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Sabres 2, Caps 1

So the Caps dress prospect-laden lineups in Buffalo and Chicago and pull off OT wins. Tonight, they go with the star-laden lineup (Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, etc.) and fall, 2-1, to the Sabres in the preseason home opener.

Coach Bruce Boudreau said there was a perfectly good reason for this.

"It's their first game, and that's the way they played it as," he said, referring to the two Alexes and Green. "Their timing was off, but that's why you have preseason games, and that's why they'll be playing the majority of the games the rest of the way."

The rustiness was most apparent on the power play, which finished 0-5 with three shots.

"The first time they practiced, it was this morning," Boudreau said. "I don't know if they were holding back, they were trying to be too cute. At the beginning of the season, what works is shots. When we get used to each other, then we can start becoming fancy."

On to some other notes:

*Boudreau continues to be impressed with Mike Knuble, who tonight skated on the first line with Ovechkin and Backstrom. Knuble did, however, miss three close-in shots.

"He is what he is," Boudreau. "He grinds, he works, he gives you 100 percent every night. He's what coaches love to have. In the regular season, he's not going to miss three fabulous chances. He's going to convert one of the chances. He gets everything from going to the net and getting his nose dirty."

*In the third period, down by a goal, Boudreau switched up his lines, dropping Knuble to the second line and promoting Semin to the top unit.

The switch didn't work, though. The Caps didn't produce a shot for the final 13:49 of the game.

*The Sabres' goals were scored by Drew Stafford and Patrick Kaleta 11 seconds apart in the second period. Stafford's goal was a redirection of a point shot. Not sure how much of the point shot was actually seen by Theodore, who was screened on the play.

The Sabres' second goal was a bit fluky. Theodore poke-checked a puck that ended up going behind the net, where Felix Schutz spun and threw a blind pass in front to Kaleta.

Mike Green and Karl Alzner were on the ice for both goals. Alzner accepted blame for the second one, saying he over-pursued. He went behind the net toward Schutz, when the safe play would have been to stay in front and tie up Kaleta.

"We talked before the game about how they send 'hope,' or no-looks passes to the front of the net," Alzner said. "It was a good pass. It went through me. I overplayed it. But if you're going to make mistakes, make aggressive ones. I guess that was an aggressive one."

*Keith Aucoin got the Caps' goal late in the second. He fired a shot on net from the wing and it ended up going in off a Sabres' skate in front.

*While the Caps' power play was sloppy, the penalty kill has been pretty good. It has snuffed out all 13 short-handed situations Washington has faced.

*Boudreau singled out Sean Collins, Chris Bourque and Jay Beagle for praise after the game.

*Backstrom, Green and Ovechkin wore the 'A's.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  September 21, 2009; 11:05 PM ET
 
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Next: Updates From Caps Camp

Comments

well team looked a little rusty green ovie semin looked like timing off a little,a couple breaks there and caps won not to worried team will be fine

Posted by: baltraven52 | September 21, 2009 11:29 PM | Report abuse

OK, all y'all Schultz detractors. What was it you were saying about Schultz not hitting? The guy was credited with FOUR - count'em - FOUR hits tonight! Did I mention that was the high number for BOTH teams?

EAT CROW. Salt will be provided.


Posted by: irockthered | September 21, 2009 11:40 PM | Report abuse

Reposting my response to Caps28fan:

Has Brendan Morrison been out skating since the hit he took in Buffalo?

Is he out there today?

Posted by: caps28fan | September 21, 2009 11:46 AM

++++++++

@caps28fan:

BMo looked fine at practice on Sunday.

Posted by: pstenigma | September 21, 2009 11:38 PM

Posted by: pstenigma | September 21, 2009 11:42 PM | Report abuse

richmondphil and cstanton1: I was busy in the afternoon and then went to tonight's Caps game. Here is a link regarding Gonchar's unwillingness to stay and be part of the Caps rebuild. http://www.extremeskins.com/archive/index.php/t-52425.html

The 6th paragraph from the bottom of the story which begins with stating he makes 3.65 million a year finishes with his desire to leave. cstanton1 didn't recall so I wanted to provide more than a rumor.

