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Bruins 3, Caps 1: Michal Neuvirth leaves game with the flu

This was one of those strange games where instead of not playing well throughout and winning (like in Nashville), the Capitals played tough for most of Tuesday night's contest against the Boston Bruins but wound up dropping the first game of this home-and-home series, 3-1.

Less than a minute after the Bruins' second goal, Capitals starting goaltender Michal Neuvirth left the contest with what the team later determined to be the flu.

"After the second goal, he complained of dizziness and a headache," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "So the next whistle he came off. That was the first I knew of it. If he wasn't feeling good we wouldn't have started him but we had no indication. He was feeling fine after the pregame warmup."

Boudreau didn't fault Neuvirth for the first two goals, which were surrendered on seven shots, and also praised Semyon Varlamov's 13-save performance in relief. And if you were wondering, no, Varlamov didn't see Matt Hunwick's shot on that final Bruins goal.

The initial plan appeared to be start Neuvirth on Tuesday and Varlamov in Boston on Thursday, but we'll have to see how this might affect that tomorrow, if at all.

Here are some other notes and quotes from Tuesday's loss:

--With the Capitals trailing late in the game not only did Boudreau bring out the Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Alexander Semin line, he also put Ovechkin on defense. Of the final 7 minutes 43 seconds, Ovechkin played a staggering 6:12 (thanks to Corey Masisak for that stat).

"We've done it [moved Ovechkin to defense] before when we've been behind. Not that often, but I thought if he's being checked that close, give him a little bit of room for some shots," said Boudreau, who added that it wasn't the greatest game for the Capitals' regular top line. "The effort was there, I just didn't think things were going well for that whole line. [David] Krejci's line outplayed them, bottled them in. We tried to maneuver them away from them and eventually switched the lines up, but sometimes you have games like that."

--The penalty-kill streak lives on as the unit thwarted all four Bruins attempts and is now 25 for 25 on the season. There were a few standout moments in Tuesday's smattering of short-handed efforts: One was when Mike Knuble gained possession of the puck and proceeded to kill a significant amount of time in the Bruins' zone, much to the chagrin of the three players trying to get the puck away from him. Another occurred when Brooks Laich blocked consecutive shots by Nathan Horton and Zdeno Chara during that 53-second, two-man advantage.

--Meanwhile, Jeff Schultz's streak of on-ice time without a goal against came to an end as he was among the group out for Milan Lucic's tally. But more than 128 minutes with one goal against isn't bad either.

--Marcus Johansson tallied his first NHL goal with a well-placed shot that beat Tim Thomas's glove side after receiving a nice set-up from Jason Chimera from behind the net.

--Alexander Semin recorded a game-high 10 shots on goal against the Bruins. It's one shy of his career high of 11. As a group, the Capitals registered a season-high 18 shots on goal in the third period.

By Katie Carrera  | October 20, 2010; 2:04 AM ET
Categories:  Alex Ovechkin, Boston Bruins, Jeff Schultz, Michal Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov  
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Next: Capitals consider more traffic in front of opposing nets

Comments

You seem to know hockey. Do you really think our present free wheeling style can get us to the cUp finals? Be honest. Yes, that is a BIG "U" for cUp.

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | October 20, 2010 12:07 AM

yes i do. this team is as good or better than any team the caps have had imo.
i do believe the can increase their chances a lot if:
a) the get a stable 2C - meaning one that has enough skill to get semin and laich the puck and can play decent defense.
b) aquire (at minimum) a true 2nd pair dman (better to have a bunch of 2nd pair d than having 3rd/4th pair dmen). he wouldn't have to be a bone cruncher - but someone that is not afraid to hit, can clear the crease and have decent puck moving skills (skating with and passing the puck).
c) have the forwards (all lines) commit a lot more to playing team defense.

i think the top 5 teams (or so) in the league have about an equal chance at the cup. if the caps want to separate themsevles - they should work on those things.
tonight they seem to have the effort but not enough focus - against nashville it appeared to be the opposite.
i do think that part of the problem is BB - he is the one that must provide the motivation and get the players to focus on the details of the game. i think BB can do this - as they had grit and effort when they pulled out the division win the year he took over for hanlon. that 'intensity' has not been consistant since then.
these aren't hard and fast requirements for winning the cUp - just because they don't exist now (or are rarely exhibited) on this team does not eliminate them from contention.
i'd like to see gmgm makes some moves but i understand business some - and i don't think ted wants to risk the future for a 'non' guaranteed one shot at the cup. he sacrificed a few years (very low season ticket holders and attendance) to build a team that has a shot at contending for years to come. every fan of the caps wants them to win the cUp - but some fans just don't care that it is a business. my stance has been and always will be that i have no say in how the team is run but i will root for them every shift, period, game and year - and hope for the best come the playoffs - even if they addressed all of their needs there is no assurance of winning the cup.

