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Posted at 8:04 PM ET, 01/31/2011

Capitals want to 'put it all together' in final 31 games

By Katie Carrera

The Capitals got back to work Monday night after a four-day break for the NHL All-Star Game as they prepare to kick off the final 31 games of the regular season Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens. Many players took mini-vacations but most were ready to get going again because this season, unlike the past two years, the Capitals do not have the luxury of a double-digit lead on the Southeast Division heading into the month of February.

"We're in a battle. We know it and we'll see how it works out," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We're doing some things an awful lot better than last year, other things not as well now. We've got to equalize it out in the last 31 games and hope it works out. When you get to the playoffs, who knows what's going to happen."

Washington, and the rest of the NHL, learned last year that it doesn't necessarily matter what your exact seed is entering the playoffs but it's more important how you're playing when leading up to the postseason. For the Capitals, who have a decidedly improved defense and penalty kill, one of the biggest challenges moving forward is resuscitating the offense without sacrificing the staunch play in their own end.

Out of 51 games this season, the Capitals have scored three or fewer goals 36 times and two or fewer 23 times. It's a lack of scoring that Washington isn't accustomed to under Boudreau but the players stress that their main objective is to strike a balance. None of the Capitals expect to start scoring at the rate they did the last two seasons, but they believe the goals will come back.

"I think maybe we're not super confident offensively," Matt Bradley said. "A couple goals could change that very quickly. We've just got to keep working at crashing the net and getting a lot of shots and hopefully that aspect of the game will start turning around for us."

The theory of adversity as a positive thing for this team remains though, as many of the Capitals maintain that perhaps fighting for playoff positioning and the necessity to keep working in search of a complete game is a good thing for them.

"These last 31 games we just want to put it all together," Boyd Gordon said. "The division's been better this year, it's a tighter race and maybe we'll be hungrier, it shouldn't matter that way, but we're definitely fighting every night. With a 20-point lead sometimes you start to take short cuts and we can't afford to do that this year."

Some other quick notes from the evening practice at KCI:

--Boudreau said there's a chance Alexander Semin (groin) could return to the lineup for Tuesday's game against Montreal but that it all depends on when the winger tells the staff he is ready to go. This nagging groin injury has been around longer than simply the most recent nine games he's been forced to miss.

--Brooks Laich missed practice because his return flight to Washington was delayed.

--Michal Neuvirth said he felt okay after his first full practice with the team since exiting the game in Philadelphia on Jan. 18. The fact that he took part in the entire session, which included quite a bit of substantial skating, is a good sign.

--Boudreau estimated that Tom Poti (lower body) would be able to start practicing with the rest of the team in a week and Eric Fehr (shoulder) would in two weeks. It definitely doesn't sound like either one will be suiting up in the immediate future, though.

--Tyler Sloan was back in Washington after a conditioning stint in Hershey.

By Katie Carrera  | January 31, 2011; 8:04 PM ET
 
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Next: Five questions facing the Capitals

Comments

One of the AHL guys just threw his stick in an all-star game, hurry everyone get on and blast him for his classless action.

Posted by: icehammer97 | January 31, 2011 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Tyler Sloan works hard and skates well but he has no defensive awareness, constantly gets caught out of position and has a tendency to make bad decisions under pressure. He has low hockey IQ in general and simply isn't an NHL-caliber defenseman.

If the Caps insist on having him around, I'd prefer that he is used as a last resort 4th line wing. I hope we never see him playing defense for the Capitals again.

Posted by: tmac2yao | January 31, 2011 9:46 PM | Report abuse

And I don't believe that Sloan's issues are the result of his lack of consistent usage. Even when he's had to play for several games in a row, his problems are only diminished marginally.

