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Caps 3, Wild 1

The Caps took a third period lead, and for a change, held on and beat the Wild, 3-1, to pick up their fourth win in a row.

But tonight was just as much about what they lost.

Mike Kunble is out three to four weeks with a broken finger, leaving a huge hole in the top six. Knuble had been playing well, too. In his previous three games, the big winger had two goals and four assists to help the Caps make up for the absence of Alex Ovechkin.

Now, the Caps will be looking to replace Knuble, as well. I just watched the replay again, and it looks like the injury is to Knuble's left hand, which he pulled out his glove and examined twice as he skated off. He also gripped his stick in his right hand after the collision.

Check out my game story here, then come on back for a few notes and quotes:

*Semyon Varlamov took the blame for the Wild's only goal, but he also deserved much of the credit for helping the Caps hang in there at the end. The rookie is now 7-0-1 this season and 11-1-1. In his last two games, he's stopped 55 of 57 shots for a .965 save percentage.

"Our defense played really well," Varlamov said through an interpreter. "They cleared the crease, they cleared the view so I could see the shot. So kudos to the defense."

*Boudreau on leading the Eastern Conference in points: "I want to be number one at everything. I've let them know where they are - where they stand. No matter what you're playing you like to be on top and right now we are. During the course of a season it goes peaks and valleys and other teams take it over. You never know how it's going to end up. But it's always fun to be there at one point in the season."

This, by the way, is the latest the Caps have led the conference this late in a season since 2000.

*Tomas Fleischmann's pretty pass to Mike Green extended his career best point streak to seven games. Since returning from a blood clot in his leg, Fleischmann has at times carried the Caps, racking up six goals and three assists in eight games. He's got an affordable contract this season. That might change if he keeps this up.

*Brooks Laich's empty netter was his eighth goal of the season. Last season, he got his eighth goal in the Caps' 34th game.

*The Caps are 3-0-1 when the opponent scores first.

*The power only got three opportunities, but it made one of them count. The Caps are 5 for 12 the past four games and 5 for 13 since Ovechkin went out.

*That's it from me tonight. I've got a 38-minute flight to Newark in my (very) near future.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  November 13, 2009; 11:32 PM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Knuble out three to four weeks
Next: Ovechkin will be game-time decision (updated)

Comments

Is it time for Fehr to step up yet?

Posted by: rh71 | November 13, 2009 11:49 PM | Report abuse

still not sure on how that knuble hit wasnt a penalty

Posted by: _stevo | November 13, 2009 11:50 PM | Report abuse

Caps showed alot of good things in that game and had one of there best third period showings so far.scary how there this good w/out ovi but still miss him.And now w/knuble out someone better step it up.allthough i personally dont think knuble has been that big a factor so far.He's had a couple good games but nothing that a hard nosed fill-in couldnt handle.question is who is gonna be that player.they got the talent,nows its time for someone to shine.Great game for the caps!GO CAPS!!!

Posted by: gratefuldid | November 13, 2009 11:58 PM | Report abuse

Anyone know who got the stars/hard hat? Was at the game but didn't get to see who got what.

Great game, much more disciplined! Was worried they'd let up after being up 2-1 but they really didn't. Very happy, just want to see the same thing vs the devils. Let's break up their winning streak!! Oh and I've dubbed Perreault might mouse... That kid is really becoming one of my new favorites. He just really doesn't give up, it's clear that bb's love for him is warrented!

Posted by: mrszilla | November 13, 2009 11:58 PM | Report abuse

Hello All!
Couldn't watch the game but got the lowdown on the BBerry. Great win boys.
Who wore the "A"s for us tonight? anyone recall?
Thanks.

Posted by: BernieWolfeFan | November 14, 2009 12:06 AM | Report abuse

@ rh71

I'd say, put Fehr on the line with Backstrom and Flash. That combination has worked in the past (see late Jan-early Feb time frame 2009). Plus Fehr has been going well lately.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | November 14, 2009 12:12 AM | Report abuse

From previous thread

So what will our lines be tomorrow? It all depends on whether Ovi comes back. I know the temptation will be greater since it's the Devils who seem to be the class of the Eastern Conference thus far this year and a team the Caps have major problems beating. (They always contend even when everyone seems to give up on them.)

If Ovi's back:

1) Ovi/Backstrom/Fleischmann
2) Laich/Morrison/Semin
3) Fehr/Perrault/Clark
4) Laing/Stecks/Bradley

If Ovi's not back

1) Fleischmann/Backstrom/Fehr
2) Laich/Morrison/Semin
3) Laing/Perrault/Clark
4) Gordon/Stecks/Bradley

Posted by: CapsFan75 | November 14, 2009 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Tarik must have been rushing out the door to catch that flight as he was finishing his gamer...in an early part of the article, he talked about how it was good to not let in a soft goal...

