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Brooks Laich on Caps clinching playoff spot: 'We have bigger goals'

It was business as usual in the Caps' locker room here at KCI following today's morning skate, despite the fact that the team became the first in the NHL to clinch a playoff spot after they wrapped up their third-straight Southeast Division title when Atlanta lost to Columbus, 2-1, last night.

Forward Brooks Laich probably summed up the general feeling amongst his teammates when he talked about his emotions, or lack thereof, upon learning about the accomplishment.

"I don't think anyone came in rejoicing," Laich said. "It's nice to know we're not gonna finish lower than third [in the conference], but other than that, we have bigger goals."

Or, as Coach Bruce Boudreau put it: "It would have been more of a calamity if we didn't win it."

Last year, though, as the Capitals became more comfortable with their position in the standings, they admittedly went into a bit of a swoon. The team was a relatively solid 5-2-2, but the intensity and passion displayed all season seemed to waver as players began to look ahead to the playoffs.

"I don't think we were complacent; it's just tough when you're waiting for the playoffs to come because everyone really likes playing there and it feels like it takes forever to come," Laich said. "This year, though, I think we're a year older, a year wiser. I think last year we had desires of making a good run in the playoffs, [but] we weren't exactly sure if we were Cup contenders. But this year, I think we have to be mentioned in the breath with some of the better teams, in the same sentence. I think our goals this year are a lot bigger and I think that'll keep us a lot more focused."

With still a month remaining in the season, keeping players motivated and performing with the same type of intensity is a real concern for Boudreau. When the topic was brought up, he was blunt about the end of last season and conceded that it played a role in the team falling behind the Rangers, 3-1, in last year's Eastern Conference semifinals.

"I think we were pretty crappy last year down the stretch," he said. "Coaches can talk about it, we want to keep the standards up, but it's like the week preceding Christmas. You're not doing what you're supposed to do because you're waiting for Christmas. I'm not saying that's where we're at, I think we're still a real hungry team and have regular season goals to achieve, but I can see where I can make an excuse for why it happened last year. But we don't want it to happen because we started out the first couple playoff games not too good either. We want to be strong going into the playoffs this year."


News and notes from the morning skate

*It's another game day for the Capitals, which means another set of healthy scratches with a roster overflowing in quality forwards and defensemen. Judging by who stayed out for extra work this morning, it looks like defensemen Jeff Schultz and John Carlson and forwards Eric Belanger, Boyd Gordon, and Quintin Laing will watch tonight's game against the Lightning from the press box.

Though the Caps weren't showing their lines at the morning skate, here's my best guess on what they'll look like based on some of the drills I watched this morning:

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble
Semin-Fleischmann-Laich
Chimera-Morrison-Fehr
Walker-Steckel-Bradley

As for the defensive pairings, Mike Green told me he'll be with Shaone Morrisonn tonight and I was told Erskine would not be paired with Sloan. I'm just not sure whom each will be paired with, either Joe Corvo or Tom Poti.

*Goalie Semyon Varlamov came off the ice first this morning, so he'll likely get the start between the pipes tonight. It's another big start for the 21-year-old, who's still trying to regain his form after being sidelined for three months with knee/groin injuries, as he battles with Jose Theodore for the mantle of playoff starter. Varlamov has yet to finish with a save percentage above .885 since coming back, but he's improved in each of his three starts.

*The Lightning are coming off a 4-3 overtime loss in Toronto last night after Phil Kessel scored a game winner in the extra period. It was Tampa Bay's fourth loss in five games since coming back from the Olympic Break and now sit six points behind Boston for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.

One person they can't blame the recent swoon on is 20-year-old Steven Stamkos, the team's No. 1 overall pick in 2008 who has put up some remarkable statistics in just his second NHL season. The young center has 42 goals and 38 assists this season, including at least one goal in his last seven games. Boudreau called him "the best under-20 player in the NHL by far."

"He's just gonna be a bonfide superstar who's gonna challenge Alex [Ovechkin] for a lot of these goals and awards in the not too distant future," Boudreau said.

*And in the interesting facts department, David Steckel's brother-in-law, Dustin Reynolds, is a junior on the Ohio State men's basketball team. Just thought everyone would want to know.

By Mark Giannotto  |  March 12, 2010; 12:57 PM ET
 
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Next: Boudreau defends Varlamov

Comments

strong comments by laicH!

Posted by: LettsDropThePuck | March 12, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

oh and first!

Posted by: LettsDropThePuck | March 12, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

come on peeps! it lunch and it's raining start chatting! corvo scores tonight.

Posted by: LettsDropThePuck | March 12, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Referencing tonight's game, I have really grown to dislike our division rivals particularly Tampa Bay and Carolina. Ted used to be worried about the lack of rivalries within the SE division. I feel pretty confident in saying that ship has definitely sailed.

Posted by: blackandred777 | March 12, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

---------------------------------

Couldn't agree more. Rivalries just take time. With each passing year the intensity in the SE games seem to ramp up.

Posted by: croftonpost | March 12, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

especially if stamkos continues to develop and compete w/ovi for scoring. not a big fan of st. louis over the years. don't have that with stamkos yet.

Posted by: LettsDropThePuck | March 12, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

From previous thread:

Yeah, Chara is Chara. All of you that have NHL Center Ice watch some of the boring Bruins games. Chara CONSTANTLY gives the puck away and loses every race to the puck. Boston can friggin' have Chara and his inflated salary. Chara also takes a lot of penalties for holding, hooking, etc. You ever want to see what he's really made of check out his panic or pissed off mode, he's totally useless. When he was given the Norris last year even the broadcast crew was a bit surprised and they considered it a lifetime achievement award.

Schultz plays to his strength. He doesn't need us to tell him he's not the fastest player on the ice so he doesn't step up to make a bone crushing hit in the neutral zone because he knows he doesn't have the speed to get back into position.

Posted by: fanohock1 | March 12, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

The development of Stamkos is scary. Unfortunately, I can see Tampa challenging the Caps for the division next year. I hope I'm wrong.

Posted by: croftonpost | March 12, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

@blackandred777

I think there is a little more animosity towards Tampa or Carolina in recent years but, I don't think it compares to the type of venom that a lot of us get when some of the following teams are mentioned..

Pittsburgh Penguins
Philadelphia Flyers
NY Rangers

Those Patrick Division rivalries die hard.

Posted by: DrCapsFan11 | March 12, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

DrcapsFan11,

I agree. However, you can feel the tide turning with each passing year. Obviously, the Penheads are an exception to this though.

Posted by: croftonpost | March 12, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

especially if stamkos continues to develop and compete w/ovi for scoring. not a big fan of st. louis over the years. don't have that with stamkos yet.

Posted by: LettsDropThePuck | March 12, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

if the caps had st. louis right now, they would be a shoe-in to win the cup... nobody in the NHL has a bigger heart than the little midget

Posted by: joek443 | March 12, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

If you're looking for a reason to dislike Stamkos I found a reason last year. He got tangled up with Green at the end of a game last year, I think it was the 2nd to last game. It aggravated Green's shoulder injury less than a week before the playoffs. IMO it was a dirty play by a player that was not headed to the playoffs.

Posted by: fanohock1 | March 12, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

The development of Stamkos is scary. Unfortunately, I can see Tampa challenging the Caps for the division next year. I hope I'm wrong.

Posted by: croftonpost | March 12, 2010 1:18 PM

Not until Tampa gets consistently solid goaltending. Nitty can be that way, but he hasn't been in top form all season.

Posted by: Raber | March 12, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Varly better be on his game if we're really resting Schultz and Carlson for Erskine and Sloan. I agree with the idea of resting guys, but I don't know about this one. Guess we're saving the top 6 D's for Chicago?

Posted by: Gould23 | March 12, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Sloan and Erskine playing tonight... That's gutsy BB.

As long as they're not paired together I guess it won't be too bad. Don't get me wrong I like Erskine and what he can bring in grit but inserting them both into the line up on the same night. Yikes.

Let's go Varly!

Posted by: Hokies4Caps20 | March 12, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I think those 4 forwards lines could take us deep into the playoffs.

