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Trotz advocates mental health days for Caps


Trotz advocates mental health days for Caps

News, notes and quotes as the Capitals enjoy a Sunday off following their annual Casino Night at the Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel in Arlington:

In his 18 years behind an NHL bench, Barry Trotz has learned when to push his players and when to pull back. And over the course of an 82-game season, he believes pulling back can be just as impactful as pushing.

Several times this season Trotz has canceled practices on mornings following games, including Saturday’s cancellation following Friday night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Red Wings. He followed with a scheduled day off on Sunday before asking his players to return to Kettler for two full practice days on Monday and Tuesday.

“You might put more (physical) effort into a 45-minute practice than you do in a game,” Trotz said. “But emotionally your battle level and your focus level should be higher in a game.

“You get an adrenaline rush and then an adrenaline crash. You might get banged up because some games are more physical than others.  During the season you get more tired mentally, so we work on making them stronger mentally.”

Throughout the season Trotz introduces his players to Special Ops leaders, motivational speakers and performance coaches, all designed to prepare them for the grind of the Stanley Cup playoffs.     

Hitting their marks: The Capitals’ coaching staff has redefined some of the team goals that were set last season, hoping to tighten up their defensive play while increasing puck possession.

Through 16 games, the Caps lead the NHL in shots against per game (25.2), rank sixth in goals per game (3.06) and power-play percentage (22.4 percent), rank tied for sixth in goals against per game (2.31) and shots per game (31.1) and seventh in penalty kill percentage (84.8 percent).

The Caps have held opponents to 30 or fewer shots in 14 consecutive games, marking the longest streak since the 1999-2000 season (also 14 games). The franchise record for most consecutive games holding an opponent to fewer than 30 shots is 20 games, set during the 1984-85 season.

As a result, the Caps’ 11-4-1 record after 16 games is their third-best start in franchise history. The Caps opened the 1991-92 season with a 12-4-0 record and had the same record through 165 games in 2010-11.


Waiting on Andre: Through 16 games, second-year right wing Andre Burakovsky has just two goals on 2q2 shots, putting him on pace for just 10 goals and 113 shots this season.

In 53 games last season Burakovsky, 20, recorded nine goals on 65 shots.

“You have to be patient with all young players,” Trotz said, “as long as they’re willing to learn. Where you lose your patience is when they’re making the same mistakes over and over again.

“For me, Andre is eager to learn. He’s going to score. He’s a gifted player. I think he’s lost a little bit of confidence or trust in his own skill set. I tell him, ‘Trust your shot. Shoot it from the top of the circles where you’re comfortable from instead of working down to the hash marks.

“Just because a goaltender makes a good save doesn’t mean he’s going to control the rebound. He can get to the middle of the ice and let that shot go. I think the game in Philadelphia (season-high three shots, no points) might have been his best game in 10 games. He was working both ends of the ice.

“It’ll come. I think young guys put a lot more value on their ability to produce. They focus on production but there are 100 different things you can do to help a team win.”

Start your lobbying: Player selection for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey is still months away, but St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong says Red Wings coach Mike Babcock and his assistant coaches should be mindful of under-the-radar players who could help Team Canada.

Babcock’s assistants include Claude Julien (Boston Bruins), Joel Quenneville (Chicago Blackhawks), Bill Peters (Carolina Hurricanes) and Trotz.

"They have not been involved," said Armstrong, who is Team Canada’s general manager. "But we are going to, at some point in the near future, share our list of watch players. Basically, we want them to see who we're watching, but we also want them to add any names that we might not have had.

“Obviously, the further you get away from the play, I think the more emotion that's gone from it from a man perspective. These guys are on the bench, they know these players as well as anyone, so if they want to add a name to the list, then we certainly want to listen to those guys."

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4 things to watch as the Caps host the Rangers

USA Today

4 things to watch as the Caps host the Rangers

The Caps return to action Wednesday as they host the New York Rangers (7 p.m., NBCSN) in a Metropolitan Division clash.

Here are four things you should be watching for in this game.

The schedule finally gives the Caps a break

The early season schedule for Washington has been bizarre to say the least. Finally, they will be catching a break on Wednesday as the Rangers will be playing in the second leg of a back-to-back.

That certainly does not guarantee a victory, but it is something the Caps are very aware of and they hope to take advantage.

“I think speed is a big part of the game and for them to be fatigued off the back-to-back is definitely going to help us whether we move the puck a little quicker than we would in other games just kind of knowing they are coming off that back-to-back,” Nathan Walker said.

“We've got to make them skate, we've got to make their D go back for pucks,” T.J. Oshie said. “I don't feel like they're going to look tired at the start of the game, usually that comes towards the end of the game, second half, and so you've got to work to drain them down a little bit and we've got to take advantage of that opportunity tonight.”

Top-line Stephenson

Stephenson was added to the top line on Saturday with no practice other than the morning skate that day. A few days between games has given him a chance to practice with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov and it should pay dividends on Wednesday.

This game also should be a good opportunity for Stephenson who was added to the top for his speed. Playing a tired Rangers team is something he will need to take advantage of.

“It's always tough to play back-to-back and with the travel and stuff like that,” Stephenson said. “For the most part, I think that that's going to be important and just to play a full 60, that's something that we want to get consistent with and we haven't been so far … But for the most part, I think the start will really help us tonight.”

Nathan Walker returns

The Caps made a change to the lineup for Wednesday’s game as Nathan Walker will be in for Dmitrij Jaskin on the fourth line.

