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Caps' third line finding a rhythm

By Katie Carrera
Morning Roundup

In the past three games that Jason Chimera, Boyd Gordon and Eric Fehr have played together on the Capitals' third line, there has been little mistaking their chemistry with each other or the dividends that result from their blue-collar approach.

There were stretches against the Maple Leafs, Bruins and Flyers this week where the Chimera-Gordon-Fehr line was the one to create sustained offensive pressure with a strong forecheck -- in some instances, against the opposing team's top line -- and get momentum going the Capitals' way.

"I think we're a pretty hard-working line," Fehr said this weekend. "We all like to get in on the puck and forecheck, and when you've got three guys all on the same page, it makes a big difference overall."

Contributions from the third line, along with those from the top two groups, have been a staple of Coach Bruce Boudreau's teams. He doesn't want to rely on only six forwards to create offense, and this past week the third line did make its way onto the scoresheet.

They've helped add goals in all three games, with Chimera cashing in on a setup from Gordon against the Leafs, aiding in the setup of John Carlson's game winner against the Bruins and Fehr tying the game up at 1-1 against the Flyers, but there were quite a few more chances in each contest for the group.

Through these three games together, they've added five points, 20 shots and finished with a combined plus-6 rating. Not too shabby. In the faceoff circle, Gordon won 26 of 45 draws during that stretch (57.7 percent) with his best night winning 10 of 15 against the Bruins. And his strong play, in particular, has helped make it difficult for Boudreau to find a reason to tinker with the lineup or put the now-healthy Marcus Johansson back in the mix.

"Positions aren't out there just to be given, and [Gordon's] played really well," Boudreau said prior to the start of Sunday's game against the Flyers. "Marcus will have to come back and play really well to get in there. We have four good centers and five when he gets here."

FROM THE POST
The hard-copy edition recap from the Capitals' 3-2 overtime win against the Flyers.

More on Braden Holtby's first career NHL start from colleague Gene Wang.

For Insider2, Neil Greenberg discussed the statistical reasons to keep Alexander Semin on the top line. But Boudreau broke up the young guns' line again on Sunday and in his postgame comments following the win over the Flyers said the group looked "a little off".

AROUND THE WEB
More breakdown of Holtby's game against the Flyers over at The Goalie Guild.

In addition to a recap of Hershey's 4-2 loss to Charlotte, Tim Leone has an update on Marcus Johansson's first appearance with the Bears. (The Patriot News)

By Katie Carrera  | November 8, 2010; 8:52 AM ET
Categories:  Boyd Gordon, Eric Fehr, Jason Chimera, Morning Roundup  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Caps win fourth straight, beat Flyers 3-2 in overtime
Next: Semyon Varlamov taking shots in practice

Comments

I thought that line played well, and Boyd Gordon in particular had a good game. Good on face off's and solid defensive work. When we acquired Chimera, I thought he was going to fight a bit more, but he never seems to want to fight.

I thought Holtby looked bad on the first goal, but otherwise, played a steady game.

First.

Posted by: Jaymagz | November 8, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

boomer44: The only thing that will shut them up is a Stanley Cup win.

For example, against the Bruins all the naysayers could harp on was them losing the 3 goal lead. Neuvy giving up 3 goals on 3 shots, and playing pass instead of focusing on Thorton wasn't really mentioned. The Caps then tightened things up and took the game. When the Caps have a 3rd period like Boston did they are knocked for waiting until the 3rd to play hockey and it is pointed out that they didn't deserve to win. When a team like the Bruins do it, it is because their team, and the Julien is better. I watched the Boston broadcast on Saturday, when they played the Blues, and those guys had nothing but praise for the Capitals. They also stated that BB connects with his players and that it is obvious the players are buying in to what he is teaching. The cynics, say the complete opposite.

