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Posted at 11:32 AM ET, 02/ 4/2011

Line Change: Are there must-win games in February?

By Washington Post sports editors

In Katie Carrera's newspaper story Friday and blog post Thursday, several Capitals acknowledged the importance of tonight's game in Tampa, some suggesting it was a "must-win" game.

Certainly it will be important in the Southeast Division race, which obviously is essential to playoff seeding. But if the playoffs have taught us anything the past several years, it's that seedings don't seem to be all that reliable a predictor of postseason fate. If the playoffs started today, the Caps would open against Pittsburgh, who would have home-ice advantage in the series. The division-leading Lightning, as the second seed in the East, would open against the Rangers and goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

The Capitals are 1-1-1 against the Rangers this season (with a final meeting Feb. 25 at Verizon Center) and 1-0-1 against the Penguins (with two meetings to go, including Sunday's).

So with that in mind -- and with the acknowledgment that most Caps fans' concerns currently extend beyond wins and losses, how important do you consider tonight's result?

By Washington Post sports editors  | February 4, 2011; 11:32 AM ET
Categories:  Tampa Bay Lightning  
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Next: Varlamov to start against Lightning, Semin out

Comments

If the Caps lose the next two BB may be fired. So I would consider it important.

Posted by: pkme | February 4, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Caps will get smoked tonight.

Posted by: pkme | February 4, 2011 11:44 AM | Report abuse

pkme,

BB should have already been fired so I'm not so sure even if they lose the next two if he is in any danger unfortunately.

Posted by: PhilR | February 4, 2011 11:44 AM | Report abuse

this is not a must win game....those only occur on elimination games in the playoffs

Posted by: _stevo | February 4, 2011 11:44 AM | Report abuse

I agree with pkme... if the Caps lose to Tampa and a Crosby-less Pens team, Bruce could be a goner (I'd certainly fire him, but then again, I would've already made the change).

What matters most now is just getting some "W"s, and looking like a team that can score goals and put in a solid 60 minute effort. Doesn't really make the game any more critical tonight because it's Tampa. The Caps have skated off the ice as winners in only 9 of the past 26 games (that's a pretty pathetic and lengthy stretch of subpar results for a team that supposedly has championship aspirations)

Posted by: chombie13 | February 4, 2011 11:45 AM | Report abuse

"Must win" was in 08 when they made the Playoffs by 1 pt. "Must win" was Flyers vs Rangers on the last Sunday of last season. "Must win" is Game 7 in the Playoffs.

How bout, "Must play for 60 minutes."

Oops, every game SHOULD be that.

Katie: Can we get a report on why McPhee stormed out the other night? I think this would be way more insightful than Bradley and Backstrom with the same quotes over and over. Or just publish his cell phone number so cstanton1 can call him.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 4, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Trying to change the subject WaPo? In the tenor of John McEnroe "answer the question(s)!".

Posted by: FloridaCapsFan | February 4, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Trying to change the subject WaPo? In the tenor of John McEnroe "answer the question(s)!".

Posted by: FloridaCapsFan | February 4, 2011 11:47 AM | Report abuse

if you have Fios please tweet @FiOSTV and ask them to make the CSN+ feed HD on 501. Only way to get this done is to show them we want it now.

Posted by: heltzooor | February 4, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Interesting, I do wonder how much is true.

In any event, something better happen soon, we are getting to a point that the season could be lost.

I still feel Semin needs to go, send him with a goalie.

As far as this Backstrom guy one of you eluded to...no, haven't seen him for about 9 months...

Posted by: SoaringCaps | February 4, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Must win? Not exactly.

Beneficial win? Obviously. Win and we are 3 points behind TB...lose and we are 7.

Also, Dear GMGM, please do not even consider trading Semin. Not only will I hate you, but I will have to change my CI handle. Thx.

pokerface...where are you bud? I need you on here saying something like "trust me, Semin is going nowhere".

