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Catching Up With 'Gus'

I mentioned earlier this week that Bengt Gustafsson, the former Caps great, current coach of Sweden's national team and proud Dad of one of the club's top prospects, is in town this week as a "guest coach" with his former NHL club. Well, now that the Flyers have come and gone, I finally got a chance to catch up with "Gus" for a few minutes this morning.

"I'm here to open some doors in my head," said Gustafsson, who led Sweden to the gold medal in the Olympics and World Championships in 2006. "Sometimes you think you know what you're doing. But sometimes it's good to watch other people work and you can bring that to your job."

Gustafsson said the primary focus of his visit is to prepare himself to head up Team Sweden in next year's Olympics. In Vancouver the defending champions will be playing on NHL-sized rinks, a challenge he wanted to thoroughly familiarize himself with.

"The main object is the Olympics and playing on [the smaller] ice surface and learning what are the teams [in North America] doing," Gustafsson said. "I want to learn something about that game."

Gustafsson knows a thing or two about "that game", having scored 196 goals over nine seasons with the Caps from 1979-1989. But he admittedly needed a refresher.

So he's completely immersed himself in the Caps' coaching staff over the past few days. He attends all the meetings, participates on the ice in practice and watches from the games from a suite. He did the same thing with Ottawa last season.

"He's been able to watch how we do things," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "The time frame since he's played, to see if the coaching styles have changed since he was here."

When I joked that Gustafsson was stealing Boudreau's system, Boudreau fired back, "I would hate for Sweden to beat Canada next year. I wouldn't be allowed home. My own mom would shoot me."

During his stay, Gustafsson has also kept a close eye on the ever-improving Nicklas Backstrom, who could be Sweden's second line center behind Henrik Zetterberg in Vancouver, Gustafsson said.

"I like Nicklas," he said. "He's stronger and he has all the talents. He's really made some changes from last year, but he still needs more explosiveness."

I couldn't let Gustafsson go without asking about his son Anton, the Caps' 21st overall pick last summer. Anton, he said, is finally getting healthy. He got the cast off his broken finger yesterday, and more important, his back problems seem to be a thing of the past.

"He practiced yesterday and will be playing again on Sunday," said Bengt, who added that Anton still plans to spend another season in Sweden before coming over and attempting play in North America. "He's very focused and knows what he what is best for him and his development. The big thing right now is for him to stay healthy."

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  January 7, 2009; 1:18 PM ET
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Next: Roster Housekeeping


Nice clip. Thanx TEB.

Posted by: cbs75 | January 7, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Tarik did you ask him if he had any suggestions for Bruce? Like some adjustments or flaws that Gus would attack if he played the Caps?

Posted by: goskinsgo | January 7, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

""I'm here to open some doors in my head and found out what's on my mindgrapes."

/30 Rock'd

Posted by: Section117 | January 7, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Figured I'll repost some of my replies to Flyers fans and Mike Richards' comments regarding Ovechkin's attempted hit on Carter last night (from the DC Blog):


It's hilarious to see a Flyers player and a Canadian whine about hitting. When the Russians don't hit you call them p*ssies, when they do you call them dirty and whine about it. Ovechkin simply plays like a Canadian.

It's the same thing with international competitions. Canadians always run around trying to hurt people in every single game, but as soon as someone does it to them it's whine, whine, and whine some more.

The WJC final is a great example. Canada ran Sweden's goalie Markstrom all game long, but the TSN homers were incensed about his "diving". Yes, he embellished the contact, but there should not be any contact with a goalie and if the Swedes did that to Tokarski we wouldn't hear the end of Canadian whining about the dirty Swedes.

When it comes to the physical part of the game Canadians are the biggest of hypocrites.

