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Ovechkin, Knuble take day off

Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble got the day off from practice today. Team officials said both players are healthy and were simply took a maintenance day.

The team did not work on the penalty kill today -- it's pretty tough to do at this stage of the season because the attacking five doesn't fire shots a full speed for fear of hurting a teammate -- but the unit will be the focus of my story for tomorrow's Post. Coach Bruce Boudreau did, however, hint that the struggling unit will be the focus on Thursday's practice/video sessions.

Here's some of what Boudreau had to say about the 25th-ranked penalty kill's struggles:

Also, Semyon Varlamov was the last player off the ice this morning after working overtime with Quintin Laing, John Carlson and assistant coaches Artus Irbe and Bob Woods. The rookie has allowed 13 goals on 83 shots in his past three starts.

"I've talked to him," Boudreau said of his young goalie. "I told him don't you worry about a thing. If you recall, at the start of the season, he was the same way. Then he got into that zone. We're just going to keep alternating him and Theo for the next six or seven or eight games, and take it from there."

With today's practice starting later than usual, I had better get going because I'm a little behind on my PK story.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  March 9, 2010; 2:33 PM ET
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Next: Caps sign Dmitry Kugryshev


It probably goes without saying, but I'm glad to see BB and the team going with the route of playing Varly every other game rather than just riding on Theo's coattails. Decide who the number one goalie is 4 or 5 games before the playoffs and alternate until then.

Varly hasn't looked good recently, but like Ovechkin, I expect him to pop out of whatever slump he's in shortly. Can't do that if he's not on the ice.

Posted by: Raber | March 9, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

I think good idea to let him work off the rust. The third goal was a softie, but I think he was thoroughly screened on 1 and 2.

I was thinking Varly better like chocolate, but looks like they're keeping him up.

Does anyone know about Nuewirth's rookie status thing? Has he played enough games to kick in free-agency in 3?

Posted by: RedLitYogi | March 9, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad BB wasn't too hard on Varly. Even the best goalies go through slumps. As fans we look for someone to scapegoat after a loss without looking at the big picture. Yesterday's loss can be placed primarily on the terrible PK, the new guys still adjusting to the system, and that Dallas is an NHL team.

I think both Varly and Theo are capable of backstopping this team to the Cup. Look at the last two Cup winners/finalists: Chris Osgood and Marc Andre Fleury. Neither of these guys are elite no matter what Pens fans think. Fleury was particularly bad in the series against us. How many goals did Ovi score because MAF left a wide open net on a failed clearing attempt? If this team needs Varly or Theo to stand on their head every night to win, they don't deserve a Cup.

Posted by: ablake70 | March 9, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

If he cannot get back to the top of his game in the next few weeks, than he should go to Hershey, sorry.

Posted by: kcbrichmond | March 9, 2010 11:42 AM |

Well I don't disagree with that at all.

I'm not seeing how thinking he needs to go to Hershey now =/= "in the next few weeks".

sigh.... Read the whole thing before replying...

Posted by: richmondphil | March 9, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Or that should say, I'm not seeing how wanting to send him down now = "in a few weeks."

Really..let's go through this. Varlamov comes back from a long injury and struggles. The reaction I deem "retarded" is to send him down to Hershey now. Nevermind that Varlamov is a goalie that takes a few games to find his groove. Nevermind that Varlamov just returned from a very long injury. Nevermind that any goalie would struggle after an injury for that long. Nevermind that although Varlamov has been's still not anything like Neuvy's "worst." Nevermind that Varlamov has won a NHL playoff series and posted numbers in the top 5 in the league before his injury.
Nevermind all that. He's struggling after a long injury and (sarcasm) the playoffs are so close ?!?! Right away the corner, we need to freak out about goalies now! SEND HIM DOWN TO HERSHEY NOW, MY GOD BEFORE HE BURIES THIS TEAM!!!!! (/sarcasm)

Now, if you feel that Varlamov should not be in our tandem in a few weeks, given the hypothetical that he is still struggling, then sure..who would not agree with that? Since when does now = a few weeks?

Posted by: richmondphil | March 9, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

@ablake: mostly agree with you, although Osgood had a way of raising his game in the post season. In 2008 his playoff GAA was 1.55 with a .930 save %. That's impressive.

Fleury, not so much. MAF's 2.61/.908 are the worst stats of any cup-winning goalie since 1992. And his playoff save % was actually lower than the regular season. Granted, it wasn't much lower (.908 vs. .912), but every other cup-winning goalie since 1990 raised his sv% in the playoffs.

