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Caps Win Eighth Straight Home Opener

Alexander Semin had two goals and an assist, Alex Ovechkin scored in his fifth straight home opener and the Caps cruised to a 6-4 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at a raucous Verizon Center. It would probably be easier to list who didn't get a point tonight, but here are a few scoring highlights:

* Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison both got their first goals as Capitals
* Brooks Laich scored one of Washington's three goals in the first period; he and Ovechkin both have three goals through two games
* Ovechkin's goal came just 77 seconds into the first period

Semyon Varlamov won his first game of the season (27 saves) but allowed three goals in the third period. It's early (and one of the goals was tipped in) but the goalie scenario might not be so clear-cut this season after all.

Varlamov didn't seem too concerned after the game, saying, "The first game that Jose [Theodore] played, he won. The first game that I played, I won. So, yeah, no pressure, just keep working on the future."

Switching gears, here's a question:

By Lindsay Applebaum  |  October 3, 2009; 9:48 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Tonight's Lineup: Maple Leafs at Caps
Next: Caps 6, Leafs 4


first! lets go caps!

Posted by: mrszilla | October 3, 2009 9:54 PM | Report abuse

brooksy said that they fell back into old habits in 3rd period, and boy is he right, but far more good tonight than bad; also, as an aside, is anyone out there as impressed as i am with Erskine? Starting with the playoffs and on into the beginning of this year, he has just be super solid....and i loved that he avoided a fight early on and drew a penalty...let's see a lot more of that!!

Posted by: gocaps2009 | October 3, 2009 9:58 PM | Report abuse

a great day all around
but especially for the SECOND line
go laich, knuble and morrison

Posted by: cotelloer | October 3, 2009 9:59 PM | Report abuse

darn you gocaps
darn you

Posted by: cotelloer | October 3, 2009 9:59 PM | Report abuse

gocaps2009- completely agree! erskine was throwing his weight around, pissing people off but not getting involved in anything penalty-worthy. thats the kind of smart hockey we need to play, keeping it solid and avoiding stupid mistakes!

good game tonight, good lesson for caps to learn not to back down for even a minute. killer team we've got here!

Posted by: mrszilla | October 3, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

It may be a shock to some people but a goalie can have a good game even while giving up 3 or 4 goals. Varlamov made a number of great saves tonight. There was only 1 goal that I would say Varlamov made a noticeable mistake and even in that case, our defender (Poti?) should have played the Leaf player's body.

Posted by: tmac2yao | October 3, 2009 10:04 PM | Report abuse

varly is much better than Theo
but theo is still good
this is all just great
we're great
i love this team
has anyone heard anything about nylander, yet? i gotta imagine he is better than boyd kane...

Posted by: cotelloer | October 3, 2009 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Erskine is playing pretty well but he still needs to get better at getting the puck out of our own end. I remember a play where he had all the time in the world and shot the puck into our bench. He also sent a puck up the boards that turned into one of the Leafs 3rd period goals. I wouldn't say I'm overly impressed with him but he does certain things well.

Posted by: tmac2yao | October 3, 2009 10:06 PM | Report abuse

I certainly wouldn't say Erskine played smart hockey. He made one play that directly lead to a Leafs goal and at least one other where he couldn't clear the puck out of our zone when he had all the time in the world.

Erskine is a solid physical presence but he needs to read situations better and make better decisions in the defensive zone.

Posted by: tmac2yao | October 3, 2009 10:09 PM | Report abuse

A win is a win but oddly, I am dissatisfied. The third period was poor defensively. Poti was waving his stick at the Leafs players like it was a wand. Not sure why the third period was so bad for us, forwards not coming back?

Posted by: FloridaCapsFan | October 3, 2009 10:09 PM | Report abuse

i used to think we should switch knuble and semin, but after watching that 2nd line play together, they remind me a lot of soem of those high-scoring flyers lines from the past couple of years, and i like the developing chemistry...also, bmorrison (BMO!!) is looking like a great signing...and that semin/back/ov line would just put the fear of gosh in me if i saw them coming as a defenseman on the other team...
boudreau is sooo cool and smart...

Posted by: cotelloer | October 3, 2009 10:10 PM | Report abuse

I thought Erskine played pretty smart especially when he was being goaded into a fight by at least two different Leafs players, one of whom took a penalty I believe. He also delivered some pretty good hits. I was liking our defence, up until the third period.

