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Morning roundup: A sloppy win in Atlanta


(Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Morning Roundup

Jeff Schultz racked up three points and three others (Alexandre Giroux, Eric Fehr and Chris Clark) also scored their first goals of the season, but Coach Bruce Boudreau wasn't exactly thrilled with a 5-4 victory over the Thrashers at Philips Arena.

"It wasn't a textbook game, I'll tell you," Boudreau said. "I thought both teams were really sloppy. Both teams got some pretty soft goals, and it wasn't a very well played hockey game. I never felt comfortable once that whole game."

* Postgame wrap-up and video are here.

* Game highlights:

* AJC on the other Russians:

The Thrashers got good production early out of the newly formed top line of Kovalchuk, Nik Antropov and Max Afinogenov. They combined for three goals and six points. Two of the goals and five of the points came in the first period. Afinogenov and Kovalchuk scored in the opening period, with Antropov assisting on each. Kovalchuk now has nine goals, tying Washington's Alexander Ovechkin for the NHL lead.
"When everybody speaks the same language ... it's real easy," Kovalchuk said. "We've played together before. It doesn't matter what line you play with, you have to work hard."

* Ted's meets a Caps fan in Chicago.

* In the Room:

When the score was 5-2 the thought "when was the last time a team played this poorly and won by three goals?" might have crossed my mind, but that didn't matter in the end because the final score was a closer reflection of how the night went.

* Loose Pucks:

The Caps have talked a lot over the last two weeks about developing a killer instinct to close out games. Keep trying, boys. Because that third period against Atlanta won't get it done. Despite outshooting the Thrashers 13-10 in the third period, Washington found itself struggling to hold on in the final seconds.

* Japers' Rink:

It'd be convenient to blame the poor performance on the injuries and illnesses keeping some of the regulars out of the lineup, but the reality is to do so would be an excuse, and not an explanation, especially considering that Alexandre Giroux and Keith Aucoin both played well.

* Grand Rapids Press:

Michael Nylander didn't look like a displaced NHL veteran going through the paces at Grand Rapids Griffins practice Thursday morning.
Instead, he was all too happy to help out during power-play drills, and took a moment on the ice to catch up with Detroit Red Wings prospects and fellow Swedes Dick Axelsson and Mattias Ritola.
"I've only been here for a day, but it feels like I've been here for a long time," Nylander said. "That's amazing."

* From Dave Molinari's chat in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Q: Do you think that with Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin of Washington as teammates in the Olympics, there will be less hostility between the two when their teams play during the regular season? -- Brian Gefsky, Los Angeles
MOLINARI: The overt hostility between those two, which has been most apparent on those occasions when Ovechkin would go head-hunting against Malkin, seems to have subsided, and Russian Olympic officials can only hope that nothing happens to make it flare before the Games in Vancouver this winter because those will be the cornerstones of their country's lineup. (And, quite possibly, two-thirds of the line Russians hope will make it possible for them to win a gold medal.)
Even if Malkin and Ovechkin continue to co-exist pretty peacefully, however, it's hard to imagine them actually being close on those occasions when they're not wearing the same sweater. Both are on the short list of the world's finest players, and athletes of that caliber almost invariably are driven by their egos to out-do all competitors.
Factor in the Penguins-Capitals rivalry, which already burns white-hot and doesn't figure to cool down any time in the foreseeable future, and the non-Olympic relationship between Malkin and Ovechkin figures to include a strong undercurrent of tension for years to come. Of course, if that in any way contributes to the rarefied level at which those two perform, hockey fans should hope they don't become pals anytime soon.

By Lindsay Applebaum  |  October 23, 2009; 10:19 AM ET
 
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Next: Semin missing from practice

Comments

Sloppy indeed...looks a lot like last year. Can we get a defenseman, please God?

Posted by: lylewimbledon | October 23, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Jeff Schultz, 3 points, great game. My hatred for you lessens a little... I am sure it will come back though. Hit somebody!