Posted by: tmac2yao | January 31, 2011 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Lets face it...the team needs to commit to winning and making the sacrifice right NOW....look at the next 5-7 games...if they play half assed like they have been playing they will not even get in the Playoffs. BB needs to stop letting them take days off, he needs to step on their toes and hold them accountable no matter who it is. GMGM needs to wake up and see what goes on.....just look at what TB has done. GMGM can't even unload Semin....his answer is to give him a 700K raise...great job George! ...Ted also needs to wake up and do something.

Posted by: CB28031 | January 31, 2011 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Got a love a coach who does not know how the playoffs are going to go. The old lady luck thing along with the hot goalie excuse. He reminds me of Scotty Bowman with that kind of inspiration. BB needs to go. I said it last year after Montreal and I really am saying it now. If that guy was your boss would you respect him. No wonder 340 players think he is the easiest translation softest coach in the NHL. All you Koolaid drinkers The Capitals will lose in the 1st round again. Maybe if they are lucky they will lose in the 2nd round.

Posted by: pkme | January 31, 2011 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Let the season begin. Disregard everything that's happened up to this point I say. The Caps were and still are somewhat a teaming learning to win playing playoff hockey. (I think they figured out out how to play it, just not win at it consistently-maybe a few more weeks of it) A few more solid wins playing this way and maybe Bruce lets 'em loose? I still wish they would have stuck to their guns and kept playing run and gun, even through the playoffs but, fans and experts alike demanded it! Screw you!! haha Maybe once they win Lord Stanleys Mug they'll revert back to entertainment. I sure hope so! Go Caps!

Posted by: edmontoncapsfan | January 31, 2011 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Mcphee says we like the team we have.

Really. I am mean really. A bunch of fans who are novices know that the Caps need toughness up front and 2nd line center. Most fans knew that the team needed to look a feel tougher. Who on the Caps defense scares anybody?

Posted by: pkme | January 31, 2011 10:06 PM | Report abuse

The best thing that could happen may be the Caps missing the playoffs entirely. I only say that because Mr. Business of Happiness may be forced to do something to appease the fans, i.e., finally fire McPhee, the man largely responsible for all of our shortcomings.

Even if we do make the playoffs, this bunch won't be a contender even after any tweaks he makes at the deadline. There are too many personnel issues to address in trade. His response to our regresssion last season was to get younger at key positions (what rebuilding teams do) and extend the likes of Tom Poti and Semin when we need centers, defensemen and grit in general.

Posted by: tmac2yao | January 31, 2011 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, if Leonsis is forced to make a chance, I think McPhee would somehow convince him that only Boudreau needs to go. McPhee is the source of all our problems, including coaching. How many years into the rebuild are we now? We've won a single playoff series by a whisker. I don't care how close we were in all the other series. Facts are facts. Other GMs around the league have accomplished a lot more in their rebuilding efforts. Any GM could have build a pretty good team with all the 1st rd draft picks McPhee had to work with over the past decade. Only a skilled GM with a real feel for how to build a roster could have taken things to the next level.

Posted by: tmac2yao | January 31, 2011 10:18 PM | Report abuse

tmac2yao

do you think santa claus gave him all those first round draft picks you pointed out

Posted by: samb99 | January 31, 2011 10:27 PM | Report abuse

It looks like the folks in New Jersey minus the last couple of years knew how to build a strong team. Red Wings of course and dreaded Pittsburgh knew how to build winners. Heck even Tampa and Carloina have won a Cup. The Caps are approaching 40 years without a championship. The only Washington team yet to win a champiosnhip. Of couse if The Caps were well coached they could do better. Mainly because guys like OVI would have to actually practice and take care of himslef. OVI needs a coach who will mentor him and train him to be better. Can you visualize a guy like BB telling OVI what to do. BB is no Bowman. That is for sure.

Posted by: pkme | January 31, 2011 10:30 PM | Report abuse

If somebody knew of a truly elite GM that was available, I'd trade anybody and anything within this organization for that GM.

In the cap era, the person most influential on what happens on the ice is the GM. With all teams given the same resources to build rosters, the biggest differentiator over time is the decisions made by the GM... the collective effect of all those decisions.

