BarryTrotz

Trotz: ‘I don’t want to take anything away from the Capitals offensively’

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Barry Trotz was introduced as the 17th head coach in Washington Capitals history on Tuesday, and one of his first objectives was to clarify that the Caps won’t sacrifice offense for defense.

“I don’t want to take anything away offensively at all. I didn’t have enough of that [offense] in Nashville,” Trotz explained. “The team takes on the identity of the top players — in Nashville it was Pekka Rinne, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber.

“The strength of this team is dynamic forwards, size, good depth, leadership and good people in the room. I don’t want to take anything away form the Capitals offensively.”

These quotes, obviously, will be of interest to Washington captain Alex Ovechkin, who has become one of the league’s most polarizing players due to his dynamic goalscoring ability — arguably the best in the NHL — and his lacklustre defensive efforts (like when ex-head coach Adam Oates called him out for quitting on a goal against Dallas, seen here):

To further illustrate the disparity between offensive and defensive abilities, Ovechkin finished with an NHL-best 51 goals this year… and the league’s third-worst plus-minus rating, at minus-35.

Trotz said that while he’s yet to speak about Ovechkin and his role on the team, he does have some ideas about how No. 8 can be successful “within the group.”

“Ovi scores a lot,” Trotz said. “But he can contribute in many ways.”

Despite remarks about keeping the offense intact, it’s pretty obvious Trotz was brought aboard to adjust how the Caps play the game — or at least approach it — from a defensive perspective. New GM Brian MacLellan spoke at length about the club needing to change certain facets of its identity, and said a big reason Trotz was brought aboard was due to the stability and consistency his teams displayed in Nashville.

“One of the things I like about Barry’s coaching style is it’s a consistent, disciplined style for 82 games a year,” MacLellan explained. “They don’t veer off it.”

There’s also the not-so-small issue of Washington getting back into playoff and Stanley Cup contention. The Caps missed for the first time in six seasons this year and while Trotz doesn’t have a wealth of postseason runs — his Preds teams never advanced past the second round — he was adept at getting Nashville into the dance, as it qualified for seven of his last 10 seasons on the job.

Trotz said that the key was to qualify for the playoffs because once the team’s in, anything can happen. And as for how long he thinks it’ll take for Washington to get back to being a Cup contender?

“With a couple of adjustments,” he said, “I don’t see why we can’t be in the mix right away.”

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.