When asked why he made the change, Reirden said, “Just a different look. A team that's on a back-to-back, we wanted to really come at them with some speed, tenacity and intensity that we know we always get from Nathan so thought it was a good add into tonight's lineup.

The Caps have got to get more offense from their bottom six and adding the speedy Walker to the bottom six could provide a boost. He has had trouble playing within the system in the past and his play has been more frenzied than controlled at times, but with Tom Wilson still suspended, there’s definitely an opportunity for Walker to earn more playing time depending on how he plays Wednesday.

King Henry remains on his throne

In addition to a tired Rangers team, the Caps are also expected to face a tired goalie.

Henrik Lundqvist started New York’s game on Tuesday and is expected to start again on Wednesday against Washington. That is not confirmed as the Rangers did not have a morning skate because of the back-to-back, but it is believed Lundqvist will play again.

There was a time when Lundqvist was considered the best netminder in the NHL and he is off to a phenomenal start this season with a 1.99 GAA and .939 save percentage in five games thus far.

But how will the 36-year-old goalie handle a back-to-back?


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Caps vs. Rangers: A look back at playoff heroes from the past

Caps vs. Rangers: A look back at playoff heroes from the past

The Washington Capitals and New York Rangers will meet for the first time this season on Wednesday at Capital One Arena (7 p.m., NBCSN). There’s a lot of history between these two teams.

The Caps and Rangers have met nine times in the playoffs, producing a good number of memorable postseason moments and heroes.

Here’s a look back at some of the more memorable playoff heroes between these two teams.

1990: John Druce’s monster postseason

Before Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Devante Smith-Pelly’s 2018 postseason heroics, there was John Druce. In the 1989-90 season, Druce scored eight goals and 11 points in 24 games for the Capitals. No one could have possibly predicted what he was going to do in the playoffs that year.

Druce became unstoppable in the playoffs in 1990, scoring 14 goals and 17 points in 15 games, but it took him a while to get going.

Washington defeated the New Jersey Devils in six games of the first round setting up a second round matchup against the first place Rangers. Druce had three goals against the Devils, but exploded against the Rangers for nine goals and 11 points in just five games, including a hat trick performance in Game 2. The Caps went on to cruise to a 4-1 series win over New York. It was the first time in franchise history the team advanced past the second round.

1991: Alan May’s first playoff goal

Local legend May scored only one playoff goal in his career, but it was a big one. It came in 1991, Game 4 against the Rangers. Washington trailed the series 2-1 at that point, but in the third period May managed to whack the puck through the five-hole of Mike Richter to give the Caps a 3-1 lead. The goal would prove to be the game-winner and tied the series at 2 games apiece. Washington would not lose again in that series.

2009: Sergei Fedorov scores the Game 7 winner

In Alex Ovechkin’s fourth season, the Caps made the playoffs for the second consecutive year. After finishing first in the Eastern Conference, expectations were higher for Washington than the year prior. Their first round opponent was the Rangers who proved to be a tougher out than most had expected.

New York stunned Washington by winning three of the first four games of the series. The Caps battled back to win the next two to force a Game 7. With the score tied at 1 late in the third period, 39-year-old Fedorov, who was acquired at the trade deadline the year before, took the puck from his own zone, streaked down the right side of the ice, pulled up at the faceoff dot and fired a wrister that beat Henrik Lundqvist to the top shelf.

The goal would prove to be the series winner giving Washington its first playoff victory in the Ovechkin era and the first since 1998.

2011: Jason Chimera scores in double OT

Meeting in the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, the Caps took a 2-0 series lead on the Rangers in 2011. New York hoped to even up the series when play shifted to Madison Square Garden. The Rangers won Game 3 and the two teams battled to a 3-3 tie through 80 minutes in Game 4. Finally in double overtime, Chimera finished off the blue shirts.

Chimera tried to shoot on net, but the puck was blocked Bryan McCabe and headed towards Lundqvist who was poised to cover it up and stop play. Marian Gaborik got his signals crossed, however, and swept the puck away from his own goalie and right to Chimera who had followed up his shot. With the puck behind Lundqvist, Chimera had an easy tap in for the winner.

2013: Mike Green’s one-timer wins it in OT

As a defenseman, Green was a player with some flaws to his game in his own zone. When he was in his prime, however, there were few blue liners as clutch offensively.

In the brief Adam Oates era, the Capitals made the playoffs only once and faced the Rangers in the first round in 2013. Washington took Game 1 and looked to take a commanding 2-0 series lead. Both teams battled to a scoreless draw through 60 minutes in Game 2, forcing overtime.

Steven Oleksy took a delay of game penalty early in the overtime for the Caps. Washington killed it off and Ryan McDonagh returned the favor with a delay of game penalty of his own five minutes later. That was the wrong team to give a power play to.

Dmitry Orlov faked a slap shot then passed it to the point for a Green one-timer. The shot deflected off Derek Stepan, off the post and into the net.

2015: Joel Ward scores the game-winner with one second left to go

Ward pulled off perhaps the most remarkable finish to a playoff game in Caps history. After dispatching the New York Islanders in Round 1 in Barry Trotz’s first season behind the bench, Washington faced the Rangers in the playoffs yet again for the fifth time in seven years.

Both teams traded goals in Game 1 at Madison Square Garden and it looked like the game was headed to overtime. With just five seconds left, Nicklas Backstrom hit Dan Boyle in the corner to free up the puck. Ovechkin snatched it and skated behind the net. The Rangers got caught watching Ovechkin and lost track of Ward who was by himself in front. Ovechkin fed Ward who scored with just 1.2 seconds left on the clock to give Washington the improbable win in regulation.