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Posted at 7:35 AM ET, 01/10/2011

Bruce Boudreau on the Capitals' line combinations

By Katie Carrera

For the start of Saturday's game against Florida, Coach Bruce Boudreau instituted some new line combinations among the forwards. Included among the new alignments was placing Alex Ovechkin on the right side and Alexander Semin on the left, the reverse of their usual spot in the lineup.

But by the midway point of the second period against the Panthers, Boudreau returned the forwards to their more familiar orientation. Ovechkin rejoined Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble on the top line with Semin shifting back to the right side with Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson.

"I was definitely thinking about it during the intermission," Boudreau said. "It was just a question of when I was going to do it. ...We went through one shift and got a penalty and then once we came out of the penalty, I decided that was the time."

Boudreau likes to experiment with his line combinations throughout the regular season -- this much is certain -- as he tries to find the right mix and spark as many players as possible simultaneously. But whether it was the lack of familiarity or something else, the groups that started the contest against Florida looked discombobulated.

"They weren't looking very good, so I had to do something," Boudreau said. "Maybe it's just that they're so used to playing the opposite positions that they were doing the wrong assignments. I thought I'd at least get them back to where they're comfortable and see where that goes."

By Katie Carrera  | January 10, 2011; 7:35 AM ET
Categories:  Bruce Boudreau  
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Comments

I love BB!

"Maybe we should try this...um...nope" How bout this....um...nope" What if we put Sloan in goal and shift Nuevy to 6th pairing defense...Hmmmmm...Nah."

Gotta hand it to the guy though...he doesn't just sit in his hands.

Hope Ovie continues to break out of his funk tomorrow. Time to score some PP goals.

Posted by: capscoach | January 10, 2011 7:42 AM | Report abuse

How about tinkering more with the offensive system, and less with the personnel? If just about every single forward is scoring less than expected, then perhaps it's the system that other teams have figured out and not just Ovechkin or Semin...If that's the case, then simply shuffling some people around randomly isn't really going to get it done.

Posted by: aybee27 | January 10, 2011 7:52 AM | Report abuse

@aybee27

or the team is sdjusting to a more defensive minded way of playing and naturally their Offense is suffering right now.

Last season you people complain constantly about the D (or lack thereof)and now we have a GREAT PK, a whole lot less GAA, and now we have to trash BB becuae he can't coach Offense...you people will never be happy.

If we are holding teams to 2 or less goals a game on average, we are going to win a lot of games whether Ovie and Semin are producing or not.

I also think these players can be held back for only so long.

Last season we gave teams MONTHS of great play so they could figure us out in time for the playoffs...now we are figuring them out...hopefully our team clicking and adjusting will coincide with the playoffs! We are only a few points out of first place in the East...things just really are not that bad.

When we fall to the 8th seed or our of playoff standings, then you can complain...right now we are winning most of our games...how many other teams could have taken an 8 game losing streak and still be competing for top spot in the division AND the east!

Posted by: capscoach | January 10, 2011 8:11 AM | Report abuse

capscoach, I agree.

This is more of a situation where they are learning more about D and the new responsibilities. Whenever you learn a new system, it takes a while to adjust. Once they are comfortable with it and it becomes natural, they will KNOW when they can take more of the risks they took last year.

If they took the risks this year that they did last year, then we would have more scoring but more scoring against too.

Patience. At least we are winning again.

Posted by: CTCapsPhan | January 10, 2011 8:22 AM | Report abuse

@capscoach.......Amen!

Posted by: OviFan08 | January 10, 2011 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Bruce's messing with the line combinations is such a pet peeve of mine.

They're going at a good clip since busting the slump. That said, it's lazy to continue to blame the lack of production on reverting to a defensive mindset. At some point both will be clicking near perfection, but not until the stars stop savings themselves for th playoffs.

Posted by: GFisher1 | January 10, 2011 9:14 AM | Report abuse

What's the word on the other Alex? Well his injury keep him out of Tuesday's game? If so, BB is gonna have to mix up the lines yet again.