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | October 20, 2010 2:12 AM | Report abuse

Don't wait any longer. Search for an accredited degree program. Advance your career http://bit.ly/a5X4ZJ with a suitable profession for your interests.

Posted by: russellkurt20 | October 20, 2010 3:07 AM | Report abuse

Dear BB and BW,

Some of your forwards have extremely poor defensive awareness and are constantly getting caught out of position.

Defensemen have snuck in behind Ovechkin alone about 10 times in the past 2 games while he casually drifted around out of position staring at the puck. He's been doing that since day one. How come you can't get through to him? Do you even try? Are you scared to try to make him a more complete player or force him to learn new things that aren't fun like shooting and hitting people?

And it's not just him.

Fix this problem, please.

Sincerely,
Anybody who isn't blind

Posted by: tmac2yao | October 20, 2010 3:15 AM | Report abuse

@tmac2yao, yeah, I've seen Ovechkin do that as well, but he does conserve energy. 6:12 out of 7:43? It's crazy, but you're not getting a complete game throughout that sort of stretch, and that was not the only one.

I don't know what others saw cause I didn't read the game thread, but my thoughts echoed Katie's; did we just "lose well"? There were a lot of uneven performances but our checking was hard, our energy was up, and our forecheck was strong. We seemed to reclaim the sense exhibited in the first games that the Caps are ready to play more a more physical game this year.

Ovi was uneven, perhaps from exhaustion -- he came out jumping -- but at times he was friggin brilliant. Sloan showed some good moves. Carlson again had his share of mistakes, but he'll grow up.

Posted by: Justafan | October 20, 2010 6:14 AM | Report abuse

Thomas is making a good case for the Vezina Trophy and Chara for the Norris. They looked great all game long. Semin with 10 shots -- now if he actually had a center to really help him out he would get better scoring chances. And no one seems scared to park themselves in the Caps crease, just saying.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | October 20, 2010 7:01 AM | Report abuse

Oh, Sloan should not be on an NHL icesheet, too. He looked horrible on the first goal. Why is Sloan pinching in the first place? It's not like he is going to score, much less keep the puck in. And Erskine terrible delay of game penalty because he is a lousy skater and mediocre passer who over relies on the off the glass clear. Can the Caps please find replacements for these guys? They are AHL quality players, not NHL quality, by far.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | October 20, 2010 7:14 AM | Report abuse

Interesting note. Of the Caps first six games this season, they have scored more than 2 goals in regulation only once. If you include the last three games of last season, then the Caps have scored more than 2 goals in regulation only one time in the past nine games.

In the past six games, the Caps have let up 2 or less goals in four of them(with the other two games being three goals and four goals). If you include the last three games of last season, the Caps have held opponents to 2 goals or less in six of the last nine games(again, with the opposition scoring 3, 4, and 4 in the other three).

Maybe it isn't the defense that has been the problem the past six(and nine) games. Maybe there is an issue with the offense.

Posted by: sgm3 | October 20, 2010 7:38 AM | Report abuse


the D was decent last night. Sloan was terrible of course, but as much as I hate to admit it, Erskine played a good game (besides the D-G penalty). only 21 shots on goal, good checking and shot blocking. Can't blame the loss on the D...u won't win many games 1-0.

This may be unpopular but I am calling out Backstrom. He is MIA! And a big reason you see Ovie circling so much this season is because without Backie that line has no forward momentum or flow. Ov is working by himself on that line...Knuble is ok, but he is really only good for deflections and gritty goals. When Backstrom starts playing, that line will start clicking!

Posted by: capscoach | October 20, 2010 7:53 AM | Report abuse

If our biggest problem is scoring I'm not too concerned...great shots and scoring opportunities last night but the B's goalie played good.

I wonder if there is any truth to the stuff we hear about Neuvirth's personality. He obviously wanted to play enough to hide the fact he was sick and it hurt his team. Even a hint that he was not 100% and he would have been saved for the road game. What I don't like is the B's have now faced both guys and they play again in 2 days.

