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Ovechkin struggles, Caps drop playoff opener

Coach Bruce Boudreau summed up tonight's events perfectly with the following statement: "Our best players weren't our best players tonight and their best players were."

Indeed, Michael Cammalleri, Jaroslav Halak, Brian Gionta and Tomas Plekanec were great. Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Mike Green and Tomas Fleischmann (nine total shots, combined minus 2), on the other hand, were not.

Ovechkin, though, took the brunt of the criticism. He was held without a shot for only the second this season and fourth time in his career. He also finished without a shot and a point for the first time in his career.

Most troubling about Ovechkin's struggles was that he wasn't shut down by one dominant defensive pair. He saw significant time against all three pairs.

"He didn't play good," Boudreau said of two-time MVP. "I can't put my finger on it right now, but when you get 50 shots on goal and Ovechkin doesn't get any, and you have four power plays, there's something ...They took him away. But I didn't think he was very good."

Check out my game story here, Gene Wang's notebook on the Caps becoming the latest favorite to fallhere, Mike Wise's column here, then come on back for few extraneous items/thoughts/quotes:

*On the grease board in the visitors' dressing room, Tomas Plekanec's No. 14 was replaced by No. 68. No explanation needed. But pretty good, you have to admit.

*Jaroslav Halak improved to 7-0-0 when facing 45 or more shots this season. He was as good as advertised. But, like Boudreau said, he wasn't tested much after a first period in which the Caps tied a franchise playoff record for shots in a period with 19.

"We had a lot of shots, but I don't think we had a lot of quality chances after the first period," Boudreau said. "And the quality chances we did have we shot wide or we didn't shoot at all. We had a 2 on 1 late in the third period and a 3 on 1 in overtime and neither time [did] we get a shot off. Halak played good, but I don't think he did anything we didn't think he was capable doing."

*At the other end, I thought Jose Theodore was very good. He made 35 saves, including two in a row on Plekanec midway through the second period that got the crowd chanting, "Theo! Theo! Still, I'm willing to bet Theodore wishes he didn't make the "Tomas who?" comment.

*In Boudreau's mind, this game took a turn for the worse long before Plekanec's goal.

"It happens in sports," Boudreau said. "You out-shoot a team 19-7 in the first, it's not going to end up 57-21. I was a little worried after the first that we had 1-1 tie after outplaying them pretty badly in the first. Usually when you do that and you don't get your 3-1 lead or 3-0 lead when you're playing like that, they're going to go into the dressing room ...and something's going to happen and turn the other way."

*After the way things unfolded tonight, it will be interesting to see if Boudreau shakes up his lines prior to Saturday's game. Could we see Brendan Morrison? If so, who comes out?

Practice tomorrow is at 11. We may have a better idea then.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  April 16, 2010; 1:01 AM ET
 
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Next: A stunning beginning: Caps drop opener

Comments

Let them hang around after the 1st period barrage.
Then they started believing after those 4 motster shifts in the last half of the 2nd.
Right then it was smelling trouble in Chinatown.
They basically cycled the puck in our zone for those last 10 minutes.
Really wored us down then.

Posted by: Rocc00 | April 16, 2010 1:25 AM | Report abuse

I think you have to put B. Mo back in and let him center Laich and Semin. Put Belanger between Fehr and Flash. Put Chimera with Stecks and Bradley and sit Gordo. Unfortunately for Gordon, We're a much better team with B. Mo at center than Flash. Not saying B. Mo has been great, but he's a better center than Flash and that is more important than Gordo because that 4th line with Chimera instead would still be great.

Posted by: Hammertime44 | April 16, 2010 1:36 AM | Report abuse

I haven't decided what should be our best line combinations for Saturday but feel something different needs to be done with our forwards.

I'd leave the defensive pairings alone for now.

Maybe Hammertime44 has some good ideas.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | April 16, 2010 1:42 AM | Report abuse

Bruce said: "He didn't play good," Boudreau said of two-time MVP. "I can't put my finger on it."

Let me help. They should have stitched FLOATVECHKIN on the back of Ov's sweater tonight. I haven't seen a player float and take a night off like that since Jagr regularly let his teammates down in Washington. That's OV's first-ever game like that. But he deserves to be called out hard for it: we waited all summer and season for THAT? It's only one game. Get over it and get on with things. But Bruce should call him out: he floated. He took the night off. That's where Bruce's finger must point. Period.

Posted by: caps1974 | April 16, 2010 1:45 AM | Report abuse

Been there.

Heck the penguins have been there how many times.