Any team that rebuilds will acquire some top end talent. Some top end talent is greater than others but what ultimately determines success is not simply having elite players but building correctly around those players. McPhee is not good at that. His eternal rebuild is going to fail. By the time he tries to cash in on what he believes are a bunch of valuable assets, there will be other rebuilding teams that started their rebuilds later surpassing us.

In the cap era, you can't be overly conservative and aim for long-term success. There is too much parity due to the hard cap.

The Penguins have been extremely active ever season (and offseason) to build around their young core and have obviously done a tremendous job given all their postseason success. Chicago went all in and it paid off. Sure, they had the savvy Bowmans behind it but we can still do better than McPhee... much better.

If we don't cut off the source of our problems, the highlight of the Ovechkin era will be a couple of MVPs and a relatively meaningless Pres. Trophy. Wake up before it's too late, Ted!

Posted by: tmac2yao | January 31, 2011 10:32 PM | Report abuse

I'm so very happy the Caps have an iconic player like Ovie. He has been named to the League's first team LW in every year he has been in the league and has been voted as the best player in the NHL the past 3 years by the NHL players. He is incredibly exciting and fun to watch. When was the last time DC had a player of that caliber?

I wouldn't want any other player in the NHL on the Caps other than Ovechkin. When people hear the name Ovechkin or Ovie they think Capitals. Can you really say that about any other player in Caps history? (Dale Hunter and Kolzig only worked on very serous hockey fans)

I'm excited that he will be on the Caps for a long, long time and will enjoy watching him play throughout his career.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 31, 2011 10:41 PM | Report abuse

I have no idea why BB hasn't used the most obvious 1st line:

DJK/Hendricks/Erskine

That line would dominate and score at will. All opponents would tremble in fear of being destroyed and the ice would be all theirs. The goalie would curl up into the fetal position in the corner of the ice in fear of being destroyed by the indestructible greatness of DJK and Erskine. This would then lead to many wide open nets.

The Caps would win games around 80-0. I guess some would be lower scoring, around 5-0, just because the other team would forefeit in the first 5 minutes of the game.

BB, GET IT DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: sgm3 | January 31, 2011 6:23 PM | Report abuse

You know I couldn't let this one go, and this my friend is the gem of all gems, the keeper of all keepers. Why? Because it brings to mind three things:

1. There is definite hockey merit and logic to your suggestion, and someone like fanohock1 might not realize you jest...with him on board, perhaps the idea will gain traction when BB's world starts to collapse around him

2. The very fact that you mentioned DJK/Erskine in a post, and not in response to me I might add, demonstrates that you're at least thinking of them....I win :)

3. I am flattered that you would even attempt to replicate my tone and voice, but you're missing something. But hey, it's nice to be missed and I appreciate your attempt to call me out after a couple days of inactivity.

Glad to see Poti appears to be out for another week, and I wouldn't be opposed to seeing #17 tomorrow night (even if only to run Subban and Vandemeer every shift). Caps are 1-0, blanking the Habs 3-0, since inserting Erskine into the lineup against them. Funny how he wasn't good enough to go against them in the playoffs.

Posted by: vermontcaps | January 31, 2011 11:00 PM | Report abuse

GMGM needs to act NOW in order to put the pieces in place for a cup run. There seems to be a few glaring weaknesses that are very apparent. First one is a no-brainer: We need a bad-a$$ 2C who would KILL HIS OWN MOTHER to win.

Is Mr. Hunter still in good enough shape? His "lead by example" mentality would be infectious in the room and on the ice... A few face-washes maybe. Stir the pot...

Is a center out there who comes to mind that might be available that GMGM NEEDS to go balls-to-the-wall to acquire? Maybe overpay for?

Posted by: sca187 | January 31, 2011 11:02 PM | Report abuse

tmac2yao you convinced me. I am giving up on the Caps and picking a new sport to watch...