Posted by: FloridaCapsFan | October 3, 2009 10:15 PM | Report abuse

not to be forgotten in the game
that move laich put on toskala for his goal
that was just nasty
i'd like to see how long he can keep pace with ovechkin...
also, where do fleischman and fehr fit on this team?
again, i dont want to break up the chemistry of the 2nd line, but fleischman needs some skill guys to play in order to be effective, and as much as i love Steck, he isnt quite what i would call a "skill" guy

Posted by: cotelloer | October 3, 2009 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Poti made some outstanding poke checks throughout the game but he could definitely stand to play opposing player's bodies more often. Poti is a heady player that usually plays positionally smart. He could stand to be a little more physical at times.

We still have trouble making good decisions in our own end at times when opposing teams bring the pressure.

One of the goals started with Erskine making a bad pass up the boards and Laich failing to hold off a Leafs player who took advantage of Erskine's risky pass.

On another goal, the Leafs players criss-crossed and Poti stuck with one of the players and Jurcina was late to pick up the guy on the wing. I'm not sure if the guy who ended up poking the rebound in was Poti's man or not.

Posted by: tmac2yao | October 3, 2009 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Lindsay, why do you say Varly "struggled"? I don't remember any of the goals being Varly's fault.

Posted by: FloridaCapsFan | October 3, 2009 10:19 PM | Report abuse

that is 3 3goal 3rd periods for Varly...I don't dislike the kid and its no doubt what he did for us in the playoffs but like Ive been saying all summer. Theo is our #1. I can hear the arguments now, well we had penalities, and he had the first shots and the D didn;t clear the rebounds, or just simply that the D weren;t giving him much support. Those are all the same arguments I made on Theo's behalf last yr and everyone always jumped all over him, well Im just saying Varly obviously still has a lot of work and Theo is a perfect guy to give it to him, Theo's vet experience is crucial and Im so glad we didn;t get rid of him. But it'sm inevitable, Varly and Nuevy are 1 and 2 next yr, but who knows which kid will be #1

Overall great game, I'm not to dissappointed by the 6-4 score, the leafs are a good team, and they definately brought it hard in the 3rd, glad we could hold them off.

Posted by: capsfan387 | October 3, 2009 10:20 PM | Report abuse

This Caps team is VERY potent offensively. I wish they would instill that defensive intensity though with few lapses that they'll need in the playoffs. Playoff hockey is always much more physical and tighter. Engrain that mentality now so you don't turn it on/off. Its just a given.

Posted by: oneft2dice | October 3, 2009 10:21 PM | Report abuse

If there is any coach a guy like Morrison can regain his form under, it's Boudreau. Not only does Morrison fit Boudreau's style of play but what better coach to play under if you are trying to rebuild your confidence. Boudreau is definitely a players coach if there ever was one.

Posted by: tmac2yao | October 3, 2009 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Oh, man, I am loving the season so far! Tonight was fun, fun, fun---let's see how many different players can score. Funny how well they can all play when they are not injured. All you Green haters from last season's playoffs notice a difference in how he plays when he's not sick and/or hurt? Here's hoping for no Caps injuries come playoff and Cup time!

Posted by: dccitizen1 | October 3, 2009 10:22 PM | Report abuse

I love how when theo lets in 2 or more goals everyone says he was struggling and their his falt, but varly lets in 3 or 4 goals (preseason included) and no one blames him one bit, its a bit hypocritical.

Posted by: capsfan387 | October 3, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

How much faster is Laich this season? Wow...

That training this summer and the new way of lacing his skates have made a noticeable difference.

Posted by: tmac2yao | October 3, 2009 10:26 PM | Report abuse

@ capsfan387

i dont know if the leafs are a good team...

that said, by scoring early, we force other teams into high-risk, high-reward desperation play, and theyre bound to get some goals here and there, and it's the 2nd game of the season, im not expecting the sort of lock-down defense we need for teh playoffs right now...

also, i like erskine, but he isnt great. really he is probably the most replaceable guy on our defense, not to say we SHOULD replace him, but if we can clear up some cap room and alzner starts dominating the minors, he might get nudged out...Again, i like him, and his physical style of play, but he doesnt make great decisions with the puck, and good skaters (see philly/pitt) just go right around him...

Posted by: cotelloer | October 3, 2009 10:26 PM | Report abuse

Two strong opening wins. There are always going to be some issues with every team but I've got little to say bad about the way this group has been built. The addition of Knuble, Clark being healthy, and Brooks opening strong bodes well for the grinding we needed. The D is much more physical and I think the goalie situation is fine. The wandering minds in the third - and we'll see it this season - is the one weakness. Then again, we you are up 6-1 at the second break there's not much in it...I can live with it. Well done, boys.

