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Posted On Sunday, 05.15.2011 / 12:53 AM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 Eastern Conf. Final: Bruins-Lightning Blog

Bruins don't rattle Lightning in Game 1

The Tampa Bay Lightning were minutes away from finishing off an emphatic Game 1 victory against the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden when the home team tried to build some momentum for Game 2 with some physical play.

If the plan was rattle the Lightning with some rough stuff, it didn't appear to work. Boston took three penalties in the final eight minutes, all roughing minors, but the Lightning did not retaliate on any of them.

"That's the way it goes," Dominic Moore said. "Both teams are competing for every square inch of the ice out there, and there are no surprises at any point in the game. They are competing and that's what you have to try to do. We're just going to have to maintain our focus as well."

Boston was expected to have the physical edge in this series, but the Bruins weren't able to apply a lot of physical pressure after a couple of big hits early in this contest. Johnny Boychuk landed a big check on Simon Gagne in open ice, but Vincent Lecavalier then went over to the Bruins defenseman, who punched him and drew a penalty.

Marc-Andre Bergeron scored on the ensuing power play to give Tampa Bay a 4-1 lead and end any doubt in the outcome of this contest.

"We're focused on what we're doing," Bergeron said. "Stuff happens. We don't care about that."

Top-line wings Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton combined for seven shots on goal but no points for the Bruins, but both collected 12 minutes in penalties in the final minute. Both were assessed roughing minors and 10-minute misconducts for their part in a scrum with 37 seconds left.

"We only focus on our emotions, not the other team's emotions," Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said. "We were really calm and we stayed calm."

Posted On Tuesday, 05.03.2011 / 11:45 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 ECSF: Washington-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Caps banged up

TAMPA, Fla. -- Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green did not play in the final 18:37 of Game 3 on Tuesday night with what coach Bruce Boudreau called a lower-body injury. Green sat at the end of the bench in the final minutes of the team's 4-3 loss but did not go back on the ice.

If Green is not able to play Wednesday night in Game 4, the Capitals will likely turn to Sean Collins, who played four games in the regular season for the team. Veterans Dennis Wideman, who is not with the team on this road trip, and Tom Poti have been out with long-term injuries but have been skating in an effort to return. Boudreau had hoped he might have Wideman available by the end of this series. Tyler Sloan could also be an option to replace Green.

Washington forward Eric Fehr also did not finish this game. He was checked into the boards in the third period and skated to the bench with his right arm dangling at his side. He went right to the dressing room and did not return. Fehr had surgeries on both shoulders two summers ago, and had a shoulder injury earlier this season.

If Fehr can't play, Matt Hendricks would likely return to the lineup. He's been a healthy scratch since Mike Knuble returned from injury for Game 2 of this series.
Posted On Tuesday, 05.03.2011 / 1:23 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 ECSF: Washington-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Boudreau sticking with Neuvirth

Bruce Boudreau has switched goaltenders the past two postseasons when his team has fallen behind early in the first round. This year his Washington Capitals are down 2-0 to Tampa Bay in the second round, but he is sticking with Michal Neuvirth.

"Nope," Boudreau said when asked if he was contemplating a change in goal. "We're very comfortable with him. You look at the goals that have been scored -- they're not much he can do about them."

Neuvirth was fantastic in the first round, allowing only 8 goals in the five-game series victory against the New York Rangers, finishing with a .946 save percentage. He has allowed 3 goals on 23 shots in each of the first two games of this series (an .870 save percentage).

Two of the 6 goals have gone off one of his teammates in front of the net and in. Two have been power-play goals -- one a blistering one-timer from Vinny Lecavalier and one a rebound from a relatively unmarked Steven Stamkos. Lecavalier was all alone at Neuvirth's crease for the overtime winner in Game 2.

Given how many odd-man rushes and quality chances the Lightning have been able to create and how few the Rangers had, it isn't a stretch to say Neuvirth has played as well this series despite the inferior numbers.

"There's no reason to take [Neuvirth] out right now," Matt Bradley said. "He hasn't been our problem. Most of the goals have been fluky goals off skates that he had no chance on anyway. We have full confidence in [Neuvirth] and we're glad to see him back in there. It is a matter of us giving him a little more help and getting some goals."

Boudreau pulled Jose Theodore for Semyon Varlamov before Game 2 in 2009 and during Game 2 in 2010 when he team was falling behind the Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens. Varlamov would be the guy Boudreau goes to if he were to make a switch, but his comments make it appear Neuvirth's place in net is safe at this point.

