WASHINGTON, DC – Barry Trotz glanced down his bench before the shootout in Thursday’s exhibition game at the Montreal Canadiens.
He saw T.J. Oshie, the skills competition ace who eventually won the game. He saw Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky, two players who can dazzle in it. He thought about eventually having the dependable Nicklas Backstrom there, too, when he’s back from injury. He saw Braden Holtby, his starting goaltender, who helped the Capitals to a 5-4 shootout mark last season.
The new 3-on-3 overtime format is expected to reduce the number of shootouts we see this season, based on the results from the American Hockey League’s trial run last year.
But if the Capitals are exhausted or on their heels in the 3-on-3 OT this season, Trotz said he’d be happy to see the game end in a shootout.
“Oh, we’ll take our chances in the shootout. Absolutely. Any time,” he said.
Oshie agreed. “It’s not just a couple of us. There’s a lot of players here that can score in the shootout,” he said, “but we can score in the 3-on-3 as well. Hopefully we can win in the 3-on-3 early, get some rest.”
Trotz said the Capitals are fine going to the shootout, but aren’t necessarily going to play for one. “We have to be better in the 3-on-3. We can’t just sit back,” he said.
The coach, in his second year with the Capitals, has seen his team compete in the 3-on-3, and believes the potential is there for the Capitals to be quite adept at it – if they stick to the fundamentals.
“We’ve gotta get better in the 3-on-3, because we have some pretty good people. But everyone has some pretty good people. It’s not just having skill, it’s having the right mindset to do it. When you don’t have the puck, you really have to defend,” he said
Trotz said he put two defensemen, John Carlson and Taylor Chorney, out to start the 3-on-3 as a reminder to his players about playing both ends on the ice.
But the biggest issue for the Capitals, and conversely other NHL teams in the 3-on-3 overtime, is understanding that offense will come naturally.
“We try so hard to create offense. I don’t think you have to create offense off the 3-on-3. It happens. It’s just going to happen,” said Trotz.
“It’s like a ball at the top of a hill, and once it gets rolling it doesn’t stop until the end of the game.”
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