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Halak steals Game 6 from Caps

The question's on everyone's mind, so let's get right to it: Who starts in goal Wednesday?

I'm pretty sure No. 41 will be in net for the Habs. But what about the Caps? Semyon Varlamov yielded at least one, maybe two goals, of questionable quality -- and Montreal only scored three times (excluding the empty netter).

Coach Bruce Boudreau didn't have an answer 15 minutes after tonight's crushing 4-1 loss in Game 6 at Bell Centre. But he acknowledged the possibility of going back to veteran Jose Theodore for Game 7, which will be the fourth in the past three springs under Boudreau.

"I could," Boudreau said. "I haven't gotten that far yet. I'm sure Theo would be ready if we decided to do that."

Boudreau wasn't overly critical of Varlamov, who faced only 22 shots. But he did question Maxim Lapierre's first career playoff tally, which sailed past the goalie's glove early in the third period.

"The third goal," Boudreau said, "I'm not a goalie. But maybe he should have had it."

Check out my game story here and Mike Wise's column here, then come on back for some notes and quotes:

*Jaroslak Halak was great tonight. No way around that. The guy made 54 saves. But Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and Mike Green are four of the best sharpshooters in the world, and it's not like Halak didn't leave a rebound loitering about on a few occasions.

Halak did make a number of scintillating saves. But the one he was credited with on Tomas Fleischmann midway through the third period was not one of them. With what appeared to be an open net, Fleischmann somehow he managed to fire the puck back into a sprawled Halak, who has stopped 90 of the past 92 shots he's faced the past two games.

Asked whether Halak was getting to the Caps psychologically and forcing them to think too much and alter their shots, Boudreau said: "That's absolutely what happens. Instead of just keep shooting, you try to get too fine and pick two-inch spots and what ends up going in is the shot that went in -- a wide shot that was redirected that he had no chance on."

*Semin, Green and Fleischmann combined for 82 goals in the regular season. The trio has none so far in this series.

*The power play is now 1 for 30 and did not record a single shot on goal during a 75-second 5 on 3. Can't win a series with those numbers.

"Too cute," Boudreau said of the two-man advantage.

Jeez, seems like I've heard that before. Like two dozen times.

*If the Caps falter in Game 7, it would mark the most stunning upset since, well, last year, when the Presidents' Trophy-winning Sharks fell to eighth-ranked Anaheim in six games. That upset marked only the fifth time since 1968 that the team with the best regular-season record lost in the first round.

That's a list the Caps desperately want to stay off of.

*Montreal -- the city, not the team -- has just about lost it. Not only was Bell Centre tonight the loudest arena I've ever been experienced in my 15 years as a sportswriter, the scene outside of the building, according to reports, is nuts right now.

I'm still inside, of course, but I walked past an open door around 10 p.m. and it sounded like absolute mayhem. People were hollering and horns were honking. Just a sneaking suspicion here, but I bet the bars are also packed to the doors.

I hope to make it to practice tomorrow. But with a mid-morning flight back to Dulles, it's not guaranteed. Someone will be there, though.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  April 27, 2010; 12:26 AM ET
 
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Next: Capitals' closeout fail

Comments

Anyone know the Heimlich maneuver???

Posted by: Firepelosi | April 27, 2010 12:29 AM | Report abuse

This team is hypocritical when it comes to the goaltending.

We pulled Theodore in game 2, according to Boudreau, because we needed to change it up. Not because the two goals Theo let in were softies.

This team has lost two straight with Varly in net and this teams needs to "change it up" again

Posted by: redskinsux | April 27, 2010 12:33 AM | Report abuse

BB, please decline any Montreal penalties on Wednesday. hmmmmm My bad, wrong sport.

Posted by: puckman | April 27, 2010 12:35 AM | Report abuse

Seen this happen a few times before.

Posted by: Hatfield223 | April 27, 2010 12:36 AM | Report abuse

Chicago won. That means we are the only first round series still playing. What's the problem here???

Posted by: Firepelosi | April 27, 2010 12:37 AM | Report abuse

Next game should be very exciting, at least for awhile. I hope all of our hockey men can get their skills together and come up with a win somehow. I am sure the home crowd would be appreciative. As painful as it can be, most of us would likely prefer to have the opportunity to agonize over yet more Caps playoff games this year, beyond this series. We are supposed to be real good this year aren't we . . .

Posted by: CommonHerdsman | April 27, 2010 12:44 AM | Report abuse

"I hope to make it to practice tomorrow. But with a mid-morning flight back to Dulles, it's not guaranteed. Someone will be there, though."

