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Michal Neuvirth continues improvement in Capitals' win over Islanders

It wasn't pretty, but the Capitals still managed to earn their third straight win at Verizon Center in this young season with a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.

One of the key reasons the game remained within reach for as long as it did, particularly through the first 10 minutes of the third period, was the play of rookie netminder Michal Neuvirth. In each contest he's shown more confidence and steadily improved and it hasn't gone unnoticed.

Neuvirth, who has stopped 110 of the 119 shots he's faced this season for a .924 save percentage, earned the hard hat from his teammates this evening. Where things get interesting is despite Neuvirth's stellar start, Semyon Varlamov (groin) will definitely get his time in goal once he's taken off injured reserve.

"[Varlamov's] ready but Neuvy's making a great case for himself," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He's gotten better in every game and this was his best game. We know Varly's a very good goalie too, it's not ever going to be a controversy I don't think. We're just lucky and blessed to have two very good goalies."

Here are some other notes and quotes from tonight's win over the Islanders:

--Boudreau's decision to give Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom some time away from each other paid off. Here's some more insight into why he chose to put the pair on separate lines at the start of the game:

"When you're in a slump you want the other one to do great," Boudreau said. "So Ovie's looking for Nicky so much, all the time, and then Nicky's looking for Ovie instead of doing the right thing. You get them away from each other so they can continue to play their own game then once they feel the confidence you put them back.

"Once Nicky got the assist I just knew he was going to get more, because he never stops at just one once he gets a little bit of a roll going."

--Rookie defenseman John Carlson tallied an assist against New York but didn't have a strong overall game, which included three giveaways.

"Points isn't everything," Boudreau said. "He struggled. He's going to have games like that as a rookie but he wasn't very good."

--Boudreau said Mike Green is day-to-day with a "stinger" after leaving the game with just under six minutes to go following a hit.

--With his fourth straight start, Neuvirth tied Olie Kolzig, who was the last Capitals goaltender to have played the entire game in each of his first four starts in 2005-06.

--Somehow the Capitals sellout streak continued for the 63rd straight game. Granted, this counts for tickets sold, not seats full. There were a lot of purple seats visible.

By Katie Carrera  | October 13, 2010; 11:28 PM ET
Categories:  Michal Neuvirth, New York Islanders  
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Next: Capitals' penalty kill remains perfect

Comments

Capitals Win + Penguins Loss = a nearly perfect evening

Posted by: Rhino40 | October 13, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse

The first 10 min of that 3rd period, including the actual PP, was the most I can remember the Caps gettig hemmed in and dominated in the last 2 or 3 seasons. It was incredible. We barely even skated in the offensive zone.

And that was after coming out flat and uninspired in the 1st and being lucky to only be down 1-0.

I'm not going to flame Boudreau about singling out Carlson because the reporter specifically asked a question about Carlson.

What surprises me is how happy he seemed during the part of the interview I saw.

The Caps played terrible, overall, and got SEVERELY outworked and outexecuted by an undermanned, undertalented hockey team.

There were a few players who had fantastic games and that helped our cause in addition to who we were playing as mentioned above.

Ovechkin, Green and obviously, Neuvirth, were awesome all game to help compensate for the flat play of a lot of others.

Steckel, Fehr and Schultz had solid games and I'm sure I'm missing a couple others but, overall, what a stinker and lucky win.

Everything we did right against Ottawa was largely absent tonight.

4 games in and 2 stinkers despite the record.

Let's hope we'll see a lot more 60 min efforts and the execution that we saw against Ottawa, which I thought was an even better performance than against NJ. Ottawa played better than NJ and we did so many things well in that game.

Posted by: tmac2yao | October 14, 2010 12:04 AM | Report abuse

backs was good once he got back with Ovie. the flash and Ovie thing didn't work....Neuvy is our starter, but knowing bruce; he will give varly plenty of time. I know bruce doesn't like it, but DJK added some much needed toughness to our lineup tonight...good win

Posted by: _stevo | October 14, 2010 12:05 AM | Report abuse

Katie,

Don't be mislead by some empty seats. During a weekday October/November game this is what you will see. My section is mostly season ticket holders and today many regulars were not there. Traffic is absolute nightmare during weekday and many times we get there with 5-10 min already played in the first.

Posted by: lightshow | October 14, 2010 12:24 AM | Report abuse

Still think you're overstating it, tmac, but in a sense, I'm glad we have these expectations of the team.

There are plenty of nights over the last three years - and one already this season - where you wouldn't be able to list 6+ players who had good nights on a team that played "terrible."

I'll take 2-1. There are many ways to measure improvement.

Don't let cstant infect you too much. Dude's pretty dour . . . all. the Freakin'. Time.