Posted by: LouLewis | March 12, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Im going to the game tonight, have a bad feeling....TB has played us tough all year and is proably due for a win at Verizon. Varly starting scares me but he needs to get his mojo back.

Posted by: Redskins2Win | March 12, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

"I was told Erskine would not be paired with Sloan."

What, Boudreau doesn't want to lose the game?

Posted by: butcherbaker | March 12, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

joe, my point being . . . st. louis has been a cap killer in the past. obviously he is good. sid is pretty good too. i guess if he was on our team, we would be cup bound too. but he is not, so i have a hard time rooting for them.

Posted by: LettsDropThePuck | March 12, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I'm assuming this but no one's said anything (that I've seen) - would a win/ot loss tonight break the record for fastest caps team to 100 points?

Posted by: hook99 | March 12, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

OMG what is BB thinking playing Erskine and Sloan on the same day! I think Erskine is a good idea because we need a tough guy as TB gets a little feisty sometimes, but I am not a fan of Sloan or ShoaMo and Erskine is so g-d awful slow! This is going to be a tough game!

Posted by: capscoach | March 12, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Sloan isn't playing.......

Posted by: brennantjones | March 12, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

According to Boudreau and Mike Vogel, Sloan is a scratch.

Posted by: brennantjones | March 12, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I'm looking forward to the game tonight but I agree these are gutsy scratches. I did not expect Sarge to sit, despite the bench depth, and thought perhaps he, Green, and Corvo would be immune on D. Hoping Varly shows his worth against an explosive TB offense! The time is now.

Posted by: Sonyask | March 12, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Thank goodness there is no Sloan...maybe schultz is in then?

Posted by: capscoach | March 12, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

I love St. Louis. I hated him in the 02 playoffs.

I don't mind Tampa...the only two teams in our division I hate are Carolina and Florida.

Posted by: richmondphil | March 12, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

I love St. Louis. I hated him in the 02 playoffs.

I don't mind Tampa...the only two teams in our division I hate are Carolina and Florida.

Posted by: richmondphil | March 12, 2010 1:54 PM

Any team that beats us in a playoff series in 3OT is a team I don't like. I don't like Tampa.

Posted by: Raber | March 12, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

That series sucked. Last playoff games I ever went too.

Win the first two, then lose the next 4....

Posted by: richmondphil | March 12, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

You guys will see how much we miss Gordon tonight.

I am not happy with the Walker addition.

Also, Belanger is another faceoff/specialty guy.

Glad to see Sloan NOT playing. I would be pissed if I was Varly...getting the second stringers in the game when he plays...

Who cares about Chicago...why give them a true look at what we have. We are 14 points up on the pens...I would love to send a message to the league and sit OVIE and Backs out to "rest"...

I would say we would still be the Hawks..

Ya, I'm cocky about my team...I think we have it...!!!

Posted by: SoaringCaps | March 12, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

You would think the rivalries with Carolina and Tampa Bay would already be strong considering they both have already won Cups. That pisses me off.

Posted by: digital_will | March 12, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

And Erskine is slow, old and not as physical has he was in the past...

Throw a ball of yarn up in the press box and let him and Sloan play around with it for a few hours...

Posted by: SoaringCaps | March 12, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I have nothing against Floriday really, but Tampa Bay and Carolina on the other hand I just can't stand. They play us so hard and seem to be in most games even though we have owned TB the past few years.

Posted by: Hokies4Caps20 | March 12, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

None of the Southeast teams, ESPECIALLY Tampa, present anything in the form of a rivalry to me. Sorry. Patrick Division is where we should still be playing except Abe went for the money for transferring to the Southeast from the league.

And to those focused on fastest point total in a season, please remember that "loser" points are now counted. Hard to compare this team with Bettman's loser points to past teams that only got rewarded if they actyually won or tied a game... leaves a little bit to be desired.

Cordially,
RBlatch

Posted by: rblatch45 | March 12, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

If the Penguins could play to potential we should have a horse race for 1st in the conference. What is it about that team and Crosby's leadership that allows them to underachieve until their backs are against the wall?

Posted by: SA-Town | March 12, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Who cares about the prez trophy, the SE div, the scoring race (I mean if OVIE loses the goal scoring race to Crosby he will only be more determined in the playoffs no?)etc....

THE CUP IS ALL THAT MATTERS
-if a #1 seed helps I am all for that achievment

Posted by: broud0 | March 12, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I also have a bad feeling about Varly, I think he'll start strong, let in a softie, then 1 or 2 more. Then, Tampa will finally start feeling fatigue from playing backtoback, and Caps will tie the score, then take the lead in the second period. St. Louis scores on a heads-up play when one of the D-men (Green or erskine)gives it away. Caps win in OT, 5-4.

Posted by: peabody2 | March 12, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I hear you S-A...

And the latest hockey news made me PUKE!

There is an article in there that says "The Kid Was Born To Deliver Greatness" or something sickening like that...

If Sid "The Kid" was standing next to me,I'm almost certain I could have knocked him out I was so pissed...

I didn't mind Canada winning (obviously I wanted the US to win) but with Crysby scoring...it was my worst nightmare...

Posted by: SoaringCaps | March 12, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

I have liked both Saint-Louis and LeCavalier for a long time--even though they don't play for the Caps--because they strike me as being people of better basic character and temperament than you-know-who. e.g., you'll never catch #4 punching someone in the 'nads from behind; you'll never catch #26 asking the officials to make the crowd stop throwing hats after an opposing player's hat-trick.

If I had the opportunity to do so, I'd rather skate with either VL4 or MSL26 than with Voldemort, Shrek, or Orprick...any day of the week.

Posted by: Rhino40 | March 12, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I agree...Marty plays with passion, I like that...Vinny is a good player..very skilled, I wish the caps could have gotten him last year...

And Stamkos..is going to be something else...only his second year and 40+ goals...

That kid is a winner and has been at everything he has done in his life...Soccer, Lacrosse, Baseball, Hockey (at every level but the NHL)...

Posted by: SoaringCaps | March 12, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

I have liked both Saint-Louis and LeCavalier for a long time--even though they don't play for the Caps--because they strike me as being people of better basic character and temperament than you-know-who. e.g., you'll never catch #4 punching someone in the 'nads from behind; you'll never catch #26 asking the officials to make the crowd stop throwing hats after an opposing player's hat-trick.

If I had the opportunity to do so, I'd rather skate with either VL4 or MSL26 than with Voldemort, Shrek, or Orprick...any day of the week.

Posted by: Rhino40 | March 12, 2010 2:28 PM

This. When I said I hate TB, that does NOT mean I don't respect them for the talent and character their two stars have. I've seen Vinny get frustrated once or twice, but both he and St. Louis are top notch in my book in terms of character. I'd welcome either of them to the Caps in a heartbeat (though I know that's a pipe dream).

Posted by: Raber | March 12, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Did anyone see GMGM's quote on NHL.com

"I've been very pleased with our team. We've never been in this position before (with 15 games remaining). We like it and we're going to keep our fingers crossed and hope we can continue playing well because it's been a terrific year so far. I think we've done a good job of having a good team on the ice and what we'll have on the ice next year because we've drafted well. We have a lot of young players ready to play if we can't get certain people signed (during free agency), so we're comfortable with the shape of our organization right now. But we'll address things at the right time in the summer. For now, it's about playing the game and the focus is on trying to win."

It seems to me that he is planning on not re-signing a player or two this offseason. I wonder who, one of my guesses will be ShaMo.

Posted by: sgm3 | March 12, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

And to those focused on fastest point total in a season, please remember that "loser" points are now counted. Hard to compare this team with Bettman's loser points to past teams that only got rewarded if they actyually won or tied a game... leaves a little bit to be desired.

Cordially,
RBlatch

------------------------------------

I have seen this opinion over and over again and it is absolutely incorrect. The real difference now is not the points awarded to the loser of OT/SO but the points awarded to the winner of OT/SO. Previously both teams would have been awarded one point for a tie so the loser isn't getting anymore than in the past.

As far as rivalries go, I feel very little anymore with regards to the Devils, Rangers, and Islanders. I feel much stronger about the Lightning, Hurricanes, and Panthers than them.

