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Boudreau on Walker's two goal debut

Welcome to Washington, Mr. Walker.

Tonight, in his debut, 36-year-old Scott Walker earned the No. 1 star and the red hardhat after scoring two goals in the third period to lift the NHL-leading Caps to a 5-4 win.

Check out my gamer here, then come on back for a few notes and quotes:

*Walker, obviously, gets an 'A' for his effort. The other new guys, Joe Corvo and Eric Belanger, were less impressive.

Corvo, who saw significant time on both the power play and penalty kill, looked jittery early but got more comfortable as the game wore on. He finished even with two shots on goal and three blocked shots in 20:19, the third highest ice time total on the team behind Mike Green and Tom Poti.

Belanger, meantime, played 2:35 on the PK, the second most ice time behind Boyd Gordon among the forwards. But Belanger won only five of his 12 draws, which is supposed to be the strongest part of his game.

"I though Joe played good," Boudreau said. Asked about Belanger, he said, "Eric is going to play an awful lot better when he gets to know his surroundings. We threw a completely different system at these guys and they're going, 'Whoa.'"

"When you're new, you play overly cautious because you don't want to make mistakes," Boudreau added. "Instead of going out there and doing what you do, which is playing."

*The Alexes are officially struggling. Semin has now gone three straight games without recording a point, and Ovechkin no goals (and four assists) in his past five games.

*I mentioned this in my gamer, but it's worth bringing up again: how about Nicklas Backstrom's shot blocking exploits late in the second period? After snapping his stick on a clearing attempt, twice he used his thigh to block slap shots from the point on a critical penalty kill (with the Caps clinging to a 3-2 edge).

"Why?" he said with a smile. "I wanted to win."

Speaking of Backstrom, according to the Caps, with four more assists, he'll join Wayne Gretzky and Peter Stastny as the only players to have notched 55 of more helpers in each of their first three seasons.

*Varlamov, who has yielded 10 goals in his past two starts, was neither good nor bad. But, as Boudreau pointed out, when Varly plays, the Caps win. He's now 8-0-0 at home this season and 13-2-2 for the year.

*The Bolts came into the game two points out of a playoff spot. But they ended up losing their fifth straight games and have surrendered five (or more) in five consecutive games for the first time in franchise history.

"There are certain guys - Martin St. Louis, obviously Steven Stamkos, I thought Vinny Lecavalier the last couple games came to play," Rick Tocchet said. "Some other guys, I don't know."


That's it from me tonight. I'm off tomorrow, but Mark will go to practice, blog and write a story.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  March 5, 2010; 12:12 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Tonight's lineup: Lightning at Caps
Next: Welcome to Washington, Scott Walker


Good effort by the newcomers.
Vets looked a bit out of sync.

Varly still not comfortable fter layoff.
This is why we keep 3 goalies.
This is why theo is my MVP so far this year.

Posted by: Rocc00 | March 5, 2010 12:24 AM | Report abuse


Cue music -- theme from Star Wars. Except Scott is an old Sky Walker rather than a young Sky Walker.

They've nicknamed him "Texas Ranger" over at Japers.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | March 5, 2010 12:38 AM | Report abuse

Green looked great tonight. Both Walker goals were direct results of Greener putting the puck on net.

Carlson also looked great, imo. Another plus night for the kid...him and Shamo work well together.

Posted by: BACKS | March 5, 2010 12:39 AM | Report abuse

I'll revise my argument that Backstrom shouldn't kill penalties.

More specifically, we've nearly locked up a top 3 spot in the Eastern Conference with just a few weeks left in the regular season. If Backstrom were too suffer some kind of long-term injury blocking shots, that would very possibly kill our hopes to make a deep run. Backstrom is that important to this team. We don't even have a clear cut 2nd line center, more like a bunch of 2nd/3rd/4th line tweeners.

The Caps have racked up a lot of points and a comfortable lead in the division. I say take advantage of that and do what you can to keep your key players healthy for when the games really matter. That was probably part of McPhee's logic for adding depth before the trade deadline.

At the beginning of the season, with 82 games to play, go ahead and use Backstrom in all situations. It's good for him and it's good for the team to see their number one center putting his body on the line. Right now, it's better for him and the team if he stays healthy.