"That has even crossed my mind I don't think," Karl Alzner said. "Everybody thinks [Neuvirth] has been playing really well for us. There have been times where there has been things he can't control out there -- bounces and stuff. I think he's been playing great. He's helping the D out a lot. He's stopping pucks. He's moving them to us. Like I said -- that wasn't even a question in my mind before."
Posted On Sunday, 05.01.2011 / 1:09 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 ECSF: Washington-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Carlson expected to play

John Carlson is expected to play Sunday night for the Washington Capitals in Game 2 of this series despite missing most of the third period in Game 1 and not practicing Saturday.

Carlson participated in the morning skate Sunday and both he and coach Bruce Boudreau said he is ready to go.

"If he's playing, he's playing. I assume he's playing. I don't know the big deal – guys get banged up a little bit and it takes you 24 hours to sorta get better sometimes, and that's where he is. There's no question."

Added Carlson: "I feel great. I had a day off and now we're here. It's an exciting time of the year, too, and everyone wants to go all the time. We need this next game. This next game's real big for us."

Carlson is in his first full season in the NHL, but he was essentially Washington's No. 1 during the regular season because of injuries to Mike Green and Dennis Wideman. He had 7 goals and 37 points while averaging more than 22 minutes of ice time in the regular season, and that figure is up over 23 per game in the postseason despite missing time in Game 1.

He and Karl Alzner have formed Boudreau's most-used defensive pairing and often see the ice against the opposing team's top forwards.

"He's used to playing those minutes and he's very good at it," Alzner said. "He benefits the team tremendously offensively and defensively and he benefits me a lot. I wouldn't be able to play as good as I have played in certain games without him, because he's a big key to my success as well. He's a warrior, too, so it's a nice thing that he's gonna battle through whatever he can battle through."

Carlson has played in every game this season -- tough for any defenseman to do but he also played through a leg injury earlier in the season. He blocked a shot and walked with a limp for more than a week after the injury, but played through it in part because the team was thin on defense at the time (before trades for Scott Hannan and Wideman).

"When you play 82 games, there's gonna be times where you don't feel like playing and to still play – that makes really good hockey players really good hockey players," Boudreau said. "He's a tough man and we expect him to be in."
Posted On Saturday, 04.30.2011 / 3:46 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 ECSF: Washington-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Caps hope for improved power play

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Nearly all of the main contributors on Washington's two power-play units did not skate during an optional practice Saturday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, but coach Bruce Boudreau said any adjustments will come from three video sessions between Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening for Game 2.

The Capitals went 0-for-5 with the man advantage Friday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning -- a 4-2 loss in Game 1 of this Eastern Conference Semifinal series.

"We'll go over it today, we'll go over it tomorrow [morning] and we'll go over it before the game. I think it will be more in small doses than one long thing and let them forget about it," Boudreau said. "I think the basics are the same. But it's an awful lot easier to see how they worked against you and how they've been successful against you. It gives you a better idea of how you can hopefully beat it."

Washington put only five shots on net against Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson despite all of the time on the man-advantage. The Capitals had several great chances early in the game on the PP, but those opportunities weren't there as the contest wore on.

The Capitals struggled at times to enter the offensive zone, and the Lightning collected five shots of their own while shorthanded. When they were able to get the puck into the zone and setup, there weren't enough shots on target.

"I think that kind of moment we have to play our game," Alex Ovechkin said. "We all knew what we have to do on the power play. I think we tried to do too much on the last power play because it was 3-2 and there was only five or six minutes left in the game. If this is going to happen again, we know what we have to do.

"We have the chances in the first period. When they get the lead and it is the third period and you see how they play, of course you try to do too much and something more than usual. I don't know but we're going to watch the video tomorrow, today and see what we have to do better."

Added Mike Green: "I think we executed our game plan for the most part but we just didn't put the puck in the net. I had a chance to put one away there. Semin hit the post. The thing is, that's the not the way we're going to score goals in the playoffs. We have to get pucks to the net and battle in front."
Posted On Saturday, 04.30.2011 / 3:33 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 ECSF: Washington-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Caps hope Carlson can play in Game 2

Defenseman John Carlson didn't play much in the final 20 minutes Friday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series and he didn't practice Saturday, but Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau and teammates are optimistic about his chances of being available Sunday for Game 2 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"I think he's - pretty good chance that he'll play tomorrow," Boudreau said. "But I'm not 100 percent sure."