Posted by: saintex | October 3, 2009 10:26 PM | Report abuse

BMo didn't mess around on that breakaway - puck, goalie down, roof. Nothing fancy. Beauty.

Posted by: saintex | October 3, 2009 10:27 PM | Report abuse

May have been posted by others, but doesn't the bobblehead look a little glassy-eyed. Kind of like a certain defenseman in last years playoffs...

Posted by: fehrrocks | October 3, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

that is 3 3goal 3rd periods for Varly

Posted by: capsfan387 | October 3, 2009 10:20 PM | Report abuse

1. nobody cares about preseason games

2. it's called a blowout. as much as we think these guys are some sort of robots who should keep on playing the same way no matter what the score, it hardly ever happens.

Posted by: joek443 | October 3, 2009 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Varlamov made numerous tremendous saves tonight. His athleticism, flexibility and length are all great attributes.

He does get caught overcommitting at times but I would say that the only goal where he made a clear mistake was the first one. Even then, the defender should have played the Leaf player's body.

Two of the goals were definitely on our defense in multiple ways. Erskine making a bad clearing pass, nobody picking up trailing Leafs players, etc... Varlamov can only do so much if Leafs players are skating unimpeded into the goal mouth for rebounds. Not every rebound is going to be played perfectly, especially when players are shooting from 2 feet out.

Posted by: tmac2yao | October 3, 2009 10:32 PM | Report abuse

I love how when theo lets in 2 or more goals everyone says he was struggling and their his falt, but varly lets in 3 or 4 goals (preseason included) and no one blames him one bit, its a bit hypocritical.

Posted by: capsfan387 | October 3, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

because some of us noticed last year that this team can't go anywhere with Theo in the playoffs.

Posted by: joek443 | October 3, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse

Varlamov robbed the Leafs a number of times tonight. There are games where a goalie can play well despite giving up a few goals and I think tonight was one of those times.

Posted by: tmac2yao | October 3, 2009 10:35 PM | Report abuse

@ saintex
YES...BMO it is

i think its telling that the -1's from tonight were laing and that guy whose name im not bothering to commit to memory who we brought up after the pens stole bourque (darn you nylander)
not that those guys are bad, but clearly, when we were up by 5 goals, boudreau decided to play the 4th line a little more than he would under other circumstances and the leafs took advantage
this game was never close...

Posted by: cotelloer | October 3, 2009 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Remember when it was 6-1 and Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin had a 3-on-1 going. Semin to Backstrom to Semin to Ovechkin... Ovechkin had the wide open net put couldn't get his stick on the puck. It should've been 7-1 on that play.

Overall, two periods of total domination then a 3rd period to keep us grounded and remind us of things to work on.

I'll take it.

Posted by: tmac2yao | October 3, 2009 10:39 PM | Report abuse


that 19 28 8 move was beautiful. It simply bounced over AO's stick. I was sit at that end.

Posted by: saintex | October 3, 2009 11:04 PM | Report abuse

Like I said in the previous thread Varlamov was good tonight and didn't struggle whatsoever. Some people just look at the number of goals and draw conclusions from that. You have to look at how they were scored and how many great saves he made. It was a very open game with a ton of chances. I don't care who was in goal tonight, even Jesus - there would be a lot of goals scored.

BTW, has anyone kept watching Hockey Night in Canada? This Battle of Alberta is really a battle! Unbelievably physical game between Calgary and Edmonton. BTW, here's a quote from the CBC commentator:

"Penner and Dion Phaneuf banging in the corner!"

Posted by: ranndino | October 3, 2009 11:06 PM | Report abuse

@ tmac2yao

I don't remember you posting here last season. Were you here? If not welcome. Good to have another voice of reason added to the threads.

Posted by: ranndino | October 3, 2009 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Well Laich is looking good, especially for a guy only making 2mil this season and the next. He's projecting out to 123 goals and 205 points for the season. But Ove is projecting the same goals and 246 points. Add Backstrom and Semin for another 205 points a piece. Don't you love a fresh begining to a season? Oh Laich played every game the last two seasons. Despite blocking all those shots, playing both ways. Also toughing out in front of the net. Though where did he go last season in the playoffs?

