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Photo: @WashCaps

At mid-season, Braden Holtby was near the top of almost every important goaltending statistic in the NHL. He was also starting nearly every game for the Washington Capitals.

NBCSN’s Pierre McGuire asked the Holtbeast in January about his heavy workload after a nationally televised game (which he won). Holtby’s response:

Since then, Holtby has played even more. He’s got a 41-19-10 record, nine shutouts, a 2.21 GAA and .923 save percentage. He’s set a franchise-record 24 consecutive games and faced over 2000 shots. If Holtby plays Saturday against the Rangers, he’ll match Olie Kolzig‘s franchise record for most appearances in a single season (73). If that happens, Holtby, according to CSN Washington’s Chuck Gormley, would become the 21st goalie in NHL history to play in 73 or more games in a single season.

So, the question is this: Should the Caps rest Holtby on Saturday?

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Photo: Atlant-MO.ru

A few days after the Toronto Maple Leafs announced the signing of one of the KHL’s top young players Nikita Soshnikov from the Atlant Moscow Region, some interesting details about the move have come up.

Via Maple Leafs Hot Stove, here’s what Leafs’ Director of player personnel Mark Hunter had to say about the move.

We got a lead from Evgeny Namestnikov, who we hired as a scout for us over in Russia. He said come over to watch this young man who he liked a lot, who he coached.

The Maple Leafs hired Namestnikov, a former NHL player and father of current Tampa Bay Lightning forward Vlad, to scout for them while working as an assistant coach for Soshnikov’s Atlant. This went mostly unnoticed in North America, but Russia’s top hockey reporter Alexei Shevchenko, after confirming Namestnikov’s double affiliation, referred to situation as “awkward.”

I think what the Leafs did was an unfair practice and requires an NHL investigation regarding its legality and possibly prohibiting it in the future.

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Photo: Monumental Network

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman released his latest 30 Thoughts column on Tuesday. He had a blurb about defenseman Mike Green, who will be unrestricted free agent this summer.

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No, The NHL Draft Doesn’t Need to be Fixed

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This year, several NHL teams including the Capitals’ opponent tonight, Buffalo, have been awful. Two potential superstars will be avaliable at this year’s draft: Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. Fans of those teams want to lose.

On Monday, Kevin McGran of the Toronto Sun wrote about this phenomenon and published an article titled “With lottery teams tanking for Connor McDavid, it’s time NHL rethinks draft.” In the article, McGran states that since teams are tanking for Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel that indicates the NHL draft system needs fixing.

Does it though? And are these teams really tanking? Let me address a few key points of his article.

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Elliotte Friedman is one of the most connected and respected journalists in hockey. On Friday morning, Friedman released his latest 30 Thoughts article, in which he  expounded on why the Patrick Sharp trade never materialized.

The short answer: Joel Ward.

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Photo credit: Christian Petersen

Coming into 2014-15, Jay Beagle had never scored more than four goals in a season. For a fourth line center, that’s fine. Under Barry Trotz, however, Beagle’s playing time has increased. When the Caps took the ice against the Leafs on Sunday, Beagle was slotted in the top-six alongside Marcus Johansson and Troy Brouwer. By the end of the game, Beagle was the top-line right wing, a position he has occupied many times this season.

But here’s the rub: despite a career-high nine goals and 17 points for Beagle, he brings Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom down. I love Beagle. He’s a great face-off man, a solid fourth liner, and a fantastic guy. He is not, however, qualified to play on the first line. Analytics — and the singularly important eye test — back this up. Trotz disagrees though.

“Beagle’s like my lucky charm,” Trotz told reporters when asked about the rotating right-wing spot. “When I put him up there ,we score. I know you analytics guys don’t like his numbers, but we score and get back in the game. There’s reasons for that.”

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Photo: @jennrubenstein

Over the last five years, journalist Adam Vingan has put his his heart and soul into covering the Washington Capitals. On Wednesday, Vingan announced that will be leaving the Capitals beat on March 16.

Vingan, hired by The Tennessean, will essentially replace the talented and respected Josh Cooper on the Nashville Predators’ beat. Cooper currently writes for Yahoo’s Puck Daddy. Vingan will be leaving behind his work for NHL.com, Washington Post Express, and NBC Washington.

While this is great news for Vingan, I am bummed. I consider Adam a good friend. I marvel at how he’s helped grow the Capitals community. He’s given me advice and helped me become a better writer and journalist.

There may be no better pun-maker in all the land.

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All the Cheap Shots from the Last Caps-Pens Game

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The Washington Capitals need to beat the living bejesus out of the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight. Not only would a win push the Caps past their rivals in the standings and sweep them in their season series, a win would also send a message. Basically: We’re not putting up with your BS.

Eight days ago, Alex Ovechkin slashed Kris Letang in the ankles. Ovechkin claimed he was trying to shoot a loose puck at the net. Instead Letang fell dangerously into the end boards. Ovechkin was not whistled for a penalty and Letang left the game briefly.

The Penguins, rattled, lost focus on the two points. Instead, they spent the third period doling out cheap shots to Ovechkin and the Capitals, dispensing frontier justice rather than trying to win.

The fans followed their team’s lead. A Penguins fan poured beer on the Ovechkin and trainer Greg Smith during a stoppage in play.

The Capitals kept their eyes on the prize. They scored two goals in the third period, one from Joel Ward and an empty netter from John Carlson, to win 3-1.

I know you can’t print out GIFs and pin them to a bulletin board, but I hope the Caps remember how Pittsburgh played last week. Here’s a reminder.

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Round two, anyone?

It’s fun to play armchair General Manager. It’s also guesswork. No transaction exists in a vacuum. From the outside, a single signing or trade might make sense, but we aren’t privy to a GM’s long-term vision and how that vision informs player evaluation, we’re all operating in the dark when it comes to what may or may not be a realistic trade.

But, like I said, it’s fun!

Let’s talk about a few players around the league and whether or not we think the Caps should target them as the March 2 trade deadline approaches.

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I want to start by saying I genuinely like Barry Trotz. I think he’s a good man and a good coach. He’s brought with him to Washington some of the brightest minds in hockey, he’s reversed a decline in the organization, and he’s helped Alex Ovechkin become a more complete player. I don’t think Trotz has gotten enough credit for that. He is exactly what fans wanted last summer: an experienced head coach.

But now that we’re more than halfway through the season, I see some worrying trends in this organization that reach all the way down to the AHL level.

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