Later, he spoke to how pleased BB was with Varly's response after he let in...a soft goal...

Tarik, did you go over the beer limit tonight or were you rushing out to catch that flight? :)

All kidding aside...your coverage of the Caps is top notch.

Posted by: TimDz | November 14, 2009 12:20 AM | Report abuse

@newbiecapsfan07

I got the Time on Ice stats from the box score on Yahoo.

As for the goals, I was at the game and remembered who scored. Green scored the first on a power play. Pothier scored the second. Laich scored an empty netter at the end.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | November 14, 2009 12:22 AM | Report abuse

Here's a radical proposal on the lines. Yes, it's crazy. But it might work. When Ovi's ready, I recommend let's not give Ovi uber minutes right off the bat.

I'd start him on the 3rd line with Perrault and Clark. We'd be giving Perrault a chance to play with top flight offensive talent (and working Ovi back in gradually). Ovi would still do the power play (but, please, not at the point.)

(With Knubs out, I'd put Fehr in his place on the line with Backstrom and Flash.)

Once Ovi's up to speed, so to speak, we can put him on the top line which I assume will be him, Backstrom, and Flash.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | November 14, 2009 12:31 AM | Report abuse

Nice night by Varly, even though I assume Theodore will get the start tomorrow. Varly will probably be a bit too gassed to be effective tomorrow. There's a reason, teams usually use different goalies in back to back games.

Did you know that Varlamov's initials are SAV? That's so appropriate for a guy who makes so many saves. SAV, the savior, which he certainly was against the Islanders, not to mention tonight.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | November 14, 2009 1:13 AM | Report abuse

sorry 75 but thats not a good idea. when ovie is ready to play he is ready to play theres no way BB or ovie are going to decrease his minutes just because he was injured. besides he's ovechkin sorry but he is nothing but a 1st liner period.

Posted by: capsfan387 | November 14, 2009 1:31 AM | Report abuse

@ atybat from an earlier thread

Yeah, just like Canada whooped Russia in the last 2 World Championships... if by whooping you mean "losing to".

In reality it'll be a great tournament and any of the top 6 countries have a chance to win especially since in the knockout stages 1 game decides everything. Russia and Canada are the obvious favorites, but I would not count out Sweden (current Olympic champs, btw), Finland, Czech Republic and the US. Even Slovakia has an outside chance to cause a major upset. That's why the hockey Olympic tournament is so much better than basketball. You get 6 or even 7 Dream teams instead of 1.

Posted by: ranndino | November 14, 2009 2:25 AM | Report abuse

@ CapsFan75

Sorry dude, but Ovie on one leg, skating with two sticks for crutches, is 10x the player Fehr is.

Fehr has not convinced me of anything yet. Not sure how long we can wait for him to adjust to the NHL. I think that if Giroux got as many chances as Fehr he'd be a pretty consistent scorer at the NHL level by now. Perreault certainly hasn't taken an eternity to become effective at this level. Neither did Keith Aucoin. Maybe there's something to be said for smaller, quicker, skilled players over the Big Dudes.

Posted by: ranndino | November 14, 2009 2:32 AM | Report abuse

I'm assuming Knuble will be out quite a bit longer than 3-4 weeks. I'm thinking around 2 months.

Posted by: tmac2yao | November 14, 2009 3:25 AM | Report abuse

tmac, a finger usually takes 3-4 weeks to heal, even if you have surgery on it. At worst, it'll be 6 weeks, but I seriously doubt it will take that long. His finger may hurt/be really sore for some time, but it won't affect his play very much.

So I expected this game to be a tight one, and it was, but man the Caps looked good tonight regardless. I expect tonight to look a lot like last night; another tight game that'll be low scoring.

With everyone raving about Perrault, I almost don't want to add any fuel to the fire. But I can't. It seemed everytime a big offensive opportunity was happening, 85 was right in the middle of it. At one point I said to myself, "there's no way he can be sent back down." He and Flash both have truly impressed me the last few games. Which leads me too . . . Semin.

While some of his gliding did frustrate a little last night, I was caught off guard by one simple line a Minnesota announcer said last night. He said Semin was a five year veteran. It was just really weird to hear Semin and veteran in the same sentence.

All in all, great job last night, and I can't wait for tonight. Go Caps!

Posted by: Capcrazy77 | November 14, 2009 6:09 AM | Report abuse

Re: Knubles claw- staying positive about this one. At least we'll get the cap relief from the LTIR.

Also staying positive- being out a month will ensure he doesn't wear himself out on that top line with #8. Come playoffs, he'll be just as fresh as a 24 year old. Ok- maybe a stretch, but you get my point.

