Quick Links

Despite success, Barry Trotz still finding ways to improve the team and the players are listening

Despite success, Barry Trotz still finding ways to improve the team and the players are listening

Tuesday’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes had a very familiar feel to it for the Caps. It was yet another commanding performance at home in which Washington was able to establish control early then pour it on late as the game spiraled out of control for the opponents. The win was Washington’s tenth straight at home. It was the ninth straight time the team scored five or more goals at Verizon Center and it was the fifth time in those 10 wins that the opponent was shutout.

Things have been going so well lately, the media is running out of new questions to ask.

“I feel like we’ve been talking about this a lot lately,” Marcus Johansson said when asked about depth scoring as everyone has been asked throughout this stretch.

But winning as impressively as the Caps have done of late is not without its challenges. For head coach Barry Trotz, he still must critique what he sees, fix the holes that he finds and convey his message in a way to make sure it does not fall on deaf ears.

RELATED: Caps extend home dominance to 10 straight wins

It’s easy to ignore the coach when things are going so well, but no game is perfect as Trotz stressed after Tuesday’s blowout win.

“I didn’t like our second period,” he said. “Just too much risk in our game. We’re giving up odd man rushes, just sloppy and not securing the puck. They had a couple guys in front of our net and the D were gone, leaving the zone before we really had the puck secured. Just not managing it really, really well.”

It sounds like Trotz is nitpicking, but he’s not wrong. Washington held a 2-0 lead after the first period but could not build on that lead in the second. The issue wasn’t the offense, ti was sloppy play in the defensive zone.

For Trotz, who always stresses the importance of strong defensive play, the second period served as a teachable moment.

“When you have a 2-0 lead, you don't want it to be 2-1,” Trotz said. “It's not that we're going to go into a defensive shell or anything, it's just manage the situation correctly.”

But how do you get that message across to the players given how this team is playing?

“I think they understand,” Trotz said. “I think they enjoy the fact that we can make plays, we can score goals, but I think they know that they take pride and responsibility to each other to defend well and they know that if they defense well they're going to have the puck more.”

That’s not just coach speak, the players echoed that sentiment about never being satisfied.

“We keep playing because we want to keep getting better,” Johansson said. “We're all competitive in here. Really competitive and that's one of our strengths I think.”

From the outside looking in, it’s easy to worry about the players taking their foot off the gas or tuning out the coaches because of the team’s success. It’s happened before to many teamsnot just in hockey, but in every sport. What makes this team different, says Trotz, is that the recent stretch hasn’t made coaching the players more difficult, it’s actually had the opposite effect because the team is seeing the results of its hard work night in and night out.

“Really once you start seeing on the ice where you're good defensively and you get the puck more, it's an easier game for you,” Trotz said. “You get more offense out of it, then it's an easy sell.”

MORE CAPITALS: Kuznetsov scores Caps' 2nd goal in less than a minute

Quick Links

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short. 


Quick Links

Capitals listed as underdogs in their first Stanley Cup since 1998

Capitals listed as underdogs in their first Stanley Cup since 1998

The odds have never gone the way of the Washington Capitals.

After years of being the common pick to finally break through and win the Stanley Cup, this was most definitely not the year.

Yet, here we are with the Capitals as one of the final two teams standing.

For their upcoming Stanley Cup Final, the Caps are the underdogs against the Las Vegas Golden Knights.  The opening line from OddsShark has the Golden Knights as -135 money line favorites to win the Stanley Cup. The Capitals were listed as +115 underdogs.

Vegas (the betting entity, not the team) has not exactly been the most reliable this year though. After all, the Golden Knights were 100/1 odds to win the whole thing. Now they are four games away.

In their past two series, Washington was not the favorites. The Capitals have not been favorites since the First Round against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

For years in the Alex Ovechkin era, they have been the favorites to not only go on to play for the Stanley Cup but winning it.

In 2018 they started the season tied for the fifth best odds to win the Cup (14/1), one of their lowest opening marks in the past decade. For the full perspective, Washington was tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs and behind the Dallas Stars at the start of the season.

Without question this underdog role has fit them quite well, they shouldn’t want anything to change heading into the biggest postseason series in 20 years for Washington D.C.