Posted by: croftonpost | March 12, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

(From previous thread)

Let me ask you guys something...can you name me one team in hockey that rested it's stars for the playoffs?

This is possibly one of the most absurd suggestions I've ever read about hockey. NO other team in the past "rests their stars", but for some reason the Caps have to.

Yeah, reduce their minutes, take them off the PK so they don't get hurt...but take a superstar out of the game because you feel like it's common to rest them? lol...

Posted by: richmondphil | March 12, 2010 10:45 AM

Actually, I believe Pittsburgh did it the year before last. Cindy took a maintenance game in the last game of the season giving him basically a full week off before the playoffs.

I'm not necessarily for it, but I remember at the time thinking Pittsburgh was pretty smart for doing it because Crosby was still coming back from that ankle injury.

Posted by: Raber | March 12, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I have no problem sitting Ovi and Backs for one game. In fact, I would pick the game that would create the greatest break for them. That way both players could get close to one week off before the playoffs.

Posted by: croftonpost | March 12, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Dear Capitals,

I have tickets to tonight's game because it is my 30th birthday. Please win.

Thank you.

Posted by: mattbuckley801 | March 12, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Dear Capitals,

I have tickets to tonight's game because it is my 30th birthday. Please win.

Thank you.

Posted by: mattbuckley801 | March 12, 2010 3:10 PM

The dirty 30's. Welcome aboard pal.

Posted by: Fro_ | March 12, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I love that Boudreau is playing Erskine and Walker tonight. The Lightning have a number of dirty players who have come after Caps stars in recent games. This is the main thing Walker gives us - someone to step up and take on the goons.

And I'm glad they're finally sitting Gordon - he shouldn't even be up at the Caps.

Posted by: timmyv38 | March 12, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

None of the Southeast teams, ESPECIALLY Tampa, present anything in the form of a rivalry to me. Sorry. Patrick Division is where we should still be playing except Abe went for the money for transferring to the Southeast from the league.

And to those focused on fastest point total in a season, please remember that "loser" points are now counted. Hard to compare this team with Bettman's loser points to past teams that only got rewarded if they actyually won or tied a game... leaves a little bit to be desired.

Cordially,
RBlatch

Posted by: rblatch45 | March 12, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Nothing compares to the Rangers, Pens and Flyers. The Devils and Islanders don't present the same kind of hatred they once did.

But as long as Tocchet is coaching Tampa I think there could be a chance of a nice rivalry occurring. He seems to us the Caps as the measuring stick for his team's progress and he takes losses to us extra hard. Combine that with the nasty element of his team (Downie, Konopka etc) and improving talent and I think Tampa is poised to be one of our main rivals in the coming years. Tocchet has really done one of the best jobs in hockey this year given the state of Tampa just a year and a half ago. And he took a discard like Downie and turned him into a solid regular player, something the Flyers couldn't do.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 12, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

And to those focused on fastest point total in a season, please remember that "loser" points are now counted. Hard to compare this team with Bettman's loser points to past teams that only got rewarded if they actyually won or tied a game... leaves a little bit to be desired.

Cordially,
RBlatch

Posted by: rblatch45 | March 12, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Look at the schedule before making pointless comments like this. If it was still going according to the old sytem, then the Caps would only be down 5 points - at 94 instead of 99. I doubt any other Caps team got there this fast.

Posted by: timmyv38 | March 12, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

I love that Boudreau is playing Erskine and Walker tonight. The Lightning have a number of dirty players who have come after Caps stars in recent games. This is the main thing Walker gives us - someone to step up and take on the goons.

And I'm glad they're finally sitting Gordon - he shouldn't even be up at the Caps.

Posted by: timmyv38 | March 12, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

amen on Gordo, he doesn't deserve to be one of the top 12 forwards. He barely deserved it before and now with Belanger and Walker in tow there should be no room for #15 in the playoffs barring injuries. At the very best he should get rotational ice time with BMo but frankly I'd like to see both of them out of the lineup in the playoffs especially if we face a team like the Bruins or Flyers. Against the Habs I could see a more speedy finesse player like BMo be more effective.

And no to Flash at center. Backstrom/Laich/Belanger/Steckel offer us the best center options.


re: the Tampa dirty players. They're not really goons. Tocchet implemented a very aggressive physical philosophy, same way Toronto just did since Burke took over. Guys like Konopka and Fedoruk are rough players but they're better than your stereotypical goon type because they can skate well enough to be valuable energy role players who play on the edge. And Downie has been elevated from purely a checking role to a more offensive role. He's turned into one of Tocchet's go-to-guys and plays on the PP so he's definitely not a goon. On defense, Matt Walker is their version of John Erskine except he fights more.


I daresay the Caps could stand to incorporate a little more of Tampa's grit and work ethic. Its been a big part of their resurgence. Look at Carolina, this is a team lacking any kind of real talent and its their grit and work ethic that has characterized their turnaround lately (along with timely goaltending). If the Caps matched that type of work ethic this would be unstoppable. Teams like Tampa and Carolina can't afford to have any letdowns which is why they play every period of hockey like its their last. I want to see more of that from our players, esp on defense and that 2nd line.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 12, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

No offense timmy, but have you seen Walker? He's not taking on any of Tampa's big boys.

Posted by: SA-Town | March 12, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

That series sucked. Last playoff games I ever went too.

Win the first two, then lose the next 4....

Posted by: richmondphil | March 12, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

if i recall that was the one where Jagr started getting abused by Kubina and none of the Caps really did anything to help create more room on the ice for #66. But then what do you expect when you had guys like Kip Miller pulling down big minutes and Calle Johansson being at odds with coach extraordinaire Bruce Cassidy. That team had no mental tenacity at all. They'd fold like a house of cards.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 12, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

No offense timmy, but have you seen Walker? He's not taking on any of Tampa's big boys.

Posted by: SA-Town | March 12, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Walker is plenty tough even at his age and health status. He could take on Downie and possibly Konopka. Have a harder time with Matt Walker's reach and size and Fedoruk's strength. But he's probably our best current fighter. Brads is horrible but a gamer, Steckel is not a fighter. Chimera is willing but would probably lose in a fight to Bradley. Knuble's not even willing. Erskine's our only defenseman willing to tangle but his fighting has dropped off considerably. Walker's our only hope. I think he'd beat Downie,but possibly lose to or draw with Konopka. His strength is his experience and the fact that he's got a nice mean streak in him and is willing to take punches in order to give them.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 12, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

if the caps had st. louis right now, they would be a shoe-in to win the cup... nobody in the NHL has a bigger heart than the little midget

Posted by: joek443 | March 12, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

unless he plays defense and kills penalties, he wouldn't add a whole lot that we don't already have upfront unless you're thinking about replacing Semin or Flash with him. Our other top 6 forwards play with just as much p!ss and vinegar in their game. Even Backstrom has been stepping up his play along the boards and in the crease this year.

Offense is fine. Good balance of skill, size and desire upfront assuming Boudreau doesn't bench the wrong guys.

But like that article pointed out recently, the Caps PK and overall defense doesn't come close to matching up with some of the other good teams. If we win the Cup, it will be a whole new way of doing it thats never been done before. Offense comes by a bit harder in the playoffs and its the better defensive teams that go a longer way. That 1st round matchup will be very interesting. We could get bounced in that 1st round if we play the "wrong" team. You can throw the seeding right out the window, its all about matchups and which team is willing to put in the effort for the grind of a playoff series.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 12, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Let me ask you guys something...can you name me one team in hockey that rested it's stars for the playoffs?

This is possibly one of the most absurd suggestions I've ever read about hockey. NO other team in the past "rests their stars", but for some reason the Caps have to.

Posted by: richmondphil | March 12, 2010 10:45 AM

from earlier. the early 90's pens used to rest guys (mario namely) late in the season. they really didnt care about winning divisions, just wanted to safely qualify and rest guys before the playoffs.

