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Skate Notes, Gonchar a Game-Time Decision

Here are a few notes and quotes from the Caps' and Pens' morning skates:

Although this series has been almost completely unpredictable from Game 1 through Game 6, Alex Ovechkin said he's got a pretty good sense of how tonight's decisive Game 7 will unfold, at least in the early goings.

"Tonight is going to be a safe game," he said. "Both teams are going to play safe. Because everyone knows if they make a mistake, it's going to cost us a lot; a goal. It's all about mistakes and using your chances. Right now it's not about nerves, it's all about emotion. Whoever gets more emotion is probably going to win. This group of guys has a lot of emotion."

Coach Bruce Boudreau agreed with his star player's assessment.

"It's an exciting night," he said. "And yet you don't want to make a mistake because you don't want to be the one to make the final mistake. It's a tough deal. ... Every Game 7 is different. What do they have to do? They have to play their best. They have to play their hardest. They have to play their smartest. Because there's no margin for error."

Ovechkin on His Mental Approach
Always one to have fun with the media, when Ovechkin was asked what he felt like when he woke up, he cracked: "I felt like I want to sleep more. Right now [after the morning skate] it's time to [nap]. I try not to think about the game, because if you start thinking about the game right now, your ... mind is not going be ready because you're all the time thinking about hockey. I try to think to about hockey when I wake up from my nap and when I drive [my] car to Verizon Center, listen to music and say, 'Okay, let's start thinking about hockey and think about the game.'"

Steckel Keeps the Mood Light
In an effort to lighten things up the morning skate before Game 6 on Monday, David Steckel took it upon himself to joke around with his teammates a little more than usual. Because the Caps pulled out a win in OT -- on a goal by Steckel, nonetheless -- he made sure to do the same thing at this morning's skate.

"I tried to go out before Game 6 and make sure all the boys were really loose, so I kind of went out and did the same thing again, make sure the guys weren't too serious," the checking-line center said. "I was just giving guys crap. I did a little extra, even with guys I wouldn't usually do it to."

Tonight's Lineup
It's always dangerous to predict what Boudreau is going to do with his forward combos. It's even more dangerous to try to predict them for a Game 7. But I think it's at least possible that he'll do this, based on how the lines looked at the end of Game 6:

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Kozlov
Fleischmann-Fedorov- Semin
Laich-Steckel-Bradley
Beagle-Gordon-Clark

Boudreau on A.O.
"Has he not ever loved the stage?" he said, when asked why Ovechkin embraces big games. "I mean, he loves the stage. Some people shy away from it. He embraces it. It's in his makeup."

Pressure? What Pressure?
"It's a lot easier for the road team," Boudreau said. "They don't have anything to prove. They're coming off a loss. So they're sitting there saying, 'Well, if we lose, they expect us to lose.' So they play with a little bit of reckless abandon. Consequently, the home team, with the crowd going crazy and jacked up as it is, is usually a little more overcautious."

As the Bears Go, So Go the Caps
Throughout this series, the Caps' fate has mirrored the fortunes of the Bears in their series with the Baby Pens. Well, the Bears won, 3-0, in Game 7 of the East Division finals last night.

"I was ... happy to see the Bears win," Boudreau said. "I have a lot of good friends there, the coach is a good friend and general manager. And the city is a great city for hockey. So good for them."

Gonchar Skates
Sergei Gonchar skated this morning at Verizon Center and will be a game-time decision, according to Coach Dan Bylsma. Gonchar looked pretty good and was quarterbacking the power play, so I'm guessing he'll be good to go. It's also possible the Pens will dress seven 'D' and limit Gonchar to the power play. Gonchar wore a brace on his right knee.

He did not speak to the media, but Boudreau said the Caps are expecting him to play.

"If his body allows him to play, he'll play," Boudreau said. "If they have the opportunity to play him, they'll play him because he's arguably their best defenseman, so I'm sure they are going to give it a good try anyway. If he plays, and he's fit it makes them a better team."

Aiming High
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said he thinks the Caps believe they've discovered a weakness in his game: high to the glove hand.

"Mostly high," Fleury said, when asked where the Caps are putting most of their shots. "They have so many guys with skills that can shoot the puck pretty good; they try to pick out those corners high."

So what does he do to counteract that?

"It's a secret," he cracked. "I don't know. I just try to be on top of my crease and get it covered real good. I'm just trying to stop it."

Odds and Ends
John Erskine came off the ice early this morning, favoring the same left leg that's been bothering him since he blocked a shot late in Game 1. Boudreau said the rugged defenseman will suit up and play. ...Mike Green said he did not receive any of the Easton Stealths in time for the morning skate, so he's sticking with the S17. ...Since the best-of-seven format was introduced in 1939, a total of 125 series have gone to seven games. The home team has won 79 of them (63-percent).

