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Caps 3, 'Hawks 2 (OT)

With a 6 a.m. flight back to Dulles, I have to be quick tonight. So here we go:

*Based on the lineups, this game shouldn't have been close. The 'Hawks dressed all but three of their NHLers. The Caps, meanwhile, suited up five forwards who played regularly in the big leagues last season.

"As the game went on, the confidence built a little bit," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "First of all, you have the national anthem [during which the fans stand and cheer the entire time]. Secondly, they had 17 of the 20 players who are going to start the season in their lineup. It's pretty intimidating. So our guys, you can tell why Hershey won the Cup. When you have championship blood in you, you never quit."

"Championship blood" obviously was flowing through the veins of Mathieu Perreault, who whacked in the winner with 11.4 seconds remaining in OT to help the Caps improve to 2-0-0 in the preseason.

*If Michal Neuvirth continues to play like this, he's definitely going to put some pressure on Semyon Varlamov. Neuvirth stopped 24 shots, including nine while shorthanded and two eye-popping glove stops late -- the first on Dustin Byfuglien with about five minutes remaining in regulation and the other on Patrick Kane in overtime.

"I was happy with my game," Neuvirth said. "I hope I showed I can play at this level."

*The Caps have now taken nine minor penalties in two games. Against the 'Hawks, they were assessed three high-sticking fouls, including a double minor to Alexandre Giroux late in the third period.

"We talked about it, so of course we're concerned," Boudreau said. "It's the sticks. We have to control the sticks."

*Brooks Laich wore an 'A' on his jersey for the first time. Clark, of course, had the 'C' and Bradley wore the other 'A.'

"You're putting too much stock in it," Laich said, downplaying the significance. "I don't do anything different. I don't speak any different in the room or do anything different on the ice. If they see that as leadership, then great."

Boudreau added: "We have a lot of guys who can wear it. And I thought he hadn't wore it. And I looked at our lineup, and he's a vocal guy, so I thought some these young guys might have needed a hand in this."

*On the Blackhawks' second goal, scored by Jack Skille, if it looked like Brian Pothier was slow to close the gap on the 'Hawks forward, there's a good reason for that: His skate broke, according to Boudreau.

*Chris Clark had a goal and an assist. His goal came after a cross-ice pass hit Brent Seabrook's skate and beat Cristobal Huet in his first game against the Caps since leaving Washington.

"He worked hard and he's getting better," Boudreau said of Clark. "Timing is a big thing with him. His timing will improve as he plays more games."

*Quintin Laing, one game into the preseason, was already limping, presumably from one of the two shots he blocked. Laing also had an apparent third-period goal wiped out because the whistle had blown.

Asked about Laing, Boudreau channeled his inner Yogi Berra, saying, "He did what he does, which is making coaches happy."

*Speaking of blocked shots, David Steckel had a game-high four tonight.

*The first big round of cuts will come on Sunday at KCI. More than a dozen players are expected to be headed to Hershey for the start of camp on Monday.

*Expect to see Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Mike Green and Jose Theodore on Monday against the Sabres at Verizon Center.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  September 20, 2009; 12:04 AM ET
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Next: Big Round of Cuts Coming


1) Leave, Nylander.

2) Noyvert is focused, confident, and playing strong. That's exciting.

3) THAT'S a LOT of high-sticking calls.

4) The Bears really ARE good.

5) You made a good choice, Huet. No hard feelings. Chump.

6) It's a good time to be a Caps fan. I don't think anybody really saw the 1997-98 Cup run coming. This year, we get to savor every minute of it. Destiny.

Posted by: large23220 | September 20, 2009 12:38 AM | Report abuse

Who in the heck is Kyle Wilson, and why haven't any of the fans heard of him? I don't hang out at KCI, and don't have a blog or a newspaper, but I gotta tell you that when I heard he scored and my husband turned to me and said, "who is he?" I had to say, "No clue!" Love that he comes from Colgate, and I look forward to hearing more about him. Wow! If that was his NHL debut, it was a wowser.

Posted by: plinkwired | September 20, 2009 12:39 AM | Report abuse

Wow. What a great game for Chris Clark! A goal, an assist, and a pair of blocked shots? Ladies and Gentlemen, our Captain is back!

