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Laich: 'Our Energy Level Has to Come Up'

Well, that was certainly one of the weirdest finishes I've witnessed in a while. Alexander Semin whiffed on a wide-open net with less than three minutes to go in a tied game. The Caps and Leafs exchanged goals in the final 2:08. Martin Gerber got ejected and 41-year-old Curtis Joseph led the Leafs to a 3-2 shootout win that was a snoozefest for the first 57 minutes.

The Caps earned a point on the road, but there weren't many smiling faces in the visitors' dressing room here at Air Canada Centre.

"Right now our effort level has to come up," said Brooks Laich, whose goal with 56.1 seconds remaining forced overtime. "You ask the guys right now and no one is feeling exhausted, feeling like they emptied the tank, which is something we did last year. If you remember, every game was so desperate. We just had to win. We had to play so hard every night, and that's why we were so successful. Right now we're not doing it. But we have to find a way and start ramping it up."

The Caps have seven games remaining -- all against teams that are not currently in the playoffs -- to get themselves into gear before the postseason.

"As a coach, you want them to play as great as they can every night and you push them to play as hard as they can every night," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "But it doesn't happen sometimes. Everybody knows when their sense of urgency is. We've been very successful this year against the top teams in the East. That's where our sense of urgency is. We have seven games [remaining] against non-playoff teams. Do I want them to win them all, and get up for them? Yeah. They know the playoffs are around the corner, and they're gearing up for that."

On to the notes:

Flu Bug Bites
Boudreau stopped short of blaming the virus that's been going around the dressing room for the loss. But it definitely had an effect, he said.

"That might have had something to do with the energy level," Boudreau said. "We had six or seven guys who, on better days, wouldn't have played. But still, it's a game we thought we should have won and could have won."

Boudreau Rips Into Bench
About four minutes into the third period, Boudreau called a timeout. Now, I sit about 200 feet off the ice and I'm not a lip-reader, but Boudreau did not look happy. I would venture to guess that he was furious with the level of effort, even though he wouldn't admit to it later.

"That happens often with a coach and his players," is all Boudreau would say when asked what all the screaming was about.

Uneven Night for Theo
Jose Theodore was unbelievable during a late second-period flurry on a Toronto power play. He turned away Lee Stempniak twice and John Mitchell from point-blank range. Boudreau, though, thought Theodore could have been better on the two goals he allowed.

"I thought we gave up a bad goal on the second goal and I thought even the first goal wasn't a great goal," Boudreau said.

Theodore acknowledged that he should have stopped Pavel Kubina's power-play tally with 2:08 remaining. Theodore also thought that he was bumped by Mikhail Grabovski on the Leafs' first goal and that an interference infraction should have been assessed.

Ovechkin Good, Semin Struggles
Alex Ovechkin had a very good night, I thought. He scored his 51st goal, assisted on the other, took seven shots and racked up four hits. He did, however, get stuffed by CuJo in the shootout. Ovechkin is now 11 for 37 in his career in the shootout. Wow.

Semin, on the other hand, still looked sick a day after missing practice with the flu. He had two giveaways, put two shots on net (but misfired on four others), whiffed on a wide-open net late and missed the net altogether in the shootout.

"He was one of the guys who missed practice yesterday," Boudreau said. "I don't think he's completely up to snuff. That was the fourth game in a row that was below par."

As for the open net Semin missed, Boudreau said: "It looked to me from the bench that he wasn't prepared to get the open puck."

CuJo Shines
As uninspired as the Capitals' effort appeared for the first two and a half periods, the reason they lost tonight was Joseph, who came on in relief of Martin Gerber after he was ejected for bumping linesman Pierre Champoux.

Joseph was great. He saved an Ovechkin one-timer in the final seconds of regulation, then turned back eight shots in overtime. He also stopped Nicklas Backstrom and Ovechkin in the shootout.

Interesting stat: Joseph has the fourth-most wins (453) and third-most losses (350). He was also the No. 1 star.

"He came in there and showed what 20 years of experience means," Theodore said. "In overtime, we went for two points. I was pretty impressed. You don't know how hard it is just to step in when you're not starting. Then to do it in a tied game, but he was on top of his game."

