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MacLellan, Trotz take different view on the team's history of postseason struggles

MacLellan, Trotz take different view on the team's history of postseason struggles

Barry Trotz has made it clear he does not think the Washington Capitals’ history of playoff failures affects the mentality of the team. On Tuesday, general manager Brian MacLellan made it clear that he disagrees with the head coach’s assessment.

"I think that plays a big part in the pressure on our team,” MacLellan told reporters. “Your history's your history. Whether you come in here last year or at the deadline, you're going to feel it. I can feel it up in the box that past pressure manifests itself in the present day. To ignore it I think is a mistake.”

RELATED: After down year, Caps want to see Ovechkin adjust

Trotz raised eyebrows in the wake of the team’s Game 7 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins when he said the players had all gotten past the team’s postseason history, even going so far as to call it a “joke.”

“I think it's so overworked by [the media] and everybody else that it's actually becoming a joke to the guys,” Trotz said at breakdown day, “Which is probably good because playoffs haven't been fun here and maybe having some fun and laughing at the past a little bit and looking in the face is probably something that might ease us in the future. But it's become more of a bad question by media now because guys are sort of chuckling about it all the time now.”

MacLellan wasn’t laughing on Tuesday.

“I think you've got to acknowledge it and then you've got to work through it,” MacLellan said to reporters. “Just to say it doesn't matter – because it pops up – and if you're not acknowledging it, you're not going to be able to get through it because you're ignoring it. I would say all the past history matters to us, and then you can feel it in the building. You feel it in the crowd. It's in there. You tell me in that Game 7 that you couldn't feel it.”

MacLellan even went so far as to say the history was no longer Washington’s history, but now after three years of disappointing postseason results, both he and Trotz were a part of that history.

“We lost a Game 7, we lost a Game 6 last year, I think we’re part of it as an organization,” he told Jill Sorenson in a one-on-one interview. “I think three years ago we started as a fresh group and the history’s your history. Now we’re involved in it. I think it’s important for us to acknowledge it, it’s important for us to work through it. I think once we bring it to our awareness as the players do and the coaches do, we’ll have a better chance of moving through it.”

The question now is how does the team move through it? Well, that can be a problem if the coach and general manager do not see eye to eye on the issue.

MacLellan said he has spoken to Trotz about their different outlooks regarding the team’s history saying, “He philosophically disagrees. We just have a different way of looking at it.”

MORE CAPITALS: Trotz, staff will return next season

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Caps announce preseason schedule to kick off a busy week

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USA TODAY Sports

Caps announce preseason schedule to kick off a busy week

The Stanley Cup champion Caps will open their seven-game exhibition schedule on Sept. 16 season against the Bruins at TD Garden, the team announced.  

Washington will face Boston, Carolina and St. Louis twice apiece—once on the road, once at home—and the 

Canadiens one time. The game against the Habs will be played at Videotron Arena in Quebec City.

NBC Sports Washington’s preseason broadcast schedule will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the preseason entire slate:

Date                    Opponent           Location                      Time
Sun., Sept. 16      at Boston          TD Garden                  1 p.m.
Tues., Sept. 18    vs. Boston         Capital One Arena     7 p.m.
Thurs., Sept. 20  at Montreal      Quebec City, Que.      7 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 21        at Carolina        PNC Arena                  7:30 p.m.
Tues., Sept. 25    at St. Louis        Enterprise Center      7 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 28        vs. Carolina       Capital One Arena    7 p.m.
Sun., Sept. 30      vs. St. Louis      Capital One Arena     3 p.m.

Monday's announcement kicked off a busy week for the Caps.

On Wednesday, Alex Ovechkin will pick up his seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Nicklas Backstrom will also be on hand for media interviews; key members of the Cup-winning team are typically in attendance.

On Friday and Saturday in Dallas, Washington will make selections in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th rounds of the 2018 Entry Draft at American Airlines Center. (Their fifth-round pick was dealt to Minnesota in the Tyler Graovac deal.)

Next Monday, many of the organization’s prospects, including this year’s picks, will report to Kettler Capitals Iceplex for the start of development camp. The schedule and roster will be announced this week.

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Who will the Caps' backup goalie be next season?

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USA TODAY Sports

Who will the Caps' backup goalie be next season?

Very few teams have the luxury of having a backup goalie they can rely on for an extended period of time while the starter goes through a massive slump. The Capitals had that luxury in 2017-2018 thanks to Philipp Grubauer.

Not every team in the NHL has a dependable starter, let alone backup, so when a backup goalie goes 15-10-3 in a season with a 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage, that is likely to catch the attention of general managers around the league.

The 2018-19 season will likely be a season of transition for the Capitals behind Braden Holtby. General manager Brian MacLellan expressed his willingness Wednesday to possibly trade backup goalie Philipp Grubauer this offseason. With the season he just had, he could potentially yield the Caps a solid return.

But, if Grubauer is indeed moved, that leaves the question of who will play backup for the Capitals this season?

The initial plan appears to be to promote Pheonix Copley from the AHL.

“Yeah, I think he's capable of it,” MacLellan said when asked if he saw Copley as an NHL backup. “Obviously, he's unproven. I think he's done what he could do at the American League level. Got through probably a little bit of a tough patch this year recovering from an injury, but I think he has potential to be that guy, yes.”

Copley, 26, played last season with the Caps’ AHL affiliate Hershey Bears. He had a tough season with a 2.91 GAA and .896 save percentage in 41 games.

As MacLellan alluded, Copley suffered a serious injury at the end of the previous season and it clearly affected his season. The year prior, Copley managed a 2.15 GAA and .931 with Hershey in 16 games. He was considered Washington’s No. 3 goalie this season and was recalled for the playoffs as an emergency backup behind Grubauer.

Copley’s career includes only two NHL games.

There is another internal candidate who some fans may be hoping to see next season. That of course, is 2015 first-round draft pick Ilya Samsonov.

Samsonov, 21, signed an entry-level contract with Washington in May and will make the jump from the KHL to North America next season.

But don’t expect to see Samsonov backing up Holtby to start the NHL season.

Samsonov will be adjusting to the North American game and the smaller North American rink. Because of that, MacLellan believes he will benefit from time in the AHL before making the jump to the NHL.

"I think he needs time in Hershey,” MacLellan said. “We'll start him in Hershey I would anticipate and see how he grows, see how he gets accustomed to the small rink and hopefully get some good coaching, get our guys in that work with him. It'll be up to him. I think he'll adapt fairly quickly given his skill set.”

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