Posted by: ranndino | January 7, 2009 1:33 PM

@ rjmagee10

Ovechkin is the best hitter in the game and his hits are clean. That is actually what you'd hear from NHL players if you didn't have your head so deep up your behind (just read Jamie Heward's comments). He hit people when they're not looking? Is he supposed to send them a warning email first? Everyone tries to hit people when they're not looking. He's just better at it than others. Also, if you were actually not an idiot and had some objectivity you'd see that Ovechkin almost never gets sent flying backwards. That's actually what happens to players who come to try and hit him. Kozlov's comments about him are right on. He's strong as a rock and very aware. When others come to hit him they usually get the worst of it. It's not like people don't try to hit Ovechkin.

Finally, all you Ovechkin haters are just jealous that he doesn't play for your team. It's more than obvious. In your case, had he been a Flyer you would absolutely adore him.

You are the one who deserves no respect for being a completely one sided moron. Ovechkin is the leagues best player. Best scorer, most exciting, best hitter and a great guy to boot. It's sad that there are idiots like you who are dumb enough that they can't admit reality.

All the awards he got last season speak for themselves. Especially the Pearson award. That one says all you need to know about what other players think of him. THEY named him the BEST PLAYER IN THE NHL last season.

Posted by: ranndino | January 7, 2009 1:44 PM

Also, if you want to take a look at a really dirty player, a diver extraordinaire and someone who deserves no respect look at your #9 Scott Upshall. There's the guy who does nasty stuff when the ref isn't looking and can give acting lessons to Robert DeNiro.

Posted by: ranndino | January 7, 2009 1:49 PM

Posted by: ranndino | January 7, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

"In Vancouver the defending champions will be playing on NHL-sized rinks"

Wait, what? Dammit.

Thanks for getting some details about Gus's visit, Tarik.

It's amazing that the Caps' injury bug can cross oceans...

Posted by: jen-s | January 7, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Ovechkin charges a bit sometimes but overall is pretty clean. The Swedish goaltender in the WJC was diving all over the place everytime he got nudged. A Swedish defenseman bumped him a bit and he flew back (in the wrong direction for it to have been from the hit) like he was shot and lay on the ice. Until he realized it wasn't a Canadian that ran into him and he got right back up.

Tokarski was bumped pretty good a few times in the game as well but there wasn't much complaining from the TSN staff. But the time he was bowled over the worst was actually from a Canadian defenseman pushing the Swedish forward into him. Tokarski went down but didn't dive around when he was nudged.

Posted by: Stu_c | January 7, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Yes, clearly Backstrom is not explosive enough to center a scoring line for Team Sweden.

....the hell?

Posted by: ThisGuy | January 7, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

One more after watching a Youtube video of the attempted hit taken from the Flyers telecast. BTW, I can see why all the Flyers fans are going crazy. The Philly commentators misrepresented what actually happened.

If you actually watch the video more carefully you'd see that Ovechkin DOES NOT leave his feet. I thought so too when I saw it during the game and I'm sure tons of idiots will say that he has head hunting, but he only leaves his feet after missing Carter to try and avoid hitting his teammate.

Posted by: ranndino | January 7, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

TEB......I wish you had asked Gussy about the old Patrick Division games when the Caps and Flyers really played a lot of important and very rough games. I will never forgot when Hound Dog Kelly made a run as Gussy and Gussy dropped his gloves and just pounded Kelly who at the time was a heavy weight in the league. I am not sure how many fights Gussy got into but we won that one.

Posted by: RichC3 | January 7, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Gustaffson was always one of my favorite players on the caps as a kid. Teams always took cheap shots on Bengt for some reason and I think thats a big reason he left the NHL. Too bad we couldnt have gotten him a cup!

Posted by: capsfansince74 | January 7, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

@ Stu_c

I disagree. I watched every replay carefully. While, like I said, Markstrom exaggerated the contact with dives there was enough contact to bring him down every single time and it was obvious to me that the Canadians ran him on purpose. I'm sure that it's what Pat Quinn told them to do knowing that Markstrom is fundamentally the best goalie in the tournament. What can I say? It worked.

If I were the Russian ref Bulanov I would've told Quinn after the 1st time that EVERY single time his players make contact with Markstrom I will call a penalty.

Running the opposing team's goalie is an admitted Canadian strategy and has worked many times. The Flyers did the same thing to Huet in last year's playoffs.