Posted by: fanohock1 | September 22, 2009 12:01 AM | Report abuse

I agree if IRTR Schultz played extremely well. John Carlson looked good too. He'll probably end up in Hershey this season but he'll be a regular soon enough. Giroux certainly didn't do himself any favors tonight. IMO he will get a shot on the opening day roster based on BB's comments about his scoring ability a couple of days ago. With Fehr and Flash starting the season on the IR, it gives BB an opportunity to get a look at him against NHLers again. He looks nervous. He needs to just play the game.

Posted by: fanohock1 | September 22, 2009 12:07 AM | Report abuse

What a great Tennis match tonight, or was it volleyball ?

Posted by: LarryDavid | September 22, 2009 12:12 AM | Report abuse

I'm thinking Giroux-Aucoin are a BEAST pair out there. And with both Fleischmann and Fehr on the shelf, as it were, those two would step in very nicely. Giroux wasn't bad - he just didn't score. You can say the same for Alex Ovechkin tonight. ;-)

Giroux will be just fine. He looked exactly the way he looked at every Hershey Bears game I saw him play in last season.

Alzner, I suspect, will also be spending another year with the Bears... based on his performance not only this evening, but in general, he hasn't "wowed" anyone, and tonight... he had issues out there. Don't get me wrong - I like Alzner. I like him a lot. But I just don't think he's quite ready yet.

Carlson will probably go to Hershey; we like to season our defensemen for a year or two in the minors, and he's still very much a kid.

Bourque did fairly well out there tonight, too. And I will accept Boudreau's comments on the power play. It was frustrating, but since they haven't been able to practice it, understandable.

Posted by: irockthered | September 22, 2009 12:14 AM | Report abuse

"too cute"? Oh no, here we go again. didn't it seem like all BB said the first half of last season was that the two alex's were playing "too cute"?

Posted by: CAP-lanta | September 22, 2009 12:25 AM | Report abuse

CAP-lanta; in addition to the "too cute" syndrome I believe the caps are back to their old habits. There was no backcheck from the forwards whatsoever. No defensive awareness = No Cup. That equation has never failed in the history of hockey. Not only role players; our stars like Semin and Ovechkin better learn it soon or the caps will come up short year after year.

Posted by: O-V-P | September 22, 2009 12:37 AM | Report abuse

OK, all y'all Schultz detractors. What was it you were saying about Schultz not hitting? The guy was credited with FOUR - count'em - FOUR hits tonight! Did I mention that was the high number for BOTH teams?

EAT CROW. Salt will be provided.


Posted by: irockthered | September 21, 2009 11:40 PM | Report abuse

good, glad he finally showed a pair for one measly preseason game. He probably got embarassed reading all these blogs about what a big puss he is. Now lets see if he can keep it going past one preseason game. Amazing also what a little bit of a logjam will do to stoke the competitive fires of a Schultz or Alzner.

Posted by: cstanton1 | September 22, 2009 2:44 AM | Report abuse

Didn't get caught watching the second goal. That was Alzner. But wait, he was aggressive, so he gets a pass.

Posted by: Section117 | September 22, 2009 7:19 AM | Report abuse

In spite of all the stupid or ignorant (I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you just know nothing about the game)against Shultz. Last time we checked, the point of hockey was to score more goals than your opponent does, and Sarge has the best plus-minus of any defenseman in the division since he entered the League in 2006-07. Please see hockey reference.com

Posted by: majiksea | September 22, 2009 7:39 AM | Report abuse

Its a lost season!!! Fire the coach, Fire the GM. Trade away assets. The roof is falling....whoops sorry, thought this was the Redskins blog

Posted by: NFeKPo | September 22, 2009 8:30 AM | Report abuse

OK, all y'all Schultz detractors. What was it you were saying about Schultz not hitting? The guy was credited with FOUR - count'em - FOUR hits tonight! Did I mention that was the high number for BOTH teams?

EAT CROW. Salt will be provided.

Posted by: irockthered | September 21, 2009 11:40 PM

Yes, dear...

Actually it was all part of the grand plan. Reverse psychology and all...

