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Posted at 12:32 PM ET, 12/ 5/2010

Caps reeling from 'frustrating' loss to Atlanta

By Katie Carrera

(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

If you thought that the Capitals' 3-1 loss to Atlanta last night looked a little too much like what happened in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last year, you're not the only one. Washington's surplus of shots from the perimeter and chances that made it a little too easy for the Thrashers to fall back and focus on getting in the way of the puck are adjustments that Coach Bruce Boudreau wants the Capitals to make now.

"I just want us to learn from it," Boudreau said. "If teams see this, they're going to all do it. The defense have got to get it through; you can't just shoot it blindly. They were backing up and having four or five guys blocking the net when we shot the puck last night. We've got to find a way to get around that so we can score some goals. We've been squeezing the sticks pretty tight lately; if you look at the last [nine games], we have two one-goal games and two shutout games. That's very uncharacteristic of this team."

To go along with the 46 shots that did make their way on net, Washington had another 20 attempts blocked and 16 more miss the target altogether. Mike Green (4) and Alexander Semin (3) had the most shots blocked by the Thrashers while four of Alex Ovechkin's shots missed.

It wasn't necessarily that all of the shots were low quality, but moreso that few were followed up with any rebound chances and the Capitals didn't do much to combat the Thrashers' willingness to stand in the way of the puck.

"Last night was frustrating because they really fronted the puck," Mike Knuble said. "You could see any time the puck would come out to the point, they would just back up -- especially if it's just going to be a wrister; they're just going to get in the way of it -- so we have to be smarter. We have to move up to the side and get around them if they're going to front the puck....It's not a bad way for a team to play against us, but we have to respond to it."

The Capitals worked on creating more second chances in practice at KCI Sunday morning and spent some time with slightly adjusted power-play units as well. On the first group was Ovechkin, Knuble, Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich and Mike Green and the second contained Semin, Matt Hendricks, Eric Fehr, Tom Poti and John Carlson.

Boudreau said he changed up the power-play groups "because something was getting stale" as the Capitals have gone 1-for-8 on the man-advantage in the past two games.

Said Knuble: "Our second unit hasn't been as effective as we could be, so we had Alex [Semin] running it and that makes it much more dangerous. Alex could run a whole power play by himself -- he's a great quarterback on a power play instead of Marcus [Johansson], me or Eric trying to run it. He's the one who can run it."

--After the team's first full practice since early last week, Tom Poti (groin) said he was optimistic that he might return to the Capitals' lineup against the Maple Leafs but that he needed to wait and see how he felt on Monday.

--John Erskine, who missed Saturday's game against Atlanta, took part in practice and said he was ready to go. Boudreau acknowledged that there are a "couple of guys that are questionable for tomorrow" but wouldn't divulge who.

(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

By Katie Carrera  | December 5, 2010; 12:32 PM ET
Categories:  Atlanta Thrashers, John Erskine, Mike Knuble, Power play, Tom Poti  
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Montreal 2.0
Time to figure it out and counter because in the playoffs, they will all be doing it.

Posted by: Wiley_One1 | December 5, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Spot on ^.
The teams that have figured out clog the middle , back up and block shots , force the caps to the outside and that do it beat the Caps. Why have the coaches and Caps not figured out and executed the get in front of that DAMN net with bodies and bang in the dirty goals !!! Kinda hard to block shots and for the goalie to see if everyone is in front of the net wrecking havoc.

Posted by: jotay131 | December 5, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

the headline should probably read:
"Caps fans reeling from 'frustrating' loss to Atlanta"

if the caps only had 20 djk's and erskines getting a sweater every game - they'd be 82-0-0

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | December 5, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

BB should give out a tape of T. Holmstrom and tell the forwards: "Anybody willing to do what this guy does is on the 1st PP unit."

how about the guy who just got inducted to the HOF? the one who wasn't that much bigger than BB, Dino!!

Posted by: joek443 | December 5, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

btw you can blame Gordo and his passive play for the Burmistrov goal. If Gordo had attacked his man along the boards he could've easily disrupted the play at that point but he chose to make nothing but a token feeble attempt at contact and allowed that play to continue. The longer Gordo stays in the lineup, the worse he always looks. Thats his trend. Ala Flash. When he gets benched or comes back into the lineup after a layoff, he always has more jump and aggressiveness in his game. After several games his true passive nature resurfaces.

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 5, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

your insight has been missed the last few weeks.

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | December 5, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

The longer Gordo stays in the lineup, the worse he always looks. Thats his trend. Ala Flash.

well you must have missed Greenberg and his splendid analysis on BGordon a few weeks ago... you know, they win whenever he's in the lineup?

Posted by: joek443 | December 5, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I like to see "adjustments" made between periods not after several games of things getting "stale". BB does it with lines, he can do it with the offensive approach to the game.

