Capitals vs. Canadiens blog

Are the Caps' under the President's Trophy curse?

04.16.2010 / 1:00 AM ET

Only seven of the previous 23 President's Trophy winners have gone on to win the Stanley Cup. Washington is one game closer to making it seven out of 24.

Montreal stunned the Caps in overtime here tonight, 3-2, thanks to Tomas Plekanec's rocket of a shot that beat Jose Theodore to the stick side with 6:41 left in overtime.

If the Capitals don't win Game 2 Saturday night back here at Verizon Center, they are heading into a buzzsaw at Bell Centre, one of the loudest buildings in the NHL, down 2-0 in a series they were supposed to win in four or five games.

"Our best players weren't our best players tonight and their best players were," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Boudreau is dead on. Alex Ovechkin was held without a shot for only the fourth time in his career. He was also held without a point.

"I don't think Alex played very well," a blunt Boudreau said of No. 8.

Nicklas Backstrom scored a goal on six shots, but he was also in the penalty box for Montreal's first goal and on the ice for the OT winner.

Alexander Semin played nearly 21 non-descript minutes. He had six shots, but he was just slightly above average.

Mike Green got beat on Scott Gomez's game-tying goal and had just two shots in 28 and a half minutes.

The good news for Washington is that Jose Theodore played very well. He made 35 saves and really had no chance on any of the goals.

Mike Cammalleri beat him with a great shot into the short side. Theodore maybe could have had that one, but it was a fantastic shot. Gomez beat him on a tap-in after a great pass through the slot from Gionta. And, Plekanec ripped a wide open shot past him from about 20 feet out.

"I thought he was good," Boudreau said. "I thought he kept us in. In the first period we were really good and in the second period when they were putting their push on I thought he made some big, big saves to keep it a tie game."

Washington better figure out a way to beat Jaroslav Halak, though. He made 45 saves to improve to 7-0 this season when he faces 45 or more shots.

It starts with Ovechkin, who has to be better and more engaged.

"When you get almost 50 shots on goal and Ovechkin doesn't get any and you have four power plays, there is something (wrong)," Boudreau said. "They took him away pretty good, but I just didn't think he was very good tonight."

-- Dan Rosen

Warm-ups over, Game 1 set to begin

04.15.2010 / 6:52 PM ET

Caps' fans inside Verizon Center are rocking their red as Game 1 against the Canadiens is set to get underway.

As expected, the goalie matchup is between Washington's Jose Theodore and Montreal's Jaroslav Halak. Nicklas Backstrom, although he was ill Tuesday, is in the lineup and will likely be a factor in some capacity. He has never missed a game in his three-year NHL career.

The Canadiens are looking for some production from Mike Cammalleri, who hasn't scored a goal since Jan. 23. Granted, he missed 17 games from Feb. 2 through March 22 with a knee injury, but he's gone 12 straight games without scoring.

Also, the Habs need more from Scott Gomez, who has gone 14 straight games without a goal. He at least has 9 assists over the span. Brian Gionta has scored in three straight games, so at least he's going well coming into the postseason.

The lines and D pairings are as follows:











A. Kostitsyn-Plekanec-Cammalleri

Moen-Moore-S. Kostitsyn





Check the blog later for some post-game reaction and follow along with me live on Twitter at @drosennhl

-- Dan Rosen

Caps ready, Boudreau feeling butterflies

04.15.2010 / 5:26 PM ET

Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said he's "filled with anticipation" right now and he feels the butterflies in his stomach. Game 1 of the Capitals-Canadiens series is about 90 minutes away.

Boudreau confirmed that Nicklas Backstrom (illness) is definitely playing and that Brendan Morrison "probably" won't be playing tonight. Jose Theodore will be in goal for the Caps.

Washington was 5-0-1 down the stretch while the Habs were 3-4-4 in their last 11 games.

"We'll probably know after tonight's game whether that's worth anything," Boudreau said. "The last five days there have been no games so I think you lose all the momentum. Both teams are starting fresh. Montreal comes in not as well as they would have liked and we come in 5-0-1 in the last six games, but I guess tonight we'll find out if that means anything."

Part of Boudreau's concern about the Canadiens is the tradition.

"One of the things that's unique about them is no other team has gone through what the Montreal Canadiens have gone through in their lifetime and they all want to play well for the 25th banner," he said. "You could be traded tomorrow and it would take you about a day to understand what it's like to be a hockey player in Montreal."

He's not all that concerned that Mike Cammalleri, who hasn't scored a goal since Jan. 23 (total of 12 games bridged by a knee injury), could be a sleeping giant.

"Everybody seems to score their first goal against us," he said. "We just want to keep winning. If Mike is the only one to score and we win 2-1 we're a happy group."

-- Dan Rosen

Intimidation factor -- yes or no?

04.15.2010 / 4:39 PM ET

It depends on who you ask, and probably how you ask it, but there are different views from the Canadiens' perspective on whether facing these Washington Capitals in the playoffs is intimidating.

Remember, we're talking about a team that scored 103 more goals than Montreal, a team that had 15 more wins and 33 more points than Montreal, and a team that has a certain Russian who wears No. 8 on his back.