At this point, it's just not worth it to have those extra shots being fired at him. The risk outweighs the benefits. Maybe just play him less on the PK to keep him comfortable in that situation without risking his body as much heading into the playoffs.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 5, 2010 12:47 AM | Report abuse

I didn't see Japers but I threw "Walker D.C. Ranger" out there in the game thread.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 5, 2010 12:49 AM | Report abuse

maybe somebody can can answer this for me
in yesterdays 3-1 win over buf:
PP for both teams was 0-2
schultz had 2 assists
schultz had a +/- of 0
if he was on the ice for 2 even strength goals, and i believe he was on the ice for the buf goal - why is not a +1
espn and nhl boxscores both have +/- of 0
i'd actually like to see him lead the league in +/- (yep - even over ovi)

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | March 5, 2010 1:01 AM | Report abuse

Also, the Lightning are fighting for their playoff lives so pointing out that St. Louis is out there in all situations may not be the best argument.

Are we sure the Lightning would be using their players the same way if they had nearly a 30 point lead on 2nd place in the Southeast?

I don't know exactly how much the Penguins use Crosby to kill penalties but is it not possible that they'd taper it back a little if they had a 30 point lead on NJ?

Plus, both of those teams have more depth up the middle than us.

Backstrom is arguably the most important player on this team even though Ovechkin gets most of the spotlight. We've proven we can without Ovechkin, Semin and Green in the lineup for extended stretches but we've never even gone an entire game without Backstrom.

I really do wonder if the rise of the Caps over the past few years has as much to do with Backstrom coming into his own as anything related to Boudreau or Ovechkin or Green or anybody else. Backstrom is BY FAR our best two-way player. He's the best decision-maker on the team and the best player we have with the puck on his stick.

If for any reason Backstrom every misses some games, which is probably inevitable at some point, I think we'll probably learn that he is the real MVP of this team.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 5, 2010 1:03 AM | Report abuse

... why is he not a +1

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | March 5, 2010 1:03 AM | Report abuse


The only thing I can think of is that he got off the ice after winning the puck behind our net and kickstarting the breakout that led to Green's goal.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 5, 2010 1:06 AM | Report abuse

If for any reason Backstrom every misses some games, which is probably inevitable at some point, I think we'll probably learn that he is the real MVP of this team.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 5, 2010 1:03 AM

we'll learn that or maybe we'll learn gordon's talents are being wasted on the 4th line and in the press box :)

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | March 5, 2010 1:08 AM | Report abuse

the stats guy needs at nhl needs to be traded. schultz got shortchanged on penalty kill time a couple games back too.

Posted by: letsgocaps3 | March 5, 2010 1:09 AM | Report abuse

In fact, I just confirmed that, Capt_Kirk.

Here is the game summary:

It's a weird technicality but Schultz must have made a shift change after passing the puck to Fleischmann but before Green scored.

Morrisonn must have taken his place and really didn't do anything to deserve his +1.

That's one of the many reasons that raw +/- is such an overused and overrated statistic. It's hard to draw accurate conclusions based on +/-, even over time. Some of those adjusted +/- numbers and other advanced statistics are probably a lot more meaningful.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 5, 2010 1:10 AM | Report abuse

Kirk, I actually wondered that, until I closely rewatched the second goal he assisted on. He left the ice before the goal scored - Green and ShaMo were on the ice. So he was on for 1 goal from each team, even though he had two assists.

As for tonight's game - great game by Knuble and Walker (did anyone see that coming from Walker?), and AWESOME PK by Backstrom. That was the second best individual PK effort I have seen from the Caps this season - surpassed only by Knuble's singlehanded 45 second possession in the offensive zone (if anyone remembers what game that was, please help me out; it's really irritating me that I can't remember). And I like what I'm seeing from the trades so far. While Belanger wasn't as good on the faceoff as he usually has been, he was a constant threat in the offensive zone - he made a number of passes that probably should have resulted in goals. And Corvo seems to be an improvement over Pothier - more physical, better puckhandling and passing, and a nice shot.

What was wrong with Flash tonight? It seemed like he wasn't ever in the game - he made a number of poor plays, and just didn't seem to be playing hard for some reason. Honestly, I wouldn't be upset to see him benched next game after a performance like that.