Canadians do anything to win, including play dirty and trying to injure opposing team's best players. It's just a fact proven time and time again. What annoys me is not this, but the unbelievable whining that ensues as soon as someone else gives them a taste of their own medicine. Canadian perception of hockey is the definition of hypocrisy.

For example, Don Cherry would be absolutely in love with Ovechkin had he been Canadian and everyone knows it.

Posted by: ranndino | January 7, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse


As a reminder, someone owes you a coffee tomorrow morning at practice.

Posted by: Section117 | January 7, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I dont hear a 'misrepresentation' of what happened.

They comment on Carter dodging the hit and then they go on to say in the broadcast that if OV had connected on that hit, we might have lost 1 or both of the leading goal getters in the NHL

Posted by: rdy4all2000 | January 7, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Not that this has anything to do with Gus,

But Bourque and Aucoin have been named to Planet USA for the AHL all stars. So that makes 4 Bears and 2 coaches heading the All-Stars at the end of the month.

We are all upset Varly didnt get a shot but I am sure he will be an NHL all star soon enough.

Posted by: HBFan | January 7, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

ovechkin charges a bit? he leaves his feet all the time.

still love him.

Posted by: richmondphil | January 7, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Does anybody know of a site that tracks "man games lost" for all NHL teams?

Posted by: tmac2yao | January 7, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse


Slovakia > USA. Canada owns hockey like US owns Football except only Americans play football. ,nuff said.

Posted by: atybat | January 7, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Ovie left his feet his freshman year, a couple times, but has since refined it. He puts a lot into his few strides and then stands more erect when he hits, so it seems like he's popping up some times. But I am going to agree with Randino on Canadian players whining when other nationalities hit. I've definitely noticed that over the years. Darcy Tucker made a career out of hitting dirty (some say Peca did too) and Ovechkin is nothing like Tucker or any of those types of players. TOo many guys turn away from the check these days to draw penalties. Much emphasis is made on special teams, so boarding is going to happen. But for the Flyers to say that Ovie is a dirty hitter is just smack talk. They need to get into his head for next game, too, and disrespecting him is the Flyers way. If your coach puts you out on the ice against Ovechkin, you better know where he is when you have the puck, not just when he does.

Posted by: oo7 | January 7, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

@tmac2yao: you could check the Caps stats page on any website, and do the math based on games played for the guys who are supposed to play all the time.

Posted by: ThisGuy | January 7, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

that is ridiculous. he left his feet quite a bit in the recent rangers game. he leaves his feet once per game. i love ovechkin as much as anyone else, but to deny this is just silly.

Posted by: richmondphil | January 7, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

also, flyers do play a pretty borderline game. tic for tac.

Posted by: richmondphil | January 7, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Anybody still worried about how the Heward hit might effect AO's psyche?

The best hit of the clip was Semin's on Hartnall. More of that and less toe dragging please.

Posted by: AleksanderOMunchkin | January 7, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse


He was saying Sweden, the defending Olympic champions will return to Vancouver to defend it's title in 2010. No one is injured in the head.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | January 7, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

@tmac2yao, no, I don't, but as I posted in another thread, The caps have lost 210 or 211 man games to injury this year. (the issue is, I don't know if Pothier is being counted as missing games since he is on LTIR, and didn't start the season playing)

Posted by: RedBirdie | January 7, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Should Gus have his number retired?

Just throwing it out there

Posted by: lylewimbledon | January 7, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse


I thought he was saying that at the 2010 Olympics, hockey will be played on a 85 ft x 200 ft rink (NHL size) instead of a wider 98 ft x 60 200 ft rink (international size)

Posted by: jen-s | January 7, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Er, 98 ft x 200 ft, I don't know how that extra umber got in there.

Posted by: jen-s | January 7, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

"Gustaffson was always one of my favorite players on the caps as a kid. Teams always took cheap shots on Bengt for some reason and I think thats a big reason he left the NHL."

