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Posted at 11:13 PM ET, 11/19/2010

Capitals suffer first shutout loss in almost a year, 5-0 to Thrashers

By Katie Carrera

The first time Washington was shut out since Dec. 9 of last year (a 3-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres) wasn't pretty. If you haven't already, check out the game story from Saturday's hard-copy edition of the Post for even more on the breakdown.

This was not the third career NHL start, or fourth appearance, that Braden Holtby had in mind. The Capitals' 21-year-old netminder gave up three goals on five shots, prompting Coach Bruce Boudreau to replace him with Michal Neuvirth 9:07 into the contest, as much for a momentum swing as to protect Holtby's confidence.

"The first one was a little bit of a bad-luck goal but the second one he would like to have back," Boudreau said. "He was probably still thinking about it when the third one went in. I knew he was pretty rattled and it was only his fourth game, so I thought it was better to get him out of there and protect him than to let him stay in."

Unlike in the American Hockey League, where Holtby would have a relatively quick opportunity to bounce back, there's no telling when or if he'll get another crack in an NHL game while he in on his current recall assignment.

"Even if I had played good tonight I'm not really sure when my next game would be," Holtby said. "At the same time, it's been my rule since I've been growing up, is never have two bad games in a row. So I'm looking forward to the next one already. There are some things I'm going to need to work on in preparation and some technical things. I have to be better next time."

The third Atlanta goal, the bad-angle shot by Evander Kane which at first looked like it may have deflected off something in front of the net, on replay appears to have bounced off Holtby's leg and into the net.

"Third one, [I] was just trying to do too much and trying to find the puck too soon and I had it myself," said Holtby, who was asked if he expected to be pulled. "Yeah, whenever you're down 3-0 right away you're looking for a change in momentum or something. And I wasn't happy with any of those three goals. I wasn't happy with my game today, I should be better."

--Mike Knuble never returned after being struck in the face by a shot of Eric Fehr's in the second period, but he was still at Philips Arena at the end of the game. Boudreau said he expects the veteran right wing to be out "a little while".

--While the Capitals' multiple sets of back-to-back games this month can be grueling, it's probably a good thing they get the chance to put this game behind them immediately with a matchup against the Flyers tomorrow night in the friendly confines of Verizon Center.

"It's done, tomorrow's a new day and it's going to be a new game," Alex Ovechkin said.

--Boudreau said several of the defensemen had a rough night and it's probably not a bad guess that he might have been referring to the pairing of Tyler Sloan and John Erskine. Sloan was on the ice for each of the first four Atlanta goals while Erskine was on for three of those first four.

--Alexander Semin's nine-game point streak was snapped tonight, but what's worse is the winger was a minus-three and missed the net on a prime two-on-one chance with Ovechkin in the second period just before Dustin Byfuglien scored the Thrashers' fourth goal.

By Katie Carrera  | November 19, 2010; 11:13 PM ET
Categories:  Atlanta Thrashers, Braden Holtby, Bruce Boudreau, Mike Knuble  
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Next: Boudreau: Mike Knuble 'will be out for a couple days'


Well now that the stinker is outta the way, lets see how the boys respond against a much better team. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!

Posted by: bigBinMd | November 20, 2010 12:35 AM | Report abuse

Well now that the stinker is outta the way, lets see how the boys respond against a much better team. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!

Posted by: bigBinMd | November 20, 2010 12:36 AM | Report abuse

This team needs to bring in a veteran. Signing Guerin at this point may be a good idea. New blood is needed, someone with some leadership. He could play on our 3rd line every night. This would at least buy us time, and cost virtually nothing. Try waiving Steckel too, Boyd can play that spot.

One of Flash or Fehr needs to be moved. It's beyond absurd now. Yes, we have won a lot of games. But is anyone comfortable with what they have seen so far?

And let's be frank, OV has been a disappointment. What's up?

Posted by: underpants2

Posted by: underpants2 | November 20, 2010 12:37 AM | Report abuse

Stinker. Saturday's a new day. Big game.

Posted by: Justafan | November 20, 2010 12:52 AM | Report abuse

not a good game for the team but really a wake up to holtby.He still has ALOT to learn to play in the big leagues.Just seeing his first three games you can totally see the wholes in his game.has alot of work before being a star which i totally believe also that he will be in this league he just has to work on his game and adjusting to play in the nhl from the ahl which is a whole nother world.Lets go caps!get it together for tonight game vs philly!!
And it would be nice to see ovi pitch in a goal or two sometime soon also!!

Posted by: gratefuldid | November 20, 2010 6:23 AM | Report abuse

As a fan, it's hard to get worked up over a game in November - I can only imagine what it must be like for a player. I think the Capitals learned the hard way what wins in November are worth.