Posted by: timmyv38 | March 5, 2010 1:13 AM | Report abuse

nhl on the fly talking about how the caps need to be more aware on d - specifically on TB's 4th goal by stamkos. saying they did not pay attention to him.
what really happened was bmo's stick broke in the corner and then he skated right between varly and poti - as the pass came from behind the net to stamkos, bmo ended up right on top of poti who could not get his stick down as the puck got to stamkos - i blame that last goal on bmo

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | March 5, 2010 1:16 AM | Report abuse

Craig Button is picking apart the Caps despite the fact that we won. Dan Pollard had to remind him at the end that we won.

Button usually is very pro-Caps, at least on the surface. He was just being honest but like Boudreau said, everybody is putting the Caps under the microscope and looking for flaws.

No team is perfect. Chicago does look awful close at times but even they have question marks, starting in goal.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 5, 2010 1:16 AM | Report abuse

Right now, when it comes to goaltending, I think it's Theo's job to lose. Varly has been rusty ever since he came back, and let in two very weak goals tonight. Theo has been great recently, which is what I expected from him this season. He historically has played well in contract years, but hadn't been this year until the last couple months. I could still see Varly replacing him, but only if Theo plays badly for multiple games.

Posted by: timmyv38 | March 5, 2010 1:18 AM | Report abuse

thanks - that technically makes since
i guess some official scorers hand out secondary assits like candy sometimes. not real logical to me that a player not on the ice when the goal is scored could have had any real impact (assist) on the actual goal

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | March 5, 2010 1:22 AM | Report abuse

Varly getting injured has made things easier and more difficult for Boudreau, in my opinion.

It took away any controversy since Neuvirth has yet to show any real consistency at this level.

At the same time, now that Varlamov is trying to make his way back, you have to find out where he's at, meaning that Theodore probably won't get regular starts, something he always cites as a big factor for his play.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 5, 2010 1:24 AM | Report abuse

I'd actually say it's more illogical that Morrisonn gets a +1, particularly on that play.

In addition to breaking up a couple of odd-man rushes, that was one of Schultz' best plays of the game.

He single-handedly fended off two Sabre forecheckers behind our net and poked the puck free to Fleischmann who ended up getting the primary assist.

In other words, he had a huge impact on the play and deserved a +1 over Morrisonn who came onto the ice well behind the play and had no impact on the goal whatsoever.

I agree though that assists are pretty flukey at times, particularly some secondary assists, but that's the way they do it.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 5, 2010 1:29 AM | Report abuse

Backstrom is arguably the most important player on this team even though Ovechkin gets most of the spotlight. We've proven we can without Ovechkin, Semin and Green in the lineup for extended stretches but we've never even gone an entire game without Backstrom.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 5, 2010 1:03 AM

Funny, people said the same thing about Ovi in November. Of course, it's easy to say you can't win without a guy who has never missed a game.

Great first win with the new guys. Sure, there were rough spots but better than I expected inserting so many new guys in one game.

Posted by: ablake70 | March 5, 2010 1:30 AM | Report abuse

averaging a game every other day for the remainder of the season should allow for theo to feel like he is getting close to 'full time' work

i believe BB is going to swap every other game for these two until there are 3-5 games left in the season and then start the playoffs with the best one - i don't know if that will be enough work for varly to get back into his early season form
i'm ok with either one in net and have nothing but respect for theo with his personal situation

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | March 5, 2010 1:31 AM | Report abuse

Schultz getting the assist and Morrisonn getting the +1 both make perfect sense. Assists are based entirely on who last touched the puck - it was Schultz, Flash, then Green for the goal, giving Schultz an assist. But when the goal was scored, ShaMo was on the ice - just a bit behind Green. Schultz definitely created the play, by freeing up the puck and getting it to Flash. He just had the bad luck of leaving before the play finished. It would have been more fair to give the +1 to Schultz, but that's just not how scoring works - although I don't know if I've ever seen that happen, where a guy got an assist but not a +1.

Posted by: timmyv38 | March 5, 2010 1:41 AM | Report abuse


You may be right. I worried about losing Ovechkin for a stretch of games but we overcame that. I worrid about Green missing games but we overcame that. The same was true in the past when Semin missed games.

Having said that, I have a feeling that it would be different with Backstrom. He does so many little things and is by a wide margin our best two-way player. We'll probably find out one day but I'd be just as happy we never had to find out.


Yea, I think Boudreau has to go with some kind of rotation like that until one of them makes the decision for him, either through great play or poor play.

