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Unmotivated Caps lose to Flames, 5-3

It's tough for me to get too worked up after this afternoon's 5-3 loss to Calgary. Yes, the first period effort was weak. Yes, the goaltending was porous. But the Caps haven't had much to get excited about in weeks, and that lack of motivation against an unfamiliar opponent bit them against the infinitely more desperate Flames.

Perhaps, as Mike Knuble said, this will serve as "a wake-up call" for the Caps down the stretch.

"It was bound to happen," he said. "Over the course of the season, we haven't had many like that. It happened and you move on. If they lost this game, maybe they're done."

"We got sent home with our tails between our legs," the veteran added. "It's a wake-up call. We have to be more ready from the start next game."

Now that you've heard from Knuble, Coach Bruce Boudreau and Mathieu Perreault on an almost predictable 5-3 loss to the desperate Flames, here are a few notes, quotes and thoughts:

*Clinching the Eastern Conference will have to wait -- for now, at least. The Caps needed a point, but of course failed to get one. But they can still clinch if New Jersey loses to Philly tonight. If it goes down that way, how anticlimactic, eh?

*If being six points out with seven games to go wasn't enough motivation, Coach Brent Sutter delivered a pre-game speech to his players. Asked what was said, defenseman Robyn Regehr said: "We have to throw it on the line. I don't think guys have been doing that the last few games and Brent just came in a said, 'We have to throw it on the line.' The guys responded. We had a great first period. Guys were playing hard, we were physical, we were winning battles along the walls, we were good in our own zone."

In other words, the Flames were everything the Caps weren't early.

*Despite a poor first period effort, some folks on press row were surprised that a few hundred fans booed the NHL's best team as the players left the ice following the first period.

"We had lost four [in regulation] out of 35 at home," Boudreau said. "Give the guys a break. I could see if we were doing this on a regular basis. The fans have been tremendous for us ... The coach is going to get mad at them, let alone everybody else when they needed their backing. It's their right. But the good ones were right behind us all the way."

*Alex Ovechkin's goal was his 46th, and temporarily put him atop the goal scoring list. Sidney Crosby, though, struck twice today against Toronto and now leads Ovechkin by one and Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos by two.

With two points, Ovechkin also became the second player to reach 100 points, joining Vancouver's Henrik Sedin, who has 101. Ovechkin's assist on Perreault's goal was his career best tying 54th.

*Backstrom also became the fifth player in franchise history to reach 90 points.

*There weren't many bright spots for the Caps. But I thought Perreault was one of them. In 12:47 of ice, the pint-sized center took three shots and scored a nifty goal after it ricocheted off the end boards. (He did, however, lose 10 of his 18 draws.)

That's it from me tonight. Practice tomorrow is at 11.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  March 28, 2010; 8:18 PM ET
 
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Next: Caps clinch first Eastern Conference regular season title

Comments

The Caps definitely laid an egg during first period today. Ugly! Ugly! Ugly!

Too big of a hole to climb out of.

I hope the Caps wake up and play better hockey soon.

When will Brooks Laich return, besides not soon enough?

Posted by: CapsFan75 | March 28, 2010 8:38 PM | Report abuse

Sorry BB but those boos were very well deserved. Honestly, playing a period like that, anything other than a boo should be an insult.

Posted by: Liebercreep | March 28, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

They have a game on Tuesday so a bag skate would not be a good idea at practice tomorrow.

Yes, I feel the Caps need practice of some sort. I thought that after Thursday, they would be better with a few practices.

Sad to say, this past week was a week where the Caps would have been better off had they NOT practiced. Brooks would still be healthy. And so would B Mo.

No, I don't advocate no practice for the team. It's counter intuitive since most players, even the stars, need practice. But ...

BTW Brooks, please start wearing a helmet visor from now on. We don't want any more face injuries.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | March 28, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

The Western Conference is so much better than the Eastern Conference. Much, much, much better.

Only 2 Western Conference teams have a losing record against the East and both are just barely losing records: http://www.nhl.com/ice/standings.htm?season=20092010&type=XVE

The Caps had the best record of all Eastern Conference teams against the West coming into today but that distinction now belongs to Buffalo: http://www.nhl.com/ice/standings.htm?season=20092010&type=XVW

If we played a Western Conference schedule with our personnel and systems, we'd most likely be well under 100 points.