You kind of hate seeing Varlamov giving up three late goals. Yah I'm a bit of a sicophant wanting a 6-1 score to stand. But in some way you could see it as a Achilles Heal for him in his career. Though it is a team effort to play Defense. Still like Roman soldiers use to carry around several gods to pray to, Varlamov should have a Devi (Indian Mother goddess?) or rather Kali, Durga, or Ganesh. Most of them point to Hindu, could be different names for the same guy. One has a elephant head. But you could see it: Muscle memory; 6,8, or 10 arms. Playoff ready. Maybe his play will warrant a bobble head with extra sets of arms.

Posted by: chavez66 | October 3, 2009 11:10 PM | Report abuse

they used to call that the civil war in Alberta during the Gretzky years... was common to see at least 200 penalty minutes every game those two teams played against each other.

Posted by: joek443 | October 3, 2009 11:11 PM | Report abuse

Wow, how great is it to be back in that building?

It looked tome like the team as a whole had more sense of where everyone was on the ice, much crisper drop passes than what I seeme to remember seeing at times last year.

And before Brooks scored that goal he flat out saved a goal on the other end. A lot of hard-nosed defense from him and other front-liners.

Great game, and great crowd!

Posted by: bluejeener1 | October 3, 2009 11:15 PM | Report abuse

If anything, Toronto was peppering Varlamov with shots on goal all game long. They actually had more shots on goal than the Caps.

Since we had such a big lead after two periods, the Caps once again let down in Period 3. (I think that would be true regardless of who was in goal.)

Yes, it would have been nice if Ovi had made the shot that would have put the Caps 7-1. But we'll take it.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | October 3, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

it's kinda silly to harp on the goals Varly gave up in the third... that kind stuff happens in just about every blowout of every sport.. yeah it ended being a 6-4 game but the game was over after two periods. the whole team stopped playing defense in the third. unless one of them gets on a shutout streak, they need to start just about every other game during the regular season.

Posted by: joek443 | October 3, 2009 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Yes, the Caps are showing, once again, that they do their best when both of the top lines are scoring. Knuble, Laich, and Morrison seem like a great combination together. I'm sure Knuble loves to be with his old college friend, Morrison.

Initially, I was thinking that the skill sets of Laich and Knuble would be better on different lines since they are similar types. But it seems to be working well.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | October 3, 2009 11:21 PM | Report abuse


I'm not yet ready to be worried about Varly just yet. I'd say, continue to alternate Theodore and Varly. Play Theodore against Philthy and Varly against the Rangers.

I see many teams in many sports let up when it's a blowout, not just the Caps.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | October 3, 2009 11:24 PM | Report abuse

The fact that this team has been able to win twice now without Chris Bourqe has been quite impressive.

When you consider that going into this season it was clear (at least according to the comments on recent Capitals Insider blog postings) that the success of the team hinged on his performance, it is remarkable that they've been able to succeed in his absence.

Posted by: LesGrossman | October 3, 2009 11:28 PM | Report abuse


I posted a little last year. I've been a Caps fan since the early 80s. My father was going to games since shortly after team was founded in the 70s. I also grew up with Jeff Halpern. We played soccer together in middle school and high school before he shipped off to pursue hockey more seriously. He was a heck of an athlete - excelled at baseball, too. He couldn't play basetball worth a lick though. It was sad to hear about the tragedy with his mother a few years ago.

I moved to Texas in 2002 and have been following the team through Center Ice since moving down here. My father passed away last year. I wish he could be around to see this current team. I also wish I could see these guys play in person. I should've gone to the game in Dallas I think it was last season. I haven't been to a game since they were at the Caps Centre. My favorite player growing up was Gartner. My father's was Bengt Gustafsson, at least at the time he was taking me to games.

On a separate note, imagine what this team could do if 10% of it's cap space (okay, 8.6%) wasn't sitting in the press box.

Posted by: tmac2yao | October 3, 2009 11:34 PM | Report abuse

@ CapsFan75

yes, I know... been saying to a couple of guys who keep harping on the third period. I must say tho you expect them to give up a couple of goals in the third in a blowout like that, 3 is one too many.

the flyers look really good so far, maybe they're as good as a lot of people think they are.

Posted by: joek443 | October 3, 2009 11:37 PM | Report abuse


I hope the Flyers are not as good as everyone says they are.

But then we also have the @#@%@# Pens who came back and tied the Isles and won the shootout. Grr!

Posted by: CapsFan75 | October 3, 2009 11:42 PM | Report abuse

I saw from the previous thread that Hershey won today. Holtby was in goal. (I must admit I do like Holtby, to some degree.)