Hopefully the Caps actually decide to make it to practice. They should try shooting the puck not directly at the other teams goalie. They should practice not drawing penalties, since we can't score on the powerplay. We have more shorthanded goals then the leagues "best" powerplay has in the series. Maybe we can put all 20 guys out on the powerplay and they can just pass it around for two minutes. Maybe they can practice their golf swings. Maybe they can practice actually winning. Although, I am sure Green, Semin, and Flash will skip out on the practice. Why would those guys need to practice they have like 70 goals combined in the regular season? This team is full of bums. BLOW IT UP!!! FIRE BB!!! HE CAN NOT MAKE ADJUSTMENTS AND HAS BEEN OUTCOACHED ALL SERIES.

Posted by: Firepelosi | April 27, 2010 12:47 AM | Report abuse

If the caps are losing the game on Wednesday, I have a feeling the fans wouldn't be standing up applauding just like last year's game7 against pens. I'd be surprised if I don't hear boos.

Posted by: Andoy | April 27, 2010 12:52 AM | Report abuse

I'd say that we will find out what this team is really made of in Game 7 but I already said that before Game 2... and Game 5... and Game 6.

Remember Game 2? They fell behind 4-1 and had to pull off an unlikely comeback. A top seed shouldn't even be in that position after dropping the first game at home. If they had what it takes, they would've sent a quick and clear message to start the next game. That didn't happen and honestly, that's when I lost faith in this latest version of the Washington Capitals.

I think we know what they are made of at this point, from an entire organizational standpoint, and it's not the same quality of stuff that many other teams and organizations are made of, including Montreal.

Yea, I see us losing Game 7 and even if we pull it off, I've seen enough over the last 360+ minutes to say that this is a highly flawed team that lacks the habits and the heart to win in the playoffs.

I've always been a Caps fan (almost 30 years now) and always will be one. Hopefully, the organization is able to make the right adjustments going forward and can build a legit contender in the future.

Posted by: tmac2yao | April 27, 2010 12:56 AM | Report abuse

Since the current playoff format was adopted in 1994, a No. 8 seed has never come back from a 3-1 deficit to beat a No. 1 seed.

Wonderful... as if they didn't have enough confidence and momentum.

Just one more reason for Montreal to bring it in Game 7.

These kinds of things do play on the minds of the players.

Posted by: tmac2yao | April 27, 2010 12:35 AM | Report abuse

I don't buy this psycho babble for a second. If the Caps establish a presence in front of Halak while knocking the Canadiens on their backsides when in front of Varlamov then they will be fine. The Canadiens have established traffic and the Capitals have not. It's that simple. Further, this is not politically correct but if I'm a Capital and one of the Canadiens slides on the ice in front of me to block a shot then I make sure he remembers doing it because the pain from it is unbearable and he in turn NEVER wants to do it again. Psycho babble is for losers.

Posted by: croftonpost | April 27, 2010 12:56 AM | Report abuse

Chicago won. That means we are the only first round series still playing. What's the problem here???

Posted by: Firepelosi
------------------------------------

The Wings and Coyotes are still playing too.

Posted by: ablake70 | April 27, 2010 12:59 AM | Report abuse

If the Verizon crowd boos a losing effort on Wednesday, the team deserves it. They came into the playoffs and arrogantly thought they would be handed the first round series simply on record alone. This choke job rests on the shoulders of everyone; a coaching staff that refuses to adjust to what they are seeing on down to players who refuse to give the kind of effort the will win the Cup, even if we make it out of the first round, at best we last six games against Philly. The sad part is, the team is lucky to be playing in a Game 7 at all. If they do lose, I hope the fans boo loudly, because the choking dogs on the ice deserve it.

Posted by: The_Spear | April 27, 2010 1:00 AM | Report abuse

"did not record a single shot on goal during a 75-second 5 on 3" -this sums up the problem with the power play. to score one needs to shoot the puck at the net. Let Brooksie collect some garbage, it does not always need to be tape to tape to tape to tape to fumble clear to tape to tape to odd man rush the other way to tape to tape to dribble broken stick one timer to the goalies glove power play over. Get the puck 2 strides to the middle fire low and hard and let the puck pinball around-you do have any extra guy to get the rebound.

Posted by: cadlecreek1 | April 27, 2010 1:04 AM | Report abuse

"*Semin, Green and Fleischmann combined for 82 goals in the regular season. The trio has none so far in this series.

*The power play is now 1 for 30 and did not record a single shot on goal during a 75-second 5 on 3. Can't win a series with those numbers."

Wow.........


