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Caps 2, Leafs 1

The Caps finally got another win on the road--and they've got a patchwork blueline to thank for it. Defense was Washington's strength tonight in Toronto, where all six D-men played well and Karl Alzner and Milan Jurcina provided the scoring in 2-1 Caps' win at Air Canada Centre.

Alzner scored the first goal of his career and assisted on Jurcina's. Before the game, Alzner talked about how this game meant so much to him for so many reasons - it was his NHL contest in Canada, it was against the team he grew up cheering, it was on Hockey Night in Canada and his father, Gunther, would be in the crowd.

Well, he won't soon forget it.

"It took me 86 games to get my first goal in juniors," he cracked. "It took me six games in the NHL. So that shows I'm getting a little bit better."

The win snapped the Caps' four game losing road losing streak and also marked Coach Bruce Boudreau's first in his hometown, over the team that drafted him.

"I've already had four phone calls from my buddies here," he said. "It was a good. Half of them were cursing. Half of them were saying, 'Good win."

But it wasn't all good news for the Caps. Right wing Eric Fehr suffered a shoulder injury in the second period and did not return. He's questionable for tomorrow night's game in Carolina.

Another game, another injury for the Caps. So what's new?

Some other notes and quotes from ACC:

*Ovechkin was whistled for penalties at 3:04 and 5:24 of the third period (hooking and holding). So he was in the box when Nik Antropov tied the game. But Boudreau had no problem with Ovechkin's infractions.

"The first one was a little suspect," the coach said. "But the second one, he falls over the guy and he got a hold. Any time you take a penalty of effort, I'm not unhappy with it."

*Ovechkin didn't factor into the scoring, but he was a beast in the physical department. He was credited with a game high seven shots and six hits, one of which ended rookie defenseman Luke Schenn's night. Schenn is said to be out two weeks with a lower body injury.

"If he's not scoring, he's going to hit and he's going to hurt people," Boudreau said of Ovechkin. "He's 230-pounds of rock and he hits hard. He's the perfect power forward. He contributes every night one way or another."

*The Leafs also lost winger Niklas Hagman to a concussion.

*How about the four Caps' defensemen who started the season in Hershey? They didn't play like Bears tonight, that's for sure. Alzner posted his first two point performance. Bryan Helmer played 20 minutes and was terrific on the penalty kill. Sami Lepisto also played 20 minutes and was more than adequate in his own end. And Collins was solid and didn't make any glaring mistakes (at least none that I noticed).

"The jitters went a way after the first 20 minutes," Collins said. "It was unbelievable. They showed confidence in me and they played me quite a bit."

Alzner added: "Guys are working really hard. They want to show something. There aren't many times when you have five American League defenseman on one team. They're taking pride."

*Jurcina actually put a shot on net (instead of dumping into the corner) and look what happened. In fact, it was Jurcina's third point in two games and the eighth for Washington defensemen in that span.

"We were telling him all night to shoot the puck on the net," Boudreau said of Jurcina. "And then he scores and we all looking at each other. Good things happen when you shoot the puck."

*Brent Johnson was solid again. He appeared to tweak that hip flexor injury that's been bothering him when kicked out his pad early in the third period to top Matt Stajan. But it looks like he's going to be fine. Interestingly, Antropov's goal came moments after Johnson appeared to come up a bit lame. I wonder if he lost concentration for a moment?

Before the game Boudreau said if Johnson won he might give him the nod again tomorrow night in Carolina. But with his sore hip and less than a full day between games (start time in Raleigh is 5 p.m.) I wonder if that would be wise.

Speaking of short turnaround, I've got to get rolling. I've got a 6 a.m. flight through New York. There is no morning skate tomorrow, so I might not have any news on Fehr and Tyler Sloan until closer to game time. We'll see.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  December 6, 2008; 11:18 PM ET
 
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Comments

good game tonight! I hope Fehr is okay, i felt so bad after seeing him in pain on the bench.

here's to getting another win on the road tomorrow!