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  May 13, 2009; 1:07 PM ET
 
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Next: Video: Gonchar, Lines and More

Comments

Good update. This is as exciting as it gets.

Posted by: uncatim | May 13, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I hope gonchar does play. . .another chance to have a puck hop over his stck on the PP that leads to a SH goal. . .

plus, I don't want to hear anyone from the 'burg whine about how they'd have won if he hadn't got hurt. . .

Posted by: skinsfan8KaboveMSL | May 13, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Wish I could get in a pre-game nap. I probably couldn't sleep anyway, so just as well.

Posted by: _Mark | May 13, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Let's try not to keep shooting the puck into their defensemen - too many blocked shots. Go around them.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | May 13, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: uncatim | May 13, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

The Verizon Center is going to be crazy tonight and it needs to be all night long!! I understand what Ovi said about playing safe, but i hope they don't play it the same way they did in the first 2 periods of the Rangers game 7. That was a little scary. Lets get the early lead and maintain, maintain, maintain.....oh yeah and make sure crosby eats a little ice tonight!

GO CAPS!!! Bring it!

Posted by: OviFan08 | May 13, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Well if Gonchar does play will be liking playing against a softball team that sticks the guy that can't catch a flyball in right field. Then everyone tries to hit to right field.

I see alot of dumping into his corner and alot of body contact.....sorry..but he is the wek link.

Posted by: Capsfannmiss | May 13, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Now that was great information, no need for the video. Actually the post has done a great job with the playoffs with coverage. They have at least 6 people working them full time. For all of those that complained about lack of coverage during the season, be quiet now.
Going to enjoy watching game tonight.

Posted by: RichC3 | May 13, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Glad we're keeping things relaxed and loose. No point in tightening up nerves and grips on the sticks. As for the Stealth sticks, I'm sure they'll arrive in time for the next round for Green to use, if need be.

Blast the goals into the net, Capitals!

Posted by: LeftCoastCapsFan | May 13, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Gonchar is scared of Ovie.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | May 13, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

"...don't want to hear anyone from the 'burg whine..."

LOL. That's the 'burg's favorite pasttime. . . always whining and blaming others for their miserable city and endless misfortunes (except their multitude of sport championship trophies -- give 'em that).

Posted by: Exile_in_Philly | May 13, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

@ Tarik.

Great job all year covering the Caps. I don't know how you do it.

Posted by: capper3 | May 13, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully the hometeam crowd will keep them motivated and NOT make them more overcautious... they will need to play better than they did in Game 7 with the Rags, lets tense, more fluid.

Also- HOW IS IT ONLY 1:33PM?? This day is dragging...

Posted by: mrszilla | May 13, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

If it goes to OT, who will step up? According to ESPN, it's a good bet it won't be a star player:

http://insider.espn.go.com/nhl/insider/news/story?id=4163410

Posted by: GoodThingHeSigned | May 13, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

What year was the Caps and Pens series that Gonchar had a pass to him at the point on a PP jump over his stick and Straka (I believe) blow by Gonchar for a break away that pretty much ended our playoff run? Maybe Gonchar can play tonight and return the favor!

Posted by: thomas20 | May 13, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

if you get a chance and want to see how people who live under the bridge think of the series check out the Pensblog. Staches, mullets, and hairy backs...and that's just the "women."

Posted by: lylewimbledon | May 13, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: lylewimbledon | May 13, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

You know that if Gonchar's leg is still attached at game time, he's playing. Look how the Pens turned things around when he got back during the season. (And yes, he was my favorite Cap while he was here, and I still have my black 55 jersey, although I don't wear it.)

That said, the Caps need to go after him hard tonight and wear him down ASAP. Wish I could be at VC tonight, but I'll be glued to the TV. (Think VS will let Joe B. do the Caps games in the next round if we make it there?) I'm so nervous already, not that it does any good. Is it too early to start drinking? :)

Posted by: wocoliz | May 13, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I thought Gonchar was injured so badly his leg fell off?

Posted by: RedBirdie | May 13, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Gonch won't sniff even strength play unless the pens are down in the final minutes. He won't be doing much battling in the corners.

Posted by: JSchon | May 13, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I was a huge Gonchar fan too, as were my sons. One of them wore #55 back when he was a squirt because of Gonchar. Then he asked to be traded and did not want to be part of the rebuild. THAT is why I detest him. Just like Witt, who wanted green pastures, how the the green pastures of Long Island treating you there big guy? On the other hand a lot of people hate Jagr, and although Jagr did not produce as expected here, he did not ask to be traded, he was purged, and we still picked up part of his tab. That wasn't Jagr's fault. Now, even though I don't like Gonchar, I don't like seeing athletes suffer knee injuries, mine are shot, and I know how painful that can be. Hopefully he can play and we put them away anyway. Let's Go Caps.

