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Barry Trotz says he may 'tweak' the Caps' lineup ahead of Game 3

Barry Trotz says he may 'tweak' the Caps' lineup ahead of Game 3

TORONTO—Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said on Sunday that he’s mulling changes to his lineup as Washington’s first round playoff series shifts to Toronto.

“We may move things around,” Trotz said on a conference call with reporters. “We may not.”

He added: “We’re meeting now and going through of the stuff from last night. We’ll have a good game plan and the guys will be ready for tomorrow.”

Through two games—the Leafs prevailed 4-3 in double overtime Saturday night to knot the series 1-1—the Caps have scored six goals, three of which have come on the power play.

The top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, meanwhile, has just a single point at even strength through nearly eight periods of play—Backstrom’s game tying tally late in the third period of Game 2.

So far, Toronto Coach Mike Babcock has preferred to deploy Nazem Kadri’s line against the Backstrom unit.

“I think Mike will stay with the same game plan that he’s tried to do [in Washington] with Kadri on Backstrom,” Trotz said, noting that Babcock will benefit from the last change the next two games.

After tinkering with his forward combos the first two months, Trotz has largely elected to stay with the same lines since late December. He does, however, have options. The most obvious change would be flipping the top two centers—Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov—in an attempt to jumpstart the first line while giving the Leafs a different look.

“Maybe we’ll tweak something,” Trotz said. “Yeah, we might do that.”

If Trotz does decide to make changes, the first sign of any tweak(s) won’t come until Monday’s morning skate…or possibly later.

Changes or not, Trotz says he is sure of this much: he wants his forwards to simplify and bear down harder around the net after so many missed opportunities Saturday.

“I think it’s a mindset,” Trotz said. “Anytime the puck is in a position [where] you have the ability to score, don’t cheat yourself and look for a better play. The best play a lot of times in the playoffs is to get it on net quick and drive towards the blue paint. And let’s not get too cute around the net. You get a chance or an opportunity, you got to bury them. You’ll recognize the better play if it’s there, but don’t look for it and slow it down.”

Trotz also offered an unsolicited opinion on the Leafs’ battered blue line, which lost another piece, Roman Polak, to a gruesome ankle injury in the second period Saturday and, as a result, had to finish the game with five D-men.

Two players—Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly—logged over 40 minutes.

“This series is about wearing people down,” Trotz said. “I think we’re fine that way. So we just got to keep pounding the rock, if you will, and see if you can wear people down. Their D got extended pretty hard last night in a lot of areas. Those 40-plus minutes, those are hard to recover from.”

MORE CAPITALS: Caps at Maple Leafs Game 3 how to watch, open thread

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In a surprise twist, Barry Trotz takes The Hot Lap ahead of Game 7

In a surprise twist, Barry Trotz takes The Hot Lap ahead of Game 7

TAMPA—Head Coach Barry Trotz skated the hot lap prior to Wednesday’s Game 7 at Amalie Arena, taking over the superstitious tradition from captain Alex Ovechkin.

Why the change?

The Caps lost Game 5 here on Saturday. And when the Caps lose on the road—the only place where the morning-skate-starting hot lap takes place—a new skater is selected.

The weird tradition began in the first round at Nationwide Arena in Columbus when Jay Beagle grew tired of waiting for the ice to freeze over following a fresh Zamboni cut. Beagle's teammates implored him to wait a little longer for the ice to cure, but he grew impatient and took it upon himself to kick off the skate by racing around the rink, a la the fastest skater competition at the All Star Skills competition.

Ovechkin took it over prior to Game 6 in Pittsburgh because the Caps had lost Game 4 at PPG Paints Arena.

Ovechkin proudly carried on the tradition as Washington won three in a row—Game 6 in Pittsburgh and Games 1 and 2 of this series vs. Tampa Bay.

Following the Caps’ 3-2 defeat in Game 5 here, though, it was expected that a change would be made.

And on Wednesday morning the baton changed hands, with the least obvious of all the Caps busting his 55-year-old hump around the rink much to the delight of his players and assistants.