Katie...Please see tominsocal's question about Whiffgate. He really really wants it looked into. He may even join on as a outside reporter/consultant. ;)

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | February 4, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I'm assuming there is some connection between Semin not playing and GMGM being angry. It might not be that GMGM was angry at Semin, but there probably is some connection.

Semin has been practicing for too long and not playing for there not to be some internal issues going on. They seem serious too.

The s**t is about to hit the fan soon. I'm very curious to see what is going on. Hopefully someone will figure it out and report. Maybe we can borrow Bob MacKenzie or Darren Dreger for a few days.

Posted by: sgm3 | February 4, 2011 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Tampa is not that great and are prone to having meltdowns, as would be the case with any team on the upswing.

The problems with the Caps are worse than what appears on the surface.
The coaching thing has been tried and now it is time to fire McPhail.

Too much money handed out to players that could care less, only a matter of time before the tickets aren't renewed and the building goes empty (again)

Posted by: Cheef | February 4, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

@semin

Yea, your boy was a real "play off beast" against Gill and the 7 dwarfs !!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | February 4, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

these next 2 games set a tone about how this team will look down the stretch. lose them both and Caps look like they are on the road to finishing closer to 8th seed than top 3 seed.

Posted by: doughless | February 4, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

@SAOTI

I doubt he goes somewhere. I am just throwing out best guesses. Given what is adding up. The fact Semin is practicing and appears fully healthy for the last two weeks yet isnt playing, is quite strange.

Add that up to the rumored locker room divide, GMGM storming out of the room, BB having a private conversation with Ovi away from everyone. Something is very very wrong with the team right now. I hope it all gets sorted out, and soon.

Posted by: ThePat | February 4, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

You know that in reality we will end up being 6 points back after tonight (OT Loss) and will have to listen to talk of not playing an entire game and missed opportunities, but "could have been worse and lost in regulation"..

I really am sick of it already. Start holding players and coaches accountable.

Posted by: MattBradley10 | February 4, 2011 12:01 PM | Report abuse

ThePat:

i have been on travel and not fllowing the latest: what is this about locker room divide???

Posted by: doughless | February 4, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I hope it all gets sorted out, and soon.
------------------------------
Me too.

Posted by: FloridaCapsFan | February 4, 2011 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone remember Semin's rookie season ? Anyone remember him missing charter flight back last game of season ? Anyone remember him staying in Russia due to "military service" for one season ?

Yet this debacle of a GM threatened legal action for the "military service" issue and signed him as recently as last week to a ton of money.

This is comical and I bet it was Leonsis that ordered Semin to be signed. Only way they'll be able to save face (again)

Posted by: Cheef | February 4, 2011 12:03 PM | Report abuse

How important is tonight's game for the Caps?

Simple:
It is the most important game they will play today.

Nothing more, nothing less. At the end of the seaons they will have played 82 important games. Sure you could argue that today's is more important than some others, but does that suggest the Caps should 'try harder'? I'd prefer if they just consistently try hard... you know, kind of like what you need to do for 2+ months in Spring.

Posted by: PSD1 | February 4, 2011 12:03 PM | Report abuse

HOLD ON...

The biggest question is...was Bruce's comments with Ovechkin at this morning's practice?

Does it really mean....??? (no, no, couldn't be)

Posted by: SoaringCaps | February 4, 2011 12:04 PM | Report abuse

The fact Semin is practicing and appears fully healthy for the last two weeks yet isnt playing, is quite strange.

Add that up to the rumored locker room divide, GMGM storming out of the room, BB having a private conversation with Ovi away from everyone. Something is very very wrong with the team right now. I hope it all gets sorted out, and soon.

Posted by: ThePat |

Agree completely. It is very strange. The only thing we know is that something is going on. But who knows what that is.

It really could be anything, it could be personal such as some dealings by one player with a girl, girlfriend, or wife of another player, coach, trainer, whatever. (I'm not saying it is, but this is often the culprit for internal problems with sports teams)

Posted by: sgm3 | February 4, 2011 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Soaring Caps,

Inquiry minds want to know, did Ovie actually take part in a morning skate??!!