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  March 24, 2009; 11:56 PM ET
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sounds like both the players and the coach are admitting what many of the fans here already have figured out--> that the effort is lacking which really is unacceptable and not a great omen heading into la playoff season

I really hope they don't think they can simply turn on a switch and play every game of the playoffs with an incredible sense of urgency. Thats not this team's style. They may play game 1 really hard, and if they win game 1 then they'll probably slack off a bit in game 2 and so on. They'll turn it up when they feel they need to and cool the jets when their backs aren't against the wall. Very frustrating from a fan's viewpoint.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 25, 2009 12:13 AM | Report abuse

what happened to the work ethic? doesn't losing to lesser teams hurt enough? what motivation do they need? Sick is sick, but what about some dayQuil? I dunno, what works, and why can't they get some?

Posted by: oo7 | March 25, 2009 12:29 AM | Report abuse

I guess we have to hope we lose the first two games of each playoff series in order to see some good wins. Is that the urgency we strive for?

Posted by: Osfan092589 | March 25, 2009 12:33 AM | Report abuse

You can talk the talk, but now its time to walk the walk and whip it up in shape. playoff time boys.

Posted by: richmondphil | March 25, 2009 12:33 AM | Report abuse

You have to think the players are coasting a bit biding their time to the playoffs. It's unfortunate to see as they could really challenge for #1. No 5-minute coach's tongue lashing will really change that... it has to come from team on-ice leadership. Hopefully they will ramp it up going into the final week or two.

Posted by: rh71 | March 25, 2009 12:34 AM | Report abuse

Whatever Bruce is doing to get this team up for games, it isn't working. For a team with this much talent, that has beaten most of the best teams in the league this season, this pattern of playing down to lesser opponents has proven to be a year-long thing, and I can't see where anything has been done to correct it.

Even more than their deficiencies on defense, there is a serious problem with the CHARACTER of this team. I really doubt that they'll go very far in the playoffs at this point.

Posted by: Hatfield223 | March 25, 2009 1:08 AM | Report abuse

Tarik, any word on why a minor was not assessed for Gerber's contact on the officials? I read elsewhere that there should be a minor handed out (in addition to a game misconduct) for abuse of officials.

Is this just another example of the horrible officiating in this league?

Posted by: Hatfield223 | March 25, 2009 1:22 AM | Report abuse

you guys are being too hard on them. they have had quite bit of turnover in the lineup, a fair number of injuries, inconsistent goaltending, an inferior defense, and horrendous penalty-killing, but are still third in the east? bruce and the boys are doing great. even michael jordan never won 82 games. if they don't ramp it up in the playoffs, i will change my opinion. but as of now, i am willing to cut them a little slack because it is a long season and i know how difficult it is to bring it every night.

Posted by: silence309 | March 25, 2009 1:31 AM | Report abuse


I'm sure the Caps appreciate your sympathy but most of the elite NHL teams are usually able to put away the Torontos and Atlantas of this league on a regular basis. Caps were well rested tonight and really have no excuses.

Posted by: Hatfield223 | March 25, 2009 1:41 AM | Report abuse

why didnt bruce put kozlov in for the shootout

Posted by: _stevo | March 25, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Kudos to CuJo first of all.. he stopped Ovie late in regulation, then stopped Green, Semin and Ovie in the OT on great shots, and then stuffed Ovie in the shootout. He was the reason the Leafs got the 2 points. His team had nothing to do with it... allowing 8 shots in an overtime is horrendous.

Theo can't be faulted on the first goal. He was in position where he should have been, and it changed direction off Erskine's knee... The second goal should have been stopped. Still, allowing only 2 goals on 29 shots... I'll take that most nights.

Posted by: MikeL-Caps91 | March 25, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

From the TV replay it looked like Semin's stick was lifted and that is why he wiffed. At least that is what Joe B and Locker said. It certainly was an uninspired effort.

Posted by: 4capitals | March 25, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

The worse feeling after losing a game is having to come here and read everyone's comments about how the team s*cked or how, if they were the players and/or the coach, what they would have done differently. *sigh* Here's hoping we get a win on Friday or my Capitals team won't hear the end of it.