Posted by: dcsportsfan1 | March 12, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

@cstanton - I disagree about Tampa and Tocchet. Konopka is as close to a total goon as there is in the league - 2 goals, plays 8 minutes per game, leads the league in PIMs. Basically, he comes into the game, commits a drive-by, and is out. Maybe Tocchet gets some credit for Downie, who has become a real contributor. I think Tocchet is a bad fit for Tampa though - he's got a lot of skill on the team, but he only knows the Flyers goon style of hockey. I think the team has under-performed, when you look at their roster. If I were one of their fans or in their team management, I would be concerned that one of the goons would do something stupid and the other team would retaliate against Stamkos. I predict Tocchet is gone next year.

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http://concepthockey.blogspot.com/

Posted by: gocaps01 | March 12, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Konopka isn't just used as a drive-by hitter though. His 8 mins per game, thats a helluva lot more than most "goons" in the league get. Many resident tough guys only see a few shifts per game. Konopka gets almost as much ice time as a Matt Bradley and is used in a similar role. Look at Scott Walker, is he a "goon?" How about Brandon Prust? To me, any player who skates well enough to get in on the forecheck, can pull down a semi-regular shift, can play reasonably well defensively while providing toughness and energy is more than just a "goon"


I guess my definition of a goon would be someone closer to a Brian McGrattan type. Limited ability, can't skate very well, has a hard time forechecking because of his lack of speed, can't get in deep to throw checks and most of his fights occur not in the heat of battle but more of a scripted situation. I don't care about the point totals per se. You can still be an effective role player without much in the way of points. Konopka's played almost every game this year and he's used more as a hitter/agitator/energy player who is responsible defensively. I wouldn't call him a goon despite his gaudy PIM totals or his dearth of points. He skates well enough to get in deep, bang bodies, crash the net, create some energy. This is also his 1st real NHL season. He scored a lot more points in the minors than did guys like Colton Orr, McGrattan etc.

People confuse goons with players who don't score many points and rack up a lot of PIMs. It goes deeper than that. Yes, most goons share those characteristics but there are players who aren't goons who also share those traits. Travis Moen and Shawn Thornton had all the earmarks of a goon if you looked at their stats initially. They were strictly fighters/energy type guys who werent't expected to contribute anything more than that. But with the right team and the right opportunities their game blossomed. Konopka was a point per game player in the junior leagues and was almost a point per game player in the minor leagues. Not exactly goon-material. He's just a hardnosed aggressive abrasive player who offers more than just his fisticuffs.

The Caps have a prospect in Stefan Della Rovere who may be a very similar player at the NHL level. He doesn't have great hands and may never be anything more than a Konopka type of 4th line player. But it doesn't make him a goon either.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 12, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Della Rovere is an interesting one. Very aggressive, but not only did he make the Canadian Junior National Team, but he scored and was effective. He may only be a 4th liner with the Caps, but that is due to the depth of skilled forwards and their style of play. Who's to say he couldn't become as good as Downie?

As far as Konopka goes, I think the fact that he gets as many as 8 minutes per game is an indication more of who his coach and the coach's preferred style of play.

I hear what you're saying, CStanton. I guess I just have a hard time accepting the concept that high penalty totals (with no other quantifiable assets) are a good thing in a legitimate sport.

Posted by: zmega | March 12, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

my ideal playoff lineup:

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble
Semin-Laich-Fehr
Chimera-Belanger-Bradley
Laing-Steckel-Walker

3 playmaking 2way centers, 4 RWs with size and/or grit, 3 LWs with speed and a solid defensive contributor in Laing.

I know I'm bumping Flash but I think he plays one or two really good shifts and then coasts the rest of the way. I don't like his consistency. He's talented enough to put that puck in the net on those 1 or 2 good shifts but I'd be willing to forego that for a more consistent responsible player.
and if we faced a team like the Habs that is more speed driven then I'd bump Laing or Walker out of the lineup and insert Flash into that 2nd line. I'm not sold on Fehr by any means but he does provide some more net presence. He still has a ways to go with his defensive play and play along the boards. He had a nice game v Tampa and if he kept playing that determined style of hockey he's be a real asset to the lineup.

Defensively I really dislike Poti and Corvo so I'd exclude them but in real life I know that'll never happen. I really dare anyone to watch Brian Pothier's game and tell me he's a worse hockey player than is Corvo. Absurd. He played a great game against us and he played an even better game last night v the Penguins. He hit, he scored, he racked up a ton of ice time and never looked outmatched against the Pens top players. Joe Corvo would've been eaten alive. And to additionally give up a 2nd and Osala, that was really a horrible trade. Corvo by no means is a clear upgrade over BP. Eh I'm getting sick thinking about it. And watching Corvo in a Caps jersey, he's still the same weak defensive player. He looks like a forward playing D. If I had to I'd take Poti over him.

Green-Schultz
Carlson-Mo
Poti/Juice-Erskine

Against teams like Boston/Philly that would be my lineup. Against the Habs or likewise, I suppose you could throw Corvo in there somewhere.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 12, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

I hear what you're saying, CStanton. I guess I just have a hard time accepting the concept that high penalty totals (with no other quantifiable assets) are a good thing in a legitimate sport.

Posted by: zmega | March 12, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse


Its not high PIM totals you should worry about, its the amount of times a player leaves you shorthanded. If Konopka's PIM totals were mostly PP opportunities for the other team, his benefit-to-liability value wouldn't be as good. But there have been many cases of high PIM totals where the player doesn't leave his team shorthanded very often. Brashear did that pretty well for the Caps. But I agree, Tocchet utilizes Konopka because he likes his style of play and willing to accept his lack of points and his PIMs. But I don't see anything wrong with that. Travis Moen was only given a chance in Anaheim because of Randy Carlyle and Brian Burke. Ditto Shawn Thornton. And both of them came from Chicago's farm system as tough guys and weren't expected to be much more than 4th line tough guys. But they both skated fairly well for players who had large PIM/low point totals. Konopka's #s in the minors were way better.

So maybe next yr Konopka pots 8 goals, 12 assists and a slightly less PIM total. This is his first full year of trying to establish his presence in the NHL and Tocchet isn't asking much of his 4th liners except to be responsible defensively while providing edgy ornery play.

I guess my point is, you have look past the #s sometimes because hockey is more complex than simply a statsheet. Some players are tough without racking up PIMs, some players aren't that tough despite racking up many PIMs, some players are valuable agitators, some are useless agitators, some players are more valuable despite lower point totals than other players etc etc.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 12, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Green-Schultz
Carlson-Mo
Poti/Juice-Erskine

Against teams like Boston/Philly that would be my lineup. Against the Habs or likewise, I suppose you could throw Corvo in there somewhere.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 12, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

that looks very much like the defense corp that couldn't get outta the second round last year... wait, it IS the same group of guys who couldn't keep Crosby outta the crease

Posted by: joek443 | March 12, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

except for Carlson that is...

Posted by: joek443 | March 12, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

that looks very much like the defense corp that couldn't get outta the second round last year... wait, it IS the same group of guys who couldn't keep Crosby outta the crease

Posted by: joek443 | March 12, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

I'm dealing with the cards I was dealt :)

So adding in Corvo sure won't help keep Crosby out of the crease since he has an allergy to that style of play.

I think Carlson and Mo do a decent job of keeping forwards out of the crease. Schultz does it occasionally; he boxes forwards out pretty well but he's still timid about actually knocking players down aggressively.

Green is playing grittier hockey this year so I expect a better defensive effort from is clearing the crease and Juice is still him in the playoffs. Erskine's big asset better at doing that than is Corvo. Poti actually isn't bad in that specific role. He just makes stupid turnovers and whiffs on his clearing passes too much for me to have to sit thru it again.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 12, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Erskine is the slowest d-man the Caps ever had since Joe Reekie... at least in Reekie's days they were allowed to hold and grab

in today's NHL, d-men like Erskine is almost useless

Posted by: joek443 | March 12, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

in today's NHL, d-men like Erskine is almost useless

Posted by: joek443 | March 12, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

how do you explain then the series he had v the Rangers last yr ? Erskine is a situational player. He can be an asset in the right environment. If he wasn't he wouldn't still be with the team. He may not be a good fit with a team like Boston because they already have that element on their defense in much better players (Seabrook, Stuart, Boychuk, Seidenberg)

On the Caps defense, he's a rarity so in some situations he can be useful.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 12, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Just curious as to what people's playoff lineups would look like. Personally, I would have:

OV - Backstrom - Knuble
Semin - Belanger - Flash
Laich - BMo - Chimera
Brads - Stecks - Walker

Scratches: Gordon, Laing, Fehr

That gives two offensive lines and two grinder/defensive types.
Obviously it's tough to scratch Fehr, but one of the people sitting is going be a tough call anyways. I think Gordon and Laing are for sure going to be sitting, and the third will be more up for grabs.