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Regardless of what happens in Game 7, these are not the 'same old Caps'

Regardless of what happens in Game 7, these are not the 'same old Caps'

These are not the same old Caps.

Heading into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Monday, there was a lot of handwringing around Washington and with good reason. The Capitals were facing elimination for the first time this postseason. Of course the fans were on edge; no one wanted this run to end.

But even though the Caps are competing for the conference crown and have gotten past their archrivals to get here, the refrains leading into Game 6 were the same ones we’ve heard from past years.

 “They don’t want it enough.”

“There’s no heart.”

“Totally outcoached.”


And perhaps most damning, “Same old Caps.”

Stop it already.

Seriously, how can anyone have watched this postseason and walked away thinking this is the same Caps team?

Does no one remember the start of the season? Some people didn’t even think they would make the playoffs. Others were advocating the team trade Alex Ovechkin and start over. Yet here they are.

Finally, finally they got past the second round hump. They beat the Pittsburgh Penguins—ending their two-year reign as Stanley Cup Champions—and handed Mike Sullivan his first ever series loss as the Penguins head coach.

And no, Mike Wilbon, just because they made it past the second round doesn’t mean it’s OK to lose in the Conference Finals. But considering how they got there, they showed they have at the very least changed the narrative surrounding the Capitals.

Washington lost the first two games of its series against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round and went on to win four straight to advance. In the second round, they faced the two-time defending champions, a team they had beaten only once in the playoffs in franchise history and a team that had not lost a playoff series since 2015.

And they won.

And yet, people are acting like nothing changed with the Caps. Why? Because they lost three in a row to Tampa Bay?

OK, you've got a point. What kind of a team loses three straight in the playoffs? Hard-nosed teams with tough coaches that play the right way like Columbus or Anaheim wouldn’t let that happen to them. Oh, actually Columbus lost four in a row to the Caps and the Ducks got swept in the first round. Never mind.

Well, certainly not a team with a championship history like the Los Angeles Kings. Oh wait, never mind, the got swept by Vegas. Bad example.

Well, surely an original six team with a championship pedigree like the Boston Bruins would never let that happen. Oh yeah, they lost four straight to the same Tampa Bay team.

OK, OK, but were any of those teams really contenders this year? I mean, none of those teams were as good as Winnipeg and they won’t let themselves lose three in a row in the playoffs.

That’s because they lost four straight to Vegas in the conference final.

You see where this is going, right?

It just boggles the mind that anyone could see the game plan Barry Trotz put together in Game 6 in Pittsburgh, without three top-six forwards including Nicklas Backstrom, and win in overtime and still complain that he is always outcoached in the playoffs. He certainly wasn’t outcoached in that game or that series.

It’s baffling that anyone can see how Washington rallied past Columbus after losing Game 1 and Game 2, recovered from a disastrous Game 1 to Pittsburgh and won the first two games in Tampa Bay against a favored Lightning team and complain that this team “doesn’t want it enough.”

Chokers don’t advance to the third round. Chokers don’t beat the two-time defending champions when no one else could. Chokers don’t force seven games against a Tampa Bay team that finished off both of their prior series in just five games.

Just stop. Find a new storyline to push because this one is lazy and played out. It’s been done.

Don’t get me wrong, losing four in a row after winning Game 1 and Game 2 on the road would have really stung. With the history this team has, the fact that they finally got past Pittsburgh gave this team a feel of destiny. If they go on to lose Game 7 and end their run without a Stanley Cup or even a conference crown to show for it, that would be disappointing. No question about it.

But to say these are the “same old Caps” if they lose to Tampa Bay? That’s ridiculous. They have already put those demons to rest. Three straight losses to the Lightning don’t change that and neither will whatever happens in Game 7.

Regardless of what happens on Wednesday, whether the Caps win or lose, no one should come out and say these are the same old Caps. They have already proven that’s not the case.

Those Caps are gone. Now let’s see how far these Caps can go.