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Trotz discusses Vrana's demotion, the possibility of adding a 13th forward

Trotz discusses Vrana's demotion, the possibility of adding a 13th forward

Although the Capitals were encouraged by Jakub Vrana’s 12-game stint in Washington, the rookie’s lack of playing time recently coupled with the team’s upcoming schedule and salary cap situation made the decision to send him down Sunday a relatively straightforward one. 

“Real easy,” Trotz said. “We have a day off tomorrow. He’s not in the lineup [vs. the Senators]. We’re a capped [out] team. He’s going to Hershey, plain and simple. We have the numbers right now.” 

Vrana posted a goal and two assists in his first taste of NHL experience. But then he went cold, recording no points in five consecutive games before being a healthy scratch for both Devils games. He was informed of his demotion prior to Sunday’s morning skate in Arlington.

RELATED: Caps demote prospect Vrana on Sunday

Trotz said he had originally planned to play Vrana against the Senators but changed his mind because he wanted to keep together the Brett Connolly-Lars Eller-Andre Burakovsky line. That trio accounted for the first goal in Saturday’s 6-2 win over the Devils.

The Capitals are currently carrying only 12 forwards—the minimum for four full lines.

Trotz said there are no immediate plans to recall a 13th forward and that the decision will be made on a day-to-day basis. The fact that the Caps are home this week and Hershey is just a two-hour drive away makes it even easier to keep the minimum and bank cap space.

“It’s really convenient,” he said. “It’s a real good situation we have there.”

If the team does decide to bring up an extra forward, Trotz said the choice will hinge on the type of player he feels is needed.  

“If we are going to bring an extra forward it may be someone in a different role,” he said. “Or it could a less expensive player just to have [an extra body], that’s played very well down there. That’s the reality of the new NHL.”

Although it’s unclear when Vrana will be back, Trotz said the 20-year-old winger left a good first impression.

“Talked to Jakub this morning,” Trotz said. “Real positive. I know his mother is heading home [to the Czech Republic] tomorrow, so the timing that way worked out just fine. [He brings] speed, confidence with the puck, offensive flair. Real good poise. …I think he showed very well. We’re quite encouraged that he’ll be able to help us.”

MORE CAPITALS: 3 bold predictions: Caps look to pressure Condon

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Braden Holtby is the Capitals' round robin MVP and T.J. Oshie redeems himself

Braden Holtby is the Capitals' round robin MVP and T.J. Oshie redeems himself

The Capitals finished off the round robin on Sunday with a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins to claim third place and a first-round matchup against the New York Islanders.

Check out a recap of the game here.

Observations from the win

What a difference a game makes

There was a lot of hand-wringing and pessimism around the Caps after Thursday’s loss. Heading into Sunday’s game, the Caps were winless in the round robin, had played poorly against Philadelphia and were facing perhaps a last-place finish with a rematch against the Carolina Hurricanes on the horizon. That perception is a bit different after Sunday’s game. The Caps beat the Bruins, really were the better team for much of the game against Tampa Bay and only lost in a shootout. Now Washington will move on to play what looks like a much more favorable matchup against the New York Islanders.

There are some positives to take away from the round robin

Overall, did the Caps play like a Cup contender in the round robin? No. I think we can all agree they will have to be better, but there were some positives we can take from these three games. The penalty kill finished a perfect 8 out of 8 and it looked very good. After an awful regular season, Braden Holtby was the team's best player in the round robin. He acknowledged after the game that the pause in the season gave him time to "to fix a few things and work on a few things" and the improvement has been evident. The team defense also improved drastically as compared to Thursday's game.

It should also be noted that the Caps played the round robin without its best defenseman. Though John Carlson's status remains in question, if he is ready for the start of the playoffs, his addition will instantly make the team better on the back end which is its biggest weakness to this point. 

There's still room for improvement

Sunday's game was a step in the right direction, but there are some issues the team needs to improve on if it hopes to make a deep playoff run. The power play remains just a black hole on offense. It generated some chances on Sunday, but as a whole, through the round robin it has looked atrocious. This should be one of the team's biggest strengths, but instead they just cannot generate anything with the extra man.

Also, defense quite clearly remains the Achilles heel of the team. While Sunday was progress, the team has to be able to find the right balance between pushing the tempo offensively and playing strong defense. Washington had only two shots on goal through the first period as the team looked far too conservative. It has to improve on that while also not exposing themselves too much defensively. You're not going to be able to out-defense the Islanders so two shots on goal in a period is not going to cut it.

RELATED: HOW HAVE CAPS FARED VERSUS BARRY TROTZ, ISLANDERS IN 2019-20?

Turning point

T.J. Oshie had a golden opportunity late in the first period with a nice steal from Charlie McAvoy. Oshie saw McAvoy pinch in the offensive zone so he charged, chipped away the puck and launched a 2-on-1 in the other direction. Oshie carried the puck and called his own number, but missed the shot badly.

Oshie redeemed himself later in the period, however, as he beat Zdeno Chara to the puck on the doorstep and shot it home to give Washington the 1-0 lead. It was the Caps' second shot on goal of the period and it came in the final minute.

Play of the game

David Pastrnak may have been onto something with Tom Wilson. In the third period, Ilya Kovalchuk cleared the puck out of the defensive zone and Wilson sprinted down the ice to beat two Bruins claim the puck behind the defense. He pulled the puck backhand to forehand and fired a quick shot off the post and into the top shelf.

Stat of the game

The Caps killed off both power plays they faced on Sunday and were perfect on the penalty kill through the round robin.

Quote of the game

Sunday's win will mean the Caps will play Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders in Round 1 of the playoffs. Reirden was asked about the history between the coaching staffs heading into the series:

"It's not Barry Trotz vs. Todd Reirden"

Fan predictions

He certainly did. He recorded a game-high seven hits in his 15:14 of ice time. He had a Corsi-For percentage of 54.6-percent while only 16.7-percent of his shifts were offensive zone starts. That means he was not getting sheltered minutes. It was a good night for him.

You were half right. Holtby was certainly Washington's best player.

Thank goodness this was wrong.

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David Pastrnak’s tweet praising Tom Wilson proves to be prophetic in Caps-Bruins

David Pastrnak’s tweet praising Tom Wilson proves to be prophetic in Caps-Bruins

When the NHL season came to a halt in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Bruins forward David Pastrnak was tied with Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin for most goals in the league with 48. So, it's safe to say Pastrnak knows a thing or two about finding the back of the net.

So, when the Bruins' star tweeted a couple of weeks ago that he thought Capitals' forward Tom Wilson was the best goal scorer in the NHL, everyone was a little bit confused. 

On Sunday, the two teams squared off for the first time since Pastrnak's tweet, with Washington earning its first victory in the Toronto bubble with a 2-1 win over Boston. And it was none other than Wilson who scored the decisive goal for the Capitals.

Once the final horn sounded and Washington's victory was official, the Capitals official Twitter account pulled an ultimate troll move and reposted Pastrnak's original tweet with the caption, "bump."

The Capitals' victory on Sunday earned them the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Bruins -- the NHL's points leader when the season paused in March -- falls to the fourth spot in the standings after going winless in the three-game round robin.

Washington will face a familiar foe in the New York Islanders in the first round, while the Bruins will face the red-hot Carolina Hurricanes in a rematch of the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals.

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