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Fleischmann Feeling 'The Mojo'

Simeon Varlamov needed a big performance to show the coaching staff that he's ready to be the Caps' backup in the playoffs. Well, he certainly delivered one.

Varlamov was arguably the best player on the ice tonight as the Caps edged the Thrashers, 4-2, at Philips Arena. The 20-year-old stopped 29 shots, including the final 18 he saw.

"I think he stood on his head," Sergei Fedorov said. "It's not easy to make those saves. He saved our [butts]."

Some other (brief) thoughts:

Two Back
Alex Ovechkin registered two assists tonight. But so did Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, who leads Ovechkin, 110-108, in the race for the scoring title. Both players have two games left.

Closing In
The Caps now have a four-point lead on New Jersey in the race for the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Devils lost 4-1 to the woeful Leafs. Wow.

Lifeless Crowd
Several Caps made mention of the quiet crowd and how it impacted the game. That, combined with a Thrashers team that's already in vacation mode, made for one of the dullest games in a while.

"There were no emotions, no good crowd, you know?" said Ovechkin, whose assists were Nos. 199 and 200 of his career. "It was hard to play hockey here. It's a hard situation for Atlanta right now. It's only two games in the season and they go to vacation. We're in the playoffs. All of our minds are in the playoffs."

The attendance was announced as 16,207, but it was likely half that. And about 1,000 or so fans were wearing Caps jerseys.

Penalty Discrepancy
The Caps were whistled for six. The Thrashers were whistled for one. I'm not saying the Caps' penalties weren't, in fact, penalties. Or that the Thrashers got away with anything. I just felt it needed to be pointed out.

That said, Coach Bruce Boudreau wasn't happy with the single-file line his players formed outside of the penalty box.

"When you run into all these penalties -- you take three in the second and three in the third -- people get shortchanged that don't deserve get shortchanged," he said. "We've got to find a way to stay out of the penalty box."

Fedorov, meantime, had a penalty hat trick (hooking, boarding and holding).

Video Board Controversy
As you've probably seen by now (and if you haven't, stop reading and see the previous post) the Thrashers had some fun at Ovechkin's expense tonight. Ovechkin was fine with it. Boudreau was annoyed.

"I like the stuff they do, but I thought that was over the line," Boudreau said. "I know it was all in fun, but that was over the line. I wasn't a big fan of that. If they want to mock their own players, fine -- mock their own players like that."

Fleischmann's on a Roll
Fleischmann scored for the second straight game after going 15 contests without one. He also had an assist to record his second multi-point night in a row.

"I feel better, I feel the mojo right now," he said with a laugh.

Mixed Reviews
Boudreau was pleased with the Fleischmann-Nicklas Backstrom-Viktor Kozlov line, which combined for two goals. He wasn't as pleased with the Ovechkin-Fedorov-Alexander Semin combo, which also struck twice but struggled with turnovers.

"One was good, one wasn't very good," Boudreau said. "I have to do some deep thinking tonight and tomorrow."

Fedorov added: "I don't think we had much going. I wasn't happy with my performance and I wasn't really feeling my linemates. It didn't feel like we played together at all."

I'll check in from Tampa in the morning.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  April 7, 2009; 11:53 PM ET
 
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Next: Morning Reading List: Varlamov as Backup?

Comments

WASNT VARLY AWESOME TONIGHT?!I STILL DONT THINK HE DESERVES TO TAKE JOHNSONS PLACE YET BUT STILL,GREAT JOB!AND GOOD FOR FLASH,I HOPE HIM AND HIS MOJO STAY ON A ROLL FOR ALL THROUGH THE PLAYOFFS.GO CAPS!

Posted by: gratefuldid | April 8, 2009 12:14 AM | Report abuse

Varlamov looked great. (against a dead in the water team; still, great saves).

I just saw an interview with claude lemiuex. That blows my mind. Still. wow. if that guy can hang in the playoffs at his age... I can't believe he has another shot at the cup. will he be the claude of old, or old claude?

Posted by: oo7 | April 8, 2009 12:14 AM | Report abuse

I was of the mind before the Semyon gets the backup role for the playoffs, and now I'm darned sure. Even if Johnny was ready, I think to start him in one of the two remaining games would confuse matters, and I don't think he comes in cold for the playoffs. Varly's the one wearing the jersey come the 15th.

