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Caps' Brett Connolly matches last season's goal total -- with room to spare

Caps' Brett Connolly matches last season's goal total -- with room to spare

Brett Connolly was a healthy scratch the first time his new team played his old one.

But he got the chance to face Boston on Wednesday night—and the veteran winger made up for lost time, scoring the Capitals’ fourth goal in an eventual 5-3 victory at Verizon Center.

From his first shift of the night, it was obvious that Connolly had a little extra juice. And why not? It was the first time he had faced the Bruins, the club that declined to retain his contractual rights last summer.

“I was obviously excited for it ready for it,” Connolly said. “Anytime you get a chance to play against your old team, you want to play well and to get one. And when it comes at a big time in the game, it’s always fun. But we got the win and that’s most important.”

Coach Barry Trotz said everyone on the Caps’ bench knew how much the game meant to Connolly, who has overcome an uneven start to become one of Washington’s key depth players.


“No question,” Trotz said, “everybody wants to score against their old team. He had a little extra incentive.”

A lot has changed for Connolly since the Caps last hosted the Bruins on Dec. 7. Back then, the 24-year-old was in and out of Trotz’s lineup as the coach mixed and matched his forward combinations, searching for the right mix. And on that night, he was out, again.

Trotz, however, found that mix about a month ago—and it included Connolly skating on the third line with Lars Eller and Andre Burakovsky. Since that trio was put together, Connolly has scored six goals.

In all, he now has nine tallies on the season—the same total he produced in 71 games with the Bruins a year ago. 

Connolly’s career-high for goals is 12, set as a member of the Lightning 2014-15.

As for his goal against Boston on Wednesday, it was a big one for the player’s pride and the Caps' odds of holding on for the ‘W’. Washington was clinging to a 3-2 lead early in the third period when Connolly finished a deft touch-pass from defenseman Dmitry Orlov by deking the puck around all-star goalie Tuukka Rask.

“There’s a lot of firepower on this team; everybody can make plays,” Connolly said. “Orly just one-touched it to me and that was an easy one, just put it around [Rask] and put it into an empty net.”

Trotz said he likes Connolly's skill set and what he brings to the lineup. 

“I didn’t like the penalty he took, obviously, but he’s playing and skating really well,” Trotz said, referring to an interference infraction Connolly was assessed in the first period. “He’s got hockey I.Q., he can make plays, he’s got a great release. There’s a lot of things to like about Brett’s game. It took him a while to assimilate to our organization [but now] he has.”

“And that line—him and Lars and Burakovsky—you got to feel pretty good about them,” the coach added. 

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Referees miss blatant boarding by Paquette on Orpik


Referees miss blatant boarding by Paquette on Orpik

A rough hit to the back of Brooks Orpik left him down on the ice and slow to get up. Cedric Paquette skated back to his bench and waited for the trainer to attend to Orpik and (probably) for the referees to call his number and send him to the box.

The penalty, however, never came.

You always hear in hockey that if you can see a player's numbers, you should pull up on the hit.

What that refers to is the numbers on the back of a player's jersey. You are not allowed to hit a player directly in the back into the boards.

The official definition of boarding according to the NHL rule book is, "any player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously." Hitting a player "in the numbers" is a defenseless position.

Apparently Cedric Paquette didn't know that and, unfortunately for the Capitals, neither did the referees.

Someone explain to me how this is not a boarding penalty:

Sometimes referees are put in a tough position because a player turns his back right before they take the hit, thus putting themselves in a vulnerable position to draw a penalty. That was not the case here. Orpik never turned.

When Tom Wilson hit Pittsburgh Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese in the second period, the hockey world spent the next day debating whether it was an illegal hit. There is no debate here, no grey area. Just a clear board.

And no call.

You can understand referees wanting to put away the whistles for a Game 7, but you have to call the blatant dangerous plays like this. This was a bad miss by the referees, plain and simple.


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Tom Wilson is single-handedly trying to fight every player on the Lightning in Game 7

Tom Wilson is single-handedly trying to fight every player on the Lightning in Game 7


17 minutes into Game 7 and Tom Wilson is already out here doing Tom Wilson things. 

First, there were these shenanigans:

Pretty standard stuff. Some anger words, some glove pulling. Nothing special. Then, friends - then it gets real:

Let this marinate a little bit. Wilson got a minor for fighting, served his time, and then IMMEDIATELY came out of the box and did literally the exact same thing. 

He punched a guys helmet off. Those helmets have straps to stay on for this exact reason, and it didn't matter. If this was medieval jousting, Braydon Coburn would be declared the loser on the spot. 

Get you a friend like Tom Wilson.