I was just pointing out that Theo has mentioned several times since coming to the Caps about how important it is to get a lot of consecutive starts without having to go in and out of the lineup. Let's see how he and Varlamov, for that matter, react to going in and out of the lineup if Boudrea does take that approach.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 5, 2010 1:42 AM | Report abuse

i'm not say they should take away schultz's assist - but if he had enough time to get off the ice after he got the puck to flash - it would seem that flash pretty much did the work to get it to green for just a primary assist
i've never noticed that happen in a game before

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | March 5, 2010 1:51 AM | Report abuse

@ tmac2yao

I think this team can survive a few regular season games without Backstrom. Look at the first 7 games Ovi missed. Semin was playing hurt and did little more than rack up penalties. Backstrom was in a terrible scoring slump, so bad on FO the BB switched him out with Stecks at key moments, and I believe was a minus during that time. He might have been sick or injured, but he wasn't very good. Still other guys like Laich, Knuble (until he got hurt), BMo, Flash, Varly and even Clark stepped up to carry the team. Not to say that I would ever want to play games without Backstrom, especially not the playoffs. I just think you are undervaluing Ovi's contribution to the team.

Posted by: ablake70 | March 5, 2010 2:00 AM | Report abuse

Mike Green is the most frustrating/exciting player in the league. He rushes the puck up the ice as good as Bobby Orr. Yet, he seemingly always finds a way to get in a ridiculous position and then have a terrible turnover.

The third goal, the goal that gave Tampa the momentum to get back into a game that the Caps should have taken control of, was all on Green.

He was on the half boards...of the offensive zone...and tried to toss sauce horizontally across the nobody in partciular. In the last weeks of the season the Caps better start focusing on DEFENSE. This includes Tom "Stamkos Watcher" Poti.

Posted by: chrisclarksucks | March 5, 2010 2:31 AM | Report abuse

I didn't mean to undervalue Ovechkin so much as state my belief that Backstrom is the most irreplaceable player on our team.

And there is much more to the game than putting up points and winning faceoffs. For example, I think Semin has been our best overall player over the past 2 games and he hasn't put up a point and is a -1 over that stretch. He's been skating hard, making plays in all 3 zones and making good decisions with and without the puck.

Backstrom plays in all 3 zones and does so many little things for this team even when he's not racking up points or winning faceoffs.

He's about the only player that I feel nearly 100% confident about in the defensive zone with the puck on his stick.

He's not the biggest player out there but he's nearly impossible to knock off the puck when he's on his game (which is 99% of the time).

He probably touches the puck more than any other forward on the team over the course of each game yet rarely turns it over.

He wins battles along the boards at a crazy rate, even against bigger players and sometimes against more than one player.

His decision-making and consistency are second to none on this team.

He carries the puck end-to-end better than any player on the team, including Green.

In my opinion, he is the most critical component of our league-leading power play because of the way he handles the puck and sees the ice. Most of the guys on the PP can see one step ahead of the play. I think Backstrom sometimes sees 2 and 3 steps ahead.

Ovechkin is awesome but if there is one player whose absence I think would have the most disruptive effect on the team, it's Backstrom because of how many things he does well in every zone.

Perhaps a lot of that has to do with the importance of the center position so I'll say this much: There is no wing who is more important to this team than Ovechkin and I'm extremely happy that we have both players.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 5, 2010 2:36 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad that BB had something good to say about Varley after last night's game. Quite a departure from what he said about him after a loss before the Olympics break.

A win is a win, and although TB scored plenty, the Caps pulled it off. Nice start for the new guys, especially Walker!

Posted by: dccitizen1 | March 5, 2010 2:39 AM | Report abuse

Somebody else made a good point about Stamkos' goal. If you watch the replay, Morrison skated right between Poti and Stamkos after breaking his stick. He effectively provided a screen for Stamkos and prevented Poti from getting his stick in the way.

I'm not saying Poti would have prevented the goal but he would have had a shot and Varlamov would have had a better view of the puck.

I think that goal was largely on Morrison for just drifting through the slot without his stick or any real purpose.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 5, 2010 2:40 AM | Report abuse

ON THIS ISSUE THERE CAN BE NO DEBATE!!!Forget about every single little person having an opinion. That gets nobody anywhere. Here is how it is....


Why on earth does anyone who REALLY cares about a Cup give a rats (blank) if we beat Tampa Bay the 1st home game after the break

If you are mental and if so...offer an explanation please!!!