Posted by: PhilR | February 4, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

what did GMGM storm out of?

New job means I have not been as up to date with the news on the Caps.

Posted by: capscoach | February 4, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Katie,

You've go to help out here. There's all kinds of rampant speculation going on about what ails the team. Please get us the facts!

Posted by: FloridaCapsFan | February 4, 2011 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Can someone explain to me why the Caps current style is "playoff" style in January and now February? I'm pretty sure the playoffs start in April, and these games are meant to decided IF they get in and where they're seeded.

I'm done with Bruce. Too bad we have to wait until another playoff exit to say goodbye to that over-rated fatty.

Posted by: soloman5000 | February 4, 2011 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Phil...

That will tell me if Ovechkin is serious about tonight's game...

Posted by: SoaringCaps | February 4, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I feel like a junkie...win or lose, I just want to see Erskine kick somebody's a@@ tonite. C'MON JOHNNY, IT'S BEEN SINCE JAN. 1ST THAT YOU DROPPED THE MITTS....SET THE TONE TONITE!!

Bolts are going down

Posted by: vermontcaps | February 4, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse

@capscoach,

Congrats on the new job. One less on the unemployed list. Keep on contributing to SocSec so my payments keep coming. Thanks!

Posted by: FloridaCapsFan | February 4, 2011 12:13 PM | Report abuse

lol FloridaCapsFan...don't worry though...I wasn't unemployed...just got a better job.

Posted by: capscoach | February 4, 2011 12:14 PM | Report abuse

I understand Semin is still out with a hip injury. Seems he hurt it from sitting on his new wallet.

Posted by: festus75 | February 4, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

@capscoach

According to John Feinstein who was covering the game for the Post on Tuesday, McPhee stormed out of the locker room very upset with someone/something.

@doughless

locker room divide has been rumored(I was told about it 2 weeks ago). Steve Hindle referred to it the other day in an article. I have no idea if its true, but the rumor is out there.

Posted by: ThePat | February 4, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

@PhilR

We know the guy suffered at the end. Everyone does now days.

The man brought a team here, mismanaged it, and then forced us to save it with "A save the Caps campaign". He was a real estate guy who should have stayed there. Hockey would have come here anyhow, but with a real owner who wasn't "a rip off artist".

The mismanagement of the Bullets and Caps was almost surreal in light of what JK Cooke did with the Skins.

I'm pucking and wizzing on Abe's grave. His family estate was massive. Partly due to his fleecing of hard working Washingtonians who wanted a daily distraction, and ended up with Unseld as a coach/GM and Scott Stevens in St. Louis.

This may happen tonight, now that I've had to think of Wes as coach and GM again."Scott Stevens come pick up the Cup for your New Jersey Devils" (Betman).

Where's the Naty Bo, Tominsocal ?

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | February 4, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

festus..

that's awesome! LOL....

Posted by: SoaringCaps | February 4, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

I understand Semin is still out with a hip injury. Seems he hurt it from sitting on his new wallet.

Posted by: festus75 | February 4, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Oh Boy...when is the Big Guy Eric Fehr coming back!?

We really need him!

*puke*

Posted by: SoaringCaps | February 4, 2011 12:18 PM | Report abuse

About time you got a new job baby. Kids have been lookin skinny lately.

Posted by: cstanton1 | February 4, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Worst GM in hockey, plain & simple.

I've called for his firing for 8 years.

Yes, worse than Snow because he's been here forever and has NOTHING to show for it. Now it appears the perfect storm is about to hit the team.

Coach's act is up. Players cashed in and don't care. The room is a divided disgrace.

This is what happens when you run a team like a normal business and try to copy another teams model or success.

I hope they make the post season, that way these guys must play for free, at least for a couple weeks.

Posted by: Cheef | February 4, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

@Florida

Another irate father of a 17 year old was on the phone to the Caps about Semin dating
his daughter ? McPhee had to step in last time Semin did this !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | February 4, 2011 12:23 PM | Report abuse

This is the biggest game ever in the history of the Washington Capitals...

