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Prospect report: The Bears are getting healthier

Prospect report: The Bears are getting healthier

Hershey update: 33-18-8-3, 5th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 2-1-0-0

Nathan Walker returned in Friday’s game from a broken hand he suffered in January. He recorded one assist and an empty-netter goal in his first three games back. The Bears may also get another boost with the pending return of Madison Bowey. Head coach Troy Mann was on the Old Barn Hockey Show last week and talked about how Bowey should be ready to return this week.

Bowey suffered a laceration to his tendon in December and was expected to be out until April. A return in mid-March would be a rather speedy recovery. Don’t expect to see him in Washington anytime soon, however. After the trade deadline, teams are limited to only four non-emergency call-ups from the AHL and the Caps have already used two. As the team prepares for the playoffs, now would be a curious time to bring up a defenseman with no NHL experience. He will likely have to wait until next season to make his NHL debut.

Stanislav Galiev remained red-hot with four points in Hershey’s three games over the week, including two goals in the Bears’ win over Providence. You can watch the highlights of that game here:

Despite his recent hot streak, there’s nothing to suggest Galiev’s outlook with the Caps has changed. If the team needed an offensive player, I doubt he would be their first choice. Ironically enough, his good play of late probably lowers the chances he will be recalled considering he would have to go through waivers. Odds are someone would claim him.

As you probably noticed in those highlights, there were some fisticuffs at the end of the Providence game that nearly included goalies Pheonix Copley and Malcolm Subban. Subban challenged and Copley skated to center ice, but the referees stopped it from escalating.

It would not be the first time Copley fought another netminder. Given that he has become team’s No. 1 goalie since he was acquired at the trade deadline, however, the Bears really don’t need him to risk a broken hand in a fight during the playoff push.

Defenseman Christian Djoos also continued his hot streak with four assists including a three assist night on Saturday in Hershey’s 7-1 win over Binghamton.

In other news, Darren Deitz’s brief stint within the Capitals organization is most likely over. Signed by the Caps in the offseason as a free agent, Dietz was loaned to the Texas Stars of the AHL last week. Hershey received defenseman Mattias Backman on loan in exchange.

RELATED: Trotz makes Caps’ defensive depth chart very clear

Other prospect notes:

Shane Gersich scored his 20th and 21st goal of the season to help lead North Dakota to a two-game sweep over St. Cloud State in the NCHC Quarterfinals.

North Dakota will play Denver on Friday in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff Semifinal.

Chase Priskie will be moving on as well as Quinnipiac defeated St. Lawrence in three games in the ECAC Hockey Tournament Quarterfinals. He tallied one assist. Quinnipiac will play Harvard in the semifinals on Friday.

After a 5-0 loss to Notre Dame on Friday, Brian Pinho put up a valiant effort in Game 2, scoring Providence College’s two goals in a 5-2 loss as the Irish swept the Friars in the Hockey East Quarterfinals. Steven Spinner also saw his team eliminated in the NCHC Quarterfinals by Western Michigan in a three-game thriller that came down to overtime.

Connor Hobbs and the Regina Pats won the WHL East Division on Friday with a 5-0 win over Moose Jaw. In Regina’s four games over the week, Hobbs recorded two goals and four assists. He now has 30 goals on the season tying a franchise record for goals by a defenseman and leads all defenseman in the WHL in goals.

Beck Malenstyn had an impressive week for the Calgary hitmen, scoring a goal in each of the team’s four games over the week. He was named the first star of the game on Friday and third star on Saturday.

In the KHL, Ilya Samsonov’s team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, completed a four-game sweep of Barys in the second round of the playoffs. Samsonov is serving as the backup goalie and has appeared in two games in the playoffs, both of which came in the first round.

MORE CAPITALS: Playoff opponent watch: An open Metro race changes Caps' scenarios

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Barry Trotz explains why he believes this year's Capitals team is different

Barry Trotz explains why he believes this year's Capitals team is different

If you walked away from Washington’s Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins thinking to yourself, “same ol’ Caps, same ol’ story,” it’s not hard to understand why. This team has not made it past the second round of the playoffs since 1998 and have beaten the rival Penguins only once in nine postseason meetings.
 
Last year’s dream season in which the Capitals were virtually uncontested through the entire season as the top team in the NHL was brought to an abrupt end in the second round at the hands of the Penguins in six games. After another Presidents’ Trophy winning season, seeing the Caps lose Game 1 to Pittsburgh at home has already left many fans feeling despondent.
 
But that’s not how the Caps feel.
 
