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Preparing for the Carolina Hurricanes

Capitals Hurricanes"You again?" Brooks Laich is shown during the Caps' 4-3 overtime win over Carolina on March 10. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

For reasons no one can fully explain, games between the Capitals and Hurricanes last regular season were some of the toughest in Washington's schedule. Of the six contests, five were one-goal games, three went to overtime and another went to a shootout.

The Hurricanes captured eight points against the Capitals last season, while the rest of the Southeast Division combined to earn only five.

"I don't know what it is," Mike Green said. "It's not quite a rivalry, but our games are always interesting against those guys. They play hard, they've got some great players and I don't know what it is against that team, but it's always a nailbiter, that's for sure. There's not a second where you can take a break with these guys. They work their bags off and we know that and expect that from them."

After a nomadic stretch to start the season with their first seven games on the road -- first a pair in Helsinki, Finland against the Minnesota Wild and then five games on a Western Conference trip against teams that all made the playoffs last spring -- Carolina is happy to be 4-3 and back at RBC Center.

It will mark the third time the Capitals have played in an opposing team's home opener this season, and although the Hurricanes had found an uncomplicated road style of hockey that served their young team well, they won't mind getting an extra adrenaline boost from the home crowd.

"I don't think we're going to fight trying to keep that emotion or that energy down tonight," Carolina Coach Paul Maurice said. "I think tonight you want to try to use the home crowd. We are ready to get caught up a little bit in the home opener and put a bit of a show on, as long as you don't take it to extremes and don't try to do things with the puck that you shouldn't because you're at home. That's the real danger here against Washington, is if you try to get real fancy on them they'll burn you."

Some other things to keep in mind before tonight's contest:
--The Hurricanes are much younger than they have been in past seasons as the average age from last year's opening night of 30.35 has dropped to 26.4.

Gone are Rod Brind'Amour, Ray Whitney and Scott Walker and in are five players listed as rookies: 2010 first-round (7th overall) draft pick Jeff Skinner, forwards Drayson Bowman and Zac Dalpe, defenseman Jamie McBain and back up goaltender Jeff Peters.

--Over the past three games the Capitals have won 56 percent of their draws (98 of 175). If they can continue that trend it could help create a substantial possession advantage against Carolina, which enters the game with the worst faceoff success rate in the league at 36.5 percent (163 of 284).

--As Michal Neuvirth gets set to make his eighth start this season, Coach Bruce Boudreau was asked how much his success and unflappable demeanor in net help make things a little easier for the rest of the team.

"Just think his calmness in the net is so good. He's calm in the net, he doesn't seem to get rattled by too much. He makes the big save when we need the big save to be made and that's what you want the goalie to do," Boudreau said. "It's hard to describe. It's just more of a feeling. You have the guy back there -- and [the Hurricanes] have it with Cam Ward -- when you make mistakes... you know he's there to bail you out. It's a good feeling that... I don't think you get as stressed out about as much and [aren't] holding your stick so tight that you have to have every little thing perfect or it's not going to work."

By Katie Carrera  | October 27, 2010; 2:08 PM ET
Categories:  Bruce Boudreau, Carolina Hurricanes, Michal Neuvirth  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Injury update: Matt Bradley to return, Mike Green says he'll play
Next: Tonight's lineup: Caps at 'Canes

Comments

Yeah I don't like Carolina because their Captain always looks like he is on the verge of crying. I believe he is the most overrated of all the Staals. The Hurricans pay him about 1.5 million more a year than the Caps pay Backstrom. Backstrom has only played two seasons and has already posted a better point production season than Staal ever has. No, I'm not stupid, I know he's good, but 8.25mil a year good, NOPE.

Posted by: fanohock1 | October 27, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

that's a stupid reason not to like Carolina... here's a good reason.

They have a Cup and we DON'T.

Posted by: joek443 | October 27, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Actually Backstrom has already played 3 seasons in the NHL - this season is his 4th. His 1st NHL point was an assist on a Nylander goal, Oct 5, 2007 in Atlanta. So he played 07-08, 08-09, 09-10, and now 10-11.

Posted by: Varly | October 27, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

"They work their bags off ..."

Just gotta love the Greenie quotes.

Posted by: jdhoover | October 27, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I am worried that the team is rushing Green back. Why play him if he is not 100%? Everyone knows it is his shoulder so Carolina is going to try to check him hard...and it is really easy to re-injure a shoulder once it is already hurt. I mean obviously the team knows a lot better than me, but I hope they are being careful with him.

Posted by: capscoach | October 27, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

I am worried that the team is rushing Green back. Why play him if he is not 100%? Everyone knows it is his shoulder so Carolina is going to try to check him hard...and it is really easy to re-injure a shoulder once it is already hurt. I mean obviously the team knows a lot better than me, but I hope they are being careful with him.

Posted by: capscoach | October 27, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, love how Bruce keeps saying if someone his partly hurt, it's early in the year, why play. But yet Green with a bumm shoulder and limping Carlson are playing. Depth issues on D coach? Uhm.. yeah.

Posted by: alagarts | October 27, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

@alagarts

depth issues are not BB's fault...that is on GMGM

Posted by: capscoach | October 27, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

@JIMALLCAPS1 - ah! I wasn't belittling the handle! I for some reason was always reading it like "jm small caps". Bad eyes! Anyway - funny reply! Well said. (My reply was a tad strident..)