Posted by: CapsNut | February 4, 2011 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I don't cry very often. But I did cry when I watched the Devils honor Scott Stevens as he stood there with his kids. Probably the most emotional I've ever gotten about anything. And the best thing about that ceremony was how the Devils played all the footage of Stevens as a youngster. Lots of great Caps moments. And to think we had Stevens, Dino, and Hunter on the same team. Glad I was able to experience that.

Posted by: cstanton1 | February 4, 2011 12:25 PM | Report abuse

I don't think it will be win-loss this weekend as much as I think it will be how much the players bring it. The hope is that GMGM is in contact with the agents of potentail new coaches. If they falter in the same manner, lack of full effort for the whole game, I think a change will be made.

Posted by: akmzrazor | February 4, 2011 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Hunterforcoach

Real choice comments, remember that when you're gone or better yet, when you're about to go. Karma is a beautiful thing.

Posted by: Cheef | February 4, 2011 12:25 PM | Report abuse

So does anyone know if semin made the trip and is supposed to be playing tonight?

Katie wrote a few blogs ago that she would update us after practice on the semin situation but has never said a word about him since,and that was like two days ago.Bad reporting katie! Not that semin is the answer to all prayers right now but he sure could help things with him in the line-up.Its a shame semin is such a wimp,baby,no nads havin player cause he could be one of the best in the league.Its a shame he holds himself back,he has potential to be one of the greats,he just needs to totally change his attitude and man-up ALOT more.Either way,we need him back and i was just wondering if his kitty kat has stopped hurting and is gonna play tonight.If anyone has some insight let me know.Thanks! GO CAPS!!!

Posted by: gratefuldid | February 4, 2011 12:25 PM | Report abuse

@Cheef

He has nothing to show for it if you dont count sellouts and regular season record.

Every true fan defines success by how you do in the playoffs, but as a GM, you need to produce all 3...

So are the Flyers a complete failure since they have nothing to show for it either?

Posted by: SA-Town | February 4, 2011 12:26 PM | Report abuse

@ SA-Town

You mean the Cup Winning Broad Street Bullies ? Come on man, you're kidding right ?

You'd kill to have Mike Richards as Captain of the Caps.

Posted by: Cheef | February 4, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

@Cheef

Yea, and so called hockey fans think Semin can win 16 post season games while injured.

Semin will never finish a second round of playoff hockey.

Yes, GMGM is nuts. But somebody told me he has a Baker award, a BA from somewhere, and a law degree. I guess "we'll give him a whirl" for 13 years. See what he can cook up !

It took Yzerman 6 months to kick GMGM's rear. Here we are. Rolo, another Hall of Fame Goalie "coming up large" against the Caps.

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | February 4, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

The locker room divide could be over BB. The Calder Cup 2006 champs want him to stay while the other guys are ready for a change.

Maybe BB begged Ovi to score some goals so he wouldn't lose his job.

Maybe GMGM stormed out of Verizon Center because he's tired of the team losing.

Maybe the team is being overly cautious with Semin because of the Poti debacle.

I don't have the answers, but I do think some overstate the relationship between Ovi and Semin. They're friends but they understand hockey is a business. Neither is going to fall apart if Semin is traded.

Posted by: ablake70 | February 4, 2011 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Anyone on this blog could have picked Ovechkin,Semin, Backstrom & Green at a draft and plugged in the rest to get the ticket sales back.

It's retarded that Leonsis trusted a GM that failed miserably to build a contender

Posted by: Cheef | February 4, 2011 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Anyone on this blog could have picked Ovechkin,Semin, Backstrom & Green at a draft and plugged in the rest to get the ticket sales back.

It's retarded that Leonsis trusted a GM that failed miserably to build a contender

Posted by: Cheef | February 4, 2011 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Twitter updates:
Semin did not make trip.
Sloan and King skating in the "scratches skate"
Varly first off the ice.

Go Caps!

Posted by: _Mark | February 4, 2011 12:35 PM | Report abuse

@ablake

you could be very right on all accounts. Like I said I was just giving a guess by putting things together. Your take is also very plausible.