Posted by: Aldred15 | March 12, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

There's about 15 defensemen in hockey with comparable skill levels to Erskine. Closest current player on a good team I can think off the top of my head is Matt Carkner with Ottawa. He's there to play virtually the same role that Erskine is asked to play with us. Provide some hardnosed play in front of the net and along the boards, and defend his teammates.
Jay Harrison is a similar player also for the Canes. Matt Walker for the Bolts.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 12, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

I think Gordon and Laing are for sure going to be sitting, and the third will be more up for grabs.

Posted by: Aldred15 | March 12, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

unfortunately I think you're right in that Laing is a goner. However, I think Gordo will get a shot here and there and I think BMo will be a scratch sometimes along with Walker. All depends on how the series is going. If we're getting banged around a lot and losing games to a lesser talented squad then you'll see players like Gordo and BMo on the bench and the Walker/Laing types get some playing time. Ditto on D. Erskine will probably start off sitting and maybe get in a game here and there if we're giving up too many 2nd chances around the net or opposing forwards are getting too much room.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 12, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

ok, ok the knock on erskine is that he's slow; that's generally the nature of stay-at-home defensemen (EVERY team in the nhl has defensemen that people here would say are too slow)...we cant clear the crease and our pk is awful, erskine certainly wouldn't hurt getting a few shifts on the pk....personally, i can't stand shultz; he's got to be the most passive big man in the nhl (remember his "fight" against jackman of the isles last year?) i remember caps fans booing kevin hatcher because he didn't play to his size, what's with the love affair with him??

Posted by: vermontcaps | March 12, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

@cstanton - I like Juice and Erskine, but I don't think you can pair them - too slow.

I haven't given up on Corvo yet. But a couple of games ago when he left his man in a 2-on-2 rush situation to double team with Poti, leaving his man completely unchecked, I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Posted by: zmega | March 12, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

I just saw Sloan behind Lisa H. on SportsNite. I think he is in.

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | March 12, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

unless you're willing to suit up 7 d-men, don't know what is the role of a "situational" d-man would be...

there are guys who can play some wing as well as a d-man but with Erskine, him playing wing isn't even a possiblity

Erskine and Sloan WILL be healthy scratches in the playoffs, end of story...

Posted by: joek443 | March 12, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

I'd be very surprised to see Sloan once the playoffs begin, barring a bad injury situation. I'd be very surprised if Erskine does not play some. Probably not every game, but some, depending on the opponent. He brings a lot experience, toughness, and the ability to clear the crease. Who else do we have with that resume?

Posted by: zmega | March 12, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Excellent shift by the second line!

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | March 12, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Schultz is out. Fantastic. Varlamov won't get screened by his big butt. The Caps will have 6 defenseman who hit.

Posted by: wgoodm01 | March 12, 2010 7:16 PM | Report abuse

That was a good kill!

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | March 12, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Green with the D!

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | March 12, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Uhh, that's a decent pass.

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | March 12, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

THAT WAS AWESOME!

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | March 12, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Real shame there. We were having an EXCELLENT period.

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | March 12, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Less awesome.

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | March 12, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Green with the D!

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | March 12, 2010 7:30 PM

Then Green with the no D!

Heh...

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 12, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Thank gawd, tmac - I was worried it was a two-man echo chamber. Three is much less sad on a Friday night.

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | March 12, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Yes Varly was leaning. However, if Green had not been so late reacting to his defensive assignment there never would have been a 2v1 for Varly to lean one way against. Green just infuriates me at times. He is so brilliant one minute and then so sloppy or lazy the next. He must get more consistent defensively.

Posted by: croftonpost | March 12, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Varlamov probably should have stopped that but the odd man rush was generated when Greener got caught pinching.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 12, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Actually, just watching the replay of the TB goal a few times, Ovechkin probably should've backchecked and picked up the guy who was on the left on the 2-on-1. That would've allowed Morrisonn to be more aggressive and the puck carrier.

Ovechkin needs to read the play and react quicker on the backcheck.

So, I'd put that goal on Green, Ovechkin and Varlamov.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 12, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

*on the puck carrier

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 12, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

I think that you guys are paying too much attention to Green. Green will be Green, we all hopes he gets better and better on D. But...

Varly should have stopped that.

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | March 12, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Enh, sometimes the other guy just makes a better play.

Meanwhile, Morrison can't buy a goal.

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | March 12, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Is there a name for the phenomenon that leads one to perceive that every team's goalie is having the best game of his career against your team?

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | March 12, 2010 8:02 PM | Report abuse

SO MANY REBOUNDS!

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | March 12, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Maki is looking both lucky and good. I hate it when that happens!

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | March 12, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

BOTH TB goal scorers getting their 2nd goal of the season.

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | March 12, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

NOTHING going right for Varly!!!

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | March 12, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Ha ha. Sometimes it's also the other guy's night to get all the bounces/deflections. Weird.

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | March 12, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

Okay I'm not freaking out or anything but I need to say that Varly doesn't look good. I know 2 of the goals were deflected but overall even on saves he looks shaky. He's overcommitting on a lot of shots. He doesn't look confident. It looks like Theo for sure will be the goalie starting the playoffs and as well as he's played that still worries me. If we meet a hot goalie like how Nittymakkii is hot tonight, then we're screwed. Semin is frustrating the heck outa me tonight...

Posted by: rachel216 | March 12, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

Some people might look at the score and freak out but the Caps have largely played a terrific game. There is a huge element of luck in this sport and TB got plenty of it in this game. Plus, a little adversity is a good thing for this team.

Morrison had a wide open net early in the 2nd but couldn't lift the puck. That should've been a gimme. He did draw a penalty later so that was good.

I don't fault Varlamov on either of those 2 goals, particularly the first one. He was in perfect position but the puck deflected off Laich's foot. Bad luck other than losing the draw. Varlamov has played well.

Our PP has looked outstanding tonight and could easily be 3-for-3. Tons and tons of possession time in the offensive zone and tons of scoring chances. TB got lucky we didn't score a couple of goals.

I am happy with the way the Caps have played so far. Again, hockey is a game of luck and bounces more so than any other major sport. The Caps have dominated this game but have gotten a bit unlucky.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 12, 2010 8:34 PM | Report abuse

The first goal yes, but the second and third goals were not on Varly. There's nothing he could have done to stop those deflections. I doubt any goalie stops either one of those. Tampa has been both lucky and good. It might just be one of those nights.

Posted by: croftonpost | March 12, 2010 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and Fehr continues his great play. I'm glad he was able to get back out there.

The Laich-Flash-Semin line has been buzzing all game. That sustained forecheck they put on early in the game was outstanding and kickstarted what has been a dominating Caps performance despite the score.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 12, 2010 8:36 PM | Report abuse

BRING BACK NEUVY!!! whether those goals were his fault or not,he is just not playing like he used to.and i dont see him getting back to that form any time soon

Posted by: gratefuldid | March 12, 2010 8:38 PM | Report abuse

Let's hope TB doesn't slip into the eighth spot... they give us a lot of fits.

Posted by: rachel216 | March 12, 2010 8:38 PM | Report abuse

and i say it again "BRING BACK NEUVY". hes better poised and more sound in the net.i see a better future with neuvy than varly.and ive been saying this for a long time,not just since varly has been playing like CRAP!

Posted by: gratefuldid | March 12, 2010 8:41 PM | Report abuse

You need to give Varly a little more time. He is young and returning from injury. He is way too talented to quit on.

Posted by: croftonpost | March 12, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Well at this point Varly has the upper hand b/c of his play in the playoffs last year. I'll wait and see who's better when they battle it out next year if it is in fact the two of them up here next year. Varly before his injury was a brick wall. Getting back into form is taking longer than I expected for him.