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | October 14, 2010 12:29 AM | Report abuse

I'm afraid to say it and may possibly be jumping the gun but this is not the dominant team we saw overrun the league last year. It could be that we have.dedicated ourselves to.defense a la NJ in the early 2000s and Montreal did last year but I think it probably has more to do with the fact that despite an entire offseason to upgrade we still have yet to find a true center to play the second line and instead of keeping a Canadian who knows how to skate in MP and who has paid his dues, we are putting a just turned 20 year-old out of his league who is not ready to play every day at this level despite many to portray his first stint as somewhat of a success. Think MP would have just two shots, no points and. -2+/- and be hurt now?

Our defensive holes look a lot smaller with Karlzner, but the failure to find a 2nd line center is hurting us already. The PP has sucked for a WHILE. BB is too much of a players coach to take.this team to.the other level. Just have to see his demeanor.when we win despite playing like crao. "Gee, I don't know why the guys were so flat. I told them not.to be!"

Posted by: Alisterio | October 14, 2010 12:42 AM | Report abuse

If the coach can't get them up for home games- they've been flat in 7 of 9 periods at home and all three away- after getting bounced by the 8 seed the year prior then find a coach who can.

Posted by: Alisterio | October 14, 2010 12:45 AM | Report abuse

Erskine had a great night.

Posted by: caps512 | October 14, 2010 1:08 AM | Report abuse

how about them maple leafs?

Posted by: Raber | October 14, 2010 1:08 AM | Report abuse

Four goals in three games... I think it's not too soon to start the Ovie 50-in-50 talk. You know he can do it.

Posted by: CAP-lanta | October 14, 2010 1:20 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, 4 in 4... but hey, he's still on pace.

Posted by: CAP-lanta | October 14, 2010 1:24 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, the sky is not falling (chicken little where are you? Oh Noooo the Caps won 2-1).

We played a ton of games like this one last year, including a few toward the end of our 14 game streak.

I don't know if Bruce called him out or not, but Carlson had a notably bad game. From my seats at Verizon I'm not sure who else I'd put on that list, but overall our execution was poor and aside from the second we got outworked. Please note, however, that's not unprecedented in the least.

The thing is, that's not unprecedented for any team in the NHL to get outworked and out-executed in 2 of 3 periods. Leave room in life to relax and enjoy a little. I'm certain there are some who will cite their play as a harbinger of doom and an indicator of deep-seated flaws, but I'll take the W, an awesome goalie performance, and a great finish by Ovi and Backstrom any day.

Posted by: Justafan | October 14, 2010 6:19 AM | Report abuse

everybody is going to be bringing their A game against the top team in the league from last year - the caps will be a measuring stick for everyone they play - even the undermanned and untalented teams.
it is up to BB to get the team to understand this and come out to play every shift of every game. that said - it will be an impossible task to play at that level for 82 games.
i'd rather have them win 2-1 while playing poorly - instead of the 5-4, 6-5 wins they were getting last year. this is the type of game that could serve them well come playoff time. poor play with attention to defense will keep them in many more games than the free wheeling run-and-gun they usually play

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ

That is something certain peoplehere would call a bad excuse, but it is true! I love that in hockey the worst team in the league has a shot at the best on one given night (thats why we have a best of 7 playoffs) Teams bring their "A" game to us...despite the playoff debacle, we are still considered "the team to beat" So every team uses games against us as a measuring stick

Posted by: capscoach | October 14, 2010 6:38 AM | Report abuse

As empty as it was, that would've been a great crowd for a game 5 years ago.I DO miss lower prices and less lines lol(and the lack of the stupid "do better" and "all your fault" chants. And the woop wooping of ANY former Capital has got to go too!) But it'll all be worth it when we bring home the Cup!!!

Posted by: C-A-P-Scapscapscaps | October 14, 2010 7:02 AM | Report abuse

The Islanders may not be an elite team but they come to play. They took the Caps to overtime three times last year. They are not a push over.

Posted by: nimrodrsp | October 14, 2010 7:05 AM | Report abuse

Unfair as hell to label MJ being out of the line-up as a negative. He got hurt blocking a shot which is one thing a lot of fans said was missing from our team, sacrifice. MJ is the 3rd line center and the 3rd lines role is to shut down the other team's top line. Point production from the shutdown line is gravy. I like Matty P but except for the early give-away against NJ that resulted in a goal MJ has not looked out of place IMO.

Posted by: fanohock1 | October 14, 2010 7:23 AM | Report abuse

Absolutely agree on MJ, he has been fine out there as 3rd line center.....has not looked out of place at all.

Now, about last nights game.......Total team D was just horrible. I think we can now see why they HAD to pick up a dman in the off season as when Sloan and Eerskine have to play due to injuries the pairings do not match and the result is horrible.