Posted by: caps512 | October 23, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Not many D-man could have handled that world class speed and skill last night that Kovalchuk, Antropov and Afinogenov displayed. They will score a lot of goals on many teams this year. I am still amazed that Atlanta got Afinogenov to sign for $800k when he had offers from Dynamo (KHL) for at least $2+mil. Its good for Max to get out of Buffalo and Lyndy Ruff's doghouse and go somewhere where he fits well especially Atlanta where Kovalchuk runs the show and gets attention of all the Russians. Atlanta has gotten much better, faster and more skilled. I was surprised to see how fast Zach Bogosian was. As a sophomore in the league the kid has adjusted to the league really well.

Still too early to tell but Atlanta will have a good shot at replacing Carolina in SE.

Posted by: lightshow | October 23, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

"I've only been here for a day, but it feels like I've been here for a long time," Nylander said. "That's amazing."

Cue to the song "Hotel California."

Posted by: C-way | October 23, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

What skill was displayed by them last night?
Afinogenov got a crappy goal on a faceoff win on a PP. Kovalchuk's second goal was on a 6 on 3. The only "world class" skill they exemplified was in Kovy's first goal. That line was hot for a night. Afinogenov could not find a contract, that's why he signed for what he did in ATL. I mean..he had at least 3 visible turnovers last night...I can see what the BUF fans were talking about it.
I like ATL, but I didn't see any world class skill except by their 1 world class player...Kovy.

Notes:

-Bogosian's goal was the epitome of why I am so hard on Varlamov.
-But Schultz's goal was even funnier.
-The least sloppier team won last night.

Posted by: richmondphil | October 23, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Richmondphil

your notes are right on the money.

Varly needs a head shrinker-not a russian speaking goaltending coach.

It is never a bad idea to bounce the puck towards the net(Sarge was trying to hit a stretch play but it worked out)

Last night was ugly hockey(I hope the caps excuse was 4 days without playing a game)

Posted by: cadlecreek1 | October 23, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Nylander is correct. He is NOT a 3rd or 4th line center. Forget the ego part of it, his style isn't conducive to that role.
And I don't think Bruce really wants to put him in that role either. You need a straight-ahead strong responsible hustling player to be a 3rd or 4th line center. Not to mention, the type of wingers he'd be playing with on the 3rd/4th lines play more of a dump and chase game. They're not going to complement Nylander's playmaking style or pick up some slick passes cleanly.

Posted by: cstanton1 | October 22, 2009 3:18 PM

Obviously. But are you supposed to treat every single regular season game like its a battle to the death? Putting a playmaker on the 3rd line isn't that big of a deal for one or two regular season games. Really, it isn't.

In fact, I bet Nylander was on the 3rd line for at least half of the games he played last year.

Posted by: richmondphil | October 23, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

"He is NOT a 3rd or 4th line center."

It is time to leave the stereotyping behind. You put the best all around people on the game, any time you start substituting players for a specific task you are giving-up on other areas of the game. You can match lines in many different ways.

Posted by: hock1 | October 23, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

@cstanon1/richmondphil, I actually think Nylander could play third line in the NHL, where third line might be a third best offensive line, as it is on some teams.

The team's ability to run rough in the third is not a good sign, but that said, we aren't going to win games by making the other team score less, its going to be by scoring more than the other team. The Caps ain't the Devils of the 90s.

Posted by: oldtimehockey | October 23, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Obviously. But are you supposed to treat every single regular season game like its a battle to the death? Putting a playmaker on the 3rd line isn't that big of a deal for one or two regular season games. Really, it isn't.

In fact, I bet Nylander was on the 3rd line for at least half of the games he played last year.

Posted by: richmondphil | October 23, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

For a game or two its not going to make or break a season. Nothing is going to make or break the season if it only lasts a game or two. Any commments made are directed at a longer stretch of games.

Posted by: cstanton1 | October 23, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

@cstanon1/richmondphil, I actually think Nylander could play third line in the NHL, where third line might be a third best offensive line, as it is on some teams.