Posted by: CapsFan75 | October 3, 2009 11:44 PM | Report abuse

Shaone Morrisonn quietly had a good game as well. I didn't notice him much but sometimes that's a good thing... or maybe I just missed some of his good play.

5 blocked shots, 4 hits, 2 takeaways

Here's the rest of the event summary:

And how about 100-foot lob pass by Green that lead to Morrison's breakaway goal? It reminded me of the one that Semin scored on last year.

Posted by: tmac2yao | October 3, 2009 11:45 PM | Report abuse


On the Nylander situation (8% of Cap hit in the pressbox, as you put it), I hope they resolve things soon, if only for his sake, if not for the sake of the team.

Interesting that you grew up with Jeff Halpern.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | October 3, 2009 11:47 PM | Report abuse

I sure hope not because I've always hated the flyers, a lot more than the pens... I was there at the capital centre when hextall scored a goal against them, almost made me puke.. LOL also was there when hunter scored against him in the greatest Caps' game ever so that made up for it.

Posted by: joek443 | October 3, 2009 11:47 PM | Report abuse


Halpern and I are only a few months apart in age. We went to school together from 6th through 9th grade if I recall correctly. He left for another school up north somewhere to focus on hockey sometime during or after his first year in HS from what I remember. He was a good kid. His parents raised him well. While a bunch of us started getting into drugs and girls, he kept pretty focused.

Funny thing is he was really short in 9th grade. One of the shortest kids in our class. We always wondered if his size would hold him back in hockey but fortunately, he had a late growth spurt.

Like I said, he was a great athlete. I think he was only the 9th grader to play varsity baseball. For some reason, he sucked big time at basketball though. He looked lost out there.

Posted by: tmac2yao | October 3, 2009 11:56 PM | Report abuse

once again shultz had a great game.
let's keep what we have on defense right now & hope nobody gets hurt.

Posted by: whiteltng | October 3, 2009 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Tmac-funny you say that. I was thinking the same thing tonight that if we had 5M more in cap space I wonder where we'd be. Sure would be able to sit back and make needed adjustments at the deadline. With all of the UFA skaters we have after this year, with Theo and Nyls being off the books (he'll get traded or waived or something by next yr) that's a hell of a lot of money and young guys that are more than ready to come up and make the leap.

Posted by: pokerfaceI208 | October 3, 2009 11:59 PM | Report abuse

I love how when theo lets in 2 or more goals everyone says he was struggling and their his falt, but varly lets in 3 or 4 goals (preseason included) and no one blames him one bit, its a bit hypocritical.

Posted by: capsfan387 | October 3, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Ok - a few reasons for this

1. Varly makes saves that Theo couldn't dream of making so his mistakes aren't as costly
2. Theo seems to let in soft goals in 80-90% of the games he plays in. This combined with the fact that he's an average goalie means he's letting in 3ormore every game practically
3. Varly is still young and developing so there's a bit more tolerance for this. Theo is the vet and Vezina/Hart trophy winner so these lapses in his game shouldn't happen.

Posted by: pokerfaceI208 | October 4, 2009 12:05 AM | Report abuse

TominFl & Kitty - we had a discussion after Bmo was signed. You two were going to reserve judgment. Just curious what your thoughts are so far? I think he's back and I think he's played really well in his 1st 2 games. He's fast, getting into lanes, able to work the puck out from the boards and seems to be clicking will with Laick and Knuble. Man if we can get that 2nd line to keep clickin and allows us to keep the SOB line together, I have 2 words for ya...... LOOK OUT! Very nice start to the season.

Posted by: pokerfaceI208 | October 4, 2009 12:08 AM | Report abuse

I was happy to go to the game, very good game except for that 3rd period. I was saying earlier that all of the caps need to step up and start contributing early to really show the league how legit they are, and boy was I answered.

Laich's goal was a thing of beauty, B-Morr's was awesome, Knuble got his for just the way we want him to, Semin matched Ovie with a 2 goal performance, and having Ovie score 77 seconds we just knew the game was ours.

Varly had a great performance desptie allowing 4 goals. The only one I'd say was his fault was the first one, he commited to the shooter way to early and got maneuvered around. The other ones were rebound shots with caps players standing around him, and then the tip in which is exceptionally hard to stop.

Still game should of ended 6-2 if not 9-2.

Posted by: breaklance | October 4, 2009 7:55 PM | Report abuse

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