Carlson was injured in a pileup near the net after he hit Tampa Bay's Nate Thompson. The 21-year-old defenseman had a great rookie season for the Capitals, essentially assuming the role of No. 1 defenseman when guys like Mike Green, Tom Poti and Dennis Wideman were injured.

He and fellow young defenseman Karl Alzner have formed Washington's most consistent pairing this season, and Boudreau has entrusted them to play against top competition despite their relative lack of age and experience.

"We've had a lot of instances where we went down to five "D," more than I've had in recent years at least," Alzner said. "It is not too bad, but John is a huge part of this team and it affects the team as a whole instead of just any individual guy.

"He's a tough guy who likes to battle and we'd definitely like to have him back. It is tough to say -- I just saw him a little bit getting treatment. That's about it. I think most guys are optimistic about him playing."

Carlson left the bench in the second period and returned for the third but took only a couple of short shifts. He stayed on the bench for a while and skated during television timeouts before eventually heading back to the dressing room for good.

Green was in a similar situation during Game 5 against the New York Rangers - he was injured and stayed on the bench. Boudreau said Green was OK to play in case of an emergency, but that wasn't the case for Carlson on Friday.

"No, yesterday he was sore," Boudreau said. "Because if we could have used him, we would have used him."

The byproduct of Carlson's absence was an added strain on Green. With Wideman injured, Carlson and Green are the team's lone consistent offensive threats on the blue line. Green played more than 11 minutes in the third period because Carlson was missing and the Capitals were down a goal and trying to find an equalizer in an eventual 4-2 loss to the Lightning.

"When you look at Mike Green's minutes at 27 minutes, it is too high," Boudreau said. "He had a great series against New York but he was playing 18-20 (minutes). Those are the kind of minutes we have to get back to."

Added Green: "I felt the same way. To be effective, especially in the playoffs, you have to keep your shifts short and be fresh. I felt like I was out there a little too much and I didn't feel like I was able to be as productive as I could have been."

If Carlson cannot play in Game 2, Boudreau said he doesn't think Poti or Wideman will be available as a replacement. Both veterans have been out for a long time with injuries but have been skating almost every day during the postseason.

The most likely is option if Carlson can't go is 27-year-old Sean Collins, who played four games near the end of the regular season after spending nearly all of the past two seasons in the American Hockey League.

Tyler Sloan has spent that time with the Capitals as a reserve defenseman, but Collins came off the ice with the rest of the Capitals expected to play Saturday while Sloan and recent call-up Patrick McNeil stayed on the ice with the other scratches and "Black Aces" from AHL Hershey.

Posted On Friday, 04.22.2011 / 3:05 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Capitals not worrying about redemption

Saturday afternoon could be a day of redemption for Alex Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals, but neither he nor coach Bruce Boudreau really see it that way.

The Capitals will play host to the New York Rangers in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series and, with a 3-1 lead, have a chance to finish off the visitors. They were in this situation one year ago, ahead 3-1 against the Montreal Canadiens with Game 5 at Verizon Center, but ended up losing three straight contests and the series.

"It is new year, new series, new team," Ovechkin said. "I think if you going remember everything bad, then it is going to be bad for you. I think tomorrow first 10 minutes is going to be very important for us and them too."

Whether other players on the team or the coaching staff decide to use what transpired in Game 5 against the Canadiens as motivation for Saturday, Ovechkin is looking forward, not back.

"I don't remember nothing. I forget about it," he said. "We get experience. We know we can't go back. We have to play better every game and every period."

Montreal grabbed an early 2-0 lead in Game 5 against Washington last April and the series was never the same. Jaroslav Halak allowed only three goals in the final three games and the Canadiens were able to eke out just enough offense on the counter-attack to win the final two games as well.

The Canadiens were the attacking team in the first 10 minutes of Game 5, though, and they caught the Capitals for two goals -- both against Ovechkin's line and both scored from the area he typically is entrusted to defend (between the right point and the top of the right faceoff circle).

"I just see everything as team-oriented," Boudreau said. "I don't think we've got anybody thinking about, 'I can redeem myself' or 'I can look better.' We just want to go out there and play as well as we can."

Boudreau said he doesn't expect to show video from Game 5 against Montreal, but that game has been a point of reference for teaching and/or motivational purposes.

