EvgenyKuznetsov

Photo: Drew Hallowell

Looks like Head Coach Barry Trotz is shuffling his line combos heading into Game Five on Saturday. NHL.com’s Katie Brown has the lines from practice this morning:

The biggest change is the flip-flopping of centers Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov’s elevation forms a new top line for Head Coach Barry Trotz with Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie, one that had success early in the season. Other notable changes include the reformation of the Caps’ Tre Kronor line with Backstrom centering Marcus Johansson and Andre Burakovsky, and Justin Williams finding himself on the third line.

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Five Reasons Why the Caps Could Still Win This Series

holtby-pens-fans

Photo: Justin K. Aller

Wednesday night, the Capitals lost Game Four to the Penguins in sudden death overtime. According to the NHL’s PR, the Penguins improved to 8-3 in 11 all-time OT playoff games against the Capitals. The victory gave the Penguins a commanding 3-1 series lead.

Yesterday, we felt depressed. But there is reason to have hope. In fact, I have five reasons why the Caps could come back in this series.

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mike-weber

Wednesday after the morning skate, NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti reported that veteran Capitals defenseman Mike Weber would get a sweater for Game Four. Barry Trotz is benching Nate Schmidt, the man who had a bad turnover which directly led to the Penguins’ game-winning goal Monday.

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#CapsFilmRoom: A Tale of Two Passes

Alex Ovechkin

Photo: Justin K. Aller

It was the best of games, it was the worst of games. Okay, maybe that was forced, but it still holds true. Game Three began with a grope, but ended with a 3-2 loss on enemy ice. The Caps absolutely outplayed the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Monday night, but still walked away down 2-1 in the series.

Even so, there are positives to pull from the game. It was the first match of the series that the Caps unquestionably controlled the play against the Penguins. The Capitals probably never expected to come into Pittsburgh and take both games, so while it makes Game Four on Wednesday all the more important, it is not a backbreaker either.

The Caps are rightfully feeling pretty good about their current play going into Game Four. This was a game of bounces. The Pens got them. The Caps didn’t.

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#CapsFilmRoom: Goals Against from Game Two

Fehr Goal

Game Two was unsuccessful to say the least. The Capitals struggled through two periods of play, committed penalty after penalty in the second (though maybe some were undeserved), and lost the game off the stick of an old ally turned foe. So, let’s engage in the oldest pastime known to sports: assigning blame.

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#CapsFilmRoom: Goals from Game One

Oshie Hattrick

For the last couple months (since I figured out how to create GIFs), I have been posting 140 character or less takes on goals that the Capitals have either scored or given up on the Twitter. I am more than happy to take any requests on a non-goal play that someone has questions about, so feel free to make any requests. For now, let’s use the ability to post longer than 5-second videos to get some more detail in the explanations for the goals of Game One.

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Where the Battles Need to be Won

Dmitri Orlov Defends

Photo: Patrick Smith

I don’t know if anyone else has been paying attention to the numbers that Sportlogiq has been tweeting out about each playoff game, but I find them fascinating. For instance, did you know that in Game Five of the Caps/Flyers series, the Caps had offensive zone possession for 5:44 and the Flyers for only 2:07?

It was an impressive showing by the Capitals in the loss to be sure, but the interesting thing to me in those stats is that there was only 7:51 of even strength offensive possession by both teams combined. That leaves 32:09 of even strength time in a close, 60-minute game where there wasn’t offensive possession (there was 20 minutes of non 5-on-5 time). That is a huge percentage (80.375 percent to be exact).

That isn’t an outlier either, the Blues/Blackhawks series averaged 10:41 in even strength offensive possession by both teams combined, and they went to three overtime periods. So much emphasis is put on how players and teams play with the puck in the zone and defend in the zone, but the vast majority of time is spent doing other things, carrying or passing through neutral, fighting for loose pucks in all three zones, and regrouping and breaking out.

When it comes down to it, much of this game of hockey is played between the tops of the circles and not beneath them. That area of the ice is where the little things can cause more zone time, a quick strike goal or a huge breakdown. For the Capitals to win this series, they will need to outplay the Penguins here, in the middle of the ice.

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Sizing Up the Penguins: Special Teams

Penguins Capitals Special Teams

Photo: Patrick Smith

About two weeks ago, we previewed the special teams matchup that loomed between the Washington Capitals and their First Round opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers. Special teams ended up playing an important role in more than one game of that series, so wise men and women will take note of this preview as well.

In the Caps/Flyers preview, we outlined the Caps penalty kill as well as the Flyers power play and PK. The Caps do not alter their PK from team to team, so another breakdown of that will be unnecessary, but you might want a refresher on how the Caps kill penalties. There will be similarities and there will be differences, so buckle up.

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braden-holtby-sandwich

Caps starting goaltender Braden Holtby left practice early on Tuesday after colliding with a teammate, setting off widespread internet panic. Barry Trotz later said Holtby, who had been seen favoring his left leg, was fine.

We got further confirmation of this fact from CSN Mid-Atlantic when they published video of Holtby. Holtby had no noticeable limp when walking away from the catering table. He looked perfectly fine.

But discussion of Holtby’s possible injury missed the real point: what was Holtby eating?

RMNB investigates.

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Power Play Dominance Has Led Caps to 3-0 Series Lead

Carlson and Backstrom Celebrate

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

Before the series between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers began, we took a look at the special teams of both squads. Since then, three games have been played; three Capitals wins have been tallied; eight goals have been scored on the power play by the Caps, none for Philly. To say the power play has been just a factor in the series is underselling it.

In that pre-series write-up, we identified a triangle plus one formation for the Flyers’ penalty kill, a penalty kill that relies on getting in lanes to disrupt shots instead of putting pressure on the player holding the puck. They have been torched.

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