Kyle Wilson put up some impressive numbers overall - six shots on goal, two misses, and a blocked shot - but he needs to work on his faceoffs... then again, he was standing on the other side of the dot from Kopecky (last 4 seasons as a Red Wing, now a Blackhawk), Dowell (19 games last year with the 'Hawks), Madden (10 seasons with the Devils, now a Blackhawk), and Toews (two full seasons with the Blackhawks), and he still won four of 11 faceoffs, including beating Toews twice.

Jurcina - yes, Jurcina - was also impressive tonight. Three shots, 3 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 27 shifts.

And Varlamov had better watch his back, because Michal Neuvirth saved 24 of 26 for a save percentage of .923 overall. Varlamov's SV% for the last game he played was .869, and his SV% for the third frame was only 50% as he went 3 for 6.

Varly may be agile like a cat a lot of the time. He's flashy, and very athletic and flexible. But there is something to be said for Neuvirth. Neuvy is as cool as a cucumber out there. The boy is virtually unflappable, and he impresses the hell out of me every time.

It's going to be very interesting to see which of the two backs Theodore this season.......

Posted by: irockthered | September 20, 2009 1:35 AM | Report abuse

@plinkwired - Kyle Wilson came from the Hershey Bears. He was the winner of the Bears Rookie of the Year trophy in 2006-07, and has played three seasons in Hershey.

2006-07: 54 games, 24 goals, 30 assists (Bears Rookie of the Year award); 19 games, 7 goals, 9 assists post-season (and the Bears won the Calder Cup).

2007-08: 80 games, 30 goals, 31 assists in the regular season; 5 games, 3 assists post-season.

2008-09: 80 games, 28 goals, 30 assists in the regular season, 22 games, 3 goals, 7 assists in the post-season, along with helping the Bears to the Calder Cup a second time.

Wilson's an impressive player, and I expect if he doesn't make the Caps this year, he will next... He's very good!

Posted by: irockthered | September 20, 2009 1:46 AM | Report abuse

As I have been saying since the end of game 7 this past spring - Varly isn't a lock.

Goalies = kickers = closers = variable.

Posted by: Rocc00 | September 20, 2009 2:17 AM | Report abuse

i definately think neuvy should be considered for the #2 spot. he has an amazing glove and his rebound control is pretty decent. he bounces up quickly, and makes himself big in net. theo is lucky he signed a multiple yr deal and that we are willing to wait till the contract runs out because it really should be varly and neuvy as #1 and #2 and i really think neuvy can be #1

Posted by: capsfan387 | September 20, 2009 2:28 AM | Report abuse

No matter how impressive one or the other has looked, trusting two 21-year-olds in net would be a risky proposition.

Even if we didn't have Theodore and his contract, I think the Caps would have gone out this offseason and brought a vet into the mix, no matter how highly they think of both Varlamov and Neuvirth.

It's also too early to pass judgment on either Varlamov or Neuvirth. People tend to overreact to good and bad performances. We won't really know what we have with either of them for a couple more years.

Posted by: tmac2yao | September 20, 2009 2:45 AM | Report abuse

How come no mention of the #3 star, Wilson, Tarik? I was at the game, and Wilson, in my opinion, was easily the #1 star. I know he had 1 shot ring the crossbar, and maybe the one in the 3rd. He got a goal and an assist, too, and it seemed like he was one of the few Caps that was on top of his game in the first and second periods before the rest of the Caps came alive in the 3rd. I hope this guy makes the team after what I saw tonight.

Posted by: washcaps | September 20, 2009 3:13 AM | Report abuse

I just wanted to add that Neuvirth did look really good tonight for the most part. The conclusion I drew was that he had a solid game. Nothing more, nothing less.

I'm not sold that either of them are ready to take over as a starter yet and for a team with championship aspirations, throwing both of them into the fire at the same time with no other options to start the season would have been too risky. Even if Theodore's performance last season was not commensurate with his salary, he's been through the grind and has something neither of the kids have - experience.

All this is in response to anybody that has drawn the conclusion that based on limited NHL minutes, Varlamov and Neuvirth should be our #1 and #2 to start the season.

Posted by: tmac2yao | September 20, 2009 3:14 AM | Report abuse

On top of some great plays in OT, including the game-winner, Perreault had 2 takeaways and 0 giveaways. The Caps as a team only had 4 takeaways so Perreault had half of them. He did all this with the least ice time of any Caps player.

Posted by: tmac2yao | September 20, 2009 3:25 AM | Report abuse

Perreault also went 3-for-5 in faceoffs (2-for-3 vs Toews, 1-for-2 vs Madden).