Posted by: bill_in_damascus | November 20, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

The last thing any fan of this team should worry about is the third string goalie.

I like Ovi as much as anyone but it should be noted that Stamkos and Crosby don't stop working and thinking about hockey once the season ends. Stamkos works out with Gary Roberts during the off-season and Crosby does what he does in Mario's basement or his.

I have nothing against Ovi having fun during the off-season but you can't say he's as dedicated to his job as those other two. In all sports there is no such thing as "off-season" anymore, most of them work even harder once the season ends.

To me Ovi is kinda throwback athlete who would get fat and drunk during the off-season. I'm sure he's more fun to be around most superstar athletes but is that more important?

Posted by: joek443 | November 20, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Not surprised to see that on Sloan since I pointed out very same thing. Knuble can go on IR and then LTIR if necessary. Andrew Gordon can come up and play up to nine games and still then go back down w/o waivers. Poti is also eligible for IR if they want to bring up a defenseman. Fahey? He wasn't half bad the last game he played, but is he the answer?

I believe the answer is we don't as an organization have a 7th defenseman, much less an 8th. We have Erskine who this year has been decent most nights but not last night. A Cup challenger would have Erskine as your #7 so you would not depend on him for all games. With a top pair or second paid D man brought in, a little less would be expected out of each of our current players. Maybe then someone like Bergeron that sgm mentions could be signed to be #8 and you would carry these eight. That means one forward needs to go from 14 to 13 on a regular basis. This problem is compounded by Poti and BGordon being walking wounded and unavailable so often. And also by King apparently not able to play regularly.

Of the 21 skaters (18 required each game):

Undependable due to play: King, Sloan, maybe even Flash

Undependable due to health: Poti, Gordon

Undependable perhaps due to youth: MaJo

Since we are 1/4 through the season, we can now bring in about $4.3M in salary for the rest of the season. The longer you wait, the more you can bring in, but the problem is real.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | November 20, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Looks like Varly should be back sooner than later. Holtby is good, but you have to be great at this level.

Posted by: kjohnskipc | November 20, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

John Erskine has never impressed me but he can play OK sometimes and he seems to be the closest thing to an "enforcer" that we've got. Tyler Sloan, on the other hand, has NEVER looked good to me at all in any aspect of his game. Sometimes the best news us Caps fans get before a game is that Tyler Sloan is a "healthy scratch."

On the other hand, John Carlson looks like an all-star every time he hits the ice. Carl Alzner has disappointed me this year but still shows promise. And Marcus Johanssen looks like a wonderful player.

And although nobody ever bothers to notice, Jeff Schultz may be the best, most essential, most valuable player we've got. Without him we'd get our butts kicked almost every night. I mean, how many goals does that guy prevent? Jeesh!

Last night's game notwithstanding, I think we're going to take the President's Cup again this year, maybe by a wider margin than we did in 2009, but the addition of Carlson and Johanssen to what is basically last year's roster otherwise might get us through May without 2009's weird disappointment at the end.

Remember, historically the Caps never even begin to play until about Christmas or so, so we might have a lot to look forward to this year.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | November 20, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Who are Hershey's two best fighters? If Knuble has a broken jaw and is put on LTIR you can recall as many players as you want up to his 2.8 (that would be five guys at Hershey salary). Let's make it fight night at the Phone Booth. Bring up Beagle, AGordon, Pinner and at least one defenseman and also their best fighter. We have plenty we can scratch or rest after last night.

BTW, Garnet Exelby is still unsigned. I always liked his abrasive style. There's another player you can bring in under $1M. I doubt prorated he would cost more than $5-600K on the cap.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | November 20, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Not sure why your knocking Alzner he's been pretty steady, he's not an offensive d-man like Green or Carlson. As for Sloan, last night was his only bad game, he seems to have turnovers everynight. They definitely need an upgrade on the blueline.
And I love OV as much as everyone else, but I don't think he's been the same player since he got the suspension for hitting Campbell last year, he definitely needs to back check more and float less in the d and neutral zone.

Posted by: topshelf | November 20, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

What a turd of a performance. I think MJ is going to be the real deal. I think Green played well. The rest stunk. I do not think OVI looks like OVI. I will say since his Olympics his play is going another direction. He does not hit with the same velocity or he skates around half interested. Someone mentioned Stamkos and Crosby. Yes I would say that Stamkos and Crosby are more interested in improving their games and becoming better than OVI. That being said if I were an extremely talented millionaire athelete in my twenties I would be having a good time as well. However it does beg the question does OVI really care about the CUP. My guess is that he cared more about the Gold medal. Regardless he looks slower, less physical, and he takes more low percentage shots than most.