Posted by: allCAPS | January 31, 2011 11:07 PM | Report abuse

No kidding on Semin's nagging groin problem bothering him even prior to the recent 9 games missed!

Could that be the "nagging" problem that was bothering him back in late November before he had missed ANY games this year? I recall reading of him missing a practice then due to a nagging problem.

And could that be the reason he had missed those 3 games in December as well at the tail end of the losing streak?

No coincidence that his lack of scoring overlapped with his "nagging" groin problems (along with other ills, as well).

Posted by: CapsFan75 | January 31, 2011 11:13 PM | Report abuse

OVI is not an icon. You have to win something first before you acheive that status. Anyone really think Marino was better than Montana. He might have been but most would say not. What is the difference?

Posted by: pkme | January 31, 2011 11:17 PM | Report abuse

First step is get a coach who actually knows how to motivate. His fake tough guy act in HBO made me sick to my stomach. Completely playing for the cameras. Coach Dan seems like a real coach.

Posted by: pkme | January 31, 2011 11:34 PM | Report abuse

Please scratch Poti BB!!

Ovie-Backy-Knuble
Handricks-Johannson-Semin
Chimera-Perrault-Laich
Beagle-Gordon-Bradley

I like those lines

Posted by: digster1013 | February 1, 2011 12:20 AM | Report abuse

OK, Boudreau can talk the talk.

Can he skate the skate?

So far, this year, no.

The Washington Capitals 2010-2011 season, so far, has been as disappointing as any regular season in one of my team sports I can remember. No, it doesn't compare to Orioles losing WS to Mets or Pirates (twice), some of the Baltimore Colts playoff finales or the Caps playoff losses all those years to the Pens. But, as a regular season, it's been baffling and incredibly disappointing. So many players slumping at the same time, almost as if they collectively threw in the towel. Ovechkin clean shaven because he sold out to Gillette. Backstrom a shell of his former self. Tom Poti even worse than before he was re-signed.

I'm almost as disgusted as when they signed Jagr. Almost, not quite.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 1, 2011 12:46 AM | Report abuse

Saw on ESPN insider that the Pens might let talbot go?

I would love to see that!

Posted by: digster1013 | February 1, 2011 1:52 AM | Report abuse

Good sign- Ovechkin on the ice for a practice...

Maybe this is the sign of change that we needed that will ignite him!


I hope some of you guys/gals realize, George can't make a trade unless the OTHER team is willing to part with what they have/the caps need.

Apparently, right now, nobody is on the trade block. Nobody else is making trades...

Posted by: SoaringCaps | February 1, 2011 2:19 AM | Report abuse

Everyone knows sgm3 covets the Guillaume Latendresses of the world, and I mean the Gui before he got all Wild.

Posted by: slurpeesarecool | February 1, 2011 2:24 AM | Report abuse

@Tom, I believe the biggest part of the Caps general malaise is that the last few years BB was excited to coach players on run and gun, and they bought in. The Caps were having fun winning, scoring in droves, and the players were motivated. Now, BB is coaching defense first relunctantly, and his players are disappointed. They have soured on BB's lack of committment to his own system and are tuning him out. The Caps are coming out lethargic, hence the worst in the first goals for/against ratio. They have to play themselves into games, relying on themselves and not the coaching staff. It's clearly time for a change to a coach who loves to coach playoff hockey, not one forced to do so by a gm or a sea-change in the league back to clutch-and-grab hockey ala late 90's.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS2 | February 1, 2011 5:52 AM | Report abuse

And the Caps are playing a playoff bound team -- let's see if they can win against a team that will not be playing golf in April.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS2 | February 1, 2011 6:00 AM | Report abuse

Tmac has hit it right on the head....the problem is GMGM (the bad HBO actor)He is can't make a good decision and when he dosn't he will say the usual things. Ted needs to dump him now.

Posted by: CB28031 | February 1, 2011 6:40 AM | Report abuse

They need to bring Federov back in some capacity. He seemed to give the team the motivation that they needed.