(And the kool-aid is real good. Everything. getting. darker. now...)

@capscoach - yes, they're rushing Green back; it looks like an injury they should be taking their time with...(not so good). Boy has got to learn how not to get slammed around so much, though...

Posted by: RedLitYogi | October 27, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

@alagarts

depth issues are not BB's fault...that is on GMGM
Posted by: capscoach

Very true - but it's not like anyone could have seen this coming, or anything.

I mean, I love Carlson and think he's going to be terrific - but playing 27 mins [ok, just shy of that] last game seems a tad high for a 20-yr old rookie defenseman, no?

Posted by: Timbo_1 | October 27, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

"Haven't been reading much here, but I just saw a tweet that said that Q. Laing is in the ECHL with the Salmon Kings. I know people were askin'"
Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | October 27, 2010 1:21 PM

Thanks for that. Back with his friend Darren Machesney. Now he needs an NHL contract so he can be called up to the Canucks.

http://www.salmonkings.com/news/649-salmon-kings-ink-nhler-quintin-laing.html

Posted by: Wiley_One1 | October 27, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

@rbluesw

As to those who replied to my point about Scotty Bowman, I guess it was last week, I just can't keep up with this. Sorry.

My point wasn't meant to suggest Boudreau is similar to Scotty Bowman in some way. I thought I'd said that, but, whatever.

I thought it would be fun to look at the playoffs record in his first few years of the NHL coach who is kind of known as the best playoffs coach, and yes he took an expansion team, which wasn't expected to do very well I suppose, to the finals his first three years, which is a story every hockey fan really should know about, and which I knew about when I was writing, and which I think is a great story.

But he didn't win the Cup in any of those years, and according to the "Cup is all that matters" line of thinking, since he didn't win the Cup, who gives a crap that he got to the finals? Not winning in the finals is just as bad as not making the playoffs, right? Yes, of course it is.

Given that he won no Cups in his first five years, which is what Boudreau has done in his first three, but made the playoffs in all of his first five years, which is what Boudreau has done in his first three, I thought it would be a good idea to point out that both of their playoffs records over those time periods are 2 games below .500, as a way of suggesting that Boudreau, who does I believe still have the best regular season record since he began coaching, maybe shouldn't be FIRED.

As to how anyone could call this misleading is, I think, crazy. It's just numbers, man. Bowman did in fact go 28-30 in the playoffs during his first five years. Boudreau is 13-15 so far. There's nothing misleading about the numbers, unless they are inaccurate, which they aren't. Boudreau's playoffs record is much worse than his regular season record, just like Bowman's playoffs record for his first five years was much worse than his regular season record over that time, and that's really the point.

This is meant to demonstrate (1) sample sizes in the playoffs are small--you don't want to judge based on a sample of only 58 playoffs games, or 28, when it's sitting beside a great regular season record, (2) playoffs opponents are, on average, tougher, and (3) you might get matched up against a team that yours doesn't match up well against, whether because they just have better players, or for some other reason.

No one thinks Boudreau or anyone else is Scotty Bowman, and no one is being misled. It's just stupid to suggest my post is misleading. Scotty Bowman coached great players much of the time, and he won a lot of games with them, and a lot of Cups, and that is really great for him, but he was two below .500 in the playoffs after five years. Boudreau hasn't won a playoffs tournament with these great players, and is two below .500 in the playoffs, but he has the best regular season record in the NHL since he started and clearly shouldn't be fired.

Ridiculous. I've had it with you people!

Posted by: youaresquishy | October 27, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

@REdLitYogi, I'm glad you read my reply as more playful than sardonic. Yeah, I wish the Caps had a better blueliner and a better system, but that's because I want the Cup in DC. If GMGM gets a blueliner and BB gets this team to play playoff hockey, I'll happily eat crow.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | October 27, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Grrrrrrr. I'm angry.

Yeah, and let's get Boudreau a good defenseman! How about that, eh? Where's Larry Robinson when you need him?

Posted by: youaresquishy | October 27, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | October 27, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

My point wasn't meant to suggest Boudreau is similar to Scotty Bowman in some way. I thought I'd said that, but, whatever.

Ridiculous. I've had it with you people!

Posted by: youaresquishy | October 27, 2010 5:19 PM

i know how you feel.
there were a few that pointed out - by removing his 'finals' records - then he was stellar in the playoffs.
what none of them mentioned was that 'stellar' record was against ... wait for it ... other expansion teams!!

i understood your original point

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | October 27, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

It was I who said you should remove Bowman's Finals records.

Not to be picky, but this was a unique circumstance in the annuals of Sports. Here we had a league for 50 years suddenly expand from 6 to 12 and put the New 6 in their own conference (instead of intermingling).

Now, what Bowman did was win the New Conf (the West) in each of the first three years with a playoff record of 24-10 if memory serves. So, against his peers, he was stellar.

OK, he also went 0-12 in the Finals those years, but it was against a tremendously tilted playing field.

I'm all for stats and camparisons but by all means let's be fair. The point is that BB in four career playoff series has been outcoached in three and maybe gets a draw vs Torts in the Ranger series. Bowman OTOH in his first three years was in the max number of series he could have been in, nine, and probably was the better coach in a minimum of six but maybe all nine.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | October 27, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Just out of curiosity (and intense, overpowering anxiety), is anyone else having trouble with their CSN feed (in my case, on RCN cable in the District, HD channel) right now?

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | October 27, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

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