Posted by: yesisaiditfirst | October 20, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Don't see how Neuvirth hurt his team last night. And don't see the big advantage for the Bruins having seen both our goalies. Looking forward to Thomas being back in the net again on Thursday? You would have hated following Glenn Hall with the Wings and Hawks.

Posted by: McKinley2 | October 20, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

i still think BB as I have said before is now the wrong guy to coach this team. I hope they go far in the playoffs to prove me wrong. I doubt it.

Posted by: pkme | October 20, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

@yesisaiditfirst - or worse, what if Newvy pulled an Arenas and let Varly take blame for the game...

Posted by: guer_j | October 20, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Oh, Sloan should not be on an NHL icesheet, too. He looked horrible on the first goal. Why is Sloan pinching in the first place? It's not like he is going to score, much less keep the puck in. And Erskine terrible delay of game penalty because he is a lousy skater and mediocre passer who over relies on the off the glass clear. Can the Caps please find replacements for these guys? They are AHL quality players, not NHL quality, by far.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | October 20, 2010 7:14 AM | Report abuse

You blaming Sloan for being the 1 back on a 2 on 1? Sloan covered the man with the puck while backstrom half-covered the other guy as he worked to get back onsides. Blame Backie for that one, with an assist to Alzner, who wasn't back at all.

And aside from the delay of game, which happens sometimes, Erskine had a pretty solid game and some great hits. Speaking of hitting, Semin had some very good ones (!), including knocking over Lucic.

Posted by: Justafan | October 20, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

@justafan

the 2-1 was not Sloan's fault really, but he made it difficult for Neuvey by not choosing 1 to cover.

Posted by: capscoach | October 20, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

The D as a whole has played well. It seems like there is not quite the cohesiveness on offense as of yet. It will get there though. I don't really understand the Erskine hate though. He is a big strong D-man. He plays within himself and isn't out of position that much. I wouldn't call him the strongest skater out there but so far this year, I think he is doing fairly well. Sloan on the other hand has been a detriment. The first goal was almost single handedly his fault.

Posted by: Big_Pushy | October 20, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Sorry Sloan was out of position and could not catch up. The Caps do not have a good enough defense, especially with injuries to Green and Poti, to play run and gun. The goalies are often exposed to juicy oppurtunities. Neuvy's great play hid that glaring defiency on the scoreboard. If Nuevy was well, he stops at least 1 of 2 of those goals. Yes, Poti was in, but so was Erskine and Sloan. The Caps need 1-2 stay at home, defense-first blueliners who can clear a crease, skate, and pass. In my mind, letting both Morrison and Jurnica go and keeping Erskine and Sloan AND not adding any blueliners is becoming an obvious deficiency. It's nice the Caps got more shots, but they had less real chances. Teams that play patient and weather the Caps offensive storm are being paid off with juicy odd man rushes. It's both system and personnel.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | October 20, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

@big_pushy

I don't mind Erskine when he is paired with someone that compliments him...he had a very good game last night. Sloan needs to go back to Hershey, we need another D man and Erskine can be our extra. Erskine gets beat on the forward rush a lot, and his hits are great, but can throw him out of position. He is not terrible, but he needs to be used carefully.

Posted by: capscoach | October 20, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Can anyone explain to me what Poti was doing on the third goal? He starts in position, leavesa his guy in front of Varly and skates towards the otherside of the crease?

Posted by: Walle | October 20, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

My bad, that was Fehr leaving his guy..

Posted by: Walle | October 20, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

@tmac2yao

Your posts have been spot on.  Thanks for saying what many of us think.  

I have faith that this season will be the turning point though.  The players love Boudreau and know what's at stake for him if they don't go far in the playoffs.  I suspect you will see a gradual tightening of some defensive basics by our forwards.  I think the players will help Boudreau get there before it's too late.  If they don't, then shame on all of them (especially the captain), not just Boudreau.  I think he will follow the players' lead just as much as the players follow him, if that makes sense.

Posted by: chiefjr17 | October 20, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

@capscoach

I agree, and I think pretty much everyone on this board agrees that Sloan is, by far, the worst defenseman the Caps have. It hasn't been even close. Erskine worries me but I would much rather have him on the ice than Sloan.

I also agree that Backstrom has been MIA. He has looked pretty bad all season so far. It's only 6 games so hopefully it's just an aberration.

Another guy who has been pretty bad offensively has been Knuble. His play on the PK last night was great, but offensively he has provided nothing. He normally is not very good on the rush but makes up for it by having great net presence and knocking home rebounds and passes in close. Now it seems as if he is missing all the rebound chances and can't connect on passes to him when he is 5 feet out.