Posted by: Capitals8 | February 1, 2011 7:39 AM | Report abuse

Everyone knows sgm3 covets the Guillaume Latendresses of the world, and I mean the Gui before he got all Wild.

Posted by: slurpeesarecool

Huh? Because I said Ovechkin is the most iconic athlete the DC area has had in an incredibly long time(Joe Gibbs would be a sports figure, but wasn't a player).

I will say it again, I wouldn't trade Ovechkin to any team for anybody. I enjoy everything about his style and watching him play.

IMO, the last few years have been, by far, the most fun years to watch and follow the Caps. Hockey is entertainment and I have been more entertained by the Caps the past few years than ever before. This has a lot to do with the presence of Ovechkin. I want to see the Caps try to win with him and hopefully they do.

Posted by: sgm3 | February 1, 2011 7:46 AM | Report abuse

Coach should turn the boys loose for 10 games. They know how to play the style that is needed when needed. Score 2 and you will get 5. We can shut it down in the 3rd to close out games. Fly around and hit everything that moves. Both styles make a good solid team. Coach just needs to figure out when is when and NOW. Tonight is a barometer of the rest of season. Huge!!!

Posted by: ballgame21 | February 1, 2011 8:15 AM | Report abuse

I don't suppose Dale Hunter is ready to take the coaching leap from London Knights to here...?

Posted by: HeatherinMD | February 1, 2011 8:23 AM | Report abuse

This is an unusual day. I like and agree with a lot of the posts.

WAPO Staff: ...The theory of adversity as a positive thing for this team remains though...

I agree I thought they were too complacent going into the playoffs last year.

tmac2yao: Tyler Sloan works hard...and simply isn't an NHL-caliber defenseman.

He seems like a nice kid that works hard, but it is what it is. :(

sgm3: I'm so very happy the Caps have an iconic player like Ovie...

Me too. Having said that I want him to get his head together, make some adjustments and start scoring some goals.

JIMALLCAPS2: The Caps were having fun winning, scoring in droves, and the players were motivated. Now, BB is coaching defense first relunctantly, and his players are disappointed...

Good points and very astute. I hadn't thought of it that way before.

Capitals8: They need to bring Federov back in some capacity...

Of course with a screen name like mine I have to really like that post. :)


Posted by: BetterOffWithFedorov | February 1, 2011 8:33 AM | Report abuse

"Me too. Having said that I want him to get his head together, make some adjustments and start scoring some goals."

@BetterOffWithFedorov

I agree he needs to get back to his game, it was more towards the people stating the Caps should look to trade him.

Posted by: sgm3 | February 1, 2011 8:53 AM | Report abuse

I don't expect the Caps turn everything around tonight, but I think a PP goal and a win would be a step in the right direction. Get the PP going.

I also think BB needs to stop changing the lines so mcuh. Pick the lines and stick with them.

I like how some people are calling for BB to be fired when there are still 31 games left. Ridiculous. If the Caps continue their skid and don't make the playoffs, then perhaps it's time to consider a coaching change. But remember if you fire BB, who's going to replace him? You better get someone really good because I think BB is a good coach.

Trading?? Now that is something that they need to think about really carefully over the next couple of weeks because they're running out of time. With the offense not producing, it's hard to single anyone out and I don't think we should trade 1/2 our team, along with first-round picks, etc... for any one player.

Posted by: SirPelleas | February 1, 2011 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Hey, did anybody hear about that message board that the Capitals go on and talk about trading particular fans based on what they're posting on this message board?

It's at www.ifyoureallyknewanythingabouthockeyyoudbemanagingandcoachingit.com.

Go see. It's funny. It really shows that all your complaints are noticed by the staff and the team. McPhee and Leonsis visit that site frequently to plan their next moves. It's so cool. And here I thought all of you were just a waste of space at Verizon Center. Boy, was I wrong!

Posted by: LeftCoastCapsFan | February 1, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

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