Likewise, if you took some of the middle tier Western Conference teams and gave them an Eastern Conference schedule, they'd be fighting it out for top spot.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 28, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

BB gets bent out of shape even after "sloppy" losses so it's strange to hear him say "give the guys a break" when he's the one that's always freaking out. Sometimes after losses I think he freaks out even more than fans do. I guess he was feeling nice today.

Well we're on our way to clinching the East. I don't see NJ scoring 4 goals in the third.

Posted by: rachel216 | March 28, 2010 8:52 PM | Report abuse

10 out of 18 faceoffs is 1 away from 50%. Inconsequential. Faceoff percentage doesn't matter as much as people think anyways (unless you're really terrible at it).

Here's hoping they play better Tuesday night -- I'm gonna be in the stands!

Posted by: butcherbaker | March 28, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

I think there's a difference between criticizing the team and actually booing the team at the games.

the '74 Caps deserved to be booed every period, not this current team

you can boo all you want but don't get upset if someone calls you a lousy fan

Posted by: joek443 | March 28, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Bruce: I didn't boo, HOWEVER:
1. I took the day off work to go.
2. I filled the car up and drove 2 hours.
3. I bought tickets for me and my family.
4. I paid $20 to park.
6. I paid $4.50 each for 4 lousy hot dogs.
7. I paid $4.75 each for 4 "regular" cokes.
8. It's 8:45pm and we just got home.
Now nobody made me go. It was all my idea, because I've been a Caps fan since age 11(1974). BUT your team looked like it didn't want to be there. Being young guys, maybe alot of them went out late last night (which I can understand). Most of them make a lot more money than me. So had I wanted to boo, maybe I would have, but don't blame the fans that did. They know how good this Caps team can be, and when they come out and play like that, the fans know their hearts aren't in it. Bruce, you're a great coach, but maybe if you had dropped the cash to go to go to this game, you would better understand the fans mindset... Sorry. Go Caps!

Posted by: kcbrichmond | March 28, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

At least the Devils are also getting shelled by a desperate hockey team.

I'm less happy about likely winning the conference as I am to see another very good team getting outworked and outplayed by a struggling team.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 28, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

The Caps were dreadful in the first period, but I was humiliated as a fan that some of the people around me booed when the Caps left the ice. We are still talking about a team with the best record in the NHL and the best goal differential. I agree with Gabby--the good ones cheered.

Posted by: nomarjax01 | March 28, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

On the coaching:

Maybe any team would have a better offense (and worse defense) under Boudreau. But then again, Boudreau is a much more competent coach than Hanlon. The team missed the playoffs with Hanlon. They were 28-40-14. An ugly record indeed. But they turned it around after Hanlon was fired and became a winner.

If Boudreau is fired, who would we replace him with? There's no point in removing a good coach unless a better coach can be found.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | March 28, 2010 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Does it shock anybody else that only Edmonton and Dallas out of all Western conference teams do not have winning percentages against the Eastern Conference.

And they both have records of 7-9-2 so they're just barely below .500.

It's blatantly clear that the East is the far weaker conference and it should make it even more impressive to see what San Jose, Chicago and Phoenix have accomplished this season, even though two of those teams have struggled recently.

I'm not saying that the Caps shouldn't be mentioned with the best in the West but don't let our lead in points over the top West teams fool you. Those teams have played a much, much tougher schedule.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 28, 2010 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Wow.

Remember 2006? I do. Caps fans went from the Cleveland Indians diehards to a bunch of spoiled brat Yankees fans in a couple years.

Even the Ovechkin-era Caps are going to lose a FEW games a year.

Settle down, Beavis.

Posted by: large23220 | March 28, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

why is Laing not getting any pk time? He is far more agressive than several of our forwards who seem willing to stand around while doing the pk and avoid blocking shots or exerting themselves

Posted by: wendel2 | March 28, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

@kcbrichmond

Ugh. I know, it must have been SO hard for you today compared to the Capitals, who haven't worked hard all year and done any amazing things. Driving two hours is MUCH worse than getting piledriven into the boards 8 times by 250-pounders while trying to get a puckm right?

Get over it.

Posted by: BigMogilny | March 28, 2010 9:08 PM | Report abuse

this is why there are so many upsets in SC playoffs compared to the other sports... in hockey you can make up lack of talent with emotion, effort and great goaltending

the Flames and the Flyers are desperate hockey teams and both of them have spanked much superior teams today

yes BB and the players should have been ready but there is NO way they can put in the same effort every game, especially this late in the regular season when they pretty much know where they will finish in standing, for one simple reason - THEY'RE HUMAN BEINGS!!! and it's a very long season and it's even longer this year because of the olympics

they just lost one lousy almost meaningless regular season game, one of 82... wait till the playoffs before you start booing or asking BB to get fired. Till then, take a pill and relax

Posted by: joek443 | March 28, 2010 9:10 PM | Report abuse

@CapsFan75

We were also a very young team and very, very, very early in the rebuilding process.