Flash was absolutely horrible out there last night and Semin really didn't show anything as well. Liked the penalty Fehr took for interference because he was CLEARING THE CREASE, maybe the rest of the D should take lessons from him during the next practice.

Overall very sloppy game, I realize these will happen once in a while but it looked like they learned nothing from last year and took a weak team for granted and almost screwed themselves.

Posted by: PhilR | October 14, 2010 7:49 AM | Report abuse

@Fanohock1

On most teams the 3rd line is out there to shut down the other team's top line, but I don't thinks that is the case here. Most of the time Bruce seems to like having our top line out against them.

But I agree, you can't complain about the injury to MJ given the effort.

Posted by: Chucks20707 | October 14, 2010 8:05 AM | Report abuse

I guess I watched an alternative universe (see Fringe) Caps/Isles games last night where the Caps won 2-1. Thanks for setting me straight guys.

In all seriousness, Caps might well have lost this type of game last year. From the tone of today's posts, I guess that "this is only the 'pre-season' and only the playoffs matter" view of things has gone away. 78 games of moan, groan, angst and despair to go. What joy!

Posted by: adhardwick | October 14, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Once again, Bruce doesn't hesitate to call out poor play in the media (Carlson) as long as it's not one of his pet players like Green or Flash. Not saying either Green or Flash deserved to be called out (in fact I thought Green was pretty solid)just pointing out once again the double standards that are in play with this coach.

Posted by: chombie13 | October 14, 2010 8:46 AM | Report abuse

You're kidding right? Bruce has no problem calling out Green or Flash when they deserve it. He's more protective of Green than anyone, but he'll man up and call Green out for a bad game. Hell, he benched Flash for the Flyers series after game 1.

Posted by: GFisher1 | October 14, 2010 9:04 AM | Report abuse

This simply looked like October hockey to me -- and it's wrong to make more of it. The play is a bit out of sync...there are spurts of players skating aimlessly with -- oh yeah -- a puck is there...

But Caps fans should be thrilled that: 1) Neuvirth took the opportunity to continue to focus and look top drawer; 2) the Caps worked productively against a team that clogged the middle (a la Montreal); 3) Verizon Center was near full (for real - sold out on paper) for an October midweek game.

And last -- but not least -- THANKS (whoever) for the new BBQ stand on the F Street side. Super pulled pork and onion rings!! Good food at Verizon -- I am shocked!

Posted by: SugarPop145 | October 14, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Some of you are expecting too much too soon.

You start a season and have to develop a rhythm and chemistry again.

A carry-over from last season is not realistic.

Although the team did not make any major free agent signings, the fact remains that for a team that won 54 games last season the Caps do have a number of new players on the parent club roster.

Neuvirth, Carlson, Alzner, Hendricks, King, etc.

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | October 14, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

The fans here are starting to just know enough to be dangerous. The Caps are fine but they have 82 games to play before it matters. We need two goalies to make this work all year. Neuvirth and Varly are as good as gold and will dispell the "Can't win with two young goalie crap". I think Holtby is just as good down the road.

The coach bashers could not do the job so let Bruce do his thing. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Last time I looked they other teams are trying to win also. A win is a W, a W is a win. Hockey coaches need to be nasty guys at times and we have one of the best.

Having King (Thrilling thug interview!!) and Hendriks make the team a lot tougher. They are not going to be pushed around and intimidated. We are a young talented team that knows how to play. We will compete year and year out with these guys and some tweaking year to year.

Let the damn season play out and enjoy this great game. Old time hockey, Eddie Shore, Toe Blake. Johnstown Jets!!!

Posted by: ballgame21 | October 14, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

@ballgame21

well played my friend,well played!

and again for the record,ive predicted neuvy to be the beast that he is when we first got him.always have always will.great to see him doin good!

Posted by: 43154315 | October 14, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I am frankly shocked to see so many negative comments about BB. He took over a team that had the worst record in the NHL and then won the division and all of this with no major changes in personnel. Now all of a sudden, he might not be the right guy to lead the Caps? There is no pleasing some people. Who cares what they do in the regular season as long as they make the playoffs. The Flyers only made the playoffs with a shoot-out win over the Rangers, then made it to the Cup finals. So we have Caps fans who were very happy to win the President's Trophy and then were disappointed with the early exit from the playoffs. So maybe things will reverese this year. Just be patient folks and don't hope for the firing of the guy who turned this franchise around.

Posted by: chopin224 | October 14, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Coach BB has won at several levels and has a great record except in playoffs. It will come for the big guy. Who else would you rather have? Watch what you wish for!!!!

Go Caps!!

Posted by: ballgame21 | October 14, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

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