Posted by: tmac2yao | September 20, 2009 3:29 AM | Report abuse

Great day for Les Capitales. Couldn't resist calling them by their French designation, with all the French descended players in last night's lineup. Aucoin, Perrault, Pothier, Giroux. And coached by Boudreau. (And then we have other French descended players at camp: Theodore, Bouchard, Joudrey, and Bourque.)

Posted by: CapsFan75 | September 20, 2009 7:35 AM | Report abuse

Where are the highlights? I want to see Neuvy's saves. I got so excited listening to Steve Kolbe. Kolbe is so awesome. =) Neuvy!!

Posted by: rachel216 | September 20, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

I agree with capsfan387!!!!!!! =)

Posted by: rachel216 | September 20, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

If you have DirecTV, the game WAS available in D.C. on Channel 665, the Comcast Sportnet feed out of Chicago. My thanks to the CapsInsider poster who mentioned this yesterday. It was great to see the boys back on the ice, even if we had to endure the Chicago announcers. Two straight wins in overtime. It's going to be quite a year!

Posted by: UnionStation | September 20, 2009 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Actually... my comments about Neuvirth were based on more than just this one game.

1) Neuvirth backstopped the Bears to the Calder Cup last season -and- received the League MVP award. His GAA of 1.92 set a record in the AHL.

2) Neuvirth's SV% with the Caps last year was .892 over five games; with Hershey, it was .910 for the regular season, but for the playoffs, the boy put up a .932 SV% two seasons in a row (2007-08 with the OHL), and notched multiple shutouts.

3) Neuvirth is unflappable in net - I watched him several times in Hershey last year. I've been impressed with Neuvirth since the first time I saw him. I have never seen him have a major breakdown.

4) Varlamov's SV% with the Caps was .918, he had several shots that the crossbar saved for him, and enjoyed some unholy luck, especially in his first game against the Habs. He ran a consistent .918 with the Caps, true, and was one game shy of getting us to the Eastern Conference finals, but in that one game - and in the third frame of his opener this season - Varlamov did not look his usual stellar self.

With Hershey, Varlamov saved .920 - only a couple of notches better than at the NHL level, and considerably lower than Neuvirth's SV% in the playoffs - against the best the AHL had to offer.

5) Varlamov missed several games last season to injury. Neuvirth, IIRC, did not. This is important in a netminder.

Posted by: irockthered | September 20, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

all those stats don't mean much to me... the question I ask about any goalie is this... can he make the big stop when the game is on the line? Grant Fuhr never had great stats when he was helping the Oilers win all those championships but he was MONEY when the game was on the line.

it's like the Redskins defense right now. they've been in "top 5" as far as the stats go last couple years but I haven't seen them stop ANYONE when it matters.

Posted by: joek443 | September 20, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

and go Juan Pablo Montoya!!! hope he wins the championship and pisses off all the ole redneck nascar fans who don't believe neither he nor Toyota belongs in the series... LOL

Posted by: joek443 | September 20, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Tarik, are theodores days numbered much like Nylanders? Or When you mentioned Neuvirth puting pressure on Varly, is that for the backup job?

Posted by: Puckthepens | September 20, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Theo is not in jeopardy. If anything, it will be March if he gets moved.

Posted by: ralCapsFan | September 20, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

I watched the game too. Wilson by far was the best forward for the Caps, he was noticeable all night...

Posted by: topshelf | September 20, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Anyone else heading to the game tomorrow?

Posted by: NatyBG | September 20, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse


For sure...will be there for all three PreSeason Games

Posted by: ralCapsFan | September 20, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

1. @ large one - right on bro.
2.@ tmac - same thing. We need a steady vet in goal - gives flexibility in developing the young guys. I expect that Varly and Neuwirth will be the goalie tandem of the future, but not this year.
3. Overall - you might argue that the Hawks vets were just putting in a night's work to get ready for the season, while our young guys were playing for a shot at the NHL. There may be some of that, but also the game shows how deep the Caps franchise is with players who know how to win.

Posted by: zmega | September 20, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

"Brooks Laich wore an 'A' on his jersey for the first time".
Hopefully the 'A' will be a permanent fixture on his jersey this year!!
Can't wait to ROCK THE RED tomorrow night!!

Posted by: theresa21 | September 20, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

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