Bottom line is we dont know. And we never will. Even if Katie asks the questions which I bet she would, she wouldnt get the answers. No player is dumb enough to admit there is a divide.(At least I hope no one is dumb enough)

Posted by: ThePat | February 4, 2011 12:39 PM | Report abuse

"It really could be anything, it could be personal such as some dealings by one player with a girl, girlfriend, or wife of another player, coach, trainer, whatever. (I'm not saying it is, but this is often the culprit for internal problems with sports teams)" - sgm3

Hmm Im thinking it's Sloan (in a dress of course and desperate to find any way to stay up with the team and not be sent down) slept with Ovie, BB, Green, and is now hanging out at Semin's. And BB is was with him last, hence BB is benching Semin. GMGM came in and asked what the locker room problem was and found out Sloan has been swinging...and stormed out because he knew Ted was going to be on his a$$ soon because with all time Esskay spent man-whoring, there is no way that the Verizon Center hot dog sales have met their monthly quotas.

True story.

@hunterforcoach

He was a beast against the midgets, just not a scoring machine. IMO of course.

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | February 4, 2011 12:39 PM | Report abuse

This game is overhyped. Its WAY more important to see the Caps start a whole new trend of 60 min efforts then it is to see who ends up on the winning end tonight.

Posted by: cstanton1 | February 4, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

How important is tonight's game for the Caps?

Simple:
It is the most important game they will play today.

Nothing more, nothing less. At the end of the seaons they will have played 82 important games. Sure you could argue that today's is more important than some others, but does that suggest the Caps should 'try harder'? I'd prefer if they just consistently try hard... you know, kind of like what you need to do for 2+ months in Spring.

Posted by: PSD1 | February 4, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Yes, GMGM is nuts. But somebody told me he has a Baker award, a BA from somewhere, and a law degree. I guess "we'll give him a whirl" for 13 years. See what he can cook up !

It took Yzerman 6 months to kick GMGM's rear.


--hunter--

hehehe

to add to that, McPhee's a control freak con artist. Don't let that quiet measured tone fool you.

Posted by: cstanton1 | February 4, 2011 12:54 PM | Report abuse

@hunterforcoach

Really? Do you not remember that GMGM made several moves his first year that landed us in the Cup Finals. Yezerman's given up a bunch of prospects and draft picks, so if he does get it this year or next they are going to be stuck for while playing with minor leaguers for two or three years like we were during the Bruce Cassidy years.

Posted by: akmzrazor | February 4, 2011 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Most of the commenters appear to belong to the Red Queen school of sports management--everything will be fine if we behead the coach, the general manager and all the players who don't engage in enough fistfights. I'm a fan of the team we have--including Semin and Fehr--and I'd like to see them have at least one more chance as a basically intact unit to see if they can win the Cup or at least get deep in the playoffs. Tonight isn't the absolutely necessary first step toward that end, but it would help.

Posted by: IrishBear | February 4, 2011 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Most of the commenters appear to belong to the Red Queen school of sports management--everything will be fine if we behead the coach, the general manager and all the players who don't engage in enough fistfights. I'm a fan of the team we have--including Semin and Fehr--and I'd like to see them have at least one more chance as a basically intact unit to see if they can win the Cup or at least get deep in the playoffs. Tonight isn't the absolutely necessary first step toward that end, but it would help.

Posted by: IrishBear | February 4, 2011 2:34 PM | Report abuse

I think the "seedings" in the nhl are irrelevant. So the games tonight and Sunday are not necessarily important for that reason. They're important because the caps are only a couple losses FROM BEING ON THE BRINK OF BEING OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS ALL TOGETHER. The Eastern Conference is very tight this year and if the hometown team is not careful, they could be playing golf in mid-April.

Re Bruce B., I don;t think he should be fired, even if he loses the next six games in a row. That change--if it's made--should be during the offseason.

Let's go caps...

Posted by: danog224 | February 4, 2011 3:07 PM | Report abuse

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