Go Caps!

Posted by: diehardcapsfan | December 6, 2008 11:42 PM | Report abuse

Finally back. Man, Fairfax to Baltimore is a long drive. :P The party was cool, though. I'll take a JT60-signed puck. :)

The D-line were definitely the stars tonight. Congrats to Alzner, and how much class did Ovi show turning his stick aside to let Alzner have the goal if it was going to go in. He's turning into this team's leader, and I think it's just a matter of time before he wears the C.

Man, I bet Alzner is over the moon right now. I would be in his shoes.

Sucks on Fehr. Watching him on that bench hurt me. I hope he'll be all right, and were I Boudreau, I wouldn't play him against Carolina regardless. Tim Conboy is probably playing for Carolina on Sunday, and that brat is a cheap shot artist. He will play dirty and he will target injuries, so let's not put anyone questionable on the ice please?

Semin being on LTIR gives us the cap space to pull anyone we want to out of Hershey to replace him, and my bet is on either Bourque or Bouchard. Don't mind seeing Osala but am unsure if they will.

Posted by: kittypawz | December 6, 2008 11:43 PM | Report abuse

You're awesome, Tarik. Thanks for taking the time to give us so much information. You are much appreciated.
Preston

Posted by: pcalver1 | December 6, 2008 11:46 PM | Report abuse

Good road win tonight, a solid team effort led by Ovechkin's physical play, Johny's solid goaltending and a great game by the Hershey dmen again. Man I can't wait to get Semin and Green back in particular. I love the Caps and I am from Vancouver, Canada. Hope Johny is okay because he can provide the number one goaltending if he can stay healthy, don't trust Jose and the team seems to play better for Johny!

Posted by: jgreif | December 6, 2008 11:51 PM | Report abuse

Which was the Schenn hit by Ovie? THe one in the corner when he got the puck and then leveled someone? Hard to see on the low res Comcast channel. And when did Hagman get the concussion and who delivered it? Was that MO?

Bag skate. Great idea, Wilson. Making friends everywhere he goes.

Posted by: oo7 | December 6, 2008 11:53 PM | Report abuse

I am truly happy for the Caps. A well deserved win. Let's take it to the Canes and take complete control of the SE.

Posted by: cbs75 | December 7, 2008 12:12 AM | Report abuse

Wow. That was a great win! I'm sorry that Fehr was injured, and I'm sorry that Schenn and Hagman were both hurt...

Ovie was an absolute BEAST out there, and I didn't see any defensive mistakes. Here's hoping we'll take the same game to Carolina tomorrow night.

As a side note, the Bears have won ALL TEN of their last games, and they are not only on top of their division, they are four points ahead of the next-best team in the ENTIRE AHL!

We are closing in on Pittsburgh, with 33 points to their 34, and on Montreal, who has 35 points. The Penguins lost tonight, to Ottawa (ouch!), and the Habs lost to the Devils in overtime. How 'bout that? I'd say we're doing well, all things considered. And we're currently 6 points ahead of Carolina, firmly on top of the division.

This organization is just incredible, and I am all for another Jack Adams award for our beloved Bou! He totally deserves it, the way he's doing plug-n-play with our Bears callups. The boys are gaining confidence, Ovechkin's stepping up to the mic as a true leader, something we've been badly in need of, and I am very proud of this team!

Posted by: irockthered | December 7, 2008 12:22 AM | Report abuse

@kittypawz - I'm with you; give the start to Theodore; if Johnny's hurting, we do NOT want to chance losing him!!!!!!!!

Posted by: irockthered | December 7, 2008 12:23 AM | Report abuse

@ tarik

they DID play like bears tonight...

we're 19-5 up here, haha, the played like the organization...go caps, go bears, go rays!