Posted by: futbolclif | January 10, 2011 9:19 AM | Report abuse

i just wish BB would show more conviction in his adjustments. if he's going to play 8 with 90 and 21, let them work it out (which takes time). the fact that he reverted the lines halfway through the game leads me to believe he's looking for a quick fix (or not putting much thought into the combinations), which makes me think he's panicking. 7-9 minutes of time is not enough for a new line to find its groove

Posted by: mcintire_will | January 10, 2011 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Even with the new system being installed, OV, Backis, and Semin are having a difficult time adapting to it. Perhaps all 3 are injured, and if so, sit them and let them heal up. Moving an injured player around does not improve his quality of play. If not injured, then these guys have to learn to adapt their play.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS2 | January 10, 2011 9:24 AM | Report abuse

I love the run-n-gun style of last year's team...winning games 6-5, but that doesn't get it done in the playoffs. They are learning to play playoff hockey right now.

They still need to find a way to get the stars scoring though a little more often. Once they figure that out, we'll be in good shape.

Posted by: CAPSHOCKEY2 | January 10, 2011 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, what is Semin's status? I can't remember which Panther took him down but he stuck his leg out to clip Semin. NHL on the Fly pointed it out but our crack TV crew called it a check.

Posted by: fanohock1 | January 10, 2011 9:41 AM | Report abuse

With all this crying, i think its time to bring out the pacifiers or pelvic protectors for the next Pitt game.

Posted by: chatton | January 10, 2011 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Heres part of the problem with our offense it and see it happen at least several times a game where the foward who brings it into the zone and quickly takes a shot on goal while the other two fowards are still behind him. When I watch other teams play that foward slows down and waits for the other two fowards to get close to the crease for a rebound or for them to get in front and screen the goalie.

Now this problem could be due to all the tinkering with the lines or something else, I don't really know. I am a faily new fan to hockey, I got hooked about three years ago, so does anybody else see this as one of the issues with our offense?

Posted by: ksaul79 | January 10, 2011 9:54 AM | Report abuse

BB's system is fine. The top guys just aren't cashing in on opportunities they were burying last year. Things will settle and when they do the goals are going to come in ridiculous bunches.

BTW, have many of you been watching the Thrashers lately. I have NHL Center Ice and since they are on the Caps heals I have been watching them a lot lately. Big Buffs big start is tailing off a bit. He has been horrible the last few games and blew an easy clear to turn over the puck for the Carolina's OT winner.

The NHL is coming out with potential headlines for the 2nd half summary. Here a few for you guys as I see them.

- Big Buff big flop during the second half of the season not even in Norris talks anymore

- Ovi surges but can't catch Crosby

- I dislike Crosby as much of the rest of you but the guy is in his own world this year. My last headline would be...Crosby wins Art Ross and Rocket Richard. Appears to be a lock for the Hart and Lindsay.

Posted by: fanohock1 | January 10, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I don't know that it is the same people making inconsistent complaints about not enough defense/offense. There are those who believe that, in order to win a cup, the team needs to play a gritty, defense-focused system and try to win low scoring games on a consistent basis. IMO, the current team is not structured to play that way, and it would be necessary to blow the team up and get rid of at least half of the players, including at least three of the Big Four stars, to get to that kind of team. Others like myself believe that the team needed to make more limited changes, primarily the PK, getting more traffic in front of the opposing goalie, and learning how to play smart with a lead late in a game. For those who think that way, an incremental improvement in defensive responsibility would be helpful, but a total reorientation is not necessary.

As far as the recent problems go, JIMALLCAPS notes the potential issues. Is it just a slump? Injuries? Or is it the focus on the defense that has disrupted the offense? I don't have an answer for that, but it may be instructive that the Big Four are all under-performing on the offensive end at the same time. That would seem to make the "slumping" or "injury" explanations less likely.

Posted by: zmega | January 10, 2011 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I like BB and I root for him and his team, but it is the constant experiment with new line combinations that is biting him in the butt.

Posted by: hock1 | January 10, 2011 10:14 AM | Report abuse

How about tinkering with shots on goal during the power play. These guys skate around like it's the Ice Capades trying to set up ESPN highlight reel goals instead of trying to overwhelm the goalies with shots on goal. I love our guys, but you have to shoot to score.

