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With penalties on the rise, Barry Trotz has begun to take action

With penalties on the rise, Barry Trotz has begun to take action

On at least two occasions during Thursday’s practice, T.J. Oshie skated laps around Kettler Capitals Iceplex as his teammates looked on.

It was a dose of public punishment, doled out by coach Barry Trotz, for Oshie’s trio of penalties in Wednesday’s 5-2 win over the Penguins.

The infractions were for slashing (two) and holding, and the total represented a season-high for the first-line right wing.  

“Apparently you’re not supposed to take three,” Oshie cracked. “It's been a lot of stick penalties. For me, I was caught in a couple of bad positions, and on two of them I felt like they were going to get a quality chance, so I had to make a play on it.”

Explained Trotz: “It’s a reminder. Sometimes a visual is better than just talking about it. He hasn’t had a lot of penalties in a while but he stacked them up last night. …You’re going to get penalties in this game. I’m not going to skate every guy for every penalty. But when you get a couple or multiple ones, [you might] need a little reminder. It’s a visual for guys like okay, ‘Why is Osh skating?’ It’s a reminder without hurting anybody.”

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In all, the Caps were whistled for seven minor penalties against the Penguins. It probably wouldn’t have been a topic of discussion on Thursday had the rash been an aberration. But it wasn't. It’s become a trend for a Caps’ team that is managing to win despite the growing problem thanks to the league’s third-ranked penalty kill as well as goaltender Braden Holtby’s stellar play as of late.

During the Caps’ seven game winning streak, in fact, they’ve taken more minor penalties than their opponent in each of those contests. They’ve also taken more minors (41, including a couple of bench minors) than any other team during that time frame.

That's probably not sustainable—and Trotz and his players know it.

“[Trotz] can handle the fighting majors and the sticking-up-for-teammates penalties,” winger Brett Connolly said. “It’s the hooking and holding and the penalties when you’re not moving your feet. The penalties in the offensive zone.”

In addition to making players do laps, Trotz has also talked to his team about staying composed when dealing with referees, whether or not they feel the call is justified. Why? Refs are humans, too, and being disrespectful rarely helps matters.

“Last week it was me,” Justin Williams said, referring to taking laps. “I took quite a few [penalties], so I had to do a little bit of skating. T.J. did a little bit of skating today. We have to be accountable for what we do out there, regardless of whether we agree with the calls. I know our bench has gotten a lot better and a lot more calm in the last couple of weeks.”

Williams, who is tied with Alex Ovechkin for the most minors on the Caps (16), added: “Sometimes you’re just better off just going to the box. They’re not going to rescind your penalty. If you’re calm and you’re courteous and respectful of the officials, maybe you’ll get a break later in the game or maybe they might not call a coincidental minor. We’ll feel we’re a much better team 5-on-5,” anyway.

Connolly concurred with Williams’ assessment.

“Those refs take a lot of grief,” he said. “If you’re yelling at them all game, they are going to remember that in the third period. And you might not get a call late in the game when you really need it. Ovi and [Nicklas Backstrom] and our leaders, they can talk to the refs. It’s not really going to change anything if we’re yelling at the refs. They make the call, just go to the box.”

It may not be known for weeks whether skating laps and/or being calmer in their dealings with officials makes a difference for the Caps. But as other parts of the team’s game are starting to come together, players know it’s time to start being more disciplined, too.

“He’s just trying to prove a point,” Connolly said. “We know we can’t be taking penalties down the stretch and into the playoffs. Obviously our penalty kill has been really good, but we want to take some minutes off them. Those are hard minutes for those guys.”

“That,” Trotz added, “is a part of a game where we can still learn and still work on.”

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It's early, but John Carlson is easily living up to his new contract

It's early, but John Carlson is easily living up to his new contract

Whenever a player has a career year in the last year of his contract, there is always some trepidation the next season. Was he really worth all those years or all that money that come with his new deal or did he just cash in on one great season?

John Carlson got the big contract and now is silencing all the doubters with his outstanding play.

Carlson scored his fifth goal of the season Monday as he chipped in a great feed from Jakub Vrana past Vancouver Canucks goalie Anders Nilsson (see above).

He later assisted on Evgeny Kuznetsov's goal in the second period giving him his fifth multi-point game of the year.

On the final year of his deal in 2017-18, Carlson was brilliant with 15 goals, 53 assists and 68 points, all of which were career highs.

It’s rare to see a bonafide No. 1 defenseman hit the open market, meaning there would have been plenty of teams lining up to pay him the big bucks. The Caps never let it get that far and they re-signed Carlson to an eight-year deal worth $64 million before free agency opened. His $8 million cap hit ties him for second among all defensemen.

That’s a whole lot of money to spend on a player whose previous career high was 55 points. Carlson would not have been the first player to regress in the first year after signing a big deal and he certainly would not be the last.

For now, however, he looks like he is worth every penny.

Carlson’s 68 points last season led all defensemen and he looks like he’s on pace to shatter those numbers. His goal Monday was his 11th point on the season. It took him 15 goals to reach that mark last season and 43 games to reach five goals.

Despite a career year, Carlson was not invited to the All-Star Game, he was not a finalist for the Norris Trophy and he was not named a first or second-team All-Star at season’s end. At his current rate of play, however, he will be impossible to ignore. 

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With Caps in Vancouver, Jay Beagle receives his ring

With Caps in Vancouver, Jay Beagle receives his ring

On June 7 in Las Vegas, Jay Beagle was in a Capitals uniform as they hoisted their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Three weeks later, the 33-year-old signed a four-year, $12-million contract with the Vancouver Canucks

The Capitals begin a four-game, Canadian road trip this evening in Vancouver. Beagle did not attend the Capitals ring ceremony at the Palm three weeks ago so the Caps awarded Beagle with his ring today.

Each ring contains 252 diamonds, 35 rubies and one sapphire. Beagle was impressed but isn't sure how much use the ring will get.

“Not sure I’ll wear it again. It’s like wearing my truck.”

Jay Beagle will not be on the ice tonight against his former team. Beagle broke his forearm when he blocked a shot against the Florida Panthers on October 13th. Beagle is expected to be sidelined for another five weeks.

Despite the injury, it has still been a great week for Beagle. 

A shiny, new ring AND a baby girl. Not too shabby.

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