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Caps 4, Sabres 2

Consider the Caps' demons exorcised after tonight's thorough 4-2 win in Buffalo, where the Capitals won for only the second time in nine games and avenged a 5-0 here loss last month.

"We talked about it," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It might be a stupid saying, but it worked and we did it. We came out with the intention of doing that."

Jose Theodore also ended a personal losing streak at HSBC Arena, winning here for the first time in six games, a slide that dates back to his days in Montreal. But more important than that, it appears Theodore has seized the No. 1 job after winning his fourth straight start - and he's looked awfully good in doing it.

Here are some other notes and quotes from tonight:

*The Caps have won nine of 10 and moved 12 points ahead of Carolina in the Southeast Division.

*Three of the Capitals' goals (excluding the empty netter) came on rebounds. Ryan Miller is an elite netminder, but even elite goalies struggle to stop second shots as we saw tonight. "Rebounds were the key tonight," Boudreau said.

*Chris Bourque notched his first NHL goal in his ninth game after he fired a long rebound off a shot by David Steckel past Miller.

"Ask anyone and they'll say it doesn't matter how their first one came," Bourque said, "it's just nice to get it out of the way."

But the goal wasn't all that please Boudreau about Bourque's game.

"He's an energy guy," Boudreau said. "He comes in and competes and doesn't let his size make a difference. I think he can play."

Seems to me Bourque, who was one of the last cuts in training camp, is ready to take the next step.

*Brooks Laich's goal was his fourth in five games and sixth in nine. And it came from that familiar spot: six feet from the goal line.

*Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and an assist and now has 38 points in 26 games. Wow. I'm writing about him for Thursday's paper.

*The power play struck twice tonight and is 5 for 14 in the last four games. The penalty kill, meantime, killed off four of five opportunities (the one Sabres' PP goal being Clarke MacArthur's six on five tally with 11 seconds remaining).

*Boyd Gordon said his empty net goal from just inside the Washington blue line was easily the longest of his professional career. He wasn't in the mood to chitchat, though, after taking some stitches to his forehead from a "phantom" high stick, as he called it.

*Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn limped off the ice after taking a shot to his leg/ankle/foot in the final moments. He was also assessed a hooking minor penalty on the play, and went straight to the dressing room.

Stay tuned on this one. He spent some time in the trainer's room after the game.

*Karl Alzner told me he intends to practice tomorrow after missing tonight's game with a bruised hand.

*With their next game scheduled for Jan. 1, the Caps closed the books on calendar year 2008 after posting a most impressive 52-23-6 record. Only San Jose and Boston were better.

*This is only the second time in franchise history the Capitals have recorded 50 points before New Year's. The only other time it happened was 1991-92. (They actually have 51, but you get what I'm saying.)

*Lindy Ruff was not at all pleased with his team's effort and ripped into them afterward, vowing changes.

"We will take them out of the lineup," Ruff said without naming names. "Some of them will come out. That's not an idle threat either."

The Caps have made a habit of ruining other teams' nights lately.

Anyway, I've got an early morning flight back to D.C. so I had better run. I'm planning to check in from the tomorrow's 11 a.m. practice -- so long as the snow the forecasters are calling for tonight doesn't wreak havoc.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  December 30, 2008; 10:55 PM ET
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Yikes. I'm still awake.

I hope Ovi's okay. He didn't look like himself out there, and the stats reflect that. Only 4 SOG and 4 more attempts blocked, -1. Poor guy. :(

Uh-oh on Morrisson. Hope he's okay and it isn't serious. I swear we need to all start bringing cans of Raid to every game to try to catch and kill the injury bug. :(

Jurcina had me scared for a bit there. Everything okay on that front?

Bradley's got a head of stone, I swear.

Otherwise, solid, solid game.

Posted by: kittypawz | December 30, 2008 11:47 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: ThisGuy | December 30, 2008 11:48 PM | Report abuse

Great time at Mr. Days, hat tip to 94 for setting it all up. Nice to meet kittypawz & irockthered as well (I will definitely be asking for tips before my trip to Hershey on 1/10).

Here is too more game nights out with the crowd.


Posted by: SZALACH7 | December 30, 2008 11:58 PM | Report abuse

Anyone going to practice tomorrow? Have off and am thinking about heading down there.

Posted by: Steve_R | December 31, 2008 12:19 AM | Report abuse

Gotta work, Steve_R, sorry.

I just watched the game highlights - I got stuck in traffic on my way to Mister Days and missed it. :( That passing sequence was SICK omg :D

Posted by: kittypawz | December 31, 2008 12:20 AM | Report abuse

"We will take them out of the lineup," Ruff said without naming names. "Some of them will come out. That's not an idle threat either."