There is no telling what this team would do under Hanlon or another more defensive-minded coach at this point.

Boudreau may still be better and the sharp turnaround when he stepped in would indicate that but you can't ignore that that the players weren't as good under Hanlson as they are now and there was also very different personnel.

Backstrom coming into his own has played a huge factor in the team's rise among many other factors.

The Fedorov trade also had a big impact on the team, both phsychologically and on the ice.

I'm guessing that if Hanlon or another coach were here today, we'd still be among the elite teams and we'd quite possibly be better, defensively, for a number of reasons.

Obviously, we'd be playing very different systems and nobody plays run-n-gun like Boudreau so odds are there would be a very different approach towards defense. Ovechkin might be a more well-rounded player at this point. The same with Green. Who knows? It's all hypothetical.

McPhee would probably have made different moves in recent years if we played different systems. He'd probably bring in more players to fit that coach's style of play

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 28, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

why is Laing not getting any pk time? He is far more agressive than several of our forwards who seem willing to stand around while doing the pk and avoid blocking shots or exerting themselves

Posted by: wendel2 | March 28, 2010 9:06 PM

I agree 100%.

Steckel is right there near the top of that list. He wins faceoffs but he is a liability in every other aspect of the game of hockey. Winning faceoffs is important but his lack of speed, reaction time, ability to change directions quickly, block shots, clear pucks, win battles along the boards, etc... seem to outweigh is faceoff prowess and length/reach.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 28, 2010 9:14 PM | Report abuse

We'll see what happens this year in the playoffs. If it's another 2nd round exit then no one will be much more lenient anymore. They struggled against the Rangers when clearly they were the more superior team.

Posted by: rachel216 | March 28, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

@TMac2Yao

Maybe that means that the West champ is going to be a better team than the East champ. Or maybe it just means that whoever survives the Western conference playoffs is going to be limping into the Stanley Cup Finals in a way that the East champion won't.

I personally believe there is no team in the West we can't defeat.

Posted by: large23220 | March 28, 2010 9:17 PM | Report abuse

@TMac2Yao

Are you really saying you think the Caps might be a better team if Hanlon was coaching?

Posted by: large23220 | March 28, 2010 9:20 PM | Report abuse

No, I'm saying that you can't simply give Boudreau all the credit for the turnaround.

There were several other factors coming into play like the rist of several of our young players and us getting deeper into the rebuilding process.

I even explicitly said in the post you are responding to that it doesn't necessarily mean that Boudreau isn't a better coach than Hanlon.

I like Boudreau. I'm just saying that we were a different team several years ago than we are today. Even the team that Boudreau took over quickly became different with the additions of Fedorov and Kozlov and Cooke and later, Huet.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 28, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

*rise not rist

There is no telling where this team would be today under any other coach.

It's unlikely that we'd be any better in the standings but who knows? I am guessing that we'd have more offensive/defensive balance.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 28, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

@large

That's a good point about the Western team having a tougher path. I guess the question is whether that tougher path to the finals will make them more battle-tested and prepared than the EC champion or will it just wear them down and lead to fatigue?

I agree that the Caps are capable enough to play with any WC team. My main point was that the West is clearly deeper and better than the East this season. Also, comparing the standings across conferences isn't a very good measurement since the WC teams have had much, much tougher schedules given how heavily they have dominated interconference play.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 28, 2010 9:30 PM | Report abuse

On a side note, Stamkos would be an outstanding player in Boudreau's uptempo offensive system.

/random thought

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 28, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

This is when you notice the bandwagoners most. They have no idea of what a real team is like. They expect the Caps to win every game because they've only been following them one season. They don't know to support your team, win or lose. At the first bump in the road, they'll all disappear as quickly as they jumped on.

Posted by: farmgirl19C | March 28, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

exactly right...

Posted by: joek443 | March 28, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Ive waited 30 years to see us get a number 1 seed in the regular season....well we have the Eastern Conference finally!

Congrats boys and to everyone else who waited so long.. :)

Posted by: yesisaiditfirst | March 28, 2010 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Flyers beat Devils 5-1

Posted by: yesisaiditfirst | March 28, 2010 9:38 PM | Report abuse

*rise not rist

There is no telling where this team would be today under any other coach.