Posted by: bearsfan26 | December 7, 2008 12:49 AM | Report abuse

johnny was INCREDIBLE.
and i wonder if boudreau's morning quote on wanting only consistency in his goalie will turn out to be telling?: theo seems to lack consistency, and while johnny's play is not always phenomenal, he is VERY consistently good. hmmm...
my favorite thing about #1 is that he plays exactly the same way after the puck beats him in as he did before. i LOVE that he doesn't let it get him down!
all in all, a fantastic game to watch, and i am SO excited alzner got his first nhl goal! this was an important night for him, and the fact that he got his first goal in toronto, with his father in the audience, seems just perfect. so very proud of our boys tonight! :-D

Posted by: jess4caps | December 7, 2008 1:44 AM | Report abuse

*sigh* I was on the road and could only hear the final score on the radio. Was surprised to hear "Jurcina and Alzner" as our scorers :) Looks like a good game.

Noticed the change of name HeyBooBoo!

Posted by: mauree | December 7, 2008 1:47 AM | Report abuse

@GregAnnapolis - Yeah man I remember meeting you earlier this week!

Toronto is a great town but MAN be glad that prices in D.C. are as cheap as they are. Beer is easily 30% cheaper in Verizon Center, and seats are more than half the price. Its crazy. Ours were the equivalent of a $25 seat in DC but we paid $100 each for them. people behind us paid $130 for theirs.

Face value on ours was $86.25 so we didn't pay THAT much of a premium.

Toronto is a great town. Just reading up and getting ready to crash. Sucks about Fehr, he has been making good things happen but what else should we expect at this point

Posted by: SombreroGuy | December 7, 2008 2:44 AM | Report abuse

@ Sombrero Guy:
was that you riding a tricycle during an intermission during the isles game?

Posted by: large23220 | December 7, 2008 3:09 AM | Report abuse

I'm in Charlotte now ... getting ready to drive to Raleigh in a few hours!

Hope the Capitals can withstand the injury blues and put up another solid effort and beat those stinkin' Hurricanes!

Can't wait to wear my Ovechkin shirt into the RBC! :)

Posted by: Cerealman | December 7, 2008 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Am I the only one nervous about tonight's game? We're not so good on the back-to-back, and Carolina is. Plus, this is a four-point game for them, and trailing by as much as they are, they desperately need the win. They will come out swinging for the fences, and we had better be ready for it. Our track record on stuff like that isn't all that ....

Posted by: kittypawz | December 7, 2008 8:43 AM | Report abuse

@Cerealman

Some more of us are making the trip from DC. We'll all be in Caps gear. Cya there.

Posted by: Tracy2117 | December 7, 2008 8:43 AM | Report abuse

So looking forward to tonight's game. A win tonight would not only put us far ahead in our Division, but keep us right up there with other Eastern teams.

Did anyone hear who got the hard hat this game and last? I know it is kind of silly, but now that I know they give it away after every win I want to know.

Love that Alzner got his goal last night. He is probably still smiling! Love that Jurcina shot the puck on the net! Wish that Brooks' goal had counted. Wish I could personally give Fehr a hug. Oh my gosh he looked like he was in some serious pain on the bench. Almost made me cry just watching him.

Posted by: Kim-3 | December 7, 2008 8:48 AM | Report abuse

What a great team effort last night - the definition of a gutsy win. Johnny was very good and I agree with others that the team generally seems to play better for him. I thought Ovie was awesome tonight, even though he didn't touch the scoresheet. He was all over the puck, tons of chances, and as Tarik mentioned, he was physically dominant out there. However, this injury thing is bordering on insane - guessing and judging from Fehr's pained reaction, that could be a seperated shoulder... let's hope not though.
Go Washington BearRays!

Posted by: Roose | December 7, 2008 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Will Cam Ward start tonight or will it be Michael Leighton?

Posted by: rachel216 | December 7, 2008 9:00 AM | Report abuse

@rachel216: I think Cam Ward is injured, so it'll be either Leighton or their backup Justin Peters (who'd be making his NHL debut if he does). (H/t Japers' Rink for the info).

My main concern is that we're coming off a plane and facing a second game less than 19 hours after finishing the first, in a city that's in a must-win situation and is our chief division rival. They're going to give this game everything they've got, and we had better be ready to do the same.