SEC 430 reporting!!!

Posted by: fanohock1 | May 13, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I think this person has finally left to the relief of all of us, but here's a repost of my last answer to him:

@ GBosch1aolcom

It's a waste of time arguing with you because you see what you want to see. Ovechkin didn't move his leg at all. He was gliding and there was simply no time to adjust. The whole knee on knee collision was caused by Gonchar trying to avoid the intended shoulder hit so yes, purely accidental.

And no, Ovie does not leave his feet when he hits people. You're the one that should watch the replays. His feet leave the ice only after the impact which if you knew something about physics would not surprise you. To people who are biased and try to find something illegal in his hits (and who obviously skipped physics in school) it looks like he leaves his feet prior to the hits. That is simply a fallacy or in more colloquial terms a load of horse crap.

Lastly, Kunitz hit Varlamov as hard as he could in the only place that was unprotected (his neck) with the puck nowhere near him. That's a definition of a dirty play and an intent to injure. How you can argue that the Pens goal should have still counted is beyond me. It's completely irrelevant whether Varly got back in position for the shot. What Kunitz did is completely illegal (it's called cross checking) so is a penalty and took place BEFORE the goal was scored. That's the only part that's relevant. Hence, the goal should have been disallowed with Kunitz getting at least 2 minutes for cross checking. On top of that he should have gotten suspended, but I guess in the NHL attempts to injure are fine as long as they don't succeed and luckily Varlamov wasn't seriously hurt.

Posted by: ranndino | May 13, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Neuvy gets the shaving cream pie after last night's Bears game:

http://cfc.whtm.com/videoondemand.cfm?id=40223&category=spo

Posted by: tess2201 | May 13, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

405 reporting

Posted by: _stevo | May 13, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Time has officially slowed to a crawl.

Posted by: CheckingLine | May 13, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

all day - hurry up and wait

Posted by: lylewimbledon | May 13, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

@Fanohock

Leonsis had an opportunity to build an immediate winner and it didn't pan. When the league fore-saw the severe financial issues racking up, his only move was to sink the team, clean house (big contracts,including Gonch, Bondra, Klee, Johannsson) and get a no.1 pick. Witt was worthless when he played for us. As he is for the Isles. LOL greener pastures...doesn't get any browner in ole Uniondale!

Posted by: bhound69 | May 13, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Jagr can be directly blamed for being a clubhouse cancer and putting in absolutely zero effort during his time here.

Posted by: RedBirdie | May 13, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure even the Russian mafia can handle changing Jagr's diapers these days!

Posted by: lylewimbledon | May 13, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Still sad about how we lost Bondra. I'll never really get over losing him or Kolzig...players who actually wanted to retire with us when we were at our worst and they could have done better (at the time at least). Stand up guys.

A Rags fan started making fun of Kolzig during the first series and I came so close to punching him in the face (ie would have caused a bar brawl as I was in NYC surrounded by Rags fans).

Posted by: mrszilla | May 13, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

bhound69: I'm not saying that Ted made a mistake purging contracts. I am just stating the fact that Jagr didn't ask to leave, Witt and Gonchar, both requested to leave. Unlike Witt, Gonchar was asked if he'd stay even after he requested to be moved, for the rebuild. We already had the young Semin, and with prospects Ovechkin and Malkin (1 and 2 the same year) both being Russian, his leadership and influence would have helped immensely with young Russians in the line-up. Gonchar still requested to be moved. That's why I can't stand Gonchar. He is in a good situation now, but he went to Boston and then signed with Pittsburgh, who was just as bad as the Caps, after the lockout.

Posted by: fanohock1 | May 13, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Only perfection can break The Curse of Scott Stevens.

The Caps are capable.. we'll find out soon enough.

Oneal

Posted by: TheRealOneal | May 13, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

@Mrszilla: I agree, I though for sure the Caps would bring him back when his value went down. I sure would have liked to see him play his last game here in Washington. I met him on a couple of occasions because his son played for Team MD with a friend of mine and Bondra was a humble and appreciative guy when I told him he was just as big to us Caps fans as Ovechkin is now. He simply smiled and said thanks.

Posted by: fanohock1 | May 13, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I need a beer. I can't handle the stress!

Posted by: CapsKH | May 13, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Still sad about how we lost Bondra. I'll never really get over losing him or Kolzig...players who actually wanted to retire with us when we were at our worst and they could have done better (at the time at least). Stand up guys.

Ted's own son refused to speak to him for weeks after Bondra was traded.