According to the AP wire recap, he actually DID name two players: Hecht and Roy. I don't know about you guys, but it feels great to hear Lindy Ruff enraged at his own guys after a lazy effort at home. It's easier to dislike the Sabres since Ruff has been at the helm since the Barnababy/Bondra hit on Hasek days.

Posted by: cityspirit | December 31, 2008 12:20 AM | Report abuse

@SZALACH7 - Great meeting you too, and I second the hat tip! :-)

I'd be more worried about Ovechkin if he didn't react in some way to the news of his grandfather's passing...

Still, looking at the shot summary, he tallied more shots on goal than anyone other than Mike Green tonight, and the Sabres' D was all over him this evening. I'm not horribly worried about his low shot total, and here's why:

We put up a total of 31 shots.

7 of them came from Green, and 4 from Ovi - so 11/31 from two players, and the other 20 from everyone else...

Clark and Backstrom each had 3.

Fehr, Laich, Kozlov, Morrisonn, and Steckel each had 2.

Bradley, Gordon, Giroux and Bourque each had 1.

Green was shooting everything in sight, and didn't land one where it belonged; Ovi came close a couple of times in his four shots on goal, but with the D up his *** all the time, I'm not surprised he didn't have many shooting chances.

Now, I get cough syrup and go to sleep. 'Night, all!

Posted by: irockthered | December 31, 2008 12:22 AM | Report abuse

@Steve_R - I wish I could, but I missed Friday and Monday because of this damn cold, and I can't take off. Bah!

Posted by: irockthered | December 31, 2008 12:23 AM | Report abuse

Joe B. said during the broadcast AO's grandfather passed away this past weekend. Quite possible (and certainly understandable) that was weighing on his mind. Agreed he didn't quite look himself tonight.

Posted by: Puckhead012 | December 31, 2008 12:23 AM | Report abuse

Doh! Too slow...

Posted by: Puckhead012 | December 31, 2008 12:25 AM | Report abuse

Anyone else reminded of John Druce when they see Brooks Laich doing his thing? This is what Druce was supposed to become after his playoff run.

All I want for the New Year is: No more injuries!!!!!

Posted by: crooks_c | December 31, 2008 12:34 AM | Report abuse

Yeah; it's possible Ovi didn't hear the news about his grandfather until after Sunday's game was over... He put up 7 shots and sank 2 of them on Sunday, but he wasn't playing as physically as he usually does; no hits credited... he did get one tonight.

That said, I still think it was the Sabres' defense all over him that had him looking "off" tonight. At one point, he was surrounded by three of them! And he was on the ice for 21:45 - longer than anyone but Mike Green, who was on for 24:10.

Also, his 4 attempted/blocked shots? Nobody else came close. Bradley had 2, and Fehr and Collins each had 1. Nobody else notched any.

But it just proves my point: even if the D does manage to shut down Ovechkin, they still have to contend with the rest of the team. And the rest of the team can score too! Witness: 4-2 Caps.

And the second goal the Sabres got was a 6-on-4 power play with an empty net.

No, I'm pleased with tonight's game. VERY pleased. I hope Theo's found his groove; he looked great out there!

Kudos to Bourque on his first NHL goal, and happy birthday to his dad indeed! :-)

Posted by: irockthered | December 31, 2008 12:36 AM | Report abuse

Mo - hurt? Well of course we couldn't get out of a game without someone getting hurt!

Speaking of Roy, did you guys see his temper tantrum after the game at VC? Ridiculous ...

Posted by: --Boo-- | December 31, 2008 12:52 AM | Report abuse

@ SteveR,

I would love to come, but in order to have all day off on 1/1/09 (trust me, I'm gonna need it), I have to get some work done. Let me know how it is at the game though.


Posted by: SZALACH7 | December 31, 2008 12:56 AM | Report abuse

soooooo... potentially Morrison out, and Alzner back in?

I don't know if Tarik or Katie can put this into a blog entry, but when was the last time that the Caps had the EXACT SAME LINEUP for two or more straight games?

the number of players out may not have changed for a few games in a row, but certainly the rotation of players in and out have changed just about every game I can remember for a while.

it's truly amazing what this team has been doing. I can't believe that we're #2 in the conference when utilizing like half of the Hershey Bears team this year! it just goes to show what a great system we have, and how effing awesome Ovie is. (meanwhile, the Pens laid down again tonight. take THAT Cindy!)

Posted by: sargeantmofo | December 31, 2008 12:59 AM | Report abuse

To put tonight's game in perspective, here are the Dec 26 Caps/Sabres game notes (along with a few updates :-)):

Series Notes
– Washington is just 3-14-0 in its last 17 games against the Sabres. (Make that 5-14-0.)
– Washington hasn't won more than one game against the Sabres in a season since 2002-03. (Until tonight!)
– Washington has scored at least three goals in four straight meetings, but is just 1-3-0 in that time. (Last six now = 3-3-0.)