Posted by: kittypawz | December 7, 2008 9:18 AM | Report abuse

@kittypawz

I agree, when a team is motivated like the Canes will be tonight, it's going to be a really difficult game.

Posted by: mauree | December 7, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I am really hoping we see Osala bc him and Fehr are very similar players. I am betting we will see Bourque of experience against a division rival.

Carolina also played last night but they were at home. Lost 2-1 in OT to Philly so they are not totally fresh. They got to sleep at home instead of on a plane though.

Big game today......

Posted by: numero94 | December 7, 2008 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Very impressed with Collins. He looked very comfortable out there, is a good skater and just like I said in my last post on him (that was just judging from his college stats) has good offensive instincts. Even though he didn't figure in the scoring he jumped into plays very well.

Ovechkin was a bulldozer tonight! Aside from ending Luke Schenn's night he also absolutely annihilated Toronto's huge new goon Andre Deveaux in the corner. The guy had to almost crawl to the bench. I also loved his hit on Hollweg. Hollweg came to get Alex who had the puck in his own zone, but instead Alex saw him coming, pushed the puck away and stepped into him sending Hollweg crashing into the corner.

Solid performance by Brent even though he didn't have to do much. Only concern is about his hip. He downplayed it because last time he got hurt Theo got right back in the #1 picture, but I think the injury might get Theo back in net, which means that I'll be sweating every shot once again.

Posted by: ranndino | December 7, 2008 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Forgot to mention Alzner. What a fairy tale of a game he had himself last night. First game in Canada, on Hockey Night in Canada, against the team he supported as a kid, with his dad in attendance and he gets his 1st NHL goal. Couldn't have been scripted any better.

As for Conboy, let's get our goon Ovechkin to put him out of the game early.

Posted by: ranndino | December 7, 2008 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, Johnson's hip worries me, too; I am hoping he'll be fit to play, but if he is not, or if he's worried, I'd rather risk Theodore. We CANNOT replace a goalie from Hershey with the ease that we are replacing other players. Machesney is good, but he's not ready yet, I don't think...

Posted by: irockthered | December 7, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Seeing Fehr in pain, was hard to take.

And NHL-On-The-Fly was marveling today, about OV's game!-they should put an IsoCam on him, they said. :-)

Posted by: Max23 | December 7, 2008 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Re: Hershey call-up to replace Fehr.

Haven't heard anything through the grapevine yet, but my guess would be Graham Mink. Pure speculation on my part. Fehr is a RW, Mink is a RW. Similar in size and style of play. I know Bruce often switches up the lines and juggles RWs and LWs. But since Mink has been in Caps games recently, it would be a logical choice to me.

Posted by: tess2201 | December 7, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

@large23220 - that was me attempting to race the tricycle. I kept spinning out and was going nowhere without assitance haha.

Posted by: SombreroGuy | December 7, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

@Max23: Link? :)

@ranndino: I know what you mean on Johnson, but I think Boudreau would be smart to put Theodore in net rather than risk Johnson, especially on the second night of a back-to-back. It makes sense to split the starts between them.

Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the best night of Alzner's life. It's not one he'll forget anytime soon, that's for sure.

I thought Collins was solid last night, too. I'm not always good at spotting the little things, but I didn't see any glaring mistakes or anyone grossly out of position. Every time Toronto got the puck that I can remember, they always had two D ready and waiting and in their faces, and the forwards helped out too. I'm not used to seeing high defensive games from the Caps, but I'm not complaining!

On the identity of our Hershey callup - experience is a good point. I'll revise my guess to either Bourque or Mink, just based on the fact that those two already have games under their belts. We've got enough newbies, thanks :)

Posted by: kittypawz | December 7, 2008 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Going into the season, I was probably most concerned with Jurcina on the blueline. It didn't seem like he made much progress over the season last year, and his play in the postseason was even less promising.