On the first and third ATL goals the D, first goal Schultz and third goal Green, were caught getting out of position. Both were above the face-off dot along the half boards. The opposite of what ATL was doing on D, collapsing.On the third goal, Schultz did his best pylon impersonation.

Posted by: puckman | December 5, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

This is just another game where you have to wonder, What the heck is up with Ovechkin? To be blunt, the guy is almost worthless if he isn't making the occasional great play. The great plays are ... great ... but what about the rest of the game? Most of the time his trolling around means that the Caps are playing shorthanded. The Caps, in my opinion, need a different type of personality as captain and BB needs to tell Ovechkin to play 60 mins. or sit down - $200,000 a goal is a bad investment.

Posted by: tw46 | December 5, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Schultz has been awful this year. Move him down to the third pairing with Poti. He's getting danced all the time.

Posted by: CDon | December 5, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Not sure why Green and Schultz play any penalty kills. Should be Carlson and Alzner or Carlson and Hannan.

ATL is hot team right now, so I won't kill them for this loss. Bottom line is that it's time for Ovie to step up and lead this team by example. I really hate Crosby, but he won his team a cup and now he's leading his team to the best record in the NHL. Ovie needs to follow suit.

Posted by: CAPSHOCKEY2 | December 5, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

"they win whenever [Gordo]'s in the lineup"

And the crowing rooster makes the sun come up.

Posted by: Bartolo1 | December 5, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

My man-crush isn't w/Erskine, it's with dmen who play games in the style of Stevens,Tinordi,Witt,Daneyko, O'Donnell etc, ya know?? Believe me, I wish the team had others of his ilk so I could spread the love around and not seem so fixated on one person, but Erskine's all we have in that regard. Glad to see he's ready to go Monday, and I hope Poti is too. I expect BB to sit DJK so the offense can find itself against a weaker, struggling team(because King doesn't factor into playing or contributing offensively, he's only good for fighting, correct?), and sit Erskine so the chosen-6 can begin to develop some cohesion and chemistry.

#55, Gordon, Fehr, Steckel, (I'll give Laich a pass for now), prospects and picks should all be dangled to get what we need: help up the middle, a true power-forward, and another gritty dman for depth once Dork is shipped out

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 5, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

The blame on Schulz for the 3rd goal is getting ridiculous.

The Caps were shorthanded, the Thrashers won the draw, passed it to the point man which brought the high defenseman out. The point man passed it down low which drew Green out. Schulz was forced to cover the area in front of the net, which he did. If he left to cover and hit the shooter, as was suggested by some people here, that would have left the area in front of the goal wide open. It would've been the wrong decision.

The Thrashers player made a nice pass through the middle. Schulz had good positioning but the puck made it through. If that puck is an inch to the left or right it doesn't get through. No player will block every pass, but Schulz will block that pass most of the time(which also means, every once in a while, some will get through).

In addition it was a finely placed pass by the Thrashers player(who is also getting paid to play). Then the pass made it through and the Thrashers player made a nice finishing shot. It was a very good all around play by the Thrashers PP. Schulz was unable to get his stick or feet on the puck.

Every time a team scores on the Capitals it is not necessarily an egregious error by the Caps. The other team makes nice plays too. From the sounds of it, if both teams played perfectly the Caps would beat every team 10-0. The players on other teams are good also. They will beat the Caps players on a decent amount of plays. Over the course of time, the Caps players will win a higher percentage of the plays which will mean they will win a decent amount of games.

Posted by: sgm3 | December 5, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Schultz has been awful this year. Move him down to the third pairing with Poti. He's getting danced all the time.

Posted by: CDon | December 5, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse
Agreed. Hannan has already played a few shifts with Green and I'm hoping this becomes more of a regular thing. Schultz & Poti as a 3rd pair isn't bad. They can play against the slower less skilled 3rd & 4th liners and do just fine. I used to think Schultz could only play decently with Green but he seemed to work ok with Poti. If you put SH with Green, KA/JC as your 2nd pair then that's not too bad. Hannan is better than to be playing as a 3rd pairing. He needs to be out there when the elite players are out there and you're not gonna put a D pairing of SH/TP against 1st lines of many teams.

Posted by: pokerface1208 | December 5, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

And if Knuble and/or Laich don't pick it up, they should be included in the mix.

Time for Ovi to cut loose, play w/destrution once again and for BB to put players behind him who'll stand behind their captain when others come calling him out for his brutal play.

Time to show some umph, play like a team that's ticked-off with a grudge to settle. Since the article referenced it, we should've physically manhandled Montreal and left them thinking how they needed to get bigger to compete, like Philly did (and who would Philly have in their lineup, 55 or 4?) Instead, we bemoaned their speed and elusiveness and the rest is history.