"Those are the plus sides of their hockey team," Habs coach Jacques Martin said this morning. "My answer would be that we played them well during the season series (2-1-1). Look at the special teams and we had good numbers against them (5 for 14 on power play). The game is played on the ice."

Ah, but what say you Mr. Marc-Andre Bergeron, a player who has to actually get the job done on the ice against these Caps.

"Well, yeah, there is (an intimidation factor)," Bergeron said. "It's the best team in the NHL and they have a lot of stats and a lot of things to show it. They proved themselves this year. They did well in the playoffs last year so we know what we have to face, but at the same time we're not coming here to lose. We believe in ourselves and we have seen some funny things happen in the past."

-- Dan Rosen

Does the visiting team really have the advantage in Game 1?

04.15.2010 / 1:37 PM ET

Bruce Boudreau seemed fairly sincere and honest when he said this morning that the Canadiens may have the advantage tonight because they won't feel the pressure of their home crowd.

Does the visiting team really have the advantage in Game 1?

Washington coach Bruce Boudreau seemed fairly sincere and honest when he said this morning that the Canadiens may have the advantage tonight because they won't feel the pressure of their home crowd.

"The home team has the crowd going and they think they have to perform for the crowd," Boudreau said. "The visiting team is usually well coached and they play their gameplan to a T."

Montreal coach Jacques Martin played along with Boudreau.

"They earned the right to start at home so they have their own fans and when you're on the road you don't have your own matchup," Martin said, "but sometimes it's easier because you don't have the pressure of your own fans."

Are we supposed to really buy this stuff?

Do any of you out there truly believe that Montreal has the advantage tonight over the Capitals in Game 1? Remember that Montreal scored 103 fewer goals than the Caps this season, won 15 less games and had 33 fewer points.

Montreal didn't even win to get into the playoffs. It got in by earning one point in an overtime loss at home against Toronto this past Saturday.

HOWEVER, last night three of the lower seeds won and Phoenix, which many consider to be an underdog, also beat Detroit. So, maybe the home team is at a disadvantage.

"All the upsets won, so yeah, it can happen," Habs forward Mike Cammalleri said. "You draw strength from whatever you can and we talked about it today. We said, 'Hey, look at all the teams that won last night.' "

"I think it's one of the reasons that I was happy to play Thursday because you see what happens on Wednesday and the upsets that can happen," Boudreau added. "There are 16 good teams and you better be ready."

-- Dan Rosen

Boudreau prickly with media at morning skate

04.15.2010 / 10:30 AM ET

Washington coach Bruce Boudreau answered the first question tossed his way this morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, but he didn't let any of us get in another before he started lecturing the media on publicizing the wrong information.

Boudreau was not happy that some media outlets reported that Alex Ovechkin's slap shot stung Jose Theodore in practice yesterday, forcing the goalie to leave the ice about 30 minutes early. In fact, Boudreau said emphatically, it was David Steckel's shot.

"I don't have any problems answering any questions, but get it right, that's all I ask you," Boudreau said. "Yesterday it wasn't Ovechkin that hit Theodore that was publicized everywhere, it was David Steckel. So don't guess and make it sound like our best player is getting it."

He also wasn't pleased at how the media, both here in D.C. and up in Montreal, handled the situation Tuesday between Tomas Plekanec and Jose Theodore.

Plekanec said something to the effect of that he is happy to face Theodore because the Caps' goalie is not as dominant as Martin Brodeur or Ryan Miller, the other two goalies the Habs could have faced in the playoffs had there been different results over the weekend.

In response, Boudreau said that he would take Theodore's record over the past 23 games over Brodeur and Miller. Theodore was 20-0-3 in the last three months of the season.

Nevertheless, Boudreau's words (and Plekanec's) were misconstrued and a controversy was created.

Theodore fueled it by saying in response to what he thought was a slight against him by Plekanec, "Tomas who? Jagr? Oh, Plekanec. OK, I thought you meant Jagr. Brodeur and Miller are two of the best goalies in the League."

Boudreau wanted to put it all to rest Thursday.

"I was talking about Brodeur and Miller, that Theo's record was better in the last 20 games," Boudreau said. "So, don't try to create the controversy. If we say the controversy, it's there, but don't try to create it by making stuff up. That's all I ask. OK, go ahead."

-- Dan Rosen

Habs' information you can use

04.14.2010 / 4:23 PM ET

First off, I wanted to thank the Montreal Gazette for putting audio of interviews conducted in Brossard today up on the web-site. That is where I got all of these quotes that are to come.

There appeared to be lots of talk today in Brossard on how the Habs have to lean on guys with Stanley Cup championship experience.

They have four players (Scott Gomez, Hal Gill, Travis Moen, Brian Gionta) with a combined five rings (Gomez has two) whereas the only player on the Caps to win a Cup was Mike Knuble, who did it as a fringe player in Detroit in 1998.

"I think it's really important to have those individuals, not only in the preparation but also during the action," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. "Those individuals that have been there help their fellow teammates how to deal with different situations. Having people who have been there in Gionta, Gomez, Moen and Gill I think is going to help our team tremendously."