Posted by: SnootyBasterd | January 10, 2011 10:23 AM | Report abuse

@chatton: Better put some more salve on the gaping wound you call your pride. Super Bowl Sunday will be another opportunity for the fans in Pittsburg to cry. No win in hockey, and no show at the big show. Fans like you put the Pit in Pittsburg. :)

Posted by: SnootyBasterd | January 10, 2011 10:30 AM | Report abuse

@snooty

in the HBO series, BB basically said that. He was telling the guys that they need to rotate and if the shot is not there, go wide and start again. Stop trying to shoot through solid players.

I think our PP has just gotten too predictable. they need to maybe move their feet moreand force the other team out of position.

Posted by: capscoach | January 10, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Two good points made. Patience. Let them learn how to play defense. You can beat a lot of good teams with a strong defense. They already know how to score. Another was shots during the power play, and at other times as well. I yelled more than once in the Florida game to shut the fkcn puck! Don't need to talk about crowding the crease, or going to the net if the boys are making too many passes.

Posted by: coastallp74 | January 10, 2011 10:32 AM | Report abuse

@capscoach: Good point, I'm too cheap to get HBO and didn't see BB's sage advice. I just call what I see and get frustrated.

That's why I'm snooty. :)

Posted by: SnootyBasterd | January 10, 2011 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Last year they didn't trap and were frequently looking for the home run stretch pass. When they hit on the strech pass they got a lot of goals off the rush. Of course a lot of those stretch passes got picked off which lead to odd man rushes and/or chances against some of which turned into goals.

So, which do you want an exciting regular season team or a team that has a better chance of being successful in the playoffs?

I think now BB is changing the lines in an effort to shake things up to get the goal scoring going. And of course if you have injuries you have to make line adjustments. Which could be the case in the next game depending on the extent of Semin's injuries.

Posted by: BetterOffWithFedorov | January 10, 2011 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I did like that BB tried Backstrom at the point. When they actually got possession of the puck they created a good opportunity for Ovie(who was on the half-wall in the Stamkos position).

The problem with the PP on Saturday was that it really never got possession of the puck in the zone(that is all about winning battles), but I would like to see them try Backstrom some more at the point with Green.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 10, 2011 10:44 AM | Report abuse

@snooty, i was referring to caps fans bringing the pelvic protectors for crosby and his constant whining. I'd suggest motor cycle helmets for the pitt game coming up

Posted by: chatton | January 10, 2011 10:49 AM | Report abuse

A seemingly all offense no defense team is playing outstanding defense which I don't see enough credit for. Strangely enough, offense almost seems to be an after thought even on the pp and I personally don't mind us having that mind set right now. Obviously it takes time to put it all together but we are getting there. I know our offense is of but every game I see 3 or 4 outstanding chance to score that we are just barely missing on. Our Caps are playing playoff hockey and that's all that matters when it's all said and done. As the season goes forward we will get better and better at putting all three phases of the game together. Capscoach, fanohock1 and some others have made some good points. There are so many good thing going on for our team right now including having a pair of young d men playing nearly light out. For as bad as it sometimes seems like we are doing we still have one of the best records in the entire league. Just think, the pansies had a 12 game win streak but yet they sit only 2 points ahead of us in the standings with one extra game. I firmly believe we will put it all together in the second half of the season. Go Caps!

Posted by: MaxnDC | January 10, 2011 11:19 AM | Report abuse

How about we try a back up coach? BB is in over his head. The other night the team played two different systems (didn't that 3-1 lead dissolving into a late goal and last-minute flurry look familiar to last year's can't-hold-a-lead?). It's frustrating to watch and it has to be frustrating for the players -- who knows what this clown will cook up next in the name of trying something. I remember Knuble expressing frustration LAST YEAR on this topic. I can only imagine how he feels THIS YEAR.

How about trying: leave Ov, Backstrom, and Knuble together AND LET THEM PLAY OUT OF THINGS. The game winning goal the other night: OV from Knuble and Backstrom. That or put in a back-up coach. Let Bruce sit upstairs and watch, maybe?

Posted by: capscapscaps2 | January 10, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

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