Posted by: rachel216 | March 12, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Neuvy is way to talented not to have up in our club.

Posted by: gratefuldid | March 12, 2010 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Varlymov is more talented than Neuvirth and that is not only my opinion but the opinion of nearly every hockey expert out there. Don't get me wrong, I like Neuvy but Varly has a chance to be real special.

Posted by: croftonpost | March 12, 2010 8:45 PM | Report abuse

What the heck does that even mean? "More talented?" I never understand that. Yes, Varlamov is more athletic than Neuvirth but sometimes it's better to be technically sound.

Posted by: rachel216 | March 12, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

if varly doesnt improve,your not gonna see a varly/neuvy tandem.they will keep theo or sign a vetern for another year till h they are more experienced.i would like to see varly/neuvy next year but varly isnt performing well enough

Posted by: gratefuldid | March 12, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

rachel, I'm with you. I understand Varly is still working off the rust, but it's also important just to be on your game. Certainly not panic time - far from - but should this continue, why not Neuvy?

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | March 12, 2010 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Is there a name for the phenomenon that leads one to perceive that every team's goalie is having the best game of his career against your team?

Posted by: stevie_in_gp

So very true. All I can think of is that playing against the Caps pumps them up, gets their adrenaline going and gives them singular focus. But I am SICK of seeing average goalies become impenetrable. It becomes a very boring and frustrating game.

I don't think the Caps were on fire tonight though. And they didn't have that chemistry among them that results in incredible passes and great timing that catch goalies unaware and gets us scores.

I hope they are transformed in the 3d period. Can they do it?

Posted by: caraveli | March 12, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

And again, I do think two of the three goals tonight were just flukes, and I don't agree the first *should* have been made.

I'm speaking generally, based on the last bunch of games.

(And of course one of the advantages of the Caps' big division and conference leads is you can let Varly work the rust off for the next 14 games.)

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | March 12, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

I am so sorry to see Varly still struggling. I have absolutely no doubt that he has what it takes but he is in a bad streak and has lost confidence and momentum. It will be a shame to miss the playoff opportunity -- let alone the #1 slot--because of his extended injury. Mark my words. If they go with Theo, he will revert to his old ways as soon as he becomes complacent.

Posted by: caraveli | March 12, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse

Okay I am now officially panicking. I think if we were going to turn it around we would have scored right away. I don't see the boys come out like a different team in the third period.


And Crosby is ahead of Ovechkin...What agony. I am turning the sound off to lessen the anxiety. It helps somehow.

And I am sick of Maki stopping everything he does not deserve to stop. Who can I take my frustration out on?

Posted by: caraveli | March 12, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

thanks brooksie

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | March 12, 2010 9:10 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe all this dumping on Varlamov. He played outstanding in both the playoffs last year and the first three months this year. Yes, he is struggling a little bit now but we are only talking about a few games. This is very fair weather as far as I'm concerned. He's a young goaltender and he needs our support not our venom. Finally, this game isn't on Varly anyway. Only one goal was his fault.

Posted by: croftonpost | March 12, 2010 9:10 PM | Report abuse

I sure would like to see BMo get a break.

The crowd is JUICED!

And we have MO!

GO CAPS!!!

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

No, no, not giving up on the Caps in this game or Varly for the year. Just asking: why not Neuvy? Has he not earned it - based on this year's play alone - every bit as much as Varly?

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | March 12, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

croftonpost;

I am a great fan of Varly and consider him the best goalie we have. It is unfortunate that he had the long disruption due to injury. As far as this game is concerned, what happened to our offense? They are acting like passive little girls that are intimidated by that goalie. I don't buy it that this goalie is so great.

Well okay, we finally scored one but we have to be a million times more aggressive to win. I don't like our offense tonight.

Posted by: caraveli | March 12, 2010 9:18 PM | Report abuse

CAPS CAPS CAPS!!!

Posted by: dc33 | March 12, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Chimera kinda fast

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | March 12, 2010 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Just one of those games.

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | March 12, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

if varly stops the first goal then...

a few lucky deflections and it's that close...

that was the worse pulled goalie play ever.

Posted by: rachel216 | March 12, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

No offense timmy, but have you seen Walker? He's not taking on any of Tampa's big boys.

Posted by: SA-Town | March 12, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

SA, ever hear of Steve Konowalchuk? He was barely bigger than Walker is (6'1", 205 vs. 5'10", 196), and could take anyone on. Walker has heart and is an experienced fighter, I think he could take anyone on Tampa if he needed to.

As for what forwards I would use, here it is:

Ovie-Backstrom-Knuble
Semin-Belanger-Laich
Fehr-Flash-Chimera
Bradley-Steckel-Walker/Laing

I would switch Laing for Walker if it is a team where Laing's shotblocking would be helpful. I don't think BMo is a top 4 center for us right now, and I already stated my opinion of Gordon.

Posted by: timmyv38 | March 12, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

I agree about the offense. Not enough pucks on the net tonight. I think they fell into their old habit of trying to be too cute. I don't like this suddenly unselfish play from Ovi either. I want him shooting the puck and being super selfish.

Posted by: croftonpost | March 12, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

I hope they don't get complacent. I thought we were actually going to lose b/c we officially clinched and TB is on the bubble. Lucky for them they got some good bounces.

I think BB needs to go two games in a row with Theo. I don't like going back and forth with Varly and him.

No one is blaming Varly. It was definitely one of those games where you play well but you face a hot goalie and the other team gets some lucky bounces. But anyone else noticing that when Varly's in net the other team misses A LOT of wide open nets? The last few games Varly has played I found myself asking "how did that NOT go in?" at least 3 times a game.

Posted by: rachel216 | March 12, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

I thought the Caps outplayed TB tonight. Our PP was outstanding and TB got a couple of flukey goals. The 3rd period was more even because TB gained some confidence after finding themselves in the lead despite being decisively outplayed through 2 periods.

Hockey has a bigger element of luck in it than any of the other major sports. I thought the Caps played better tonight than they have in some games that they've ended up winning this season.

We've won games that we probably didn't deserve to win, e.g. the last Detroit game.

Tonight, we lost a game that we deserved to win.

That's hockey. You can't win 'em all, even when you signficantly outplay your opponent.

The majority of people around here are completely overreacting to Varlamov's play. He's only had a few starts since missing several months. We are in a position to try to get him back into form without risking very much.

Tonight, he was pretty solid, in my opinion. One bad goal on an odd-man rush. That's all he gave up. He's still rusty but has made strides just over the last few starts. Be patient, folks. It's too early to panic.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 12, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

I don't like this suddenly unselfish play from Ovi either. I want him shooting the puck and being super selfish.

Posted by: croftonpost

I know what you mean. I especially don't want to see Crosby's face staring at me from the leaders in goals column.

Posted by: caraveli | March 12, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Agree croftonpost, that the offense got too fancy tonight, especially Semin, but what's new with that? Too much trying to get off a perfect shot when we should just shoot it, like when Green shot and Laich deflected and scored. As great as Maki was we didn't get enough traffic in front and get those 2nd and 3rd chances. Too many times we gave up a good opportunity to shoot and tried to get fancy. I'm with you in that I find myself yelling for Ovechkin to stop passing and just shoot it everytime he has the puck.

Posted by: rachel216 | March 12, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse

varly is getting better with each game he plays - as of right now theo's play should get him the start when the playoffs come. swapping theo and varly should continue for the next 6-8 games. varly needs enough games to back to (or at least close) where he was before his injuries.

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | March 12, 2010 9:42 PM | Report abuse

Tonight, he was pretty solid, in my opinion. One bad goal on an odd-man rush. That's all he gave up. He's still rusty but has made strides just over the last few starts. Be patient, folks. It's too early to panic.

Posted by: tmac2yao

I guess you can say he was pretty solid but lecavalier (?) hit the post and honestly St. Louis should've had a goal on that two-on-one but somehow missed it. But to your point, I guess it is better to be lucky than good.

Posted by: rachel216 | March 12, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

I'm more concerned with our defensemen continuing to get got pinching and some of our forwards failing to read when they pinch and being ready to backcheck and provide support.