We all know that nothing else NOTHING ELSE MATTERS except how hot we are after round 1. To quote METALLICA (who i can't stand) NOTHING ELSE MATTERS!!!


Posted by: broud0 | March 5, 2010 3:27 AM | Report abuse

backie comes out on his own terms.the kid hasn't missed a game yet.we at least give him a chance to break another record.C-A-P-S,CAPS,CAPS,CAPS.

Posted by: unclebully4 | March 5, 2010 3:59 AM | Report abuse

The main point is that this "Team" is finally a team and not dependent of just one individual "MVP" type of player to carry them. In previous years, Ovie would of had to play more time on the ice and shoot more in order for the Capitals to have a chance to win or just be competitive. Now, you see everyone contributing "significantly" from Bradley all the way up to Backstrom. Yes, this team can win even without Backstrom in the line up. Even though he has played in every game, Backstrom has left several games early due to migraines. In fact, it is a testament to the team that it is still winning despite stretches of low offensive production by Ovi, Semin, Green and even Backstrom. I am not even mentioning Fleishmann, Knuble, Fehr and Laich who can all score and contribute if forced. For a team to truly become a serious "Contender" all parties must contribute and that is what is happening now for the Capitals. What a luxury it is to have all the above and then to back them up with Chimera, Belanger, Corvo and even Walker is amazing! Just remember what happened last year, Ovechkin may have had the most goals and was MVP, but it was the Pittsburgh team that won it all. In fact, I will be very surprised if Crosby did not win MVP this year for his job in carrying the Penguins so far. Let him finally have the MVP as long as the Capitals finish the job that they were created to do.

Posted by: JohnWWW | March 5, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

When Green drew the hooking penalty he also got called for "unsportsmanlike" and the refs were over at the box reviewing the play. Can anyone explain 1) what Green did to get the unsportsmanlike and 2) what they were reviewing? I was in the stands and it wasn't clear to us what the call was for or what was being reviewed.

Posted by: psujohn | March 5, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

@psujohn: Supposedly, Green's matching minor penalty was for "diving". Whatever.

The refs were reviewing to see if there was a goal scored when (Laich, I think it was) a player put the puck under the Tampa Bay goalie, but the goalie's stick was on the goal line. The stick prevented the puck from going over the line, so it was a "no goal".

Posted by: dccitizen1 | March 5, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse


Green did a little spin to sell the penalty. I have seen worse acting not called but I can't complain that they did.

They were reviewing a Caps shot that was going towards the goal and would have been in the net, but Smith's goalie stick was laying right on the goal line and kept it from going in. They were checking to see if the force of the shot made the puck and stick go over the line. Call was correct for no goal, but it was blind bad luck we didn't score.

Posted by: CTCapsPhan | March 5, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: broud0 | March 5, 2010 3:27 AM |

Just tells you broud0 how many here "have never been there"!

Seriously, we need to get better as the season progresses not worry & nitpick every little aspect of the team.

Posted by: Rocc00 | March 5, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

I love Backstrom but to suggest that we have proven that we can win without Ovechkin is silly at best. Take a look at the teams the Caps beat without Ovechkin,

Florida x3
NY Islanders
Tampa Bay
Philly (Laviolette's first game)

The only team that is even sniffing the playoffs is Philly and they were in the midst of losing 14 of 17 when we played them without Ovechkin. I'm going to suggest that if Backstrom had missed those games we probably do pretty well too.

Posted by: ouvan59 | March 5, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Thanks. I thought they were calling a dive but it looked like the offender had a hold of Green's stick and spun him. Sure Greenie sold it a bit but it didn't seem like a dive to me but whatever.

Posted by: psujohn | March 5, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

If you've ever had a stick put between your legs when you're skating, and some pressure applied in the right way, you spin. Period. End of story. It was a corkscrew...subtle, but still a corkscrew. Bad call. Glad it didn't end up hurting us.

Posted by: NorthFork1 | March 5, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

I think we had a chance to get Vokoun --Varly + a 2nd or something could have done that. Would have been totally worth it. We now have 3 "good" goalies - not sure what you get from each of them on any given night, but for the most part they are 0.900 goalies. 0.930 is what swings a 3-4 series to 4-3. Vokoun would have been the killer acquisition if that was possible (think it was).

Posted by: Political_Stratgst | March 6, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse

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