Tarik El-Bashir - Capitals Insider

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Barry Trotz updates Alex Ovechkin's status for Game 6

Barry Trotz updates Alex Ovechkin's status for Game 6

Alex Ovechkin was checked out by the team’s medical staff following Friday’s game and will be good to go for Sunday’s potential series clincher in Toronto, Coach Barry Trotz said.

“He is fine,” Trotz said on a conference call with reporters on Saturday afternoon. “He was re-evaluated again after the game. He’s fine. Expect him to be ready to go.”

Game 6 is Sunday night at Air Canada Centre.

RELATED: Prediction recap: Holtby shines in Game 5

Ovechkin left the Caps’ 2-1 overtime victory late in the first period following a controversial hit by Toronto’s Nazem Kadri in open ice. Although it appeared the Caps’ captain had suffered a serious left leg injury, he returned for the start of the second period and ended up skating 19:29.

Kadri was penalized for tripping on the play, and the Caps converted on the power play to take a 1-0 lead. Ovechkin, meanwhile, finished with three shots on goal and a game-high six hits.

On Saturday, Trotz sidestepped a question about Kadri’s hit. Toronto Coach Mike Babcock said after the game that he didn’t think the hit warranted a penalty.

“He has his opinion and I have mine,” Trotz said. “Certain hits in the game, I think when you have an ability to injury a player, you know…we just have different viewpoints.”

The Caps did not practice on Saturday. They’ll return to the ice Sunday morning at ACC for a pregame skate.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps playoff hero benched in Game 5

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Caps playoff hero Tom Wilson benched in Game 5

Caps playoff hero Tom Wilson benched in Game 5

Tom Wilson was the Caps’ hero in Games 1 and 4.

He came awfully close to being the goat in Game 5.

Wilson was assessed four minor penalties in Washington’s 2-1 overtime victory and, as a result, was benched by Coach Barry Trotz.

In fact, Wilson played less than a minute in the third period. 

“I thought Tom had lots of energy, but you cannot take four penalties in a playoff game,” Trotz said. “So he didn’t see the ice after that last one.”

RELATED: Leafs don't see anything wrong with Kadri's hit

Here were Wilson’s penalties:

  • 2:01, second period—unsportsmanlike conduct after jawing with Connor Carrick, who also got an unsportsmanlike.
  • 9:13, second period—tripping Matt Martin.
  • 19:34, second period—unsportsmanlike conduct. Nazem Kadri was also assessed an unsportsmanlike on the play.
  • 7:36, third period—high sticking foul on Martin Marincin in the offensive zone.

Fortunately for Wilson, the Caps’ penalty kill came up huge. It’s also worth noting that Wilson is an important penalty killer, so it’s doubly damaging when he’s sitting in the box. Overall, the unit snuffed out each of the four shorthanded situations it faced.

“I thought they were good,” Trotz said of the penalty kill. “They were very committed. We had some huge blocks. [Toronto] had a really good push and obviously we got a couple of big saves when we needed them.”

Penalties were a persistent issue for the Caps during the regular season. And now five games into the postseason, they've taken more minors (23) than anyone else.

As for Wilson? Yep, his six minors are tied for most in the league (with Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello).

MORE CAPITALS: 3 Key Observations: Williams proves 'clutch' exists

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Braden Holtby feels better prepared to battle the Leafs' offensive approach

Braden Holtby feels better prepared to battle the Leafs' offensive approach

Braden Holtby says he expects to be more prepared on Friday night for the deflected pucks and odd bounces that have eluded him through the first four games of the Washington-Toronto series.

Why? A couple of reasons: No. 1, he and his teammates have a better understanding of the Leafs’ throw-everything-at-net approach. And No. 2, he’s worked to sharpen up specific parts of his game over past the 24 hours.  

“They are putting bodies in front and throwing it there,” Holtby said following the morning skate. “Things happen when you do that.”

Capitals GameTime begins at 6 p.m. on CSN. Puck drop for Game 5 is slated for 7.

“Some of them aren’t going to happen again,” Holtby continued, referring to all the deflections. “There were a couple that [went] off two, three things. That happens, and you just put it behind you. If that’s part of their game plan, it’s more about taking away areas [of the net]. If a shot is going to one side, it’s not about catching it or getting it in the middle of the blocker, it’s about getting your whole body there to limit the chances of a deflection.”

Indeed, many of the Leafs’ 14 goals in this series have hit something or taken a weird bounce before finding their way into Washington’s net. Just last game, for example, two goals deflected in off of skates and other hit a body in front, throwing off Holtby’s timing.

“It’s just kinda throwing it into piles, hoping for things,” Holtby said. “Their second goal [in Game 4], that went off [Dmitry Orlov’s] skate. [James van Riemsdyk) was kinda shooting for the guys’ skates in front, anyways. Don’t guess, just react.”     

As a result of the tips, deflections and strange bounces (and the Leafs’ commitment to wreaking havoc in and around the crease) Holtby’s numbers haven’t looked very Holtby-like thus far in the first round. He entered the playoffs with a .938 save percentage—the best postseason mark in NHL history. As he prepares for Game 5, though, he boasts a pedestrian-looking .907 save percentage.

Holtby is aware of his stats but says he’s solely focused on doing whatever is needed to pull out a ‘W’.

“[Bad bounces] happen,” he said. “That’s life. That’s hockey. You just have to move onto the next shot. Because in playoffs, stats don’t matter, it’s all about the next save, the next play.”

As far as getting better with stopping deflections and tips, he spent a portion of the team’s off day on Thursday working with goalie guru Mitch Korn at the Caps’ facility in Arlington.

“Trying to get the body control back a little bit,” Holtby said, asked about the session. “In any situation, any series or circumstance of events, you try and pick out trends. In order to combat some of those bounces, I need to get my upper body moving, certain areas shifting, and keep my lower body based and [on] my edges more than usual. I was just getting back to basics. Obviously, this time of year you don’t have a lot of time to work on those things. That’s more a training camp, first half of the season kinda thing. So it was nice to get out there and simplify things.”

Holtby said he’s confident that the additional preparation—plus a better knowledge of individual Leafs’ tendencies as well as what they’re trying to accomplish as a team—will start yielding dividends beginning Friday.

“You got to figure out players’ tendencies,” Holtby said. “The more you play against them, you know who’s in front, who’s where. Things like that.”

He continued: “There’s always screens every game, pucks you don’t see. You just got to find it as quick as possible. There’s an emphasis on the high forward a lot, and our ‘D’ are going to realize that they have time to front some of those pucks. And I’ve got battle harder to find sight lines. I think we’ve gotten consistently better at that throughout the series, and tonight will be even better.”