It's unlikely that we'd be any better in the standings but who knows? I am guessing that we'd have more offensive/defensive balance.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 28, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

OMG, LOL NO! The Caps were DEAD LAST under Hanlon. He totally stiffled the team's potential and talent. With this much speed and skill, it's completely counter productive to have them play a grind it out defensive style of play. This team and it's players have absolutely flourished under BB. They have gotten exponentially better every year under BB. He has done an outstanding job of layering his teachings and systems over the last 2 plus years, incorporating dozens of call ups and new players along the way. No offense, I'm trying to understand what I think you're trying to say, but the notion that this team would be as successful under Hanlon is absurd.

Posted by: Terpsrule | March 28, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

@Terpsrule

Again, I didn't say that they would be as successful under Hanlon. I said we don't know know what this team would do under any other coach.

There was a huge difference between the Penguins in year 1, 2 and 3 of the Crosby era.

Likewise, it's only logical that a rebuilding team will get better each season, just terms of ability of the players, aside from coaching.

Watch TB slowly get better and better each season with Stamkos and Hedman coming into the mix.

My singular point is that there are elements at work besides coaching so it is impossible to know what this team would look like under Hanlon or any other coach today.

Backstrom, alone, has improved by leaps and bounds from where he was on day one, as have many other players on this still very young team.

I like Boudreau. I'm not saying any coach could have taken us further in the last couple of years.

What I am saying is that it's unlikely that we'd be anything less than a good team, regardless of who was coaching today, simply due to the fact that we have a core of young players who have improved every season.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 28, 2010 9:46 PM | Report abuse

@tmac2yao

Under Hanlon, Backstrom was being used as, get this, a winger. And not even a first line winger at that.

It seemed to me that the moving of Backstrom to his "natural" position of center was instrumental in the Caps' emergence.

They had started winning under Boudreau. And, at that point, GMGM acquired Huet, Cooke, and Fedorov so they could try to get to the playoffs.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | March 28, 2010 9:51 PM | Report abuse

Another way of looking at it is that it's quite possible that if Boudreau was coaching this team right after Ovechkin was drafted, we probably still don't make the playoffs. We likely win a few more games but we aren't instantly a great team.

To make it simple, Boudreau is a much better coach than Hanlon and most other coaches. Let's get that out of the way. Had I just said that, nobody would have misunderstood my point, which is that there are factors at work in the rise of the Capitals beyond just coaching. Having a great coach is key but so is the improvement of a bunch of very young first round draft picks.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 28, 2010 9:51 PM | Report abuse

@yesisaiditfirst

A long wait. I was there almost from the beginning -- from 1975.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | March 28, 2010 9:52 PM | Report abuse

@CapsFan75

My point had zero to do with Hanlon.

It was to understand that the rise of this team is not ALL about Boudreau.

He gets a lot of deserved credit but there are other factors at play.

Had Boudreau been coaching in Ovechkin's first year, we still probably finish with one of the worst records in the league, just like the Penguins did when Crosby first joined the team.

There is also a natural development process going on with our young players in addition to Boudreau's great coaching and motivational skills.

The players play the game at the end of the day and Hanlon largely was young, bad teams right out of a rebuild.

For the nth time, this isn't about Hanlon vs. Boudreau. Boudreau is the better coach, no question.

This is about not knowing what another coach (not just Hanlon) could do in 2010 with this much improved group of players.

Backstrom is a far improved player in year 3 than in year 1, as was the case for Crosby, Malkin and several other top picks. We are a young team that is getting better every year.

Aside from all coaching discussions, the players on the team today are simply better than the players from 3 and 4 years ago.

Posted by: tmac2yao | March 28, 2010 9:56 PM | Report abuse

If you can't get worked up over this game, how about getting worked up over the fact that (record notwithstanding) the Caps have been playing lazy, disinterested games like this since before the Olympic break? Playoff hockey is a different beast altogether and I don't believe that this team has the mental fortitude necessary to start playing the kind of focused, defensive, killer-instinct hockey that it takes to win the Cup. You can't just flip a switch and go into playoff mode.

Posted by: spacecadetkid | March 28, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Guys, guys, guys (and ladies)...

Let's keep things in perspective: One of the reasons many of us can't stand Yankee fans or Habs fans is what I call their presumption of an entitlement to victory:

Every time the Habs, Yankees, or any sports team from New York City wins a championship, their respective fans get absolutely insufferable, as they start blathering about how thiers is the "Greatest Team That Ever Was Or Ever Will Be, blah, blah, blah."