Here is an idea. Just an idea, I'm not saying the Caps should do this, but just think about it. How about moving Fehr up to the first line and moving Knuble down to the 3rd line? The third line would be much more of a forechecking line and probably better defensively, while Fehr would add some more shooting skill to the first line while not taking away any toughness.

If this happened, for it to work, Fehr would have to make sure he had a consistent net presence. But Fehr would provide a much better option on the rushes with Ovie and Backstrom.

Posted by: sgm3 | October 20, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

OK, 6 games in with 2 or less goals in 3 games, 3 goals in 2 games (both overtime goals), and 1 7 goal blow out over the struggling Devils. The PP has been weak as well. Teams have learned how to counter the Caps run and gun system. Hang back, play defense first, make the Caps skate to the outside, and cycle down low against the Caps subpar defense, parking players in the crease. The Caps will over commit to offense or getting cutesy with passing, opening up odd man rushes. It's how Montreal beat the Caps and it's what most every team has done so far. The Caps need to make adjustments to their style of play to commit to team defense and get 1-2 effective blueliners to be a contender.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | October 20, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

I think also one of the reasons Knubs has not had many goals is because the Caps have not been able to sustain pressure on the first line. They are getting some shots, but not many multiple shot shifts with juicy rebounds for Knubs who is waiting in the crease. I think the Caps are over-relying on scoring on rushes, especially the top line.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | October 20, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

The free wheeling style is great to watch this time of year, but come April IT WILL NOT WORK in the playoffs.
Totally different game come playoff time.

Posted by: caphcky | October 20, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Skating-wise, both Knuble and Fehr struggle against good d-men; of course when your linemates are OV and Backstrom [and both are playing to their usual high standards] there's often a ton of room so even a guy like Knuble can get open. But if Knuble's not taking the body and driving the net, he can be a liability - I did not think he played very well last night.

As for Fehr, no way he should be on the top line. He is a defensive liability.

Posted by: govtimbo | October 20, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Of course a little credit where credit is due - right now it looks the B's picked FL's pocket getting Horton [for Wideman, who makes Corvo look responsible] and pairing him with Krecji - that line along with Lucic will do serious damage this year, as Keith Jones put it. David Krecji is one of the best centers in hockey right now, ever since the Olympics.

But I couldn't understand, with that line playing so well against us, why BB didn't try different matchups - and to get Ovie out not against Chara. The B's D drops significantly after Chara and Seidenberg, so why not mix it up a little [I realize he did at the end, but that was mixing up line combos. I'm talking about putting another line out against the Krecji line - we did, after all, have the last change.]

Posted by: govtimbo | October 20, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I think also one of the reasons Knubs has not had many goals is because the Caps have not been able to sustain pressure on the first line. They are getting some shots, but not many multiple shot shifts with juicy rebounds for Knubs who is waiting in the crease. I think the Caps are over-relying on scoring on rushes, especially the top line.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | October 20, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I think also one of the reasons Knubs has not had many goals is because the Caps have not been able to sustain pressure on the first line. They are getting some shots, but not many multiple shot shifts with juicy rebounds for Knubs who is waiting in the crease. I think the Caps are over-relying on scoring on rushes, especially the top line.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | October 20, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Sorry for the multi-posts. For some reason, my machine and this blog do not get along very well.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | October 20, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of Ovie, I realized he was out playing D right off the faceoff - how come it took Joe B so long to see that? Beninati also mixes guys up pretty often; even if you can't see a guy's jersey # right away you should be able to tell just from their skating stride who it is. He never gives Flash credit for a damn thing, for one.

Posted by: govtimbo | October 20, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

@JIMALLCAPS,
Jim, I was sitting about 10 rows back from the first goal, directly in front of me. Sloan was in the correct position between the two D men, trying to take away the pass. HE WASN"T OUT OF POSITION OR TRYING TO CASTCH UP. His job is to try and take away the pass , not cover one of or the other of the D men. He didn't stop the pass, It was a picture perfect pass. Neuvy didn't have a chance. Blame our other D man or our O for not playing defense, but Sloan was not out of position.

Posted by: billd2 | October 20, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of Lucic, idiotic of CJ to let him fight Erskine - that is a great tradeoff for the Caps, if you ask me. Good job by Ersk though. The guy's a battler, I'll certainly give him that.