Posted by: Gould23 | March 9, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Varly looked good yesterday. Both PP goals were through screens, which is on the PK - not Varly. The third goal was one he shouldn't have given up, but the score would have been a couple goals higher if he hadn't been so good.

The two reasons the Caps lost were PK and Turco - he was simply amazing. Glad that Ovie finally broke his slump though.

Posted by: timmyv38 | March 9, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

@Richmond Phil

I went back and read my 2 posts from the earlier thread. I never said send Varly to Hershey NOW. I said now is a good time to see if he can reagin his form. I hope he does! However if he doesn't, I would go with Theo/Neuvy for the playoffs.

Sorry, if I somehow offended you. Just giving my opinion, as someone who has suffered through years of playoff losses and wants to see the Caps get a Cup!

Posted by: kcbrichmond | March 9, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

@ Gould23

You are right about Osgood. He does have a way of coming up big in the playoffs. Of course if he were here, fans would want him shipped to Hershey or Grand Rapids.

I don't think Varly should be sent to Hershey at all this year. Fans are getting impatient because they want to win a cup, but he is still a young goalie. To yo-yo between him and Neuvi won't help either develop and the team will be left without an NHL goalie.

I know a lot of fans love Neuvi, but the team has put a lot into developing Varly and I really believe that this is his job. If Neuvi is truly good enough to be an NHL goalie, the fair thing would be to trade him so that he can get his shot. If not, he can stay in Hershey.

Posted by: ablake70 | March 9, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

I've got to think one reason they need to keep playing Varly down the stretch is to see what they've got for next year. Depending on how he looks, they might want to pick up Theo for another year or two, or get a FA goalie.

Posted by: athena2 | March 9, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

I said that if you think Varlamov should be send down now, then you need to get your head checked out. You then responded saying you needed to get your head checked out and that you think Varlamov should be sent down..but not now, as you said, but in a few weeks. I never insinuated you thought Varlamov should be sent down now.

I took offense because it seemed like you took offense to my initial comment when it wasn't directed towards you. Anyways, it's clear that we both agree on Varlamov, we just mis-read or misinterpreted what we said in the previous post(s). Didn't mean to come off like that either. S'all good.

Posted by: richmondphil | March 9, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

It seemed like the PK was strong against the Rangers and that BB had featured Semin, Flash and guys with the most speed that game. Last night, it seemed like he went back to his old (un)reliables with a somewhat predictable result.

Posted by: ccCapsfan | March 9, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

I am sorry but Varly let in 2, not 1 soft goal. The player was in both instances was far out and basically stationary. Varly is not coming out to cut down angles; he is back in the goal -- playing a bit timid. He should be able to get his game back at some point, but right now, if it were the playoffs, Varly shines the pine while Theo plays.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | March 9, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

@JIMALLCAPS1: I agree with you about the second PP goal. So did Brickley (Versus color guy). But, it seemed in the first two periods Varly was really on his angles and was very aggressive. Could it just be fatigue in the 3rd period because he hasn't played much in the last 3 months?

Posted by: ccCapsfan | March 9, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

As BB pointed out, Varlamov was absolute crap at the start of this year too. Then he was top 5 in the league in GAA and save % before he was injured. This was before our winning streak.

That is all I am going to say.

Posted by: richmondphil | March 9, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

I like that BB is supporting Varly. He is young and I think we have learned from Alzner that when you make a young guy feel like there will be punishment for every bad game or a slump then yo create so much anxiety you make it worse!

Give Varly time and faith...he will come around. We have to let him develope and slumps are part of any young goalies progress.

Posted by: capscoach | March 9, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Any body heard anything about Erskine? He never returned to the bench after getting hit in the head.

Posted by: ebolean1 | March 9, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Its good to see that Gabby has confidence in the youngin, he is just that though a rookie. He has played brilliantly at times and has made mistakes and unlike our young D his mistakes are very evident. Though Varly support may be in part coming from GMGM too because it does seem pretty clear that he is not interested in signing Theodore which means going to the prospects full time next season. So making sure the kids alright is a priority regardless of playoffs.

But over on Japers people were calling for Varly's head after the 2nd PK goal. . . no faith i tells ya. Go Varly!

Posted by: breaklance | March 9, 2010 10:24 PM | Report abuse

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