Yesterday's game. Well, after the 2nd, win or lose, I was very happy with the game. Two of the best teams in the NHL played a very tactical game. Yes the Flyers were playing their 3rd game in 4 days, but the Caps played their 3rd in 5 days. Philly is just up the road so it isn't like they had some taxing road trip. Anyhow, the Caps did benefit from late penalities. The cynics will say we were lucky, but when the Caps take late penalties the cynics say it is because the opponent was working hard and drew the penalties due to lack of effort by the Caps. Hmm, why can't they say the same when the Caps are on the right end?

Like I said though, it doesn't matter what the Caps do this season. They will be judged by the cynics solely on their playoff performance which I believe will be srutinized even if they lose in the 7th game of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Posted by: fanohock1 | November 8, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

I've always disliked Chimy, Fehr, and Semin because of their lack of playoff effort. If Semin keeps crashing the net like this we may be a factor. I hope this is not just a contract year change in his game. If he had played 7 games against the Habs the way he has played the past 7 games, we could have gone deep.

Fehr and Chimera looked great against Philly. They were playing play off hockey.
Both of these guys are so talented, that their lack of effort drives me nuts. Fehr is a beast when he wants to be. Where was that against the Habs? Is BB the main problem here ?

I'm thinking a seasoned NHL coach gets a way better playoff effort out of all 3 of these guys. Maybe they know trades are coming if effort levels don't change.

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | November 8, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

@tominsocal1

I said that when you use the sort of reasoning and argument you used in those posts that you "sound like" a blowhard.

I wasn't calling you a blowhard, I was just calling the argument you use as coming across very blowhardish.

Posted by: sgm3 | November 8, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Fehr's sit out seemed to wake him up and appears to have been just the right motivator. The overall committment to team D has been refreshing, albeit with occasional lapses.

Posted by: _Mark | November 8, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

really, Bruce? you have 5 centers with johansson? Flash is not a good center option. not even a decent one.

Posted by: oo7 | November 8, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

It wouldn't surprise me if Semin is playing much better because he is in a contract year.

That isn't a knock on Semin at all. It is natural for players in any sport to give a better effort in their contract years. There is just more to play for(winning AND money instead of just winning).

I think Semin may be the type of player you need to keep on shorter contracts.

With the exception of a player like Ovie, I think it is better to keep most players on relatively short contracts. The desire to work for a larger future contract is huge and often results in better play from a player.

Posted by: sgm3 | November 8, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Chimera didn't let up in the playoffs. that's just silly.

Posted by: vafan3 | November 8, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Either did Fehr. Fehr actually had a very good playoff series against the Habs. He was one of the few Caps who could say that(BGordon and maybe Ovie as the others).

Posted by: sgm3 | November 8, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Semin was a shooting fool against the Habs, but many of his shots were low quality. In my mind, a good deal of the low percentage shots had to do with the fact that the Caps did not have a legit 2nd line center to dish the puck well to Semin. The Caps still are short a legit 2nd line center right now. Gordo and Laich are good to servicable 3rd line centers. MaJo and MP may some day be good 2nd line centers, but not yet. Flash is simply not a center in my mind. So get a good 2nd line center or one develops, and Semin gets better.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | November 8, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

MaJo was starting to look good before his injury...why not put him on the 2nd line...think how much more defensively sound that line would be. The only thing is that with Laich and Knuble playing there for now, we really don't have a sharp shooter. If MaJo comes back they should Switch Semin and Knuble back...if we need more scoring BB can always change it up mid game.

Posted by: capscoach | November 8, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

@JayMagz

Totally agree on Holtby looking bad on the first goal. It was a 2-1, D man was taking the pass lane and Holtby totally played pass the whole way as well. The Flyer guy just wristed it into the side of the net for an easy goal. I had a good view/angle on this goal and my buddy and I were like..."oooh, rook mistake there Holtby". However he had some amazing saves to make up for that, later on.