4th straight game 7 at home coming up, but I'm certain the caps will be ready

Posted by: koscold | April 27, 2010 1:06 AM | Report abuse

just in case anyone hasn't seen this movie before, like I have, here's the likely script for game 7: Caps come out flat (like always at home in this series), give up early goal(s), rally to tie it, lose on unfortunate goal in the 3rd period or in overtime.

See you next year.

Why do I keep letting this team do this to me? Everyone's talking about how great they played but they came out half-a$$ AGAIN. It's not good enough to play 1 or 2 periods. You have to do it from the drop of the puck. The caps are now finding out what happens when you come out and play a sorry game 5 whenever you get a chance to finish a team off. They get a win, go home and get a great game from their goalie and all of a sudden, it's a game 7. I'd say at least it's a chance for them to learn a valuable lesson but this team doesn't seem to ever learn anything from its mistakes.

I'm still cheering for them after all these years, so I guess I don't either. *sigh*

Posted by: fanzee71 | April 27, 2010 1:07 AM | Report abuse

Taking my theme one step further. There has been quite a bit of criticism thrown at Semin but IMO it is somewhat misguided. I personally am way more upset with the more physical players who have failed to pay the price in front of the net. I direct my frustration much more at Fehr, Chimera, Knuble, and Laich. If they are doing their job then I would be willing to bet Semin would have at least 3-4 goals by now.

Posted by: croftonpost | April 27, 2010 1:09 AM | Report abuse

Let's stop trying to think with our feelings and realize that we have Game 7 at Home and we have a very good chance of winning. If we had been down 3-2 and tied it up, we'd be feeling great, but it wouldn't matter right now because no matter what we still have to win Wednesday. Just win on Wednesday. No need to feel good, excited, panicky, bad, or frustrated about anything. Just keep to the task at hand and win on Wednesday. Wednesday will take care of itself.

Posted by: pdo3 | April 27, 2010 1:14 AM | Report abuse

@ fanzee71 - The last two playoff adventures to me were all the learning this team needed. At this point, the core of this team should know and understand what is needed to succeed and make a long run in the playoffs. The fact that this trend continues, and we are watching maybe the most gut wrenching of choke jobs by an organization with a long history of playoff failure, speaks to a larger issue in my mind, coaching and general management. What i worry about is that BB and GMGM are given so much credit by the ownership group of this team for the job they did rebuilding the franchise; that the golden years of our stars will be wasted with futile playoff runs like this one, because we don't have the right people in place to guide us further then a quick exit in the playoffs. I appreciate BB's time behind the bench, but I don't think he is the right guy to get us further then a second round exit in the playoffs.

Posted by: The_Spear | April 27, 2010 1:17 AM | Report abuse

tmac, I hear you, man. I just can't be optimistic right now either. Too much hard evidence is flying in the face of such feelings. If I tried to tell myself everything was OK and that this team had what it took to win, I'd feel like a fool.

Posted by: fanzee71 | April 27, 2010 1:20 AM | Report abuse

@ croftonpost - early on in the series, I really liked the effort from many of the "grit" players on the Caps. The last two games however, they have not shown up at all. I agree, I think Semin has gotten a lot of unwarranted criticism, he has played well, or certainly not poorly in the past couple of games. What really bothers me the most in this series, is how lazy the team is, at getting the puck out of our own end. It is infuriating how often our defensemen try to make lazy plays out of our own end, only to see the puck cycled back in for another scoring chance or time wasted off the clock by Montreal.

Posted by: The_Spear | April 27, 2010 1:22 AM | Report abuse

They played a good game, but you can tell they are really pressing. Lots of bad shots on goal, little traffic in front of the net, and too much standing around on the PPs the refs GAVE the Caps. I still think they can pull off a series win. I would like to see a few changes.

-BB needs to stop changing the lines every other shift. He has changed the lines 5 out of the 6 games, which I think has hurt. The guys are out of sync, they need some consistency.

-Semin and Green need to stop listening to the critics. Neither was "costing us the series" as many fans claimed. Tonight, I could tell that the pressure was getting to them. They threw a lot of BAD shots on net to break out of their playoff slump. Please stop guys! I thinks fans would be happy if the Caps win the Cup even if those to never score.

-As another poster stated, our grit guys are getting a free pass. They aren't hitting much, creating traffic in front of the net,or being an overall menace to Halak. That's how they drove him out of the net in game 2, why stop now?

-Standing around holding the puck for 1:30 of the 2 minute PP is not going to get goals. Instead of trying to create opportunities and open passing lanes, they are waiting for the Habs to make it easy for them. Newsflash! They're not. How about a new rule: no one holds the puck longer than 7 seconds. They're already 1-37 on the PP, what could it hurt?