"I think they know what happened in Game 5 in the first 10 minutes," he said. "We've talked about it many times during the course of the year."
Posted On Thursday, 04.21.2011 / 5:15 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Knuble skates, status for Game 5 in question

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Mike Knuble skated before Washington Capitals practice on Thursday, but when he might return for the team remains to be determined.

Knuble missed Game 4 of Washington's Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with an unspecified injury, but it is believed to be a problem with his right hand/wrist. He was hit by a Mike Green shot during Game 3 and after scoring a goal seconds later, immediately took off his glove to check on his hand/wrist before celebrating.

"I call myself day-to-day," Knuble told reporters who were asked by a team representative not to ask questions about the specifics of his injury. "You've got to do your best to stay in shape and keep your conditioning or whatever.

"[Game 5] is up in the air -- we won't know until tomorrow or maybe even Saturday morning, Saturday game time."

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau also said Knuble is day-to-day. He was the team's third-leading goal scorer in the regular season with 24.

Knuble did not practice with the team for the two days leading up Game 4, and he confirmed that he didn't travel with the team to New York for the contest.

"I find myself watching the clock all day and trying to be home at the right time, trying to make sure I have my DVR set so I don't miss anything," Knuble said. "Just a weird feeling -- missing a playoff game, watching your team play is much different than missing games in the regular season. It's really hard to go through. Obviously, I was as low as they felt last night and as high as they were after, too."

Posted On Tuesday, 04.19.2011 / 3:11 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Knuble doesn't practice, but expects to play

Mike Knuble did not practice for the second straight day, but Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said he expects the 38-year-old forward to play Wednesday in Game 4 at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers.

Boudreau called it a maintenance day for Knuble. When asked if it was related to Knuble looking at his hand of scoring Washington's second goal Sunday, Boudreau replied, "That's why it is called a maintenance day."

Knuble has spent most of the past two seasons on the team's top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. He was third on the team with 24 goals in the regular season -- his eighth straight campaign with more than 20 goals.

"He's a big part of our game and if he's out, it is a big loss," Marco Sturm said. "I think we played pretty good all year when guys are out – guys are jumping in. everyone has to do their job there and work maybe a little bit harder."

Jason Chimera replace Knuble on the top line for practice Tuesday, while Eric Fehr and Jay Beagle both rotated in on the third line. It is possible Fehr or Beagle could play and Chimera could be a healthy scratch if Knuble is indeed going to play, but Chimera is the only player not among the top six forwards who has a goal in this series.

Fehr said he "has no idea" if he's going to play or not after being a healthy scratch the first two games. He was one of the team's most effective forwards against Montreal last postseason, finishing third on the team with three goals.

"He's coming on the trip so there's a chance," Boudreau said of Fehr's chances of playing.
Posted On Monday, 04.18.2011 / 2:49 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Time for Neuvirth to show resilience

Michal Neuvirth handled the pressure of his first NHL postseason start very well. Now the Washington Capitals will find out how their 23-year-old rookie bounces back from his first NHL postseason defeat.

Neuvirth made 32 saves in a 3-2 loss Sunday to the New York Rangers in Game 3 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. He has still only allowed four goals in nearly 10 periods of postseason hockey, but the Capitals will need a strong performance from him again if the Rangers carry momentum from their victory into Game 4 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

"He allowed the one goal [to Vinny Prospal]," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I thought the [Erik] Christensen goal there wasn't much he could do and the third goal, it bounces off two of our guys and into the net. They had 35 shots so I think he was pretty stellar for the most part. I think he's handling this tremendously. He's calm as a cucumber."

Part of "this" Boudreau was alluding to was how the Rangers have ratcheted up their presence in front of and around Neuvirth's crease. Christensen was called for goaltender interference near the end of the second period, but there were several other times when Neuvirth had bodies in his way or on top of him during post-whistle scrums.

How players can protect their young goalie in those circumstances is a bit tricky.

"It is a double-edge sword, because if we start doing something we're going to start getting retaliation penalties, which is what you tell the guys not to do," Boudreau said. "You're hoping that they're being called. If it is not called, there is not much you can do without getting involved in 4-on-4 situations and taking guys out.

"Prospal went in there. [Sean] Avery fell into him. [Brandon] Prust went into him on purpose and wasn't called. They're doing all of that stuff to try and get him off his game, but the good thing about Michal is it doesn't seem to effect him. It is there and we have to protect the goalies -- both the team and the officials."
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