Flash and Perreault? Excellent work.

Posted by: Fro_ | November 14, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

@ranndino

Fehr has done pretty decent lately. An assist last night and a goal on Wed.

Don't worry, I have not lost my mind. -- on Ovi vs Fehr. (That crazy proposal that I mentioned, if that were to happen, was to be a very short term one, like one game, if even that long.)

I figure, realistically speaking, Ovi joins Flash and Backstrom, which is what I expect anyhow.

(Oddly enough, when Flash first got back and had a good game, I broached the possibility, semi-jokingly, of Flash for the first line.)

Posted by: CapsFan75 | November 14, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

@capsfan387

Yes, I believe Ovi's a first liner. I have not lost my mind.

My "crazy" proposal was defintely expected to be a VERY short term thing. Even Ovi needs an adjustment period before playing uber minutes, great as he is. By game #2 back, he would be up to "normal" minutes, for him.

Realistically, he'll be with Backstrom & Flash, likely tonight. Knubs' absence is the incentive. My more realistic line proposals are earlier in the thread here.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | November 14, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

stars, first to third:
hardin, pothier, flash

Posted by: jgprentice | November 14, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Bernie, ovie, knuble and poti are the three alt captains this year. With Ovie out I think poti and knuble are a's. If both Ovie and knuble are out then maybe 21 or 19 will get the a.. Maybe 9.

I think the caps are the only team where a player can go from " may return" in the second period to "out 3-4 weeks with surgery " right after the game...

Posted by: dcsportsfan1 | November 14, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

... so Knuble was the next one ...

... and who is now in line? Backstrom, Morrison, SAV ...

However, the CAPS are great even without some core players .. who have thought, that they would be in first place after 19 games? Even with a loss today, the CAPS have exceeded my expectations. I hope they won't get a big head about their play ...

Posted by: FCKoeln1 | November 14, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I also would like to point out, no matter who he plays with, Ovie's line is always the first line. That being said, I want to see Perrault play with him and see what happens. Probably not going to happen, but imagine the possibilities.

Posted by: Capcrazy77 | November 14, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

A few games ago a poster said of Perrault that is number is't 85 but 8.5. Thought it was pretty funny at the time but also true. After last night he has a similar kind of infectious energy and playmaking ability. I hope he stays but I will understand that he may need more ice time down at Hershey. The 06 draft is looking really good. Great and satisfying win on all fronts.

Posted by: Capsyoungguns | November 14, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Except for the loss of Knuble. I think he and BMo have been absolutely great additions to the team. May his finger heal quickly. He is a tough gritty guy for the lineup.

Posted by: Capsyoungguns | November 14, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Trottier/Bossy
Gretzky/Kurri
Oates/Neely
Lemiuex/Jagr
Oates/Hull

Ovechkin/Backstrom?

whoever ends up playing the other wing at any given shift, those two always need to play together... they have a great chance to be the next great center/wing combo in NHL history

Posted by: joek443 | November 14, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

@Capcrazy77

Yes, even if they put Ovi on a line with Bradley and Boyd Gordon, it would be the first line.

They'd never do that -- for a whole game. But I see Ovechkin on an occasional shift with grinders, like Bradley, and less steller defenders defending them -- where he would score.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | November 14, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Tonight's game is a statement game. Or is it too early for a statement game?

Posted by: rachel216 | November 14, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

@FCKoeln1

Well no one, especially the Caps, can afford to get a big head when playing the Devils. Reasons: 1) the Devils are the best team in conference (at this juncture); 2) it is an away game for Caps; 3) the Devils are more rested than the Caps; 4) Caps have lousy track record against them this year.

Then again, the Caps seem to do their best in games where no one expects them to do anything and tonight's game falls into that category. (See San Jose game)

On the Devils: one could say they have consecutive "statement" games on their schedule and it's a true test of how good they are. They just finished beating the Pens.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | November 14, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

@rachel216

Yes, it is a statement game tonight.

The Devils would probably consider themselves to be in the midst of statement games. They just finished playing the Pens (and beat them). They play the Caps tonight. And the Devils' next opponent is Philthy.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | November 14, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Until Knuble went down, we were actually wondering about which winger, with a Points Per Game average or better, was going to have to move down to the third line.

In any case, Laich, Semin, and Flash are now safely on the top 2 lines for the next 3 weeks.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | November 14, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I don't believe in "statement" games, especially this early in the season... you make your statement in april, may and june in this sport, not in november.