Posted by: pkme | November 20, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

@tominsocal1, or anyone, why do you think Bergeron is unsigned? Not exactly a hulking defenseman, but he can hit, and shoot. Wonder about his health and why the Habs didn't re-sign him. He's talented, no doubt, but I wonder how good a fit he is. We're not exactly short on D on the power play. I can't say I've seen him enough, but I assume he's a puck mover. Thoughts?

Posted by: Justafan | November 20, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

The game stunk and Ovie def. doesn't look very good right now. He very well MAY not be as dedicated as Stamkos or Crosby, but I won't pretend to know. He took a few weeks off afer the playoffs and Worlds, but there was plenty of news about him training in Moscow with Dynamo and his trainer.

Don't get me wrong...Ovie has got to step up his game, but I hate how people assume they know things about someone based off a few news articles.

I think BB might want to go the NJD route and bench our favorite Russian...that might light a spark under his tail and get him to start floating around...cause I am getting sick of him just hanging around the point waiting for a pass.

Posted by: capscoach | November 20, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

I want to be wrong but I do not think the Caps will do well again in the Playoffs. Sure why not bench OVI. It would send a message that the rules apply to everyone. That would make some pretty big news to bench him. Can you imagine? The Canadian press would crucify OVI. Maybe they can bench him like in the 2nd period and see what he would be like the third period.

Posted by: pkme | November 20, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Whew, last night was a tough night to be a Caps fan in Atlanta. I was stunned by the especially poor start and inconsistent effort.

Hopefully, this game will remind the Caps what it will take to win a playoff game. It takes moxie - hitting, digging in the corners, fighting in the crease, and never quitting. They need to remember, not forget this game.

Tonight's another night. No excuses. We're playing at home in front of a sold-out Verizon Center. Let's go Caps!

Posted by: Terptwin | November 20, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

pretty interesting about OVI picking Semin for the all star team and Semin's contract

Posted by: pkme | November 20, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Well, that was a stinker for sure. I would be concerned if it they play like that most of the time, but they don't. Give credit to the Thrashers, they played a very good game.
@capscoach. I have the same sentiments about OV not playing well lately (maybe I should say not being as effective as he could be), but I won't go as far as benching him. I would curtail his play at the point on the pp for sure.

Posted by: hock1 | November 20, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I would curtail his play at the point on the pp for sure.

This sounds like a good idea, being out there for the entire PP, every PP, is very rare for almost every successful NHL coach I've seen - except this one. Do Green and Ovie really need to be out there for the entire two mins., of every power play we get, every single time? The seeming nonchalance is starting to grate.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | November 20, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Caps fans have a history of ripping their own best talent and ultimately running them off (or at least supporting the team when they let them go)...ragging on Ovechkin? You all really need to get a life - and some perspective. In the NHL they play 82 meaningless games to get to the real season - is it so hard to believe that in the first couple of months of the season that they are having a hard time getting up for a game with Atlanta? And OV is so bad that he is tied for 4th with Semin for scoring in the NHL? Everyone else should have such problems. So would you prefer that OV burn himself out during the meaningless 82 game season or peak in April and May? The team, even as I would agree is not really playing that well, is still first overall. If they stink in March, then we should worry. For now, let the young players develop and let the stars ramp up as the season goes forward.

Posted by: bill_in_damascus | November 20, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse


I agree with most of your opinion. However that being said BB needs to drive behavior. You can not let a superstar run the team. He has to be coached regardless of his status or ability. Before OVi the Caps were not a very interesting team nor could they fill the phone booth. He is a generational player. There is no question about his gifts and talents. However he shows up late for practices opts out of other practices and does not seem to ever attend optional practices. I know he has a lot of obligations outside of hockey but his play really has not been that great all year. One has to wonder if he is a coachable player. His work habits do not on the surface seem to be there. It has become an atmosphere where the world revolves around OVI. This is not good for the team. Anyone ever remember Mark Messier's work habits. Ovi is a lot like messier in many ways. However Messier led by example and put the fear of God as Captain in his teammates. Time will tell if OVI has the work ethic and leadership skills to take this team to a real Cup run.

Posted by: pkme | November 20, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Or if BB is the right coach for this team. You must know that these same thoughts have crossed Ted's mind. I still have question marks about BB. My opinion is the Caps should have terminated the relationship after that disaster with Montreal.

Posted by: pkme | November 20, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

pkme - you are right as far as the appearance of OV's work habits although I do not believe he misses any of the team's regular practices. Perhaps the HBO 24/7 expose will tell us a little more about Alex. And for BB, in my mind he was out-coached by the Canadiens so this spring is his real test. Can he get the Capitals over the hump? Time will tell.

Posted by: bill_in_damascus | November 20, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

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