Posted by: --Boo-- | December 31, 2008 1:25 AM | Report abuse

When will the Caps finally switch Mike Green to a forward position? He is easily the worst defender on the team, yet, at the same time, one of the most potent offensive weapons. Yes, I understand the concept of an offense-minded defenseman, but it seems like Green is being exposed far too often when he gets stuck driving behind the opposing net or gets caught pushing forward, like tonight, which happened on the Mair goal.

Posted by: MikeM128 | December 31, 2008 1:45 AM | Report abuse

after his game tonight Crosby started crying when he realized he was out of lip gloss.

Posted by: ralph4100 | December 31, 2008 1:45 AM | Report abuse

"it appears Theodore has seized the No. 1 job after winning his fourth straight start - and he's looked awfully good in doing it."

This too shall pass. Let's all keep our shirts on: I'm not sure Jose deserves a gold-plated "#1 Goalie" nameplate yet. Johnny still deserves some starts for his streak pre-Rangers.

Posted by: large23220 | December 31, 2008 2:09 AM | Report abuse


hmmm I think Green played ok defensively, and of course he's really good when he pushes up. The one player that to me stood out as non up to the task was Schultz, always slow and non-combatant on the corners.

Posted by: mauree | December 31, 2008 4:44 AM | Report abuse

You mean when Roy was standing beside the net after the the horn sounded for it seemed 5 seconds and then tomahawked the blade off his stick on the post? I was at at friends house watching and we rewound that a few times and even put it in slow motion. We were laughing our butts off!

Posted by: ludeman95 | December 31, 2008 5:17 AM | Report abuse

Exactly! What was that all about? Regardless, give me a break!

Posted by: --Boo-- | December 31, 2008 6:28 AM | Report abuse

I like Johnny too, but I think Theodore had his best outing of the year last night. He's been a different netminder since the brief benching against the Rangers. It is good to see Theodore finally start earning that contract, albeit over a short span. The only thing that can stop this team from making a deep run in the playoffs is subpar goaltending, and we are going to need both those guys to contribute.

Posted by: Dogface13 | December 31, 2008 6:38 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Tarik, thanks a bunch! I spend the good time and trouble yesterday researching the Caps 2008 record in the hope of posting it today and for what? For you to beat me to it and post it in your update! What are you, some sort of journalist or something ; )

By the way, I think what you were struggling for was "This is only the second time in franchise history that the Caps have recorded 50 or more points before New Year".

To expand on Tarik's note, that 52-23-6 record is regular season games only (i.e. discounting the 7 games against Philly last April). A total of 81 games with 110 points gained. That would be a pretty good season in itself, even if the 82nd game was a loss.

Good solid away win last night and I'm glad my boy Jose is finally doing the business. Perhaps the Threeormore nickname will go away now, well unless we are talking about Threeormore wins in a row :)

Also glad to see CBo score his first. What if Bourque cracks the lineup and we end up meeting Boston in the Conference Final. I bet Ray Bourque is hoping that doesn't happen!

Biggest regret of last night? That I live too far away from Mr Days to join people for a beer and watch the game - damn you Atlantic Ocean!

Posted by: DaveUKCapsFan | December 31, 2008 6:58 AM | Report abuse

Some great research on our record against CAR/ATL/FLA/TBL this season compared to the records of the Rangers/Bruins against those same teams. I think lots of so called experts trot out the "SouthLeast" line because they've heard it somewhere else and haven't taken the time to look at the facts. For years the Red Wings have lorded it over the Central Division and until this young Chicago team came on the scene they have hardly any opposition. They have padded their regular season record by playing games against poor Chicago, St Louis and Columbus teams and then ultimately they were found out in the playoffs (last season notwithstanding). However, there never seems to have been mention of what a poor division (Wings aside) the Central has been.

Taking this further, currently we are the only SE team in a playoff spot. However Carolina are just out of the playoffs being level on points with Buffalo and Florida are only 2 points behind them with a game in hand. The Pens are only 3 points clear of BUF/CAR and 5 points clear of FLA but played a game more. Its not inconceivable that CAR & FLA could replace BUF/PIT for as 7th & 8th seeds before the end of the season. If that happened the SE would have 3 teams in, the ATL 3 teams and the NE just 2. Obviously there's a way to go before that happens yet! Can you tell I'm bored at work?

Posted by: DaveUKCapsFan | December 31, 2008 7:01 AM | Report abuse

When will the Caps finally switch Mike Green to a forward position? He is easily the worst defender on the team...

Posted by: MikeM128 | December 31, 2008 1:45 AM
So who had 1:45 in the pool?