Posted by: joek443 | November 14, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

I'd argue that maybe last night's game was a statement game. That was the most consistent effort all year. If we pull out another win tonight against the Devils, I feel that would be an exclamation point.
The Devils are good, but I don't think best in conference. Maybe best at playing their system, but I think they're beatable (although I guess everyone is beatable really). And yea they beat the Penguins, but they were still without Malkin and Gonchar. I'd kinda expect them to lose being that shorthanded (insert various Crosby insult here).
And as for their track record against the Devils, it seems all my life the Caps haven't done so great against the Devils, but I do know tonight should be a good one.
If we do the same things we did last night, I think we'll be okay.

Posted by: Capcrazy77 | November 14, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

I always knew Gonchar was a good defenseman when he was with the Caps but seeing how much better the pens are with him than without him, he's even better than I thought he was.

Posted by: joek443 | November 14, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

@Capcrazy77

Lsst year is the best I remember the Caps playing againts the Devils. Of course, Brodeur was out also.

The Caps weren't that far from beating the Devils this year.

We could alsmot refer to Minnesota as "Devils' Lite". The Wild play the trap system of defense that the Caps always have trouble with.

On tonight's game: this is a game where many people would not give the Caps a snowball's chance in Hell of winning. (Ha! Ha! The Caps are playing in the Devils' arena; i.e. Hell. So they're going to Hell and playing the role of the proverbial snowball there.) But didn't Dante propose an icy version of Hell?

The Caps actually do better in games where people don't expect them to win.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | November 14, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

From the seats, I thought Fehr had a pretty decent game last night. Clark has stepped it up as well. Fehr had the advantage of seeing time on the top line, and he has played well with Flash before. Clark is benefiting from seeing time with Perreault, I think.

Posted by: Sonyask | November 14, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

@joek443

Yes, the Pens are missing three of their blue liners; i.e. Gonchar, Letang, and one other person.

(In the playoffs, we basically played the Pens with over 66% of our blueliners injured. Green, with a shoulder problem. Poti and Oisk with broken feet. Morrisonn injured -- I can't recall the specifics. And Schultz was out.)

Posted by: CapsFan75 | November 14, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

@joek443

They are missing Orpik as well. That's right, he's a blue liner.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | November 14, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

@Sonyask

Yes, Fehr has done well lately. He had an assist last night and a goal on Wednesday. If Ovi's not back, I'd put him with Backstrom and Flash.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | November 14, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I don't know if it was a statement game last night. I'm just thankful there was not a letdown after getting up to see the Isles for the 3rd time on wednesday, and then having a big game tonight. Caps came out a bit flat last night, gave up a mess of shots, and really could not get anything going offensively in the first half of the first. They picked it up though, got the inspiration they were lacking to start the game, and held.

Tonight I'd expect the Caps to do well. They played NJ's game last time they met and it did not turn out well. Tonight they should play the Caps' game with some added shut-down once they get a lead.

Posted by: Sonyask | November 14, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

@CapsFan75

I've totally been thinking of Minnesota as "Devil's Lite" all morning. They are pretty much the same team, except NJ is a much better version. So the Caps will pretty much see the exact same thing they saw last night. That's why I think if they do the same things they did last night, they'll be fine. The only problem there might be, is that playing against trapping/defensive teams can really drain energy. Will there be enough in the tank after grinding out last night's win?
If Ovie's back, that'll at least be one set of fresh legs.

Posted by: Capcrazy77 | November 14, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Good game last night. Losing Knuble hurts but at least it's only for a few weeks. Backstrom was great last night. He didn't show up on the score sheet, but he certainly made his presence felt. Personally, I would like to see Chris Clark take over the RW spot on the top line even if Ovi comes back tonight. He's has been playing well lately and his skill set is the most like Knuble.

I have to agree with joek, there are no statement games in November. Maybe for teams like Phoenix and Colorado that everyone thought were terrible, but not the Caps. Teams are not in playoff mode now.

Posted by: ablake70 | November 14, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

While I see the point that there are no statement games in November, I feel like statements can still be made. For example, if Ovie doesn't play tongiht, and we win without both him and Knuble, that is quite a statement to the rest of the hockey world that this team is good even without Ovie (which it seems that everyone, outside of DC at least, still thinks Ovie is the team).
I feel the Caps have made some sort of statement going 4-1 so far without Ovie. Maybe it's not the sort of statement that can be made towards the end of the year, but something has to be said about the way the Caps have played the last two weeks.

Posted by: Capcrazy77 | November 14, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Hm, statement games?

Up to date, we have lost each game against the devils and if this continues ... that won't be good at all
... you have to show the other team, that you are able to win against them even in their building ...

... if you have lost each game against a team in the regular season, it is a little bit trickier to win against them in the play offs because the other team has all kinds of psychological advantages ...

GO CAPS

Posted by: FCKoeln1 | November 14, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

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