While with New Jersey, Gomez made it to the Stanley Cup Final in three of his first four seasons in the League. He won the Cup in 2000 and 2003 and lost in Game 7 of the 2001 Cup Final.

"I didn't know anything else. I thought it was automatic that you go to the Finals. That's just the teams we had," Gomez said. "But, after losing to Colorado in Game 7 you realize what it takes to win. Yeah, everyone is saying it and coming up with things to say, but now you have to go do it. Why else would you want to play? We live a great life, but you're here to win the Stanley Cup. Now you have to hopefully go do it."

Montreal is preaching that old steal one on the road cliché and take momentum back home.

"The thing is, you have nothing to lose," said defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, who was part of the Edmonton team in 2006 that went to the Stanley Cup Final as the eighth seed in the Western Conference. "You go out there and just try to win one game on the road. After you win the game, especially on the road, all the momentum comes to your side and puts more pressure on the other team. I think it would be huge for us to go to Washington and win a game."

More news to come out of the Habs practice:

Glen Metropolit did skate and is progressing after separating his left shoulder on March 27. Martin said he's ahead of schedule, but he is not ready to return. He did not take part in any contact drills.

Martin would not say if Sergei Kostitsyn, who was a healthy scratch in the Canadiens' regular season finale against Toronto, will play Thursday. He did say that if Sergei does play, "we're looking for intensity, for people to battle, win battles and to be engaged." Kostitsyn skated on the third line with Travis Moen and Dominic Moore, so it appears he's a go.

Montreal had the second best power play in the NHL this season, but since Washington was first (25.2 percent) the Canadiens know they must stay out of the box. It'll be key if they want to pull off the upset.

"We're playing the best team in the League and we have to play smart," Gomez said. "We can't play run and gun against these guys. You get into that you're asking for trouble. I don't want to say you have to play a perfect game, but that's how good these guys are."

Jaroslav Halak will be the Canadiens starting goaltender. He did not play in any of the four meetings against the Capitals this season.

"You've got to score the goals to win it, but everything comes from the goalie and defense and if you have those two factors I think you have a pretty good chance to win it," Spacek said.

-- Dan Rosen

Everyone getting ramped up in Arlington

04.14.2010 / 3:30 PM ET

Upon walking into Kettler Capitals Iceplex this morning for Washington's practice here in their Arlington, Va. facility, it became fairly obvious to this bleary-eyed reporter that something big is going on with these Caps in the D.C. region.

Fans were blanketing the bleachers and lining the outside of the boards. A radio station was broadcasting live from the facility. There were red balloons, the P.A. announcer at Verizon Center and even a man dressed up in a complete space suit.

I'm told he's a season ticket holder.

There was also a fairly large contingent of media here, including several French-Canadian reporters and TV guys. RDS and TSN were here.

Yes, it was a wild scene with the Capitals on the ice for practice, tuning themselves up for Thursday's Game 1 showdown against the Montreal Canadiens, who were back home practicing one final time in their state of the art complex before flying here to the other nation's capitol city.

The Capitals, though, were all business. They went through relatively rigid, hour-long workout and there was very little nonsense involved. They were loose, happy and excited, but also very composed and straight to the point.

By no means are the Capitals overlooking Montreal just because they had 33 more points and 101 more goals than the Habs in the regular season. They expect a tough series and while they hope to make it short and sweet, nobody expects it to be easy.

Some news from the Capitals' practice today:

* Nicklas Backstrom, who was not here yesterday because he was home in bed, was back on the ice and said he should be ready to go Thursday night.

* Jose Theodore left practice about halfway through after suffering a stinger from a slap shot that he took off the inside of his knee. That's what we were told at least, but Theodore, who is fine and is going to play Thursday, also could have just been escaping early so he didn't have to talk to the French speaking media. We'll never know.

* Alex Ovechkin was asked about the Stanley Cup and he refused to talk about it. He wants to focus only on Montreal, a team he has enjoyed great success against. Ovi has 24 points in 20 career games against the Canadiens. Here is my story on Ovi for today. And, here is a quick snippet of his session with the media.

* Yes, Capitals rookie defenseman John Carlson, he of World Juniors fame for Team USA, will be in the lineup tomorrow night and probably as one of the Caps' top-four D-men.

* Judging by the lines, it looks as if veteran center Brendan Morrison will be one of Boudreau's five healthy scratches for tomorrow's game. Scott Walker, Quintin Laing, John Erskine and Tyler Sloan are also likely to be scratches.

* Up in Montreal, Montreal Gazette veteran reporter Dave Stubbs reports that the Habs practiced for 25 minutes before chartering out to Washington. Glen Metropolit, who has a separated left shoulder, is reportedly traveling with the Habs but is not near returning to the lineup. He skated in a no-contact jersey today, according to Stubbs.

More to come soon on the Canadiens thanks to the wonderful audio posts put up by the folks from the Gazette who operate the wonderfully newsworthy Habs Inside/Out web-site.

-- Dan Rosen