Posted by: govtimbo | October 20, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

You were too close, I was watching Sloan pinch, try to catch up to the first guy with the puck, have the other blueliner point to the trailer, then he tried to get over, but way too late and too far behind. Sloan had a great view of a good shot, right behind the shooter.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | October 20, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Caps are much improved this year. Offense comes and goes, but strong defense is important all the time. It is obvious the Caps worked on defense this offseason.
Positives:
-- Very aggressive penalty kill, and perfect so far I might add
-- blocking more shots, sacrificing body more
-- playing more physical in general
-- forecheck and backcheck are much better so far this year. Very aggressive forecheck is forcing turnovers in offensive zone. Caps will cash in eventually.
-- Varly-Neuvy combo is working out amazing so far. Two quality goalies. What a luxury.
-- Mike Green has really improved his defensive game and should get some credit.

Let's look at the positives Caps fans. Don't always harp on the negatives!

Go Caps!

Posted by: jmarks09 | October 20, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

@govtimbo

Fehr is a winger who is often near the top of the league in takeaways/minute(he doesn't get enough minutes to be tops in the league).

I don't see him as a defensive liability at all.

Posted by: sgm3 | October 20, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

His job is to try and take away the pass
---------

@billd2 - that is absolutely the job of the d-man on a 2-on-1; try to take away the pass and let goalie see the shot. If a guy like Horton or Krecji [or Backie, Ovie or Semin, for that matter] makes a perfect pass that somehow gets through, well, that's why those guys get paid like they do.

Posted by: govtimbo | October 20, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

I don't see him as a defensive liability at all.
----------

Fair enough, you may not. So far however, NHL GMs and coaches have taken a different view. As do I - in his own end, against good lines, he often struggles.

Posted by: govtimbo | October 20, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

"in his own end, against good lines, he often struggles."

But as a winger, when he is in his own end he isn't really facing the other teams top lines. He is covering the D. He doesn't have too much responsibility as a wing and he is able to use his reach to disrupt plays at the point.

Posted by: sgm3 | October 20, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

This first goal was cause by the other D-man pinching (Carlson?). Backstrom did not get back in time to cover for the pinch. Sloan was in adaquate position for the 2-1 but, didn't play this properly. He needs to defend the pass (just maybe he considers going down in the passing lane). He didn't do anything about the pass. The 2nd goal was a result of Neuvirth's over playing the shot and being totally out of position for the rebound. The 3rd was a screen.
Overall, I think the team played well. We just got beat, you can't win them all!

Posted by: chriscaps | October 20, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I think trying Fehr on the top line couldn't hurt. If Backstrom and Ovie are backchecking, Fehr has the speed for a breakout.

Posted by: McLobo | October 20, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

OV and the rest of his team of lazy slobs will get shut down in the playoffs by the Bruins and any other team that can play some defense. Take it to the bank.

Posted by: BigGameSid | October 20, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Also forgot to mention Caps are dumping and chasing more, getting pucks in deep instead of getting clogged in neutral zone and giving away bad turnovers as much from fancy stickhandling and passing in neutral zone.

But would like to see more bodies in front of net screening goalies and getting tip-ins and rebounds.

Laich, Knuble and Chimera understand that and I'm sure Boudreau is pounding that point home to the boys.

Go Caps! Beat 'em in Beantown.

Posted by: jmarks09 | October 20, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

"Oh, Sloan should not be on an NHL icesheet, too. He looked horrible on the first goal. Why is Sloan pinching in the first place?" by JIMALLCAPS2

Not sure what you were watching, but you are wrong. Sloan wasn't pinching --- Alzner was. Check out the highlight footage. It was a 2 on 1 with Sloan being the one in position. Neuvy was not sharp on that one either.
Sloan played a solid game. The 3rd goal Sloan was also doing his part in trying to clear the front of the net against 2 opponents; however with 2 Bruins in front & 3 Caps in front (Poti being too high to be effective).... no one was looking after the point man. Alzner was on for 2 goals against (once paired with Schultz & the other when he pinched & was out of position playing with Sloan). It wasn't Alzner's best game even though he was paired with Schultz. The team looked better lastnight in terms of energy, but compared to other teams the forwards (not all) are still lacking considerably in forechecking & backchecking. Despite the loss it was an entertaining game to watch.

Posted by: goforit4 | October 20, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

@BigGame...crosby will never really leave Mario's basement, he enjoys being daddy's little helper!

Posted by: boomer44 | October 20, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

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