Posted by: Section117 | December 31, 2008 7:18 AM | Report abuse

DaveUK: Great analysis, and don't be so hard on yourself--you're at work while most Americans are sleeping!

Posted by: acesdc | December 31, 2008 7:19 AM | Report abuse

SO happy for Jose, he's playing really well and finally looks comfortable, calm and confident in net. We need him to play like that for the rest of the season and into the playoffs.

Posted by: rachel216 | December 31, 2008 7:25 AM | Report abuse

There is a distinct difference between being "at work" and "working".

I just found out we are all getting credited for 2 "free" hours which means I get to go home 2 hours early. How good is that?!

Posted by: DaveUKCapsFan | December 31, 2008 7:28 AM | Report abuse

And a belated welcome back Dave.

Posted by: Section117 | December 31, 2008 7:35 AM | Report abuse

this was the best road game we have played this year. Theodores best game by far. outside of the last goal(caps were clock watching) he was rock solid. We are tough to be beat when we keep the oppponent to 2 or less. Things are starting to come together. If Theodore can keep his focus, then we could make a huge run this year. it starts in goal. The home game against Philly is going to set the tone for the rest of the season.

Posted by: ergoroc | December 31, 2008 7:36 AM | Report abuse

Why are people kvetching about Green?


Green posted 7 shots on goal, 1 missed shot, 1 takeaway (NO giveaways), and a blocked shot (against D. Roy), -and- he had the longest on-ice time of any Cap last night, at 24:10.

I'd say that he's doing just fine. If he truly was the "worst D-man on the team," do you really think Boudreau would have him on the ice for that long?

By contrast, with the rest of the D...

* Schultz had a hit and a giveaway.
* Jurcina had a hit, TWO giveaways, and two blocked shots.
* Morrisonn had 2 shots, a missed shot, a hit and 3 blocked shots.
* Sloan had 2 takeaways and 2 blocked shots.
* Collins had an attempted shot blocked and a giveaway.

Give Green a break. He's not doing THAT badly!

None of those giveaways - and even Ovechkin had one last night - resulted in anything for the Sabres.

The last note in the play-by-play before the 1st is that Roy gave the puck away, so I don't know how they got it back for that, but Hecht beat Laich on the faceoff to set up the 2nd.

Posted by: irockthered | December 31, 2008 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Oh - and watch the highlight reel. That passing sequence to set up our 1st goal was just absolutely SICK! WOW!!!

And Green was part of it. So. Just sayin'. ;-)

Posted by: irockthered | December 31, 2008 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Section117, have you heard about Gerrard?

Posted by: DaveUKCapsFan | December 31, 2008 7:53 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, what little I've read makes it seem like he wasn't too far gone either, which makes it surprising.

At least he's not Craig Bellamy.

Posted by: Section117 | December 31, 2008 8:04 AM | Report abuse


Defensively he is good, His speed allows him to get back to his position 99% of the time and from there he is locked in, but when he is caught out it looks horrible.

His plus as you stated is his offensive ability, no one on our team can walk the blue like Greenie can hence his positioning on the PP. This was most noticeable when he was out and our PP was way off.

I think in the end its really not an issue, just keep in mind that when he gets caught out of position its going to look bad but it in reality it doesn't happen all that often... I know I find myself always screaming at him when he is out of position but what he brings to the table far outweighs getting caught out every once in a while and its really nice to have a scoring threat walking the blue line when we are in the O zone. The more i see him play the more i really am reminded of Paul Coffey.

Posted by: Diz1205 | December 31, 2008 8:13 AM | Report abuse

I can't see anything coming of it. He's been released now. Funny thing is the guy who was assaulted is a Man Utd fan. Think he'll want to have his day in court with Liverpool's star player?

Posted by: DaveUKCapsFan | December 31, 2008 8:34 AM | Report abuse

When you have a blue liner that handles the puck so well and has that speed you want him to take chances. His teammates are responsible for cycling back and covering for him. Trust me, I enjoy this type of hockey (B.B. hockey) much more than the days of the Murry's where we had 22 shots a game. I have not been too psyched for Giroux lately, he played poorly last night. Look forward to a healthy return of some forwards.

Posted by: tomdchancar | December 31, 2008 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Tarik or any one else: Any ideas on when Johnson will start again? I hate to see Jose sit when he is so hot, but with the stretch of home games coming, it probably makes sense to start Johnny either v. TB or NYR?

Posted by: nomarjax01 | December 31, 2008 8:47 AM | Report abuse

new blog yay!

Posted by: FFSEnough | December 31, 2008 9:13 AM | Report abuse

since when is 6 on 5 considered a PP/PK situation?

Posted by: spotter | December 31, 2008 4:16 PM | Report abuse

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