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Barry Trotz mum on John Carlson's status for Game 1

Barry Trotz mum on John Carlson's status for Game 1

John Carlson’s status for Thursday’s playoff opener against Toronto may not be known until game time, Coach Barry Trotz said at the team’s morning skate.

“If we have no setbacks, you’ll see him in warmup tonight,” Trotz said when asked if Carlson will suit up.

Translation: It’s the playoffs and we’re not announcing anything until we have to. And they don't have to until just prior to the opening faceoff.

RELATED: 3 reasons to be nervous about Toronto

We do, however, know this for sure: Carlson, who missed the final four games of the regular season with a lower-body injury, practiced Tuesday and Wednesday. 

On Wednesday, he skated in his usual spot alongside Karl Alzner on the top D-pair and took a normal workload—typically a sign that an injured player is ready to return. Afterward, Carlson said he felt better than he did the previous day.

Carlson led the Capitals in ice time during the regular season and plays in all situations. His nine goals were the most among Washington D-men (with the exception of Kevin Shattenkirk, who arrived via trade late in the season.)

MORE CAPITALS: 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions

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An inherent contradiction in rules on goalie interference cost the Capitals

An inherent contradiction in rules on goalie interference cost the Capitals

The defining moment of the Capitals’ Game 6 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday was Alex Ovechkin’s disallowed goal in the third period.

Ovechkin thought he had tied the game at 3 when he poked a loose puck across the goal line, but the goal was waved off by the referee and the play upheld after a coach’s challenge.

You can watch the play here:

The NHL released the following explanation of the call: 

At 10:34 of third period in the Capitals/Hurricanes game, Washington requested a Coach’s Challenge to review the “Interference on the Goalkeeper” decision that resulted in a “no goal” call.

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Referee, the Situation Room confirmed that Alex Ovechkin interfered with Petr Mrazek by pushing his pad, which caused the puck to enter the net. According to Rule 69.3, “If an attacking player initiates contact with a goalkeeper, incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.”

Therefore, the original call is upheld – no goal Washington Capitals.

Mrazek was in the crease, Ovechkin clearly made contact with his pad as he went for the puck and, according to the rule, even incidental contact will result in a disallowed goal. The fact that Ovechkin was clearly going for the puck and not simply trying to push Mrazek back into the net is irrelevant.

Caps fans may not want to admit it, but this seems pretty black and white…until you read the rule that completely contradicts it.

Rule 69 is the rule that deals with goalie interference. The NHL cited rule 69.3 in its explanation for the disallowed goal. Rule 69.7, however, deals with rebounds and loose pucks. That rule states, “In a rebound situation, or where a goalkeeper and attacking player(s) are simultaneously attempting to play a loose puck, whether insider or outside the crease, incidental contact with the goalkeeper will be permitted, and any goal that is scored as a result thereof will be allowed.”

After the game on Monday, the Caps were fuming at the call because the puck was clearly loose.

“I saw the puck,” Ovechkin said. “He didn't get it in control. He didn't see that, so I don't know what the referee saw or what the explanation was.”

“From our angle from the bench it looked like the puck was loose,” Reirden said. “We talked with our video staff and they felt like it was worth a challenge in that situation. That’s not how the league or the referees saw it and that’s a decision they made. But for us we thought the puck was loose. It was still a puck that was in play.”

When you see the replay, it’s hard to argue. That puck was loose. Rule 69.3 says it doesn’t matter. Rule 69.7 says it does.

When you read the NHL’s explanation for why the goal was disallowed, it makes sense. It stinks, but Ovechkin makes incidental contact with Mrazek in the crease. But take the same play and let’s pretend that the call was overturned and the goal allowed on the coach’s challenge. If the NHL cited Rule 69.7 in its explanation, it still would make complete sense.

If you can use two different rules on the exact same play to justify two different calls, that’s a problem.

Goalie interference has become one of the most controversial rules in hockey because no one seems to know what does and does not constitute goalie interference. What happened in Game 6 is a prime example. 

When even the NHL’s own rulebook seem to contradict itself, it is impossible for players, coaches, referees or fans to know what is and is not within the rules.

This is a problem and it is one the NHL needs to fix.

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A frustrating Game 6 loss, but Caps can't dwell on the negative

A frustrating Game 6 loss, but Caps can't dwell on the negative

RALEIGH — By the end of the night the frustration was evident. Three times the Capitals have played at PNC Arena during this Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series and three times they have left the ice stick-smashingly angry. 

Capitals coach Todd Reirden screamed at the officials. Alex Ovechkin earned a game misconduct after a mock wave following a late penalty call. By then the Carolina Hurricanes had already assured there would be one final game in this closer-than-expected series with a 5-2 win. Now both teams face elimination with Game 7 looming Wednesday at Capital One Arena. 

Washington’s anger was understandable. Alex Ovechkin apparently poked home the game-tying goal with 9:26 remaining. But while the Capitals celebrated, referee Kyle Rehman blew his whistle. In his view, Ovechkin had shoved Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek’s pads to force the puck into the net. 

The NHL Situation Room in Toronto upheld that call on the ice after the Capitals tied it. Just 1:24 later, ex-Capitals forward Justin Williams stuck a dagger in the heart of his old team with a deflected goal to give the Hurricanes a 4-2 lead.

"I don't think anyone expected it to be easy,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “They played well all series. We were up 2-0 and we were probably fortunate to be up 2-0 and we've been good on home ice and now we have a Game 7 and it is probably good that we have home ice."

There were other issues on Monday. Dmitry Orlov was whistled for embellishment in the second period that denied Washington a power play. Carolina tied the game 2-2 at 1:56 of the second period when referees – in the Capitals’ view – missed an obvious slash by Sebastian Aho on defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler behind the net. His attempted clear was flubbed and Aho found Teuvo Teravainen alone in front for an easy goal.

None of it matters now. The Capitals didn’t play well enough to win anyway, especially in a ragged second period that ominously looked like the 5-0 Hurricanes win in Game 3. Reirden himself admitted that Carolina earned the breaks it got. Goalie Braden Holtby was especially critical of his team for not building on a dominant 6-0 win at home in Game 5 on Saturday. 

“I don’t know. I thought we played pretty well to come out and we just faded,” Holtby said. “I’m not sure why. At this point it doesn’t matter. It’s over with and it’s down to one game.”

The challenge will be leaving all of that negativity in the PNC Arena locker room. One player walked away and said to no one in particular “No goal….what a call.” The sarcasm dripped. But it can’t follow the Capitals back home to Washington. This group of players has plenty of experience putting bad playoff losses behind them. 

If anything carries over into Game 7, however, they could be in trouble. Those days are thought to be long over after last spring’s Cup. And maybe they are. But the Capitals will have to forget about what happened in Raleigh. They have one last chance. It can't be clouded by what happened here.  

"It's over. Again, right now nothing you can do,” Ovechkin said. “After fight, you can't do anything. It was a good battle. Good for them, they win Game 6, and you know, Game 7 is going to be much interesting. We know how to play that. Pressure on both teams, but it's a good chance for us to beat them at home." 

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