Just be the best from here on out. Tonight is over.

Posted by: pdo3 | April 16, 2010 1:46 AM | Report abuse

Okay Caps, win on Saturday, please. You can not afford to fall into a 2-0 hole.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | April 16, 2010 1:48 AM | Report abuse

When Ovechkin finds himself in one-on-one situations, he needs to exploit that or at least maintain possession of the puck instead of carrying it into traffic or getting his shots blocked over and over again.

If they are sending multiple players at him, the rest of the team should be able to exploit the open ice provided to them.

The key is that Ovechkin needs to make good decisions with the puck on his stick based on what the defense gives him. It's okay to try to make something out of nothing every once in a while but you can't do that over and over again. Read and react to what the defense is giving you. Sometimes it seems like he just puts his head down and tries to hard to get into Superman mode instead of making a better and smarter play.

Posted by: tmac2yao | April 16, 2010 1:54 AM | Report abuse

@Hammertime44
You sure you didn't see my post from the previous post? Lol. Those are the exact lines that I have. Agree with you a 100%. Also you could basically interchange Belanger or Mo. Although, I think Mo is better suited for that second line.

Posted by: Thomas32 | April 16, 2010 1:55 AM | Report abuse

One of the players on the 8th seeded team had the nerve to talk trash about the goalie of the 1st seeded team prior to the first game.

Then, he and the team backed it up on ice with the trash talker even scoring the game-winning goal.

On top of that, they mocked our goalie's response to the trash talk after the game.

Like an underdog, they are talking and playing like they have nothing to lose. Credit them for playing that role perfectly.

I think that it was really important to get that first game. Plekanec put himself out there and by extension, his team, with his comments about Theodore. He knew that there was a chance that he would look foolish and have the media all over them if they lost the game, especially if Theodore played well in the process. He also knew that it would give both Theodore and the Capitals a ton of quiet confidence if they could make him eat his words.

On the other hand, he knew that if they won that they were basically saying that they could disrespect us in public and still beat us. As the underdogs, why should they care though? If they lose, they were supposed to lose anyway.

I'd expect Montreal to play with even more confidence in Game 2. They got decisively outplayed in the 1st period in Game 1 and were probably lucky to not have been in a multiple goal hole. Now that they have talked trash and backed it up, they will probably have even more jump in their step and feel that we lack the mental strength to come through as the favorites.

We have to force them to respect us and fear us. Right now, they have no doubt that they can win this series. We allowed them to trash talk our goalie and then come into our building and win the game. We don't have any intimidators so we can't do much in that respect. There is no Brashear. We just have to play our best game of the season in Game 2 and prove to them, and really ourselves, why we are a 1st seed.

Posted by: tmac2yao | April 16, 2010 2:39 AM | Report abuse

You would think that after 87 won a Cup and scored the gold medal clincher that OV would be down to win. I am as big of a Caps fan as anyone here, but let's call a spade a spade: Ovechkin was the worst player on the ice tonight.

Posted by: Aldred15 | April 16, 2010 3:11 AM | Report abuse

The best play on the ice hands down for the caps to night was Shaone Morrisonn. He played a good physical game along the boards, in the corners and was huge in front of the net now we need the rest of the team to pick their play up! Maybe it was nervous maybe it was thinking they would be able to walk on the Habs. I think your are going to have a bunch of pissed off caps come Saturday. Just my 2cents

Posted by: TheTruth23 | April 16, 2010 3:41 AM | Report abuse

but let's call a spade a spade: Ovechkin was the worst player on the ice tonight.

Posted by: Aldred15 | April 16, 2010 3:11 AM

Thats about the best way to sum up last nights game.Theres no excuse that he was being over shadowed,hes the best player in the world and has had to play with that type of coverage his whole life,no excuse.Great players find ways to play around that situation and ovi just didnt play at all.Being captain,being best player he needs to step it up for the team and lead this team to victory.Come on caps,get it together.Only one down,cant go to montreal two down so lets do the dam thing.GO CAPS!!!

Posted by: gratefuldid | April 16, 2010 4:28 AM | Report abuse

"It's gonna be a long series folks...NHL playoff hockey is just that. NO way the Habs were gonna lay down and die for us."