Basically, the guys need to relax and do what they did during the streak. Nothing would make me happier than if the Habs had the "We took the Cup champions to 7 games" consolation prize at the end of the day.

Posted by: ablake70 | April 27, 2010 1:50 AM | Report abuse

I see the reason of loss in predictability of Caps lines. Habs know the moves of the 1st line and are ready to the shots.
At the same time 2nd line is closed completely.
It's difficult to confuse Caps any more, than they are now, so it's time to toss the lines and confuse Habs.

Like:
1) OV - Backs - Fehr (Fehr can actually shoot from distance and OV can create traffic, then change roles - with Knuble it can't be done)
2) Laich-Belanger-Knuble (just storm the crease - opposite to the 2nd line previous behavior)
3) Fleishmann-Gordon-Semin (bad backheck, but good speed and shooting, could be used after 1st or 2nd line). Knuble and Semin can be switched if necessary.
4) Chimera-Steckel-Bradley/Walker (good old checkers).

Posted by: Michael01a | April 27, 2010 2:20 AM | Report abuse

It pains me to think that Cindy & the Pens have won 8 playoff series (and counting...), meanwhile, Ovie & co. will more than likely remain stuck at just one after this season. I'm not calling for wholesale changes, but man, something's gotta give. We'll always have the Rangers, I guess...

Posted by: F_Danny_Boy | April 27, 2010 2:37 AM | Report abuse

I guess we shouldn't even bother playing game 7, right?

We lost for one reason -- that was one of the greatest goaltending performances ever. Sure we missed some opportunities but we made a lot more.

Posted by: Justafan | April 27, 2010 2:59 AM | Report abuse

Spear, I agree with you. That's why I said I'd like to call it a lesson learned but they don't learn anything. And you make a very good point about wasting the prime years by holding onto the guys who were right fit for the rebuild but not for the ascent to the top. I was thinking last week about Michael Jordan's career in this context. Doug Collins got MJ and the Bulls to be contenders but they didn't take the next step and become champions, and perennial champions, until they brought in Phil Jackson. LeBron may be in a similar situation with Mike Brown in Cleveland and, coming back to hockey, the Detroit Red Wings, IIRC, fired their previous coach after the loss to New Jersey or Colorado and won with Scotty Bowman.

Teaching young guys how to make it and molding a talented team into a champion are two different things. One guy won't necessarily possess both skills.

Posted by: fanzee71 | April 27, 2010 3:02 AM | Report abuse

We all know what is going to happen:
Caps come out firing in the first 3 mins. 10 shots on goal. No goals. Shoots wide, off the post, etc. Shots 10-1 at the 13 min TV TO. Then Montreal scores on first shot. Then we get a PP and habs make it 2-0 with a shorty after a Green turnover. In the second Ovie scores 2 and it is 2-2 after 2. Third period dominated by the caps, but we can't get it by Halak. Game 7 OT again...
Ovechkin misses breakaway. Caps outshooting Habs 8-1 in the OT.
2 mins left in the first OT, Cammeleri has it behind Varly, sends a pass up the middle, the puck banks off Tom Poti and goes in 5 hole. Season over.

Posted by: Leeale | April 27, 2010 3:12 AM | Report abuse

We're done. Season over. They Habs have the momentum going into Game 7. If we do squeak by, we may have bought ourselves another week. Winners know how to finish. The Caps are on life support and don't have the mental toughness to be a champion. You can't when with "enigmas" that can "show up at anytime"; or so and so trophy candidates with severe confidence issues. Next year, forget the star power, depth, skill, and talent; and just try to make it into the playoffs. The expectations will be lower and we won't be disappointed. Caps = Mets

Posted by: DexterMorgan | April 27, 2010 3:32 AM | Report abuse

If we don't win game 7, which I have real doubts we will, all the SE title and Presidents trophy ( please stop calling it a cup ) all the wins and points will mean nothing. It will just be spin that the Caps Mgmt put on it to try and save ticket sales.
To be bounced in round 1 the Caps will be the laughing stock of the NHL and all the sellouts and bandwagon fans will fly off to parts unknown.
The Pens will make short work of the Habs and then we will have to hear that crap all summer.
The game Wed. night will be won or lost in the first 10 mins. The more shots thrown at Halak the stronger he gets. Need to score early and often or the Caps can start planning there tee times.
2 years playoffs now and no Green. What up with that.