The first TB goal was on Green and Ovechkin as much as Varlamov. Green decided to pressure the puck along the wall when he really had no chance to win the puck and Ovechkin watched a trailing skater shoot in behind Green.

That play was as bad or worse than anything Varlamov did tonight.

I wonder if Boudreau shows Ovechkin those plays and encourages him to work on his defensive awareness.

For a team that has it's defensemen constantly looking to pinch in and generate offense, it's absolutely crucial that forwards are defensively aware and ready to react if the pinching defenseman gets caught out of position. Some of our forwards are largely good at it but others are awful, starting with Ovechkin. If he ever gains that sense of awareness and responsibility, his play and our team's play will take another big step forward.

If the other forwards see Ovechkin playing more responsbily and backchecking hard, they will all feel even more compelled to do the same. That is the next step Ovechkin needs to take in his evolution as an NHL player.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 12, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

Tonight's loss to TB was one of the worst games I've seen the Caps play all year. Intercepted passes, soft on the puck, failure to gain the offensive zone with authority, standing around on defense (particularly Ovechkin) and then running around like keystone cops on D. It was a horrible display of hockey and they should be ashamed with tonight's performance.

This had better be a wake-up call because the trend in play (not points) over the past 3 - 4 games is NOT GOOD.

Posted by: david_P | March 12, 2010 9:45 PM | Report abuse

No goalie can do anything about a perfectly played 2-on-1. If St. Louis' goal went in, I wouldn't have blamed Varlamov at all. I don't remember how that play started but I'm sure there was some kind of defensive breakdown, whether it was a bad decision to pinch by a defensemen or bad executing of a pinch or a forward failing to react and backcheck, etc...

Some of the defensive breakdowns by defensemen and forwards alike were worse than Varlamov's worst play but all people are talking about is Varlamov because goalies take the brunt of blame no matter what the facts are. That's just the way it is in hockey.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 12, 2010 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Varly is absolutely getting better with each game. He was almost 90% tonight. I want BB to keep playing him. A couple of more games and he will be back to his old self.

I still say that the offense was being too cute and not too agressive. Many of our shots for were weak and not from a great angle. If they were on their A game, they would have figured out how to solve Maki. And yes even our Ovie was being passive and passing too much.

Ah hah! Locker and Joe B. just said that the offense was bad.

Posted by: caraveli | March 12, 2010 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Tonight's loss to TB was one of the worst games I've seen the Caps play all year. Intercepted passes, soft on the puck, failure to gain the offensive zone with authority, standing around on defense (particularly Ovechkin) and then running around like keystone cops on D. It was a horrible display of hockey and they should be ashamed with tonight's performance.

Posted by: david_P | March 12, 2010 9:45 PM

I couldn't agree less. I don't agree with a word in this post.

People tend to read too much into wins and losses and goals scored for/against.

I thought the Caps were entirely dominating tonight through most of the first 2 periods and got a bit unlucky, allowing TB to start out the 3rd with some undeserved confidence.

There were a couple of breakdowns and bad bounces but the Caps carried the play for most of the first 2 periods. They dominated puck possession and offensive zone time. Their PP was clicking as good as I've seen all season. They easily could've gone 4-for-4. The forecheck was excellent tonight, starting with Semin's line. Fehr continues to play some incredible hockey. I could go on and on about the positive in this game.

You can lose games where you've carried the play and tonight was a perfect example of that. We played better than in many games that we've won this season. Just based on play, I'd assign a score of 4 or 5 to 1 in favor of the Caps.

Hockey is a game of luck and bounces more than any other major sport. Sure, you create your chances but both teams are going to get some during the course of each game. Sometimes a weird bounce or two can favor a team getting dominated, both in terms of goals they score and goals that we don't score.

We thoroughly outplayed TB tonight just like we did against Dallas a couple of games ago. In both games, we could've easily had 4 or 5 goals by the start of the 3rd period. Yea, we made mistakes in both games but so did our opponents. Sometimes the puck just doesn't bounce your way despite dominating play and having far more scoring chances than the opposition.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 12, 2010 9:57 PM | Report abuse

Someone already made the point that at least we can give Varly time to get it right because of where we are in the standings. Yes the goalie gets the most blame and the most credit usually. Just like quarterbacks. Oh well. My main concern is running into a hot goaltender in the playoffs. We can't just outscore everyone. I think I'm okay with the loss now because it's hard to bring it every single night. They were a bit lazy on defense tonight like david_P said, but it's expected when they know they've officially clinched a playoff spot.

Posted by: rachel216 | March 12, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

The majority of people around here are completely overreacting to Varlamov's play. He's only had a few starts since missing several months. We are in a position to try to get him back into form without risking very much.

Tonight, he was pretty solid, in my opinion. One bad goal on an odd-man rush. That's all he gave up. He's still rusty but has made strides just over the last few starts. Be patient, folks. It's too early to panic.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 12, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

----------------------------------

Standing ovation.

Ovi officially had ONE shot on goal tonight.

My worry is with Green. I don't buy this Green is Green stuff. He is just too nonchalant on the defensive side of the ice. The other night he had a great assist for the Hurricanes and tonight he repeated it but the Caps got lucky on the play. He has to play with more awareness and passion defensively. No excuses.

Posted by: croftonpost | March 12, 2010 10:00 PM | Report abuse

Semin has been arguably our best forward since the Olympic break. I can't believe anybody is criticizing him. He's been outstanding. I don't care how many points he's put up or any other statistic. He's playing determined hockey in all 3 zones, creating tons of scoring chances and working his tail off along the boards. His line's forecheck early in the game was one of the best all season and got the team rolling early.

No, I don't want Ovechkin to shoot every single time the puck is on his stick. That's a ridiculous suggestion and a boneheaded way to play hockey.

I love seeing him punishing teams for overplaying him. There were probably 1 or 2 plays since the break where I thought he passed up on a good shot but there were also about 5 to 10 plays where he made beautiful and deceptive passes where a shot wouldn't have been the best option.

I have no problem at all with what Ovechkin is doing offensively. I don't care about his numbers. They will come. I hope he doesn't change a thing on that end.

What I would like to see is him reading better when to backcheck. That's his biggest weakness right now by a mile.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 12, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

i don't think we'll see this combo of healthy scratches again
figure out the lines for sunday - i hope i can get up by 10:30 to watch the game...

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | March 12, 2010 10:07 PM | Report abuse

BB buys it.

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | March 12, 2010 10:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad BB cleared up his position on Varly's play in the press conference. His reaction to the first Varly question threw me.

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | March 12, 2010 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Missed it: what did Boudreau have to say, wtf?

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | March 12, 2010 10:12 PM | Report abuse

My worry is with Green. I don't buy this Green is Green stuff. He is just too nonchalant on the defensive side of the ice. The other night he had a great assist for the Hurricanes and tonight he repeated it but the Caps got lucky on the play. He has to play with more awareness and passion defensively. No excuses.


Posted by: croftonpost

Unfortunately I don't see that changing. I love Greenie but I cringe everytime he tries to break out of the zone and doesn't get enough sauce on a pass and it gets intercepted and turns into a great scoring chance for the other team. But usually he scores a goal and it makes up for it in our eyes but it drives BB insane. It's like you can't get mad at him for mistakes b/c he scores goals to make up for it. But I think everyone wishes he was not as careless as he is sometimes.

Posted by: rachel216 | March 12, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

Yeah what did he say wtf_e_fehr??

Posted by: rachel216 | March 12, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Okay I think maybe I overexaggerated a bit? I don't want him to shoot it "everytime" but when he has a good opportunity, of course I want him to shoot it. He gave up too many good chances tonight.

On another topic, Pens lost! =) I guessing the Pens don't want to face the Devils any time in the playoffs since the Devils are 5-0 against them!

Posted by: rachel216 | March 12, 2010 10:18 PM | Report abuse

I'm done ranting against the grain tonight. I'm usually one of the first to criticize the Caps and didn't see the need to do much of that tonight. There have been games that we've won where I've been a lot more disappointed in their play.

Sunday's game is a huge test. I wish it wasn't an afternoon game. I'd much prefer a standard night game against Chicago.