But I have to give they guy some credit. He has really been coming along. He's getting more and more physical, he's playing much better positionally, and he's not making the same mistakes in his own end.

He played a very solid game last night. I think a lot is being asked of him in light of the injuries, and he has really stepped up his game. Good to see him get the GWG last night. Just more reinforcement.

Also, while Lepisto is by no means a beast in his own end, he's a very capable puck rusher, and he did a good job quarterbacking the PP last night. He's doing everything that's being asked of him. I'm hoping we're seeing him break out from a callup to an NHL blueliner.

Posted by: JohninMpls | December 7, 2008 10:44 AM | Report abuse

JohninMpls: I have to agree with what some other people have said: Erskine/Jurcina is not a good pairing. Ever notice that Jurcina looks about 1000% better when he's not paired with Erskine? He looked really good in the game he played with Fedorov as his partner. At the time, I know I thought that that was just that Fedorov was that good, but watching him with Alzner, and how much that pairing has improved both of them as they play together, kind of suggests that maybe being paired with Erskine makes him look worse than he really is? I dunno.

Posted by: kittypawz | December 7, 2008 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Hooray Youth Movement...

Where do we rank in the NHL?

7th in points, thats the entire league.
4th in goals scored.
25th in goals allowed.
7th in power play.
24th in penalty kill.

We have done this with OV going on a 9 game goal scoring drought.

The leading goal scorer and +/- guy at the time, Alex Semin, missing 11 games.

The second leading goal scorer and 3rd in points defender at the time, Mike Green, missing 9 games.

Our 2nd line center and Mr. Doitall, Sergei Fedorov, missing 14 games.

Tom Poti - #2 defender, missing 10 games
Jeff Schultz - #4 defender, 6 games
Chris Clark - not producing all year, now injured
Michael Nylander - spotty play all year

I didn't mention Erskine, we are better without him on the ice. Sorry Sexy Lumberjack.

We have done all this with significant contributions from Hershey.

Imagine what we could be with all of our guys back.

Not bad Bruce, not bad.

Posted by: JSchon | December 7, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

"guessing and judging from Fehr's pained reaction, that could be a seperated shoulder... let's hope not though. "

I separated both shoulders playing amateur hockey; neither caused me to grimace like that. So I'm guessing it's worse than a separation. Either a dislocation or a broken bone.

Joe B

Posted by: rw-c | December 7, 2008 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Okay. The injuries. What gives? This is more than a coincidence. Conditioning? Training staff? Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. You don't lose this many guys this close together without some discernible causes. I know, hockey is a dangerous sport played by big, strong, fast men, but c'mon! Thoughts?

Posted by: kevbnyc | December 7, 2008 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Headed to the local rink for my son's AA travel game. Luckily it's at home so I can have the ribs ready to eat by 5 for today's game. I guess Tarik hasn't been able to find out who's gotten the cell call in Hershey today. The D does look more solid. They are making the routine plays. BJ looks good in net I just wish he rebound control was better. He makes things harder on himself because the rebounds go right back into dangerous scoring areas rather than guided below the goal line. Not really a must win for us tonight, but if we could put Carolina in an 8 point hole with someone like Green to possibly return by Wednesday we'd certainly be putting ourselves in a great position before Christmas.

Posted by: fanohock1 | December 7, 2008 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Like I said before, we definitely need to look into the conditioning and training staff.

May be it's time to fire some of them.

Posted by: DannyBoy1975 | December 7, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Since TEB is traveling to Raleigh via NY and is in a rush, here's a link to an article in the Toronto Star about last night's game.

http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/article/549813

Alex "The Wrecking Ball" Ovechkin - I like it!

Posted by: puckman | December 7, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

So we can call our new D crew the "Fab Five"?

I don't see our injuries being a conditioning thing, but just more bad luck then anything. You don't get broken fingers, ankle sprains, fractured forearms , concussions, shoulder strains, lower body injuries from conditioning issues.