My boy, Semin, is having a great year so far. Yes it is partly due to it being a contract year. BUT, lest we forget, that is part of the reason he got this 1 year deal...GMGM wanted to see what Semin could bring. He has said all summer when asked about resigning Semin long term or trading him etc...GMGM basically said, "we gave him a year contract to see what he can do, and his play will determine what we do with him". ALSO, Semin has slowly gotten better each year, he is young and has been tweaking his game each year to get better and better, as well as more consistent.

Btw, I never get tired of watching Semin in the corners, making 2 NHL players look like rookies as he cuts through them and feeds a perfect pass to someone (or gets a shot off). INSANE skills I tell you.

Someone else mentioned Alzner earlier. True we havent heard his name said a lot, which is typically good for D men...and I think he has been playing decent, but last night there was a play 1v1 and him and the Flyer went hard into each other and it seemed as if Alzner just gave in and went down (not quite as bad as Ric Flair, but def didnt try to hold his own). Flyers almost scored on that play too. Other than that, I think he has played well.

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | November 8, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Hunterforcoach has no clue what she is talking about... Backstrom still sand-bagging Bruce?

Posted by: _828 | November 8, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

@JIMALLCAPS

maybe...but Semin has been getting plenty of chances this season without a legit 2nd line C...and I know playoff hockey is different.

I still want to see MaJo given the job for a solid month or two...if he doesn't show signs of developing we can go get the center we need...but people are right in that Flash is not a center. I think that is why people are so hard on him...he is being forced to play a position he is not suited for...on a different team at wing he definitely worth his salary.

Posted by: capscoach | November 8, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

@ _828

while I agree that the whole sandbagging BB thing is a bit (ok a lot) crazy, Hunter does know a bit of hockey...I rarely agree with him, but most of his arguments are sound.

Posted by: capscoach | November 8, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

sgm: Agree with you re: Fehr. Think he had 3 goals vs Habs. As for BB, until he wins in the Playoffs - it will be a knock against hime.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | November 8, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

@oo7:
BB's Center comment caught me off guard too. Wow, does he really believe this stuff?

As a longtime fan, I love to see the Caps win any and every game, however for those of you who are chiming in how great things are because the Caps have pulled out these games in OT and a shootout: will this offense be able to sustain this come playoff time? Last year's answer was no. Sorry, I'm just not convinced that the right moves were made after the Montreal debacle.

Posted by: kcbrichmond | November 8, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

So, her comment about watching the new era of Caps hockey is depressing compared to when Abe was in management makes sense too?
What did Abe do? What did he win? Nada damn thing. This new age of Caps hockey does not sit well with Caps fans that loved that old school muscle, grinding, and dirty play. The new Caps are high flying, exciting, and YOUNG. You can't hang on the past forever... time to move on and enjoy the ride.

Posted by: _828 | November 8, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Holtby finally got his shot and looked really good other than that first one that I thnk he should have had. He will only get better with more NHL time, it is starting to look as if Varly may be expendable. And FTR, I said quite some time ago that Holtby would be the best of the three and I still stand by that statement.

Posted by: PhilR | November 8, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

@kcbrichmond, no there were not a bunch of moves in the offseason. But the Caps are playing a different brand of hockey from last year. No big surprise that we're 2nd in goals for, but we're also 8th in goals against and 7th on the PK. We totally shut down a highly talented Bruins team for most of the game (I know, I know, not the whole game), and played a tight, smart game to foil an even hotter Flyers team.

I know y'all want to hang the coach, but I'd wager from a personnel and raw talent standpoint we don't have the one of the top defensive corps in the league. So, I think you've got to credit the coaching staff for getting out of this maligned group what they've gotten.

Posted by: Justafan | November 8, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

@PhilR

I agree that Holtby should have had the first and looked good after that. I know Holtby is good, but I haven't seen enough of him to think he's the best of the TWO. I've been saying trade Varly for the last two years, it seems some people are finally catching up. Only problem is his groin injury and whether that will scare teams off.