That's not the cause for concern. The cause for concern is that we were the team that layed down and died for a completely inferior opponent after the first period. This team has not the psychological make-up or the playoff history to start a potential championship run by giving away any and all momentum right off the bat. Our best players, Ovi aside, have limited individual playoff success. Semin gets flakier than usual in the playoffs and is a front runner player if I ever saw one. Backstrom was partially responsible for all 3 goals by Montreal and is still a very young player prone to make the big mistake including spearheading a 3 on 1 that did not even produce a shot on goal - talk about a brain freeze. And, Green, well, his career so far suggests he is a great player in the regular season and likes to disappear in the playoffs. So, a start like this only magnifies the pressure on the team and certain players for game 2 unnecessarily. Actually, I think the whole team kind of has a front runner mentality and is shaky if the opponent survives the first round or dares to counter punch and win. So, what you have is a big game two. Too big a game two for a supposed favorite to win it all. Hey, all is well if this things ends in our favor in 5 or 6 games. Anything less and this team is in trouble.

Posted by: rphilli721 | April 16, 2010 5:25 AM | Report abuse

Ovi was not good tonight, however was far from the worst player on the ice. Mike Green was much worst. Ovi had a hard time finding space out there, he also was not skating as hard as he usually does and I think was pacing himself too much. That however did not cost the Capitals like Green did. Not only was he responsible for the 2nd goal, he gave the puck up constantly, couldn't keep the puck in the zone, took a terrible penalty, and was just all around bad.

Posted by: jrednoring | April 16, 2010 5:53 AM | Report abuse

I had a hard time watching the Caps last year because of Mike Green making me so upset, well after one game he has managed to bring that feeling right back. If anyone is a Mike Green fan out there. Just watch him in the playoffs, its crazy how bad he is. I dont even care if he gets a goal or 2. Over time making mistake after mistake will cost you. I don't know how they keep bringing him out there. It clearly has got into his head, all I want is for him to play an average game. Dont actually be bad.

Posted by: jrednoring | April 16, 2010 6:00 AM | Report abuse

OV wasn't they only player stinking it up out there. Semin looked like he was on another planet. We need our best players to come up big and they didn't.
Lets see what team takes the ice Saturday night. We not only need to win but it needs to be a clear cut win in regulation. We need to spank them otherwise they are in for trouble when it gets to Bell Centre.

Posted by: jotay131 | April 16, 2010 6:16 AM | Report abuse

OV wasn't they only player stinking it up out there. Semin looked like he was on another planet. We need our best players to come up big and they didn't.
Lets see what team takes the ice Saturday night. We not only need to win but it needs to be a clear cut win in regulation. We need to spank them otherwise the Caps are in for trouble when it gets to Bell Centre.

Posted by: jotay131 | April 16, 2010 6:16 AM | Report abuse

@pdo3: Can you idiots go one post without mentioning the Pens? WE are the Caps in case anyone is wondering yet every post has a comment or fifty about the Pens. I have numerous Penguin fans as friends and they don't even talk about us, most of them like us and think the Caps are good for spreading the NHL. All of their hate is centered on Philly. When we constantly post about them it makes us look weak. So unless we are playing them, can we not post about the Pens?
@caps1974: Please tell me you were joking about this being Ovi's first game like this. The guy picks more cherries than migrant workers. Whatever works right, but he "floats" all the time.

Posted by: stop_it | April 16, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

please, oh hockey experts, learn something about the game before you attend another one.

stop shouting 'shoot the puck!'

stop shouting 'hit somebody!'

stop acting like you know when a player's head is in the game. unless you've got mental telepathy, you haven't got a clue what the guy's thinking.

there are TWO teams on the ice. only one team is going to win. it isn't always going to be the caps, no matter how hard they worked last night, which, they worked very hard.

so please, pretty please, learn about the game and quit embarrassing the rest of us. :( thanks.

Posted by: 33spinner | April 16, 2010 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Tom Poti's middle name should be "fails to clear the puck."

Posted by: mozartbooks | April 16, 2010 8:28 AM | Report abuse

It looks to me like this team learned absolutely nothing from last year. Like in the two OT losses to the Pens last year, the Caps were thoroughly outplayed in OT. These guys need to develop a killer instinct. Up 2-1 in 3rd, put em away, don't let them tie it up. After Greenie hauled down Cammelleri in OT, we get a 3 on 1 break with Backstrom leading the break and don't even get shot on goal. We got a HUGE break with the no call but we don't take advantage.

Posted by: jimc93 | April 16, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

I hope we see BMo tomorrow night. Belanger is worthless. He's a good skater and wins faceoffs. Other than that I have absolutely no use for this guy. He's just out there. Nothing more.