They are the most balanced team in the league, in my opinion, despite the goaltending issues. They have loads of skill and speed and a few pretty gritty players. They play well in all 3 zones and are the definition of a puck possession team. They are about +10 in shots for/against and lead the league in both categories. That is an absolutely insane set of statistics and it's certainly no accident. The Caps better bring their A game or it could get ugly.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 12, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Frustrating to lose, but I thought Caps were the better team tonight, and Varly did not play badly. First goal he stops if he's on, but the other 2 were just very lucky deflections.
And even though Sloan and Erskine were not awful, you could see its a HUGE dropoff from Schultz and Carlson. Hope this resting of the starters ends soon.

Posted by: Gould23 | March 12, 2010 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Sloan belongs in the AHL. Carlson shouldn't have sat tonight.

Posted by: rachel216 | March 12, 2010 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Agree re: Sloan. If Jurcina does get healthy for the playoffs, its comforting to know that Sloan is 9th on the depth chart.

Posted by: Gould23 | March 12, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse

I suspect the difference in perception of the Caps' play tonight comes down to skill vice "little things."

Their skill was certainly on display, but the analysts simply thought they didn't work hard enough and were careless. Though not a new fan, I never played hockey and so frequently miss the little things that go into winning. I perceived that they played pretty well, had the run of possession, scoring chances, etc. Might have to go to the NHL reports to see about give-aways/take-aways and turnovers.

(Not speaking for tmac, who very well may have both played hockey and thought the Caps played well.)

I have been a fan long enough to acknowledge both my limitations AND the fact that it ain't "pretty" that normally wins, especially in the playoffs.

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | March 12, 2010 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Some statistics from tonight game...

We outshot TB, 30-27. Not a big margin but they blocked 20 shots to our 10 and we thoroughly dominated offensive zone time.

We won the faceoff battle, 32-18.

We outhit them, 31-30. Morrisonn with 7 hits. Erskine and Laich with 4 each.

We were 2-for-4 on the PP and could have easily gone 4-for-4 with all the offensive zone time we had that led to numerous golden scoring chances.

TB was 0-for-1 on the PP and didn't even register a shot on goal. That's a huge departure from our norm against them, both in terms of penalties taken and shutting down their PP.

We had 6 different players with 2 takeaways and, as a team, had 15 takeaways to TB's 12. We did have more giveaways than TB though, 9 to their 5.

The most important statistic: TB had 2 lucky bounces that led to goals and we had none. We did have the post help us out a couple of times but we hit at least one post as well and TB got quite a bit of luck on several of our scoring chances, particularly on the PP. They were very fortunate we didn't put a few more of our chances away, including Morrison's backhander with the entire net yawning at him.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 12, 2010 10:35 PM | Report abuse

Just got back from the game. Was there any discussion on CSN about the icing call that led to Tampa's second goal? The play was in front of us and it looked to me that Semin's shot from outline the center line was deflected and should not be icing. Also, what was the explanation of why the third goal was allowed?

Posted by: ccCapsfan | March 12, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

@steve_in_gp

No, I've never played hockey in my life. I've been watching the Caps for just about 30 years though and did go to a hockey college, graduating a year after Martin St. Louis.

My knowledge is very limited and I've only recently started to try to understand the finer points of the game. As a kid, it was all about going to games with my old man, getting some popcorn and just rooting for the Caps. As I get older, it's still much of the same, except now I try to understand the game a litte better, which I assume is the case for a lot of average hockey fans like myself.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 12, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse

@ccCapsfan

I think they initially thought Lecavalier hit the puck with his hand or a high stick. After review, that was clearly not the case. It bounce off his forearm or something as he was trying to shield himself from the shot.

Just a fortunate bounce for them and a bad one for us, much like the 2nd goal. Although losing faceoffs cleanly in your own zone doesn't help the cause.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 12, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Just got back from the game a little while ago. I don't think they played poorly, but I didn't sense the desparation tonight. Then again, this had the classic trap game written all over it given the circumstances.

Role players (Chimera, Fehr, Laich in particular) were strong. Wondering if a game or two off for Ovi at some point would be a good idea, he was completely unnoticable out there tonight.

Erskine and Sloan are not NHL level defenders. Enough said.

Maki was tough...they got some bounces, and as they say, that's hockey. Really looking forward to the Chicago game Sunday.

Posted by: rnscaps | March 12, 2010 11:28 PM | Report abuse

POSTGAME THOUGHTS: Some great posts tonight. The Caps were due for another fartlike performance and that took place tonight. They got away from being hungry and attacking. They came out strong early then disappeared.

Props goes to Tampa for frustrating the Caps when they pushed back.

Varly was ok except the first goal. Let's face it the puck bounced Tampa's way tonight.

It happens.

On to the windy city for a huge showdown on Sunday.

ICE BREAKERS AND GOAL SHAKERS

Posted by: Jonathan6 | March 12, 2010 11:36 PM | Report abuse

My comment on the game. Grr!

So many shots early, especially early in the 2nd period and couldn't finish. Then Tampa pulled ahead. And, as for the goal, that was given to Tampa upon review ...... I just knew it wasn't the Caps' day.

His save % is still not what it should be. But, I looked at the results for Hershey for today and they won 5-4 in OT. Neuvy was in goal. One observer posted that Neuvy couldn't necessarily be blamed. Still......

I don't know what to think. I'm just hoping that our goalie situation is good enough to go deep in the playoffs.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | March 12, 2010 11:42 PM | Report abuse

@caraveli

You can join with me and express your anger at tonight's game.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | March 12, 2010 11:46 PM | Report abuse

I'm just hoping that our goalie situation is good enough to go deep in the playoffs.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | March 12, 2010 11:42 PM

The same goes for the defense and our PK (forwards and defensemen). No goalie will end up looking good if there are too many defensive breakdowns.

Brodeur is just a good goalie, and not great, if not for a dedicated and disciplined defensive team in front of him.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 12, 2010 11:52 PM | Report abuse

Just to clarify, I'm not saying that goaltending isn't a concern, just that it's much more than that.

Always blaming the goalie is too easy, particularly after a game like tonight where the only bad goal he let in was a perfectly placed shot that was generated after a defensive breakdown between Green and Ovechkin.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 12, 2010 11:57 PM | Report abuse

@tmac2yao

Yes, I'll admit they had too many defensive breakdowns today.

One thing I couldn't understand. Why on Earth were Schultz and Carlson both scratched tonight, making room for our 7th and 8th defensemen? I understand that Sloan and Erskine need to play but ......

No, I would not have recommended playing both of our bottom defensemen on the same day. Granted, all the goals were not the fault of Sloan and Oisk.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | March 13, 2010 12:13 AM | Report abuse

@rachel216

Great job by NJ in beating Pittsburgh today. I love seeing the Pens lose.

I have vowed to attend a game in the arena of the Eastern Conference team that eliminates the Pens during the playoffs and root for that team. (Of course, I would strategically plan it to be when they play a team I would root against anyhow.)

If the Devils eliminate the Pens in the playoffs, I'll go to a game in NJ (preferably against the Pens).

Posted by: CapsFan75 | March 13, 2010 12:33 AM | Report abuse

To tmac2yao,

You had better watch the tape then. Yeah, the Caps had some good pushes and Nittymaki stood on his head and made some great stops. Sometimes that happens. But Semin's constant habit of "rewinding" on offense by curling off and his other habit of over-using the curl n' drag is beginning to make me sick.

I don't know what it is with Ovechkin but he's just quit on defense the last couple of games. I can count 5 - 6 times last night when he either A) telegraphed a pass up the slot that was intercepted or B) let a Bolt skate right by him in our defensive zone. Maybe he needs a night off. Maybe he's hurt. Maybe he's bored. I don't know. What I do know is he's not the Alexander Ovechkin we've come to know and love.

I dunno. Perhaps I was too harsh. I know hockey is game of mistakes and bounces. It's just that I don't see that "flame in the eyes" killer instinct like we saw during that 14 game run. I think the crux of the problem is that Caps' forwards are not recognizing the transition game from offense to defense and vice versa. The solution is watching tape and then practicing it. I also think that Boudreau has to decide on his lines and stick with it.

Posted by: david_P | March 13, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

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