*hearing the wonk-wonk sound whenever people start talking like the Capitals are their teenaged children and they're nagging them for a bad grade*

Posted by: LeftCoastCapsFan | March 25, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

The motivation is to lose the rest of the games to lesser teams, have Caroline win all or most of their remaining games and pass the Capitals as SE champs and have the Capitals creep in as a 6th seed in the playoffs and play Carolina again. Of course, hopefully they would be awake by then, otherwise it would just be another one and done in the playoffs. Maybe GMGM will shake things up with more seasoned veterans who want to win next year.

Posted by: JohnWWW | March 25, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Am I just a whiney Washington Fan, or has the officiating in the past 2 months been terrible against us? I swear there are multiple times in the last few weeks when we don't get calls (Mike Green getting a roughing call after a Canes D-Man tried to take his head off with his stick and then took a run at Green after the play was over come to mind) and then ticky-tack calls against us to put the other team in position to score on the PP. I know our effort hasn't been there, but does anyone else see this? Do you think the team is letting these calls affect their play, like they stop playing waiting for the call and not getting it?

Posted by: jmurray019 | March 25, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Comments on the problems in yesterday's disappointing game:

1) Puck control: the number of turnovers and inability to keep the puck out of our zone was embarrassing. I saw several instances of good players (Green and Semin for example) just dump the puck, rather than passing it, and inadvertently turning it over.

2) Lack of offensive play: what has happened to our scorers? Even the best of them aren't scoring enough. Where are Ovechkin's hat tricks? Forget about scoring from blue liners. Semin, Green, Kozlov, for example, have all struggled.

3) and, last but not hot goal-tending to steal games when all else fails. Tarik says: "Unfortunately for the Capitals, Curtis Joseph became the star of last night's overtime game." How many times has it happened to us? And how many times have we been the ones with surprise heroics like those of Joseph?

But we should also take note of BB. He knows that the team is somehow out of sync with each other and their confidence is low and DOES NOT become subsumed by panic, as we are. He remains calm & conveys confidence in his team rather than take out his frustration on them when they are down. A real leader! We should use him as a model and NEVER boo a team that exceeded all expectations this year.

Posted by: caraveli | March 25, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

All season Ted has been saying he wants the team to be peaking at the right time. Im not sure that is the case. Also, how does a pro team not have all their players get the flu shot- unacceptable. I agree with previous posters, Kozlov is our money SO guy he should be out there every time. I was shocked to see Backstrom take a chance.

Posted by: daddy_axe | March 25, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

> Now, I sit about 200 feet off the ice and I'm not a lip-reader, but Boudreau did not look happy.

On TSN feed Pierre McGuire, who was between the benches, said that Boudreau was shouting "You have to come back to help defense"

Posted by: CodePoetry | March 25, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

To Hatfield223:

I believe that, oddly enough, under Rule 40.5(iii), deliberate physical contact with an official results only in a game misconduct penalty, along with a suspension.

Now, if you also look at Rule 40.2(ii), the same contact might well also come within the language there, at least in a very literal sense, and conduct that comes within that rule is supposed to result in a minor penalty, i.e. "Any identifiable player or goalkeeper who uses obscene, profane or abusive language or gestures directed at any on or off-ice official." Certainly you could argue that any deliberate physical contact with an official in general, and Gerber's antics in particular, qualifies. However, you could also argue that it doesn't count as "gestures" at all, and there could well be official NHL commentary to this rule that I don't know about that states that physical contact doesn't count as "gestures."

But even if it does count as "gestures," and I do not know whether this is somewhere in the Rulebook or not, but generally speaking I strongly suspect there is a sort of "one foul per incident" rule that basically says that, unless the Rulebook specifically states otherwise, there can be only one penalty per player per incident. So, since the rules require the refs to give a game misconduct for deliberately contacting the refs, assuming I'm right about the "one foul per incident" rule, they wouldn't also be able to give a minor penalty for the same incident.

Posted by: youaresquishy | March 25, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

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