The team's ability to run rough in the third is not a good sign, but that said, we aren't going to win games by making the other team score less, its going to be by scoring more than the other team. The Caps ain't the Devils of the 90s.

Posted by: oldtimehockey | October 23, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

On paper, Nyles has a lot more skill than Steckel, right? But in a game situation, Steckel is a better fit for wingers like Bradley, Laing, and other grinders. Its because their styles are more suited to playing with each other. Now maybe if you play Flash on a 3rd line then Nylander could be a decent fit at center. Maybe with a Laich or Clark on the RW. Its really not about the line NUMBER as much as it is the types of players on that line.

Posted by: cstanton1 | October 23, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

I think we missed the physicality in front of our own net from Erskine. Shultz actually has some pretty good skill in the transistion game. So important for our D to be able to get the puck up through the N zone and hit our skill players with good passes and shultz does that well. Where's Garth Butcher (best name ever?) when we need him?

Posted by: SkinsFanInNYC | October 23, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Except that last night, Steckel was a 4th line center. I ask you - if you substitute Nylander for Aucoin, how is last night's third line / game all that different?

Just a thought.

I still think the fussing about Nylander is overblown and is begging to be given a rest.

The team's ability to run rough in the third is not a good sign, but that said, we aren't going to win games by making the other team score less, its going to be by scoring more than the other team. The Caps ain't the Devils of the 90s.

This.

@caps512: How does hitting someone necessarily make a defenseman more effective? Too many times, a big hit will take both hitter and hittee out of the play while the puck squirts somewhere else, and if the other team happens to grab it, suddenly you're caught behind the play.

Jeff Schultz does not have the skating speed to be able to get back up-ice if that happens (the only Dmen who do are Mike Green and Tyler Sloan), so his best bet is to be positionally sound and always be where he's going to be the biggest pain in the rear for the opposing forwards. So far this season, with a few exceptions, he's done that very well, and few Dmen on the team do it better. His size and the long stick he uses gives him an absolutely obnoxious reach, and he uses that very effectively.

I loved Joe B's "Larry Murphy" crack about Schultz after the Bradley goal. Pure gold.

Posted by: kittypawz | October 23, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

as some football coach who is currently unemployed once said, "YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME, HELLO???????"

I'm not overly concerned with the soft goals Varly is prone to giving up. Grant Fuhr was known for giving up questionable goals as well as making spetacular saves. You never wanna see your goalie give up softies but he still manages to win. The last thing you wanna do to a young goalie is keep harping on it and hurt his confidence.

Posted by: joek443 | October 23, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

cstanton: I agree with your above post. Only thing very few teams ever have three lines devoted primarily to scoring where the third line can use a guy very weak defensively, as Nylander is.

Due to talent being spread throughout the league, even your good teams have two scoring lines at most. A balanced team (we aren't) also has an effective checking line that has someone like Kelly Miller, Ulf Dahlen or at least a Konowalchuk to counter the other team's #1 line. That it what I usually think of as the prototypical "3rd Line." The standard 4th Line is then a collection of grinders and enforcers.

The Caps can put together two scoring lines to match anyone. My opinion: We don't need another scoring line. Ideally, we'd replace some of the 3rd and 4th liners with players more suited to the role. Do we have a 3rd line center? No. A third line Selke candidate winger? No. An enforcer? No. We have guys are who are jack-of-all-trades, master of none (Bradley) and other guys (Clark) who used to be effective as 3rd line but are too slow now in the new game. Laich I think is very adequate on 3rd line as his defense is up to par, but he's not Selke worthy.

The team needs to solve the Nylander situation and then make a few trades to get better balance on the roster.

Posted by: tominfl1 | October 23, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

I also agree w/kittypawz. No one has ever read a post by me bashing Schultz. At $715K, he is a better bang-for-the-buck value than Erskine ($1.25M), Jurcina ($1.375M), ShaMo ($1.975M), Pothier ($2.5M) and Poti ($3.5M).

