Twenty Games In: What is the Barry Trotz Breakout?

Trotz

Photo: Amanda Bowen, RRBG Photography

We are a quarter of the way through the first season of the Barry Trotz era. The process has been solid, the results have been decent, and the lineup decisions have, at times, been confusing.

Trotz is the Caps’ fourth coach since 2011, so fans are well aware that a change in coach means a change in tactics. With that in mind, I’m going to take a look at the Caps’ breakout under Trotz.

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tom-wilson-big-hit-col

Photo: Doug Pensinger

Hockey is a game of inches and bad bounces. Sometimes it’s the littlest and strangest things that lead to goals. In the third period on Thursday, Tom Wilson indirectly helped make Alex Ovechkin‘s highlight-reel game-winning goal happen, and dude wasn’t even on the ice.

With 6:18 left in the game, Wilson delivered what I can only call a jockstrap-jostling hit (I just made that up) to Dennis Everberg in the offensive zone. A few seconds later, the game clock was stopped when the puck was played with a high stick.

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Photo: Amanda Bowen

During Thursday morning’s practice, Barry Trotz debuted new lines (again). According to The Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt, these are the new combos.

Ovechkin – Backstrom – Wilson
Johansson – Burakovsky – Brouwer
Chimera – Laich – Ward
O’Brien – Latta – Beagle

And the extra forwards:

Kuznetsov – Fehr – Volpatti (IR)

With Brooks Laich’s shoulder finally healed, the lines had to be juggled. It appears Caps rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov will be scratched for the first time in his career against Chicago on Friday. Eric Fehr will join him in the press box, scratched for the second straight game.

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tom-wilson-fight

Photo: Chris O’Meara

Skating in his second game of the season on Saturday, Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson looked to make an impact in any way he could. That included getting in his first fight of the season with Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas after Eric Fehr crashed into Lightning goalie Ben Bishop. Gudas skated towards Fehr, and Wilson was having none of that.

They dropped the gloves. Boys will be boys. Willy Baby unleashed one vicious punch that connected early in the fight. Gudas, who doesn’t wear a face shield (this is important for later), then skated off the ice and went to the locker room.

When Gudas came back to the Lightning bench, he was wearing a full cage.

Good question. I looked back on the action and this is what I figured out.

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craig-laughlin-goes-up-mountain

Sometimes the most captivating television comes from surprising places. Like, forget putting the twins in a room and forcing them to be funny, just take a camera man along with Caps color guy Craig Laughlin as he goes anywhere. To the grocery store. To the bathroom. Doesn’t really matter where.

That’s what CSN did on Saturday. During the first intermission of the Caps-Flames game, CSN aired a two-minute segment of Locker traveling up to a Calgary mountain top. Sounds simple, but it was a laugh riot.

In the car trip over, Laughlin told the story of him getting drafted and finding out from his father the next morning. Then he got in a cable car to go up the mountain, and that’s when things got really wacky.

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winter-classic-2015-logo

Graphic via the Washington Capitals

On Monday morning, the Washington Capitals published an article re-promoting the Winter Classic press conference they will host at Nats Park Tuesday at noon. The Capitals will reveal their new Winter Classic jerseys while commissioner Gary Bettman, NHLPA leader Don Fehr, and Caps owner Ted Leonsis speak to the media.

In the article, the Caps embed no photos, but when I looked on Facebook I noticed the team uploaded a simplified 2015 Winter Classic logo image to go along with the article.

And there was one thing that immediately stuck out to me: THERE’S TAN, YOU GUYS.

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vitek-vanacek

Last Tuesday, Canada played the Czech Republic in National Junior Team Development Camp in Montreal. Because the Washington Capitals had two top picks from the 2014 draft, forward Jakub Vrana and goaltender Vitek Vanecek, playing, I recorded the game to take a closer look.

Vanecek allowed six goals on 37 shots in Canada’s 6-2 victory. With so much rubber going his way, the 18-year-old Czech had more than enough chances to display his strengths and weaknesses.

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caps-shorthanded-goal

Photo: Patrick Smith

The Washington Capitals had one of the best power plays in the league last season. They scored 68 goals on 278 opportunities for a 23.4 percent conversion rate, just behind Pittsburgh. They fired 85.8 unblocked shot attempts per 60 minutes on the PP, just behind San Jose. The Caps power play was deadly, but it was not perfect.

The Caps allowed ten shorthanded goals, the fourth highest total in the league. Alex Ovechkin, who played 93.2 percent of the Caps power play, fittingly, was on ice for 9 of those 10– sending his plus-minus, which is dumb and so is your face, down even further.

When we talk about things we want for the 2014-15 Capitals, ‘continued success on the power play’ is always part of it. But the Capitals should also look into what went wrong while playing a man up. Because it’s summer, and because I was worried that story about optimism might have made you unacceptably chipper, here’s a dour collection of 2013-14’s shorthanded goals and an assessment of who was to blame for each. Let’s party.

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Alex Ovechkin Has Favorited One Tweet; It Was His Own

ovechkin-twitter-favorite

Tampa’s Steven Stamkos set off a mini firestorm this week just by favoriting a tweet that wondered aloud if he might ever play in Toronto. One month earlier we saw the same thing with Winnipeg’s Evander Kane, who favorited a tweet requesting that he come play for the Flyers.

Social media is a wild and wacky world; one that we as a society don’t fully understand. I deal with this a lot in my day job. Stuff is just not clear. Twitter’s “favorites” feature in particular is kinda poorly designed. It means different things to different people, and the feature is not nearly as private as the name suggests.

But the point I really want to make is this: Alex Ovechkin has favorited just one tweet, and it was his own.

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michael-latta

Photo: Doug Pensinger

After spending most of 2013-14 with the AHL’s Hershey Bears, Capitals’ center prospect Michael Latta is now poised to gain a full-time roster spot in Washington next season. Acquired at the 2013 trade deadline in the infamous Forsberg-Erat trade, Latta had one goal and four points in 17 NHL games last season but left a good impression, winning 52.2% of his face-offs and playing an effective, physical game on the fourth line. Latta was one of the team’s best players at drawing penalties, leading the team in penalty differential.

After signing a two-year contract on July 1st, Latta is practically guaranteed a roster spot in the NHL next season.

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