Posted by: Sonyask | April 8, 2009 12:20 AM | Report abuse

i guess everyone went to bed.
* varly did look good tonight. i'd still like to have johnnie back
* catching malkin will be a big task - but it can be done
* NJ catching the caps is an even bigger challenge
* alt's crowd - who cares. OV - please stop thinking about the PO's - there are still two games left
* when you commit more penalties - this usually happens
* the video was funny
* flash - just a small piece of the secondary scoring that will be needed
* if these lines keep putting the puck in the net - then BB might not want to think too deep

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | April 8, 2009 12:20 AM | Report abuse

Can we now consider Fleischmann -- Backstrom -- Kozlov our new first line? LOL. They were awesome. 2 goals and +2.

Feds has taken an awful lot of penalties as of late. Feds, you're supposed to set a good example for the kids on your line, not take lessons on their worse qualities. At least, he's scored lately. Does the Fedorov hat trick now include a goal and a penalty.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | April 8, 2009 12:25 AM | Report abuse

Varlamov did very, very well tonight. Much more solid in his positioning than against Buffalo, out of his net a lot less, although he did have a couple of giveaways.

Generally speaking, solid effort in the first and third. Could have done without all the penalties - come on Feds. Also, Semin, please stop with the toe drag - when it works, it's great; more often, it leads to giveaways. But, nice solid clutch of secondary scoring as well as primary, a power play that put a lot of pressure on even if they didn't manage to score in their one chance, and a penalty kill that toyed with the Thrashers. I wasn't displeased for the most part.

If we win Thursday against Tampa Bay, the Florida game is meaningless.

Posted by: kittypawz | April 8, 2009 12:28 AM | Report abuse

Maybe we should move Aucoin back to the second line. Okay, which second line? The one that showed up on Sunday or the second line of today that is really the first line? Okay, the line that was "technically" the second line today was "actually" the first line and vice versa.

Okay, who gets "bumped down" to make room for Aucoin?

Posted by: CapsFan75 | April 8, 2009 12:31 AM | Report abuse

Tarik, how about a mention about Ovie's milestone assist (#200) for tomorrow's story. Far too often he doesn't get enough credit for how much he sets up teammates or opens up space for other guys to score and only gets looked at as a pure goal scorer. Averaging 50 assists a season over your first 4 years is quite a feat playing the wing.

Posted by: Davethecapsfan | April 8, 2009 12:32 AM | Report abuse

@kittypaws,

You're right, if the Caps beat Tampa Bay, the Florida game is meaningless for the the Caps. (Maybe meaningful for Florida.)

Notes on other teams. The Rangers have two more games against Philthy. The Devils play Carolina. (Okay, that's probably an instant win for Carolina, given the way they've been going. Or might that be a long overdue cooling down for Carolina.)

I was hoping for a nice playoff matchup between Philthy and Pitt (i.e. the evil middle school children) which would go 7 games and take so much out of them that the winner would have nothing left for Round 2 of the playoffs and get dumped. (Carolina may prevent that scenario. But, if that's the case, I'll be wishing the same for Carolina.)

Posted by: CapsFan75 | April 8, 2009 12:37 AM | Report abuse

Thought you guys would like to know that Ovechkin is the third player in NHL history to have 200 goals, and 200 assists in their first four seasons in the NHL.

http://www.capitalskremlin.com/2009/04/ovie-hits-200200-mark-in-four-years.html

Posted by: capitalskremlin | April 8, 2009 1:23 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Tarik,
I just got into work and fell over laughing at that Ovechkin Commercial, luckily all the Germans aren't here yet. When I saw controversy I figured it was going to be something bad instead it was just awesome and funny. Isn't the point of those eastern commercials to be bad? And aren't Ovie and Kovalchuck friends to begin with? I would say the Caps should do a retaliation video but I guess going to the play-offs leaves little time for filmmaking.

Saw the highlights, any line with B├Ąckis is gold. Really hope he is on the team for a good long time.

Posted by: trunkenmath | April 8, 2009 1:24 AM | Report abuse

Gretzky, Lemiuex, Ovechkin. That's a pretty sick list. Thanks capskremlin I knew he hit 200 assists I didn't know about that milestone though.