I'm glad to hear that he was more physical. And to that I say about damned time! So keep it up, Sarge! Or else I'll be back on here talking about his wimpiness.

Posted by: Greg S. | September 22, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Schultz was throwing people around. Good to see him up in size and strength.

Knuble looks exactly like what we expected. He played hard most of the game and is a grinder. He could be found within a 10 foot vicinity of the net alot of the game. He'll finish those chances when the season starts too.
I thought his redirect in the second might have gone in? Did anyone else think so?

BTW remember this is the first preseason game for most of these guys. They clearly werent playing 100% so take some aspects of the game with a grain of salt...

Posted by: MCBT | September 22, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

The plot thickens! I'm glad I don't have to make this goalie decision. Rich man's dilemma.

Posted by: nicko | September 22, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Seeing the game last night was great, despite the unfortunate outcome. Of all of the prospects who deserves a slot, I think Keith Aucoin really made a good case. I really liked him at the end of last year and he's still grinding, finishing checks, and using speed and agility to make plays. His goal was no accident.

Obviously the power play could've done better and I can see some bad habits from last year. I'm sick of seeing Boudreau saying the pp was trying to be "too cute" in the next day's paper. The shot count really tells the story, but the guys are so good that they need to just attack and get the puck on net and control the points/outside. That means Ovechkin needs to stop playing the point and the d-men need to converge, move the puck with speed, and then make a play.

Theodore had a solid game despite a really unfortunate second period. Defensive mishaps were really the culprit, and the fact that the Sabres made a good attack. I'm not worried about his game at all, but I hope the D can close the seam a little bit.

Posted by: fronesis1016 | September 22, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Anyone know the attendance last night? How did Theodore look?

Posted by: redrocker2 | September 22, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

I don't know the official attendance, but it was not very packed. Maybe a little over half capacity?

It was good to see some hockey. Erskine laid out one of the Sabres with a good open ice hit and was jumped for it resulting in a 5 minute power play that yielded very little. 3 more games to get the rust off and be ready for 10/3.

Posted by: _Mark | September 22, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Theo seemed pretty solid. The two goals came close together and he was screened on one of them.

We definitely have three goalies worthy of action.

Posted by: _Mark | September 22, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Aucoin is hardly a "prospect" -- he's 30 years old and has been playing professionally since 2001. He may well provide short-term relief during the course of the season but can't possibly be in the Caps' long-term plans.

The fact is they have a log jam of average to above average talent and need to move some of it to allow the above average to superior talent room and time to develop. Kind of like pruning a tree or thinning out the crops.

The challenge is determining who the "superior" talent and who the "average" talent. Take CB for example, is his talent superior or does he just have a big heart and a famous name? GMGM has created this happy situation and now he gets to resolve it. And we get to argue about it until Christmas.

Posted by: Dave_in_Alexandria | September 22, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

i cant remember any of Schultz's hit. they must have been real BOARD RATTLERS!!

Bourqe is trade bait.

Posted by: doughless | September 22, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Lumberjack's open ice hit last night was Phaneuf-esque.

Posted by: doughless | September 22, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Can someone tell me why the heck Green was wearing an A

Posted by: macdco02 | September 22, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

schultz played okay, but i really didn't notice any of the hits either. I did love the MMA throw that Ovie used after the lumberjacks' hit. Theo I thought looked very solid

Posted by: _stevo | September 22, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

@rockthered

Were you at the game? Doesnt matter how many hits he was credited with. Good, he ran into 4 players. I can guarantee you they all had the pucks after the hit. Schultz looked more out of place last night than any other dman....

Theres your salt...

Posted by: numero94 | September 22, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I went to the game last night looking for a couple of things...

1. How will our first line (Ovi-Nicky-Knubs) work out? While they didn't score and their timing was off I see great things from them. The slap pass deflection from Ovi to Knubs that hit the post was very pretty, just unlucky.

2. How will our 2 young D (Alzner & Carlson) play in an NHL (all be it pre-season) game? I understand Alzner taking the blame for over-pursuing based on the prep info but other then that I saw, for the most part, good positioning and stick work. I also remember seeing Carlson race in from the bench to save a puck from leaving the offensive zone and blasting a shot on net.