Posted by: DisgustedinArlington | April 16, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

As poor as Ovechkin played last night, I think the same could be said about Backstrom. He got away with an elbow in the corner and the took a stupid retaliatory cross check that gave the Canadiens a power play and their first goal. No excuse on why he didn't even attempt to take a shot on the 3 on 1 in OT. Even if he doesn't score, he had Knuble crashing the crease and Ovie coming down the opposite wing. He was trying to be way too cute with the passes on the power play instead of taking shots when they were available. His goal was the result of a great pass by Knuble who was one of the few Caps who played well.

I hope that BB calls out Greenie as well. That was flat out one of the worst games he's played. In addition to a ton of TO's in his own zone, he didn't get back on the Canadiens second goal which is why Gomez got an easy tap in. It wasn't an odd man rush and there was no excuse for his not staying with him man when Schultz took care of Gionta. Except for Schultz, the rest of the defense was very sloppy with passes out of their own zone which gave Montreal a lot of good chances in the 2nd and 3rd periods.

Wake up Caps or this series could go the wrong way very quickly.

Posted by: wizfan89 | April 16, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

They will look at this game in detail and see what they already know (and not because they're all reading the WaPo comments section I would guess :). From my vantage point as a viewer and a fan, not clearing the puck wrought havoc on the team's play and started - and continued - the downward spiral to being very outplayed in both zones for the remainder of the game. The team started playing disjointedly and looked scrambly at times. Meanwhile, the Habs looked more and more confident and skillful as the game wore on.

I was never at all thrilled to have the Caps play Montreal in the first round and I could just feel, as many of you all surely did, that loss coming before the puck dropped in OT. They'll all def have to make adjustments (not just Ovie, by the way). BB said it best about the key players vs. the role players. Theo played well but still got beaten at the worst possible moment by the worst possible player. That's what smack talkin' get you. The come-back zinger was surely not worth the outcome.

But, it is the POs. As fans, we're in it too and this team has my full support. Can't wait for the next game!!
GO CAPS!!!

Posted by: nena1 | April 16, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I think B-Mo should be in there as well as Erskin who brings a physical presence! But it doesn't matter who is in there because we deserved to lose. The Caps played not to lose last night, especially in OT and you never win when you play with that mentality.

Posted by: Caps73 | April 16, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Can someone explain to me why Semin and Green disappear completely in the playoffs?

Like I said before, if Carlson is the best player the Caps have on the ice... we are toast. Still upset at the fact that our best players didn't even show up last night. If those guys don't want to win or won't put in the effort or won't get their heads out of their a**es, it's gonna be a short series.

Posted by: Firepelosi | April 16, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

You know it is interesting watching how some players seem to develop. Even though it pains me to say this but Crosby seems to work harder on improving his weaknesses. His face-off in 08-09 was not that great. He worked on it and became better. He said that he needed to be more involved on defense and improved on that. he said he needed to improve on his shot and he did that. Backstrom thought he needed to work on parts of his game. Face-off, shot and defensive play. he improved dramtically in all three area. Green contrary to what some naysyars say on this post actually has become a better two way defender and has really evolved. OVI does not seem to have the introspective, work habits or the willingness to become a better two way forward. He has more raw talent than just about any player since lemiuex but does not seem to have the work habits. His game has been going down hill dramatically since the olmypic break. What area of two way hockey is there improvement since the 08-09 season.

Posted by: pkme | April 16, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Ovie, Semin and Green were awful last night. Boudreau is right about that. But the fact is that Boudreau was also outcoached. He may want to think about that.

Posted by: dcsportsdude | April 16, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I don't get the 68 reference to Plekanic. Can anyone explain?

Posted by: ijamsman | April 16, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

@ijamsman: That is in a sarcastic voice, right?

Posted by: stop_it | April 16, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

No. I really don't get it. Shoot me.

Posted by: ijamsman | April 16, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I just got it: JAGR!

Posted by: ijamsman | April 16, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

BB should share the blame as well. We are so quick to blame the players. It is possible that bb may not be a good playoff or clutch game coach at this level. I wonder how Scotty Bowman, Lemiere and Babcock would manage this team. I am sure they could do more with this juggernaut because they would instill discipline and proven systems of play for the playoffs.

Posted by: pkme | April 16, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

to puckme!
What heck are talking about Crosby. He is beloved son of... NHL doing everything to promote him he is just good player nothing special. If you want talk about Pens call Malkin he is far better player. Crosby individual stats improved in this season but team stats opposite.
Last game with senators was fine example if listen these announcers feels like Senators playing against Crosby. Crosby good Crosby saved Crosby handsome ...so on so on. Man should have some etiquette

Posted by: dugza | April 16, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

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