Caps had a chance.

But once again, Washington had no answer for Arvidsson.

Backstrom tried to carry the puck into the offensive zone, but he was met and challenged by Arvidsson. Backstrom lost the puck and Arvidsson took off while Ryan Johansen grabbed the puck in the neutral zone. Johansen fed Arvidsson for the breakaway and he delivered the knockout punch.

Washington was eyeing a 3-2 game, but instead they suddenly found themselves down 4-1 and the rout was on.

Poor decisions

Give all the credit to Nashville for dominating this game, they dominated and deserved to win. Having said that, the Caps were clearly their own worst enemy in Nashville.

Tom Wilson carried the puck into the offensive zone in the first period. With no open passing lane, the only real option he had was to dump and chase or drive himself and pass back to the blue line. Instead, he forced a pass to Ovechkin who had to stop and reach back to grab the puck. He was also being covered by two players so it was no surprise when he turned the puck over. The resulting breakout led to a breakaway and Arvidsson’s first goal.

In the second period, Andre Burakovsky had the puck and looked like he had a lane to shoot or dive to the net. Instead, he pulled up and tried to cross the puck. The pass was easily picked off and Rocco Grimaldi was off in the other direction. He would finish off the play with a highlight-reel spin-o-rama goal, but it all started with a poor decision.

This game was full of those moments. Bad decision by the Caps and the puck was off in the other direction. The uglier the game got, the more Washington’s system and hockey sense went out the window. Two of Nashville’s goals came on the breakaway and one came on a two-on-one. Those type of odd-man breaks happen because of breakdowns.