3. How will Theo do in goal? I don't blame him for either of the goals. The deflection goal was actually a shot that was going wide to his left and was deflected back over his right shoulder. That's just a good deflection and near impossible to stop. The 2nd goal was such a fluck thing and seemed to bounce in almost by accident. All in all I thought he played very well.

4. What does Schultz do well? I admit that I have been a Sarge basher but I really wanted to watch him and see what he did well. I saw a couple of his hits including a decent one in the corner half way thru the 3rd where he pushed the Sabre off the puck allowing one of our forwards to dig it out. I saw solid stick work and he showed why his reach was an asset to the team. The only really anxious moment was when he slammed his feet together to trap a shot from the point. In the first game he tried that and it ended up deflecting off of his foot and past Varly. Thankfully he did trap the puck this time and quickly moved it out of harms way.

All in all I was just happy to be back at the Phone Booth to see our boys in action. I kept saying how much I had missed that place. God I am so happy hockey is back.

Posted by: pkendrick | September 22, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Schultz looked more out of place last night than any other dman? Don't let facts get in the way of an argument. Schultz played well last night.

If anything, Alzner and Green were the two dmen looking the most out of place (Alzner in particular). Alzner, not Schultz, got caught watching on the second goal. Green, unlike Schultz, can move the puck up the ice; but he was beaten on a move that looked eerily similar to a play that took a certain tall dman out of the playoffs last April.

Posted by: HeShootsHeScores | September 22, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

"Theodore had a solid game despite a really unfortunate second period. Defensive mishaps were really the culprit, and the fact that the Sabres made a good attack. I'm not worried about his game at all, but I hope the D can close the seam a little bit.

Posted by: fronesis1016 | September 22, 2009 9:35 AM"

This is what I was saying for last season and everyone keeps blaming Theo for letting in stupid goals. You can't leave your goalie out to hang dry by himself which has been done many times. Varly had a good run but he broke down that last game of the playoffs. I'm glad that finally someone is noticing it instead of blaming the goalie.

And Nyls needs to start adapting if he wants to play. Being complacent and not changing; sitting bench...If that's what he wants to be known for; he's doing a good job at it.

Posted by: MNMNT | September 22, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

My impression was that Green looked much worse than Alzner or any other defenseman. Green's very first touch of the game lead to a giveaway in a corner in our own end. He didn't really start contributing in a positive way until the 3rd period. Alzner made good decisions and played smart defensive hockey for the most part.

Posted by: tmac2yao | September 22, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

@ macdco02: Green wore the A because...they gave it to him to wear.

I'd not lose any sleep over it. You'll note that none of us actually work for the Capitals organization and really have no say in who wears the A or C. Sorry to disappoint you.

Posted by: LeftCoastCapsFan | September 22, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

So why does he start an article with the word, "So."

Posted by: nativedc | September 22, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

@numero94 - Yes, I was at the game, and from where I was sitting, I thought Schultz looked pretty good. Along with the four hits, he had quite a few shots on goal, and although I can't get to the event summary from here - Internet Exploder is being stupid - I don't believe he had the puck taken away from him, and I remember a couple of takeawys in his column.

Say what you want; perspectives are different, but I think you're in the minority here.

Posted by: irockthered | September 22, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Green better show a real dedication this year to playing some quality defense. He's now considered to be one of the leaders on this team defensively so he needs to NOT be the weak link when paired with a rookie.

And good that Schultz is stepping up his game. Its never too late. This team can only benefit from increased competition and a roster logjam on defense.

Posted by: cstanton1 | September 22, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Lumberjack's open ice hit last night was Phaneuf-esque.

Posted by: doughless | September 22, 2009 10:08 AM

@doughless:

You are correct.

But let's come up with a more easily-spoken adjective along the lines of "Datsyukian", shall we?

How about "Phaneufian", "Phaneufoid", or "Phan-tastic"?...or maybe even a new verb, e.g.:

"Did anyone see how the Lumberjack 'pfaneufed' that guy last night?"

I kid, of course. XD

Posted by: Rhino40 | September 22, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

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