Boudreau: 'It Was a Lot of Effort Issues'
Coach Bruce Boudreau praised Kari Lehtonen for his 49-save performance in the Thrashers' 5-1 win tonight. But Boudreau also bluntly pointed out -- in only the way he can -- that the Atlanta goaltender was only a part of the Caps' problem at Philips Arena.
"Kari Lehtonen was great all game," Boudreau said. "But we were still really bad in the first two periods. We did everything wrong that a team could do."
On to the notes:
Where's the Effort?
The Caps' biggest deficiency was an obvious lack of effort in the opening 40 minutes against a Thrashers team that started the night 30 points behind them in the standings and didn't have Ilya Kovalchuk, its leading scorer.
They were out-hustled. They were outworked. They were dominated on faceoffs (winning only 29 percent in the first two periods). They didn't throw many hits (the score sheet credits them with eight all game, and that might be generous). The penalty kill didn't pressure the puck. And Lehtonen saw almost every shot that was flung in his direction.
Those are telltale signs of a team that wasn't playing with enough effort or passion -- a recurring problem for the Caps, particularly against lesser opponents.
Boudreau said, "It was a lot of effort issues, I thought."
Lehtonen was good, not great. And that was the Caps' fault.
"Among the things we talked about between the second and third [periods] was that we're not going to score on this guy tonight unless someone goes to the front of the net," Boudreau said. "If you look at our past few games, we're getting all pretty goals and power-play goals. But nobody's willing to get dirty. Until we learn to get dirty and get in front of the net, the guys who are stuck on 'X' amount of goals are going to stay stuck on 'X' amount of goals."
Alex Ovechkin took 10 shots on Lehtonen, a goalie he normally dominates. He came in with 16 goals in 16 games against the goalie, who had No. 8's number tonight. Ovechkin really came to life -- and started running Thrashers players over -- after a taking a slash to his hands Boris Valabik late in the second period. But by then it was already 4-0.
Theodore to Start Tomorrow
Boudreau pulled Jose Theodore after the Thrashers got their fourth goal on their 19th shot. But the coach didn't hold his goalie accountable for the lopsided score. In fact, Boudreau wanted to get Theodore out because he knows he's going to rely on him against the Panthers.
"I'm sick and tired of him bailing our team out and him not getting the support that he deserves," Boudreau said. "You look at his goals against or save percentage and you say it should be better. But when you have to stop goals like that first goal [where] four guys just waved their stick at the guy, what are you supposed to do?"
In his first action in 14 months, Brian Pothier was okay, I thought. He skated 16:51 and fired three shots on net. He was also in the penalty box for one goal and the reason John Erskine (his partner) was forced to take another penalty that lead to another goal.
"I thought he was really tentative in the first period and was doing way more watching than he was skating," Boudreau said. "But he got a little better as the game went on. But it's first game in 14 months, so I'm not going to hold him too accountable."
Pothier added, "I felt pretty good. I saw the ice decent. I made a couple of mistakes that led to penalties and we got in trouble so I was a little frustrated by that. But I had lots of energy. My legs felt fine."
PK Killing The Caps
The Caps' penalty kill, which came in ranked 20th, did them no favors tonight, yielding three goals on four shorthanded situations. Things got so bad, Boudreau started one kill with Ovechkin on the ice. Don't remember the last time I saw that.
"Quite frankly, the other guys weren't exactly getting the job done," he said.
Dominated in the Dot (Again)
The Thrashers won 65 percent of their faceoffs tonight. Had Sergei Fedorov played, that might have been different. But he didn't. And it wasn't pretty. Todd White won 8 of 9 and Peverely won 16 of 21. Meantime, Michael Nylander won 4 of 11 and Nicklas Backstrom won 2 of 10.
That's not going to get it done, folks.
Thrashers Set Record
The win was Atlanta's sixth in a row, a new franchise record.
Well, that's it from me tonight. I'll check in from the morning skate at BankAtlantic Center.
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