“We're in a different place,” head coach Barry Trotz said after Friday’s practice when comparing this team to last year’s. “I think we feel that we still can build on our game.”
 
In many ways, the Capitals were actually the better team in Game 1. Washington held a large advantage in terms of shot attempts (72-32) and scoring chances (41-15) and still walked away with the loss. And yet, despite dominating on paper, Trotz still felt his team had more to give.
 
“I think last year, we came at them real hard and go, what else can we do?” Trotz said. “I don't have that feeling this year. I know we can do more, we know we can do more. That's a great thing to have is we know we can be better, we know we can do more.”
 
“I could lie to you and say that, but I’m not,” Trotz added as he stressed to the media that his confident rhetoric was not simply coach-speak.
 
Despite what happened on paper, the game appeared to be very even as it played out. The big difference seemed to be that every mistake the Caps made ended up in the back of their net.
 
Trotz’s confidence was likely not simply a brave face to wear before the media, but necessary for his players as well. If there was a feeling from last season of “What more can we do?” it would be hard to shake that feeling considering the picture the numbers paint of a dominant Caps’ performance in Game 1. The fact is, if they continue playing the way they did, they will come out on the winning end more often than not. The difference will be cleaning up those mistakes that a championship caliber teams like Pittsburgh always take advantage of.
 
All three of the goals Washington gave up in Game 1 were preventable. The first came when Matt Niskanen pinched too far into the neutral zone off the opening faceoff in the second period. A turnover led to a 2-on-1 in the wrong direction. Pittsburgh’s second goal was the result of Braden Holtby getting a glove on a slap shot from Olli Maatta but not holding onto it, leading to a rebound opportunity that Sidney Crosby finished. The third came with Brooks Orpik high in the neutral zone. A stretch pass left the defense exposed and Kevin Shattenkirk went after Scott Wilson as opposed to staying more center to account for the trailing Orpik and a wide-open Nick Bonino.
 
In terms of overall play, there’s not much more you can do if you dominate the defending Cup champs. What they can do, however, is cut out those mistakes, prevent those preventable goals and not dwell on them as they go forward in the series.
 
“I think we've learned to go forward, I think we've learned to park things and that's what the change is, that's where we wanted to get to,” Trotz said. “I don't know if we're fully there or not, but we're going in that right direction so I'm excited about the rest of the series for sure.”

MORE CAPITALS: Holtby's history suggests he'll bounce back in Game 2

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Braden Holtby's history suggests he'll bounce back in Game 2

Braden Holtby's history suggests he'll bounce back in Game 2

Caps Coach Barry Trotz says he’s confident Braden Holtby will rebound from a Game 1 performance that the goalie found to be lacking.

“I thought he was fine but he didn’t think he played as good as he could,” Trotz said. “But I do know this—and I’ve told you this—he is a guy that responds.”

On Friday morning, Holtby was among the first players on the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex—and he quickly got to work with goalie coach Mitch Korn.

In Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Penguins, Holtby allowed three goals on 21 shots, including a pair on the first seven shots he faced.

RELATED: Caps-Penguins rivalry tests Shattenkirk-Bonino friendship

Why is Trotz so confident that Holtby will rebound? Because history says he will.

Holtby has generally responded with a strong individual performance after losses in the playoffs. In fact, he’s posted a .933 save percentage, 1.92 goals against and two shutouts in postseason games following a loss.  

“He’s going to be better tomorrow, and that’s good for us,” Trotz said.

Holtby’s Game 1 performance comes on the heels of an uneven first round for the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. Against Toronto, he yielded 14 goals in the first four games before locking down the Leafs in Games 5 and 6, stopping 61 of 63 shots to lead the Caps to the second round.

On Thursday night, Holtby got off to a strong start, turning back an early blitz by the Pens, including a point blank pad stop on Patric Hornqvist to keep the game scoreless. Holtby also made a critical breakaway stop on Phil Kessel–and the ensuing rebound attempt by Bryan Rust—as the Caps scrambled just after falling behind 2-0.

Overall, though, Holtby felt he could have been sharper. In particular, he said he did not like Sidney Crosby’s first goal or his execution on Nick Bonino’s third period shot that slipped between his blocker and side.

After the game, Holtby vowed that both he and the Caps would be ready for Game 2 on Saturday night.

“I don’t think we’re frustrated,” Holtby said. “We realize that we played a really strong game. I know I need to be better if we’re going to have success, and that’s basically the bottom line.”

MORE CAPITALS: Caps not pleased with officiating in Game 1