And you don't begin to hear the end of it for the next five years after that!

They expect their teams to win all the time, as though it were Almighty God's will that it should be so.

But let one of those teams lay an egg--ever--(nevermind if it's an isolated incident in an otherwise dominant season), and suddenly their heroes have morphed overnight into bums.

Don't believe me? Check out the New York Post when the Yanks come to the end of a win streak: if you take the tone of such an article by itself, you would think that the Bronx Bombers had just lost their 10th straight game, not finally lost 1 after winning 10 in a row.

Yes, the Calgary game was a subpar effort in some respects.

Yes, there are some areas of concern heading into the playoffs.

That said, let's remember the good things too:

--The numbers alone make this the best Caps team ever.
--We still ran away with the SE Division.
--We still have the most goals in the NHL.
--We still outscore our opposition by a larger margin than anyone else.
--We still have two of the top five +/- guys in the League.
--We still clinched the Eastern Conference Regular season title (I never thought I'd say this, but: Thanks, Phlyers).
--We still are very likely to capture the President's Trophy.
--We still are considered a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup.

Please, people: These are most definitely NOT the signs of a team in decline, or of a team deserving of anything but our full support.

Let's please NOT be like Habs fans and Yankee fans. We are Caps fans. We're better than that.

Posted by: Rhino40 | March 29, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Re: the booing: BB doesn't get it. It's not about 'only 4 losses at home' or whatever. It's about the playoffs. And for that, as we saw last year, what you've done in the regular season -- even dominating Pitt -- doesn't get you squat. It's been fun, but in the end, I couldn't care less about the home record. Yesterday, we saw how shaky the net situation is, and saw (AGAIN!) how crappy the d-zone play can be, both by D-men and forwards. For me, that's why people were booing: they see the potential for ultimate.

On the silver-lining side: Perreault HAS to play. Things happen when he's out there, and the puck finds him. Sit BMo and play 'little Ovie' (props to my wife for noticing how similar their stytes look from the 400s).

Posted by: wotansdad | March 29, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Normally I'm with Bruce on what he says and I understand that at this time of year they're going to have teams that outplay them because they're in a playoff fight. But one thing he's forgetting is people pay good money to come see a game. While there are lots of people who have season tickets and get to go to all or most games, some like myself only get to go to a couple games a year - like yesterday. It's frustrating when one of the rare times you get a chance to go to a game, they don't bother to show up. I'm not expecting they're going to win every game and am prepared to see a loss. I thought they gave a reasonable level of effort in the second and third. But to give as bad of an effort as they did in the first period, you're going to get booed. As Wayne Gretzky said, you have to remember today may be the only day that a kid gets to ever see you play in person.

Posted by: thrh1 | March 29, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

@spacecadetkid

Bingo! That's the point. I see way too many naive fans who think we're going to waltz through the playoffs, as soon as it counts and we 'feel like' playing in 'meaningful' games (whatever those are). That time is here, guys. And for management, too: decide on your 6 D and 12 O, and stick with them (allowing for injuries). Anybody else out there who thinks GMGM didn't do BB any favors, adding forwards without losing anybody? Whatever the reasons, integrating the new guys has NOT gone smoothly. Enough with the 'play a game, sit a game' thing. And don't get me started on Corvo; that REALLY is the single move GM wanted to make?" Is he serious?

Posted by: wotansdad | March 29, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

@kcbrichmond

I did boo the Caps after the first period. I did so because they didn't show that they wanted to compete that day. The Caps are a skilled team, but my concern is that they lack the grit and heart needed to win the Cup.

If a Caps player doesn't want to compete to the best of their ability, then stay off the ice. There is talent in Hershey that will give it 110% each shift, as Perrault showed in the game.

@BigMogilny: if Bruce or anyone accept less than 100%, you'll definitely get it
again. This time it will be the playoffs. Game 7 against the Pens is a great example.

Posted by: hlalor | March 29, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Wotansdad said: "BB doesn't get it...."

I love it.

It's either Gabby or Dave Tippett for Jack Adams this year, and if the 'Yotes fold in Rd 1, it's Gabby's.

No other coach in the NHL is achieving the kind of success Gabby is. Yet you think you have some stuff to teach him?

Don't respond. You are preposterous.

Posted by: large23220 | March 29, 2010 11:37 PM | Report abuse

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