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 5, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Understand too that I'm not a big Schultz guy. I'd be just as happy (probably even happier) if the 3rd pairing was Erskine/Poti. So:


I just say Schultz to the 3rd pairing b/c he's one of BB's boys and he'll never sit him so the 3rd pairing is the best spot for him with the much needed addition of Hannan.

Posted by: pokerface1208 | December 5, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Folks it is not the Caps defense or goaltending losing games. It is their offense. This is truly amazing because last year we were blaming the defense. Against Montreal it was the offense again. My goodness. The fact that the Caps have three of top ten scores in the league in points is astonishing. Yet they do not look as powerful offensively. I disagree about OVI. I think he is playing two way hockey better. His shot seems off. We will see.

Posted by: pkme | December 5, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

How about those Redskins, Wizards and Nationals? The Caps are still the only show in town.

Posted by: pkme | December 5, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I disagree as well about Ovie, the only time I've had an issue is at the very end of some PPs, when he just looks out of gas - which is natural, it's almost unheard for a non-BB run PP for guys to stay out the entire two minutes, unless it's a Gonchar or Leetch [both natural d-men] at the prime of their careers. Green and Carlson work well together, and the PP did have good puck movement, put Ovie down low because few d-men in the league can beat him to the puck in the corner or in front of the net. Make him earn his PP time, like everyone else.

And at this point in his career, no way Knuble should be on the PP, never mind on the first unit. Good teammate, hard worker - but no longer first line material. All those HNIC guys would shut up about Ovie's stats already if Knubs had buried 1/3 of his chances, and Ovie would have even more assists.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | December 5, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

call up Mathieu Perreault

Posted by: knape1 | December 5, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Gordo may not be ideal but he's better than Mr. Faceoffl; man oh man is he awful. Every time he touches the puck it winds up with the other team, he must lead the league in giveaways per minute on the ice.

Wake up BB, maybe the guy did score 'a real beauty' for the Manchester Monarchs five seasons ago but he clearly can't skate, score, hit, or pass at the NHL level; enough already.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | December 5, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

On the play that DJK got his assist on in St. Louis, he bulldozed his way to the net and distracted Halak enough to cause him to throw the puck into the net off of Brewer. That goal was so ugly it was beautiful! Why are the other forwards having so much trouble getting into those same areas? Is it lack of courage or motivation?

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 5, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

No player will block every pass, but Schulz will block that pass most of the time(which also means, every once in a while, some will get through).

who said anything about blocking the pass?

ever heard of "play the man, not the puck"?????

Posted by: joek443 | December 5, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

The Thrashers player made a nice pass through the middle. Schulz had good positioning but the puck made it through.

his job was to cover Ladd the eventual goal scorer, NOT to be in good position to cover what, the air???

Posted by: joek443 | December 5, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

who said anything about blocking the pass?

ever heard of "play the man, not the puck"?????

Posted by: joek443

You do know that Atlanta was on the PP. If all 4 Caps defenders just guarded a man and not a zone, that would leave a person wide open at all times.

On the PK, it is a zone defense. Understand?

Posted by: sgm3 | December 5, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

On the PK, it is a zone defense. Understand?

right, it's somehow ok as long as you cover your "zone" wherever that is and leave a guy wide open on the side of your net for a slam dunk... I got it!!!

but hey as long as you're in "good positioning" it's alright, ain't it???

how about making the guy pay a price for parking himself right on the side of the net, is that too much to ask????

Posted by: joek443 | December 5, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I just watched the replay, Schultz was in the correct position on the 3rd goal. He just missed the pass. The Caps were using a diamond penatly kill. The pass was good (not great) and he had an excellent chance at stopping it. Often mistakes near the net during a kill will lead to goals.

Posted by: chriscaps | December 5, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

I bet Ladd's eyes lit up as soon as he saw who was in his vicinity... he knew he could just park himself in front the net and wait for the pass without 55 bothering him.

Posted by: joek443 | December 5, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse


If Erskine would've played like #55 did on that 3rd pp goal, people here would skewer him and call him a "pylon"....who cares if Dork is "positionally sound" if he's unaware of his surroundings and can't anticipate. I can't stand how the oaf strolls around our d-zone with his stick outstretched always trying to "break up the pass". Every opposing player knows it, and it's high time he start putting the body to people (which we all know won't happen)

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 5, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse


This is possible the dumbest post of the year.

Posted by: will111 | December 5, 2010 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Loosing like this again is possibly the best thing that could have happened to them. It's still early enough in the year to correct and it will help assure that we don't end up with another goalie that looks like a God because all we do is take outside shots. Get to the net, get in front of the goalie get a few dirty goals and then you can get all the time in the world to take your outside shots.

Posted by: Dirtbag359 | December 6, 2010 2:28 AM | Report abuse

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