Posted by: ThePat | November 8, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I have to disagree about Holtby a bit. I liked his aggressive play, but he overplays the initial shot sometimes. Did you see how far out of the crease he was a few times, even behind the net one time I remember on his knees giving up a rebound. Last night, it worked, but when teams get to know this kid, watch out! I bet Urbe is coaching him to be a bit more patient and use the HUGE angle cut down sparingly. I am NOT saying that a goalie jumping out at times is always bad, but if it becomes a trend, veterans will try to get Holtby to bit on a good fake and then have a wide open shot.

Overall, 3 different styles of goal-tending is good for a team looking to go deep into the playoffs

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | November 8, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

@ThePat,

Don't see us getting much more than a bag of pucks for Varly with his injury history at this point. And just a feeling on Holtby, we live pretty much equal distance from Hershey and DC so we catch our fair share of home Bears games which has given me more of an opportunity to see him play. (The fact that Bears tickets are so much cheaper for a family of four certainly doesn't hurt matters either!)

Posted by: PhilR | November 8, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Also for those wanting Fehr to get 2nd line minutes, my guess is it will come tomorrow night. I doubt Laich plays tomorrow night. However I'd be hesitant to move him up, I like the way that Chimmer-Gordon-Fehr line is playing. Maybe get MaJo back for tomorrow night and push Flash out to the wing.

Posted by: ThePat | November 8, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Respecting MaJo, I hope he does develop into a true 2nd line center this year. I think getting him time in Hershey will help, then a couple months as the 2nd line as a try-out will give the Caps time to see if they need a rent-a-center or no for the playoffs.

My bigger concern is the lack of a bona fide shut down, mean veteran blueliner to line up with Green. Schultz-Poti for 2nd pair (with Erksine jumping in as needed/appropriate), and Alzner-Carlson as the third pair works for me (again Erksine jumping in as needed/appropriate).

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | November 8, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

JIMALLCAPS1,

I think his aggressiveness is what I love about the guy, reminds me of a throwback goalie. He may need to tone it down a level or two on the NHL level but he will only get better with more NHL experience.

Posted by: PhilR | November 8, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Agreed Phil -- knowing when to jump out, drop to the b-fly, flash the glove, stack the pads, all those different tools makes a goalie better. I loved watching Roy and Marty B as they could use so many different tools. Then there was Jim Carey who dropped to the butterfly every time and got torched his 2nd/3rd year as too predictable and impatient. It was sad to see that kid go from Vezina to unemployed in 3 years.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | November 8, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

@sgm3, @saoti (or is it satori now?)

yes, agreed - of course - Semin potentially great player but I wouldn't go long term with him, either. I think 3 years at 6 per would be a more than fair offer - much as I like what he does for the team he's just not the overall player that Backs and Ovie are.

Still, he's doing the work in the corners, he's backchecking, he's going to the net, and he's doing it all with some zest and relish. I think he's hoping for a Kovy contract from someone - I don't think it'll happen Syoma.

Posted by: RedLitYogi | November 8, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Then, again, Semin's only 2 goals off the league lead. If he wins the Richard trophy, anything is possible. I wonder who would snag him? (Tampa Bay? Shudder. Winnipeg?)

Posted by: RedLitYogi | November 8, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Who knows what Sasha is thinking about his long term plans? The guy is a walking question mark. That being said, he gets better every year. I want the Caps to keep him, and my geuss is that he wants to play with OV, his best bud in the hockey world. I would like to see the Caps offer him a legit contract of 4-5 years with a hometown discount, nothing that is a slight, but a discount to stay with a long-term contender that has his buddy on it for a long, long time.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | November 8, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

@RedLitYogi

Tampa needs to re-sign Stamkos. That will take a lot of money so they are unlikely to go after anyone next year.

Even though it was only one game, I think Holtby showed he has a lot of talent. However, you could tell his rebound control is not that great yet. He is a very young goalie without much experience. Rebound control is something that goalie's seem to learn with more playing time.

