News and Notes from Saturday’s Capitals Practice: We Talking About Practice!

trotz

The Capitals got a nice break from the hockey grind for five days due to the bye week, and a handful of players even enjoyed tropical vacations. On Wednesday, the team was ready to take the ice and begin preparations for a back-to-back affair with the second-place Metropolitan Division New Jersey Devils and the Montreal Canadiens each on the horizon. Unfortunately, they didn’t get a chance to practice with a travel delay in their flight to New Jersey

Aside from no practice time, the Capitals faced the biggest challenge out of any NHL team this season that has had a bye week. Per Capitals writer Mike Vogel, the Caps went into the bye week with a road game, came out of the bye week with a road game, had back-to-backs entering the bye week, had back-to-backs coming out of the bye week, and didn’t face a bye week team coming out of the break.

The Caps fell to the Devils in overtime Thursday night but luckily came out of that contest with a point to keep themselves in front of the pack in the Metropolitan Division. Then they came back to DC, had a well-attended optional skate at Kettler, and then hosted the Montreal Canadiens before ultimately falling to them 3-2.

“Bottom line: the Montreal Canadiens were better than us tonight. They outworked us, they out-battled us… We had too many guys still on vacation,” Capitals head coach Barry Trotz told the media after a loss.

The Capitals have a crooked January schedule to say the least. After a win over the Hurricanes on Jan. 2, the Capitals had four days off in terms of game action from the schedule and then played four games in six nights before the bye week. Excluding gameday morning skates, the Capitals haven’t held a full practice since January 8, the day after Nicklas Backstrom scored a game-winning goal in overtime to defeat the Blues.

But we all know what you’re here for, what you clicked this link for. In the words of NBA legend Alan Iverson back in a press conference that took place in 2002: “Not a game. We talking about practice. We’re not even talking about the game, the actual game when it matters. We talking about practice.” So here are the news and the notes from Saturday’s practice, direct from Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

If Trotz said after the game on Friday that the guys are still on vacation, on Saturday morning vacation was over.

 

As practice began, it looked like the lines were mixed. Andre Burakovsky and T.J. Oshie each came out with red top-six forward practice jerseys. Alex Chiasson, who was on the second line in Friday’s game, was in a white bottom-six forward practice jersey. You can read more about the forward line madness here. This is what they looked like Saturday morning:

Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Wilson
Burakovsky-Backstrom-Oshie
Stephenson-Eller-Connolly
DSP-Beagle-Chiasson

Also worth noting, the bromance of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom sharing the top line came to an end as Evgeny Kuznetsov centered the top line while Backstrom dropped to the second line. Ovechkin was reunited on a line with Backstrom back on Nov. 23 vs. Ottawa and since that night, the duo were line mates for 25 consecutive games.

“If you’ve watched us play lately, we’ve gone a little bit stale in some areas of our game. I don’t know if it’s the break but I go right before the break. I’ve been contemplating that maybe it’s time for a switch. It might be a game, it might be next 20 (games), I don’t know,” Trotz said after practice.

Jakub Vrana was the odd man out, rotating on the fourth line. Vrana hasn’t scored a goal in his last 14 games and only tallied three assists during that stretch. During Friday’s game against the Canadiens, Vrana was on the ice for only 8:17.

“He’s a young player. He was playing quite well a little bit before the break. I’d say about five games back he had some of his better games. I know his parents were in town and he had extra gear those few games but after that he sort of dissipated. He’s a good player… you know there’s gonna be a drop off at some point but with young guys, they seem to drop off a lot sometimes,” Trotz explained.

With the new lineup in place, drills were set to begin. As you can imagine coming off a bye week and two straight losses, it was intense.

First, the Caps worked on breakaways.

Then the forward lines put up some shots on Philipp Grubauer. Grubauer got the start the night before and stopped 23-of-25 Canadiens shots, good for a .920 save percentage.

Then it was on to full-rink as the drills shifted to four-on-four.

Special teams also got some practice rep time on Saturday. Here is the top power play unit. The Capitals power play struggled the last two nights going a combined 1-for-9 on the man advantage, including 0-for-5 in Thursday’s overtime loss to the Devils.

Neither power play unit broke through in the drills but it was a good day for the penalty kill. They’ve killed off 6-of-7 penalties over the last two games. Jay Beagle intercepted a pass here and cleared the puck with authority.

At the tail end of practice, the forwards got together and worked on driving to the net. Beagle rips one past Grubauer here.

As all of the practice action was unfolding, a new member of the Capitals was in the locker room suiting up to join his new teammates. William Cody of Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic was signed to a three day contract on Friday night. You can read more about his incredible story here. He came out on the ice as the team was stretching to help Chandler Stephenson lead the stretches.

Cody arrived towards the end of practice but he made sure to get his work in. He was dishing the puck out to teammates, winning face-off battles with Beagle, scoring goals and impressing us with his hockey moves. Here’s a goal by Cody.

Once Cody left the ice, the Potomac Patriots pee wee hockey team began their practice. Burakovsky came back out from the locker room joined in on their fun. Go easy on those kiddos, Burky!

The Capitals will look to protect their home ice as they host the Philadelphia Flyers. This will be an intense Metropolitan Division matchup. Philadelphia is just a point behind the Penguins for the second wild card spot. Not only have the Capitals lost two straight games, they’ve also dropped two consecutive games at Capital One Arena. Puck drop is at 12:30 p.m. Trotz and his team hope to deliver a strong performance against their rivals after all the hard work they put in on Saturday.

“We lost our last two home games (the Caps lost to the Hurricanes in their final home game prior to the bye week, snapping a 10-game home win streak). Earlier in the season we won our first game of the season at home and lost our next three home games and then we sort of got hard (to beat) at home. We’ve had a pretty good record since then other than the last two games. Last two (home) games we haven’t made it hard on the opposition,” said Trotz.

By Michael Marzzacco

14-year old William Cody of Make-A-Wish leading the stretches at practice! #ALLCAPS

A post shared by NoVa Caps (@nova_caps) on

About Michael Marzzacco

Michael is an avid DC sports fan with a passion for writing. He has followed the Washington Capitals since the 2003-04 season, around the time his enthusiasm for DC teams really began. It was from the days when they had the worst record in the league to when they became the most exciting team in the area. His Dad took him to his first Caps game a couple of years later. One of his favorite memories was being in the stands during the 2015 Winter Classic where Troy Brouwer scored the game-winning goal with 12 seconds left. Michael graduated from Radford University in May 2016, earning a degree in journalism and focusing on sports journalism and broadcasting. His goal is to work in sports media in Washington, D.C.
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2 Responses to News and Notes from Saturday’s Capitals Practice: We Talking About Practice!

  1. Pingback: Five Storylines Going Into Capitals-Flyers on the NHL’s Game of the Week | NoVa Caps

  2. Pingback: News and Notes from Wednesday’s Capitals Practice: Working on Their Game | NoVa Caps

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