Posted by: tominfl1 | October 23, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

. Ideally, we'd replace some of the 3rd and 4th liners with players more suited to the role.

Posted by: tominfl1 | October 23, 2009 12:53 PM


I agree the third line could use some work. I think the fourth line with Steckel, Bradley, plus a grit player is pretty solid though. Looking at next year, I see a big opening on the third line for some of our young prospects, maybe with Laich anchoring the line...

So we have
Ov-Backs-Knuble
Semin-Laich-Flash
???
Clark/Laing-Steckel-Bradley

Posted by: butcherbaker | October 23, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

How much would you pay Michael Nylander? If was making 1.5 mil like he should, he might be in the lineup...

But he's not...he's making 4.5...so the Caps want him gone, so they can get someone else as a rental for the cup run.

So stop worrying about Nylanders play...it's his salary..thats why he sits...and thats why he must go.

Posted by: SA-Town | October 23, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I loved the look on Aucoin's face after hitting and bouncing off that big Thrasher.

We need more on-ice microphones to record these incidents.

Posted by: Bartolo1 | October 23, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

kittpawz-> if your man is on his wallet, it is very hard to score. No player should be out of position rushing back because you cleaned out your man. It is a team sport of 5 skaters doing their OWN job at all times. I played D in club-hockey and D1 LAX. We were always taught 'If you can put your man on his back then put them on their back. It is hard to score from down there!!'

The problem with big hitters are when they miss and leave their d-partner in an odd-man situation.

I think the point on SARGE is he is a big man and should use his size to dominate position, time and space with the oppossing forward. I don't think most posters are looking for highlight film hits, but solid positioning and holding his position in high percentage scoring areas.

BTW-> I thought he is playing some of his best hockey this year. The cross-checking penalty was great, it makes people think twice about taking free pokes on your goalie. I can't believe I am defending SARGE- is it opposite day?

Posted by: cadlecreek1 | October 23, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Aucoin (after getting up from bouncing off the big Thrasher): "Take that, tough guy."

Posted by: tominfl1 | October 23, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Aucoin, after falling on his butt, reminded me of Hines Ward of the Steelers after making a catch and getting slammed to the ground. Bounced right back up with a big smile on his face, thinking, I get paid to do this for a living??? Those seem to be the guys that play for the love of their sport, the money is just icing on the cake.

Aucoin was laughing when he got back up, as was I...

Posted by: hbcapsfan | October 23, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Some quick notes of my own:

For all the talk about how bad the Caps PK has been they are currently 8th in the league with 83%.

Their PP however is 19th with 18.2%.

Also people talk about how many goals we give up but we are tied for 14th in GA per game with 3 while we are in 4th at 3.67 in GF per game.

In my view the Caps problem isn't scoring goals or preventing them. The Caps show they can score in most games and showed they can prevent against SJ and Boston. Their problem is playing to stop goals when they are ahead. They have jumped on some teams and then let them back in the game by trying to just prevent goals instead of just continuing to play their game. Look at what happened in the Flames/Blackhawks game last week. 5 goal lead in just over 5 minutes then the Flames stop attacking as much and the Hawks slowly chip away at the lead until they win in OT. In today's NHL there is no such thing as a safe lead. The Caps have to learn that if they are winning early they need to continue what got them that lead instead of laying back and trying to protect it.

The Caps have scored first in 8 of their 9 games and have had the lead in every game yet they have lost 4 including OTL/SOL. Three of those four losses came while having a lead at some point in the third period. When you have the lead that often and that late you have to win more than 55.5% of your games.

Posted by: icehammer97 | October 23, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

re: 3rd line. Clarke's late game back check last night (against Afinigenov I think) arguably saved a goal. probably the best he has looked in since before his injury.