Posted by: jotay131 | April 27, 2010 6:24 AM | Report abuse

@fanzee71

Except what coach can we hire who'd be an improvement over Boudreau?

He's certainly way better than Hanlon, his predecessor.

Unfortunately, we have only two "data points" on how coaches have performed with our present personnel.

Which coaches are better? Scott Bowman, certainly. But he's not available but would he ever consider a job change if the current crop of Red Wings get too old? Don Bylsma, most likely.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | April 27, 2010 6:58 AM | Report abuse

I don't get it. Varly lost two in a row and let in two goals early in the first period in both games. Theo let in two goals early in the first period and he gets yanked. Theo was outstanding during the regular season, and Varly was lousy. You play Theo.

Posted by: evtoi | April 27, 2010 7:17 AM | Report abuse

I guess we shouldn't even bother playing game 7, right?

We lost for one reason -- that was one of the greatest goaltending performances ever. Sure we missed some opportunities but we made a lot more.

Posted by: Justafan

I don't give Halak the credit. The Caps blew a five on three and all PPs. Varly did not hold us in the game.

Posted by: evtoi | April 27, 2010 7:29 AM | Report abuse

This team is hypocritical when it comes to the goaltending.

We pulled Theodore in game 2, according to Boudreau, because we needed to change it up. Not because the two goals Theo let in were softies.

This team has lost two straight with Varly in net and this teams needs to "change it up" again

Posted by: redskinsux

Exactly!

Posted by: evtoi | April 27, 2010 7:32 AM | Report abuse

"That's a list the Caps desperately want to stay off of."


come on, TEB. finishing a sentence with two prepositions? i know it was late when you wrote, and that there are bigger things to worry about (namely the Capitals)...

Posted by: mcintire_will | April 27, 2010 7:49 AM | Report abuse

There is no way we lose again playing the way we did last night...PERIOD! I know we have deficiencies on D, but we deserved better than that. Their goalie was on acid, while ours was off a little. When is this organization going to quit worrying about goals and get us some guys who can stop the other team from scoring. I know we can't afford him, but Volchenkov is available, and someone on here posted that he only had 4 goals... that is the point of a shutdown D-man. Green is a forward that plays the D, kind of. he is such a liablility come this time of year. he sure can put up goals against the DREGS of the SE, but put some quality teams in fromt of him and he turtles like Myrtle. How he got nominated for the Norris is beyond me!

Posted by: stop_it | April 27, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

@F_Danny_Boy: As I have stated before, you morons make us the laughingstock of fanbases by constantly bringing the Pens up. They are not our rival, yet. We need to beat them first. They have their rival...Philly. Can you morons quit name-calling and get over it. Crosby is exactly the type of player this team needs. Maybe he whined his first year a little too much (he was 18, how mature were you at that age?), but since he has been nothing except a consumate pro. I would sign him to my team in an instant. Please shut up about the Pens, at least until we can beat them in the playoffs.

Posted by: stop_it | April 27, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Theo and Varly will not make any the different, we have a big choker team. Montreal are to good for us, simple....

Posted by: Jimmix | April 27, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

I maintain Halak's glove and the pucks were equipped with high-powered magnets. How else do you explain the league's best offense not being able to score against such a sloppy defense? 53 saves is mind-boggling.

Posted by: AmyS1 | April 27, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

if this team caves again in the playoffs again i think you have seen the last of semin and fleischman in a caps uniforum ans as 4 green i wonder if the other gms like chi/la would trade there norris finialsts for green i doubt it

Posted by: vjridgely | April 27, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Don't understand how true Caps fans can say the team choked when they clearly outplayed Montreal for all 60 minutes. They had 54 shots on goal, many of them were quality shots or off of rebounds. Except for the two-man advantage, the Caps had plenty of pressure on Halak on all of the extra man advantages. The Caps also were the victim of some unlucky bounces in front on rebounds when Halak made the initial save.

That said, there is no reason the Caps won't bounce back and bring the same effort on Wednesday night. Assuming they don't give up a goal in the 1st ten minutes of the game and Halak is merely very good, the Caps should have a good chance to win on home ice.

Considering both N.J. and Buffalo who were considered more 'playoff tested' teams were knocked out by lower seeds in 5 and 6 games respectively, it's not a shock that this has been a long series. I hoped the Caps would win Game 5 but am not surprised it's gone to a 7th game.

Posted by: wizfan89 | April 27, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Firepelosi wrote: Chicago won. That means we are the only first round series still playing. What's the problem here???
--------------------
The problem is that you could be another Caps fan that doesn't really know hockey?

Posted by: BlahBlahBlah6 | April 27, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

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