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Trotz has Capitals playing on an even keel

by Mike G. Morreale /

NEW YORK -- The Washington Capitals have proven to be a resilient bunch during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The core of this team, that includes captain Alex Ovechkin and center Nicklas Backstrom, seems content that getting the job done in even the most tense situation is not a big deal, a sign that Washington could be playing with more maturity and a renewed confidence.

The Capitals will look to take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round series when they play Game 2 against the New York Rangers on Saturday at Madison Square Garden (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports).

"It goes back to first game of our first-round series [against the New York Islanders]," Capitals forward Troy Brouwer said. "We lost that game and could have gotten down, but we wanted to bounce back and wanted to come out with the win. I thought we had a good response against the Rangers in the first game of this series when they tied the game late in the third, and we still had enough left to win it."

It's been a familiar theme in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Capitals.

In Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Islanders, Capitals coach Barry Trotz was forced to start backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer when starter Braden Holtby was out with an illness. After falling behind 3-1 late in the second period, the Capitals scored four goals in a span of 16:11 to win the game and even the series 1-1.

The Capitals rank third among playoff teams with an 80 percent winning percentage in one-goal games (4-1). They are 1-0 when leading after the first period and 1-0 when trailing after the first period through eight playoff games.

"I think we've grown as a team," Trotz said. "I'm seeing a mature team and we know it's only one game [against the Rangers]. We know we have to get better. As you see an opponent more and more it gets tougher. Some of the stuff [we saw against the Rangers] is a lot different than the way the Islanders played, and hopefully we can take advantage of some of those things."

Brouwer said he believes that as the season progressed, the Capitals gained more confidence within the system Trotz employed, and that it's possible that players are now reaping the rewards during the most crucial time of the season.

"It's probably a little bit of maturity and the system, knowing the situation," Brouwer said. "Trotz is a calming influence on the bench. He gets upset and worked up at times, but stays even-keel and that reflects on the players."

When the Rangers pulled into a 1-1 tie and sent their hometown fans into a frenetic state with 4:39 remaining in the third period in Game 1 on Thursday, the Capitals calmly went about their business and eventually scored the winner with 1.3 seconds remaining.

"We've blown some leads this year we've been in a few one-goal games, tight games, and had to come back," Brouwer said. "Through it all, we've continued to rely on our systems and play the right way. We've been able to win a majority of those this year. We gave up the late goal against the Rangers [in Game 1] but I thought we did a good job responding. Their crowd was into it, their team was into it, but we bounced back."


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