Posted by: pch49 | October 23, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

@cstanon, your proposed Nylander line and Steckel line is what I had in mind when I said "Nylander on the third line". The line "number" is, in theory, about playing time, but more recently its become shorthand for specific talents. In the 70s-80s, the "4th line" might be three guys reecently paroled. Now, there aren't that many pure fighters, so a "goon line" is pretty much ancient history. In the future, maybe we won't refer to lines by number but by some other convention. (Obviously a center's name works too, but as lines tend to get mixed up a bunch, even that's kind of useless.)

In terms of playing time, our "4th" line gets as much or maybe more as the 3rd line, because our 4th line has tended to be the defensive line and the third line kind of low rent offensive line, but, that's just it, the third line doesn't have a great identity right now. If we want it to be offensive, then a playmaker makes sense. Last year, by contrast, much of our 4th line would be lucky to see the ice in the third.

Posted by: oldtimehockey | October 23, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

cstanton: I agree with your above post. Only thing very few teams ever have three lines devoted primarily to scoring where the third line can use a guy very weak defensively, as Nylander is.

My opinion: We don't need another scoring line. Ideally, we'd replace some of the 3rd and 4th liners with players more suited to the role. Do we have a 3rd line center? No. A third line Selke candidate winger? No. An enforcer? No. We have guys are who are jack-of-all-trades, master of none (Bradley) and other guys (Clark) who used to be effective as 3rd line but are too slow now in the new game. Laich I think is very adequate on 3rd line as his defense is up to par, but he's not Selke worthy.

The team needs to solve the Nylander situation and then make a few trades to get better balance on the roster.

Posted by: tominfl1 | October 23, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

I agree. I don't think we need to create a scoring line per se on the 3rd line. The 3rd and 4th lines will get their goals like most 3rd and 4th lines in this league. We'll weaken the overall team if we attempt to make that 3rd line primiary a scoring line. It should be a checking/defensive line that can play against some of the better lines in this league, it should be an energy line as well, and thru that energy and forecheck we'll get momentum and chip in a few goals. If we turn into a Nylander-Flash type of line you compromise other more important aspects of this team.

Posted by: cstanton1 | October 23, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

@cstanon, your proposed Nylander line and Steckel line is what I had in mind when I said "Nylander on the third line". The line "number" is, in theory, about playing time, but more recently its become shorthand for specific talents. In the 70s-80s, the "4th line" might be three guys reecently paroled. Now, there aren't that many pure fighters, so a "goon line" is pretty much ancient history. In the future, maybe we won't refer to lines by number but by some other convention. (Obviously a center's name works too, but as lines tend to get mixed up a bunch, even that's kind of useless.)

------------------------------

not sure I agree here, there are a lot of 4th lines in this league currently who have tough guys/scrappers/grinders on it. Its not that far removed from how hockey used to be. Anaheim has Mike Brown and Parros, MN would play Boogaard and Weller (before the recent trade), Rangers had Hollweg/Orr, Leafs currently have a pretty antagonistic 3rd and 4th lines, Calgary has Prust and McGrattan, SJ uses Staubitz and Shelley (unless they're playing us), Chicago used Eager/Burish, Edm used JF Jacques and Stortini.. you get my drift. IMO, pure goon lines rarely existed. You usually had one tough checking center, one enforcer type, and another rangy burly winger. Some teams would carry 2 enforcer types on their wings but most teams only had 1. Fast fwd to today, and that same model exists on many teams. When Pittsburgh plays Philly, they dress Godard to join Rupp and Craig Adams. They'll match up with Philly's 4th line which sometimes has Laperriere centering Cote and Carcillo or Powe.

I'm not advocating a pure goon 4th line although it would be fun to see that against teams like Philly and the Pens. But I'd like to see the Steckel line be our 3rd line, and have Beagle centering our 4th line with some checking wingers and maybe have one of those wingers be able to handle himself with his gloves off. There are many guys in this league who can fight who aren't pure goons. They don't have be a high end player like Lucic either, those types aren't easy to come by. More like a Shawn Thornton/Mike Rupp type.

Posted by: cstanton1 | October 23, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

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