Peter seems to have put it behind him and accepted it for what it was. I see him at games frequently, and he does fan signings and charity events for the Caps.

Posted by: RedBirdie | May 13, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

430 reinforcements reporting!

Posted by: mikebrady1 | May 13, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

113 HERE, I WANNA GO HOME WITH NO HAT!!!
ALL CAPS ALL DAY!!! (CAPS LOCK STAYS ON)
:) LETS GO CAPS!!!

Posted by: malujoker | May 13, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

fanohock1-

Yea that whole situation was just awful. I will totally admit that I cried when I found out Bondra was being traded. Didn't cry after Kolzig but only because I had already felt betrayed, it wasn't as much of a surprise. That's the one thing I can't stand about prof sports, there is so little loyalty. These guys stated a million times "We don't want to leave" and they were forced out. Gonch on the other hand seemed to buy the first ticket out. That's why we "whoop" him. I don't think anyone would even "whoop" bondra or kolzig, or at least I've never witnessed it. We "whoop" those we no longer respect.

But man, Bondra was the man. He totally was our superstar. I still have his bobblehead, tape on his nose and all.

Posted by: mrszilla | May 13, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

new thread, y'all.

Posted by: RedBirdie | May 13, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

@fanohock

I was agreeing with you...just adding some salt to the times.. I was at the Caps/Ottawa game when Bondra came back here to play against us. Only time I wished someone other than a Cap to score that night. We lost and Bondra was pointless.

Posted by: bhound69 | May 13, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I think Bondra still lives in Annapolis.

Posted by: bhound69 | May 13, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm newer to the area so I wasn't here, nor did I ever imagine living here, so Bondra is just a name and some fantastic numbers to me. I did look it up a few months back and saw that the trade brought Brooks Laich to D.C. and that isn't all bad. Bondra was toward the end of his career - I think he only played 100 or so more games - and Brooks may be our next captain. It sucks to see you heroes leave your team but sometimes it works out alright, or at least not as bad as the initial pain. For what that's worth.

Posted by: saintex | May 13, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Oh, the pain of losing Bondra! I'm sure it was the right thing to do, but it was still awful to see him skate in anything but a Caps sweater. I'm so glad he seems to have a good relationship with the team now.

Gonchar with the amazing miracle recovery...well, here's hoping he trips over the blue line to turn the puck over and allow us the Caps get the GWG.

Is it 7 yet? Is it 7 yet? Is it 7 yet? Is
it 7 yet?

LET'S GO CAPS!

Posted by: nafspac | May 13, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Allow me... Gonchar had been playing for the Penguins for years; he just got a paycheque from the Caps and happened to wear a Caps' jersey and go on road trips with the Caps.

Posted by: Matt23185 | May 13, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Can't deal with the distraction anymore... no use being at work when work isn't getting done. I'm outta here and heading down to the phone booth!!

Posted by: 104_CapsFan | May 13, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Sec 103 checking in. Time seems to be going backward! Grrrrrr.

I too felt bad about Bondra and Ollie, but Ollie left in a snit. His famous temper got the best of him and couldn't wait to see how things would shake out. There was the possiblilty that after Huet left he could have been the starting goalie; we will never know.

GO CAPS!

Posted by: ScreamingMimi | May 13, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Trading Bondra was the only one that bothered me back in 2004. He clearly wanted to finish his career here and still lives in the area. In hindsight, it was a good trade since we netted Brook Laich, but I would have liked to have seen the Caps re-sign Bondra a few years ago when he was a FA so he could finish up here. Good to see the Caps and Bondra are friendly terms and he's still doing appearances.

Peter Bondra will always be Mr. Capital to me even thought Ovie is the Great 8!!

Posted by: wizfan89 | May 13, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

@saintex

Yes, we have Brooks because of the Bondra trade. I was a huge Bondra fan and now feel a special connection to Brooks since he is like the extension of Bonzai on the current team. Or something.

Posted by: justbrewit | May 13, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

... I don't think anyone would even "whoop" bondra or kolzig, or at least I've never witnessed it. We "whoop" those we no longer respect. ...

Posted by: mrszilla

mrszilla: I was at the first Tampa Bay game this season, and the Caps put up a tribute to Olie at the first play stoppage. The fans gave him a very good ovation. I think he has mostly good will in this town, for all he did over the years.

Posted by: Dick_in_Fairfax | May 13, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Its beginning to seem like old hat to us. This era of Caps (the Ovi era) has only played 7 game series. All have ended at home. I read that Crosby of the pens has never played a game 7 at ANY level of hockey in his career. Maybe Pit will press a little too much like the Caps did last spring against the Flyers.

Posted by: yesisaiditfirst | May 13, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Go CAPS!!!

We Believe!

Posted by: pstenigma | May 13, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

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