Posted by: Davethecapsfan | April 8, 2009 1:39 AM | Report abuse

Btw Tarik, I'm not trying to advertise or take over your comments section, I just thought it was a great milestone that people would like to know about.

Posted by: capitalskremlin | April 8, 2009 1:49 AM | Report abuse

The recap of the Carolina NYI game is hilarious! From the recap:

"The Islanders finished this one with more than twice as many penalty minutes as shots. They didn't hit double figures in shots until there were six minutes left. And by the midpoint of the third period, they had as many shots (eight) as Carolina had goals (eight)."

Posted by: Raber | April 8, 2009 3:01 AM | Report abuse

Reposting from live game chat thread since it's relevant.

----

@ Raber

I would have to disagree. I've watched every single Caps game this year and I can't remember even one which Theo stole. I do remember plenty that he lost for us though. His stats do tell the story. He's near the very bottom in the NHL in goalie stats among goalies who have played a lot and has only one shutout (which my grandma could have gotten as he had absolutely nothing to do in that game). I've said it before and I'll say it again. Anyone who defends Theo does not watch other teams play. You wanna see goalies steal games watch Columbus, Nashville, St.Louis, San Jose, Boston, Calgary, etc. Theo hasn't had one game this season which he stole the way goalies for those teams have done many, many times. It's not gonna happen, but I'd love to see Varlamov as our #1 in the playoffs. I have far more confidence in him. I agree that his NHL sample is quite small, but also like I've mentioned before I watched him excel in the RSL last year at just 19, leading his team to the final.

Posted by: ranndino | April 8, 2009 3:34 AM | Report abuse

I love BB, but he needs to lighten up on videogate. VC has shown two visiting players on the bench during Kiss Cam from time to time, and I've never heard any complaints about that practice.

That said, I haven't seen that in some time, so maybe BB put a stop to it.

Posted by: ThomasJefferson | April 8, 2009 5:22 AM | Report abuse

Video-Gate hahah

We used to make fun of Jagr's mullet last year when we played NYR.

Posted by: SA-Town | April 8, 2009 6:02 AM | Report abuse

Backstrom-Ovechkin-Laich
Fedorov-Semin-Fleischmann
Kozlov-Fehr-Nylander/Aucoin
Bradley-Steckel-Nylander/Aucoin

It's not that complicated. All Backstrom and Ovechkin need is Laich crashing the net. Let's hope Fleischmann can keep the momentum going. It is kind of amazing how wherever Backstrom goes people start scoring goals. I just love every aspect of Nicky's game. Let's Go Caps!

Posted by: chevychase10 | April 8, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Top line didn't play very well last night. Lots of turnovers and too many fancy moves that didn't work. Ovechkin keeps trying to deke through defenders at the blue-line and hasn't had much luck with it. It's fine to try out sometimes but I think he needs to mix it up by just getting the puck in deep and chasing sometimes. Same with Semin, too many moves, and Fedorov has been turning the puck over way too much the last couple games. Lots of dangerous passes across the middle that are being picked off. Rest of the team played okay but it seems like the defence are getting caught out of position far more often than they were earlier in the year. Maybe too many guys are trying to jump up in the play. They seem to be letting the other team get behind them a few times a night. Not a good habit going into the playoffs. Hope they simplify things a bit when the post-season starts.

Posted by: Stu_c | April 8, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

looking ahead to the playoffs, better hope we play the Habs and not the Rags in the playoffs, the Rags play a stifling defensive game thats really suited to the playoffs. Plus our D will have their hands full with the likes of Avery and Dubinsky crashing the net and we don't do well against teams with forwards who rely on 2nd and 3rd chances in our crease. The Rangers D is big, strong and nasty and even though they're offensive challenged that defense usually can hold teams to under 2 or 3 goals and rarely if ever give up oddman rushes or breakaways

i think we'll beat the Habs in 6 or 7, if we play NY we'll lose in 6 or 7. That team really locks down hard defensively on offensive teams. There's no room to maneuver in the offensive zone.

Posted by: cstanton1 | April 8, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Maybe I missed it, but did Varly get the hardhat? He should have if he didnt.

Posted by: christrice | April 8, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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