I think Holtby has a very bright future, but I don't think I'd want him up as a full time top 2 goalier THIS year.

Varly is still a good goalie, and his injury history has probably lowered his future contract significantly. Signing Varly to a contract around $1M would be a good move by GMGM.(which would leave the Caps goalie combo at about $2M/yr in total. Very helpful in the salary cap era)

All the goalies are still young, so it is good to keep as many as you can, especially when they come cheap. Competition is always a good thing too.

Posted by: sgm3 | November 8, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

I think a HUGE part of the Sasha equation is that he will play where he is comfortable. I doubt he plays on a team without a strong Russian presence, and a fellow Russian he likes. I imagine the Caps will be competing more with a KHL team as opposed to an NHL team. Remember when Semin refused to show up for a couple years when the Caps first drafted him, then the Caps get OV and no more problems?

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | November 8, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

The Flyers seemed to try and get Holtby to one side and then shoot far post on him. There were a couple close calls. I would say he needs more NHL playing time, as opposed to AHL playing time. I feel once you reach a certain level, AHL is only good for conditioning.

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | November 8, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

SAOTI,

I absolutely agree with you but it seems his stay at the NHL level will be short stayed per the new post. Looks as if Varly is close to being back unless they decide to send him down to Hershey for a conditioning stint prior to coming back in the lineup.

Posted by: PhilR | November 8, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Right now Semin is the best forward on the Caps. I hope he keeps it up for the playoffs! If he continues to play this type of hockey he will score at least 45-50 goals. With those numbers & 27 years old, he is looking at 7-10 years at $6.5. Will GMGM give him this type of contract? I hope so, I own a Semin jersey! I was planning to drop $100+ on a 52 jersey this year so, it's not a total loss if he leaves (and of course this IS the year the Caps win the 1st of many cups!).

Posted by: chriscaps | November 8, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

The Caps played well against the Bruins and Flyers. They can not prove they've learned to play playoff hockey until April, so I'll just enjoy the show.

I don't think Semin's play can be attributed to the contract year. The guy has never had a long term contract, so every year has been like a contract year. IMO, I think he is just maturing. Fans are just noticing, but he has been one of the teams better defensive forwards for a few years. Sure, he doesn't play hard every regular season game, but no one does. I think his lazy efforts are more noticeable because he is such a dynamic player.

I would like Semin to stay here, but I think fans are fooling themselves when they say it's here or the KHL for him. Semin is a big boy. I'm sure he can function in North America away from Ovi.


Posted by: ablake70 | November 8, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

@chriscaps - as a fan of Semin, I'd be inclined to agree. But purely objectively, I think Ovie really is the foremost talent on the team. He's explosive on the skates, reads plays, has great hands, is a physical presence and is a more consistent goal scorer than Semin. Semin does have a skill and "field dynamics" superiority (over most people in the league) but Ovie's sheet athleticism puts him way past any other Capital.

I'm with those hoping he'd take the home-team and play-with-Ovie discount. Zetterburg and Datsyuk both play for quite a bit less than their market worth. I do think the Caps stand a good chance of getting Syoma for a few more years but even I wouldn't want them to go beyond four. They have to re-up, also, on Green, on at least one of their goaltenders, on Carlson, and in a few years one or more of Kuznetsov, Galiev, Eakin, and Johannson will be worth decent numbers. Plus there is every reason to believe they will pursue a 2C and/or a defenseman (sorry, can't get both, boys).

Posted by: RedLitYogi | November 8, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

@BigGameSid (excuse the repost, all, just thought bgs might be able to help us get a good 3C for the team)

Maybe you can help us out with your Pittsburgh connections? Caps still looking for a 2nd or 3rd line center. What would it take to get Sid over here? He, Boyd, and Majo could duke it out for the 2C slot - nothing handed out on a platter by any means - but I think he'd stand a fairly good chance of helping out on that second or third line...

Posted by: RedLitYogi | November 8, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

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