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Barry Trotz says Caps have worked to eliminate the 'cheat' from their game

Barry Trotz says Caps have worked to eliminate the 'cheat' from their game

Last season, the Caps claimed the Presidents’ Trophy with a franchise record 56 wins.

This season, Barry Trotz and Co. have once again put themselves in position to finish atop the league standings.

But there’s one big difference between the squads—at least in Trotz’s estimation. What is it? Trotz says it’s the players’ increased attentiveness to detail in the defensive zone.  

“Last year, we had a lot more cheat in our game,” the veteran head coach said. “We’d still win the game, but we would have a little cheat in our game. Last night’s game [against the Hurricanes], instead of being 5-0 it was 5-3.”

“We were thinking that because we cheat in certain areas that we’d get more offense,” Trotz added. Instead, “we’re finding out that if we don’t cheat that we’re going to have even more offense than if we were cheating.”

And, boy, have the Caps had more offense, especially as of late.

RELATED: Winnik: 'Hopefully we don't make any trades'

Since Jan. 1, in fact, Washington leads the league in several key statistical categories.

They’re No. 1 in wins (16), standings points (33), goal differential (+46) and power play goals (16). They’ve also shut out six opponents, including back-to-back 5-0 wins over the Kings and ‘Canes.

When Trotz uses the word “cheat”, one thing he’s referring to is forwards heading north before the puck is secured in the defensive zone. It can lead to a quick transition to offense. But it’s also risky; if the puck is not secured, it can create a prime scoring chance against.

“Be on the right side of the puck,” Trotz said. “Our game is about instinct. If [a teammate] has full control [of the puck] then you can stretch the zone and look for seams where we can get you the puck. But if the puck is in doubt, let’s make sure we’re on the right side of the puck. Let’s err on the side of caution. If you’re trying to force things or trying to cheat on the wrong side of the puck, then you have the puck less. We want the puck. When we don’t have it, let’s do the right thing to get it back.”

Although Trotz has preached D-zone detail all season, he said the team’s recent surge has reinforced the message in the dressing room.

“Having those reps [and] understanding the connection between playing a real good 200-foot game with detail allows you to get more offense and have the puck more,” he said. “And when we have the puck, we’re a happy group and we seem to be able to show off what we can do and use our skill set.”

“So,” Trotz added, “the repetition of doing it right and getting results has been the major [reason] we’ve been more consistent.”

MORE CAPITALS: Trotz explains Sanford recall

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Caps at Islanders: Ovechkin is in for final game before bye week

Caps at Islanders: Ovechkin is in for final game before bye week

The Capitals (32-11-5) head to Long Island to take on the New York Islanders (28-14-4) in the last game before the bye week. Tune in to NBC Sports Washington for all the action! Pregame coverage starts at 12 p.m. with Caps FaceOff Live followed by Caps Pregame Live bringing you up to the 1 p.m. puck drop. Stick with NBC Sports Washington after the game for postgame coverage with Caps Postgame Live and Caps Overtime Live.

Here is what you need to know for Saturday's game.

Ovechkin is in

By skipping the All-Star Game, Alex Ovechkin is subject to a one-game suspension. He must serve that suspension in either the last game before the bye week or the first game back. Todd Reirden said following Thursday's game that Ovechkin will play on Saturday meaning he will miss the Jan. 27 game against the Montreal Canadiens. This should come as no surprise considering the Islanders game is a division game and the Montreal game is not.

Here are the lines based on Friday's practice:

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Nick Jensen
Jonas Siegenthaler - Radko Gudas

Ovechkin is red-hot

It is a good thing Ovechkin is playing Saturday because he is red-hot right now. He has five goals in just the past two games and sits one behind Mario Lemieux for 10th all-time in goals.

Holtby starts

Ilya Samsonov started the last two games and played well, but with the bye week upcoming, Reirden felt it important to get Braden Holtby back in. He confirmed Friday that Holtby will be the starter.

Holtby has not registered a save percentage above .900 in six straight starts and he sits at .899 for the season. He has still managed a 18-9-4 record for the season, however. Reirden said the last two games for Samsonov allowed Holtby the chance to "reset." HIs last game was on Jan. 11 against the New Jersey Devils.

When last we met

With Holtby in net, he will have a chance to rebound after this last start against the Islanders, a tough 4-3 loss at home on New Year's Eve. He allowed four goals on 22 shots in that game.

It was a very sloppy affair, not what we are used to seeing from the typically buttoned-up Islanders defense and turnovers were a problem for both sides. Semyon Varlamov closed the door in the period, stopping a whopping 17 shots as Washington poured it on looking to tie it.

Here's a recap of the game.

Washington is 1-1-0 against the Islanders this season with the final matchup coming on Feb. 10.

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Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne believes Alex Ovechkin will catch Wayne Gretzky

Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne believes Alex Ovechkin will catch Wayne Gretzky

During the Caps big win over the Carolina Hurricanes Monday night, Alex Ovechkin passed Finnish great Teemu Selanne on the all-time goal list, bringing him to 11th overall. He currently stands at 689 goals and his next target on the list is Pittsburgh Penguins star Mario Lemieux at 690.

With Ovechkin closing in on yet another goal-scorer, Selanne took to Twitter to say that he believes Ovechkin will be the one to pass Wayne Gretzky's mark of 894 goals.

Selanne isn't the only one who believes the Great Eight can catch up to the Great One. Nicklas Backstrom thinks his captain can do it, Sidney Crosby agrees with that assessment,  and the Great One himself said that Ovi has elevated the way the game has been played with his goal-scoring pursuit.

Ovi's take on it all? That if he's able to complete the feat he'll retire immediately. Ovi needs 205 more goals to reach that mark.