Posted by: Capsfannmiss | December 7, 2008 12:07 PM | Report abuse

JSchon: You forgot to mention that even with half a dozen of their best and brightest in the NHL, Hershey is still kicking ass and taking names in their own league with callups from South Carolina, and South Carolina isn't doing half-basdly in -their- league.

That, to me, speaks volumes about how this organization is run. It really does.

Posted by: kittypawz | December 7, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Injury update:

Cam Ward is on IR with a groin strain.

Luke Schenn out 2-4 weeks with an upper torso injury- compliments of Ovie if I remember correctly.

Posted by: ChrisAm | December 7, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Justin Peters,3-7+2 SO loses.Bears beat 4-3 in SO. 2.78 GAA in AHL

Posted by: sporttraveler | December 7, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse

kittypawz, I would think that being paired with Erskine could put a lot of pressure on a young defenseman. Maybe he found himself out of position more often then he would've liked because he was trying to compensate for Erskine's mistakes.

That being said, a lot of Juice's mistakes last year seemed mental. While the new confidence may be an ancillary benefit of not being paired with Erskine, it also looks like he's up a bit.

It's good to know that, with all of the injuries, it doesn't look like we have to worry about Jurcina back there.

Posted by: JohninMpls | December 7, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

@fanohock: johnny's rebound control (compared to theo's, at least) is fantastic. theodore and johnson are our only choices right now, and while you can SEE the wheels cranking in theo's head as he makes a save, for johnny it's intuitive. usually johnny is spot on with covering the puck, and he does it without a second thought. for theo though...it usually takes a good few seconds, and that is just enough for an opponent to swoop in and score

Posted by: jess4caps | December 7, 2008 12:35 PM | Report abuse

This game today would give us some seperation from the Canes. The canes also need to be looking in the rear view mirror, casue Fla. is pouncing on them.
We played one of our better games this year against the canes.

Lets Go Caps!

Posted by: Capsfannmiss | December 7, 2008 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Someone said Semin is on LTIR. I missed that. Any updates on him?

Posted by: vkova10 | December 7, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Im starting to think we dont really need Green, Federov, Semin, Erskine, Poti, Fehr, Shultz or Sloan tonight. We should be fine.

Posted by: SA-Town | December 7, 2008 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Collins and Helmer were exceptional yesterday as was Morrisonn. Alzner played his best game as a Cap even though he again led the team in giveaways. I vote for keeping this defensive lineup intact with the exception of Poti when he returns. These guys (incl Sami) are better than Schultz and Erskine for sure. And there's no sloppy play ala Mike Green either. Green may be the PP king but he's sloppy with the puck and turns it over too often. Last night was the first time I've seen a Caps team play almost mistake-free defensive hockey for an entire game.

and notice Jurcina's game has improved greatly as well not having to play with some of the bums not currently in the lineup!

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 7, 2008 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Imagine what we could be with all of our guys back.

Not bad Bruce, not bad.


Posted by: JSchon | December 7, 2008 11:31 AM

We'd be worse. We're benefitting from having certain players OUT of the lineup right now. You bring all those guys you mentioned back in and this team would be sloppier.

Posted by: cstanton1 | December 7, 2008 12:55 PM | Report abuse

aw come on people!
semin was having a breakout season before his injury: he stopped trying to be so fancy, and with that his tendency to give away the puck went away as well. poti is an absolute FORCE on the pk, and green has some problems LIKE EVERY OTHER PLAYER OUT THERE. we've seen the magic that bruce can do for this team, and with some more of that guidance they can all be fantastic. we're missing them, and further, they're missing their team. i think it's unfair that because the AHLers are doing an awesome job, we're talking down our veterans. they are ALL good, and this team is going to be unstoppable someday very VERY soon

Posted by: jess4caps | December 7, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

@cstanton1

As good as they played last night, it is only one game against one of the poorer teams in the league, that was tired because their coach is a moron (had them doing a early game day practice for punishment). I am not reaqdy to write off our injured players yet.

Posted by: Capsfannmiss | December 7, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

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