Same and agreed, he was my favorite also. After his leg was broke and his dad died he wasn't the same player.

Awesome player for those of you too young to remember.

- Ray

Posted by: rmcazz | January 7, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Yes, this appears to be true (

Sounds like the decision was purely for financial reasons but I personally don't like it because I prefer how the larger ice surface shows off the skating and passing skills better and minimizes the mucking and grinding. This will be a clear disadvantage to Euro teams. Good on Gus for doing some homework.

Posted by: AleksanderOMunchkin | January 7, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I listened to the commentary from the Philly announcers on Ovi's attempted hit on Carter. Watched the hit several times.

Ovi does not leave his feet. He straightens up a bit, but both skates are on the ice when he hits. He only leaps off the ice to avoid Clark, after Carter has dodged. Good dodge.

BTW, it was a good hit, even though he missed Carter, because it separated Carter from the puck. Actually, Carter abandoned the puck. All I can say is: if you're coming up behind an opposing player and Ovi's coming your way, get the heck out of there.

The announcers didn't precisely "misrepresent" the hit. What they did do was suggest that Ovi was trying to take out Carter in order to get rid of the competition for the Art Ross trophy. They then showed Carter's stats for game winning goals. It was an opportunistic attempt to slime Ovi, combined with a plug for their home boy.

Don't know about the Philly fans, but their announcers are bottom-feeders.

Posted by: RedRocker1 | January 7, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Gus was one of the best to watch. He always made the play slow down to his pace-found the open man and made the beautiful pass...very much like what the young Backstrom is doing these days.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | January 7, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

If Ovechkin leaves his feet...where are all his charging and boarding calls? Star players are not immune to the rules; the refs call it like it is. He does not leave his feet once a deny that is ridiculous...

Posted by: reesem37 | January 7, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Ovechkin is just a great hitter; it looks like a penalty every time he connects because he hits as hard as anyone in the league. He is not a dirty player, and he does not leave his feet and got the players head. He lowers his shoulder and hits with full force. Watch him next time he lines someone will be legal but might look like a penalty cause of the force he inflicts

Posted by: reesem37 | January 7, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

@ RedRocker

did you not hear them laughing when they made the 'taking out the competition' comment?
They were making light of a situation.

Posted by: rdy4all2000 | January 7, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Gus was also one of my favorite Caps. Too bad that Denis Potvin stuck out his knee and broke Gus's leg just before the 1986 playoffs. That team was loaded and it's point total over the first 40 games is the one that this years team just broke.

Posted by: MReilly9 | January 7, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

ovechkin leaves his feet. just watch replays of any game. in fact, see the last hit on zherdev in the last rangers game. i mean, i can come up with one off the top of my head. I hate pulling this card, but I dont know if any of you have played full contact hockey before or not, but what he does is not a result of lowering his shoulder. he very clearly leaves his feet.

Posted by: richmondphil | January 7, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

there really is no reason to get condescending here, with your funny little comment repeating what i said. if you want to argue like a child, we can.

you have never played full contact hockey. thus, i void your opinion on whether you think ovechkin leaves his feet on hits sometimes.

Posted by: richmondphil | January 7, 2009 7:37 PM | Report abuse

I totally understand where Gustaffason is coming from. Team Sweden in world juniors plays a distinctly european style. They spread out over the wide ice and make nasty passes that make the other team trip over themselves. They get to the final and face canada at home, on NHL style ice and get demolished trying to play their way.

I think in international competition, switiching between ice surfaces is stupid and unfair. Does anybody aside from USA and Canada play on the smaller rink? I prefer the small ones but if you have 2 teams who use them and the world who doesn't maybe the minority needs to play on a different rink.

Posted by: trunkenmath | January 8, 2009 7:14 AM | Report abuse

that is ridiculous. he left his feet quite a bit in the recent rangers game. he leaves his feet once per game.

Posted by: richmondphil | January 7, 2009 3:03 PM

pardon Phil, he doesn't represent the general feeling of us Richmonders. Damn hick.

Posted by: Rocc00 | January 8, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

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