04.29.2009, 12:10 a.m. ET
My first night on the series, I get sent to the losing locker room. Not much fun, but here's two things that came out:
* A lot is said and written about Sean Avery that has little to do with his on-ice hockey talent. Those who forget just how gifted the Rangers' agitating forward is were given a crash-course Tuesday night, as Avery was far and away the team's best skater in Game 7.
Avery was the best player on the team's best line, which included center Brandon Dubinsky and right wing Nik Antropov. Avery dominated on the forecheck, and he turned in an outstanding individual effort on New York's lone goal. He fended of Caps defenseman Brian Pothier and pulled the puck out of the corner and threw it into the high slot to Antropov. Antropov slid a pass to Dubinsky who had the puck poke-checked away by goalie Simeon Varlamov. The puck slid to Antropov, who scored the game's first goal.
In 20:59 of ice time, he had two shots, tied for the team high with four hits, didn't take a penalty and even went 2-for-2 on faceoffs. Every time Avery and his line was on the ice, the Rangers were a noticeably better team.
"I thought Sean played so well," said Rangers coach John Tortorella. "Where Sean played is where he has to play. He has to be on edge, he needs to be right there on that edge, but stay within himself. That's a tough thing to do for a player, especially in the world he lives in. I think he's going to be in that world for quite a while in the National Hockey League. There are some things that go on around him during a game that don't go on around other players. As Sean and I have talked, that's the world he's in and he's going to have to accept it. He played very well tonight. He was one of our best as far as keeping the puck."
* Here's Wade Redden's explanation of Sergei Fedorov's series-clinching goal:
"The puck comes around the wall, he (Fedorov) picked it up with some speed. I wanted to get back and not let him get around me. He made a stop-up play. I got the puck between my legs, not sure where it went, down the short side."
-- Adam Kimelman
Anisimov, Clark in; Storylines and lineups
04.28.2009 6:53 p.m. ET
As expected, rookie Artem Anisimov is in the Rangers' lineup tonight and Washington captain Chris Clark is in for the Capitals.
There are interesting storylines around both.
Anisimov and Caps goalie Simeon Varlamov are close friends and they played together during the 2006-07 season in Russia for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. Earlier this season, when they were both in the American Hockey League - Anisimov for Hartford and Varlamov for Hershey - Anisimov scored a goal against his buddy.
As for Clark, he's the captain of this team, but he hasn't played since Jan. 27 against Boston. He hurt his wrist, required surgery and was cleared just before this series.
Interestingly, the last time Clark played in a playoff game was in 2004, when he played Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final for the Calgary Flames against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Of course, the Lightning were coached by John Tortorella, now the Rangers coach.
How's that for irony?
Here are the expected lines for tonight:
DROP THE PUCK
-- Dan Rosen
04.28.2009 6:25 p.m. ET
I'm not going to make too much of this, but check out this link for a quick and interesting note about the improved security for tonight's game.
Lineups and lines coming shortly.
-- Dan Rosen
Boudreau: Don't call us the favorite
04.28.2009 5:20 p.m.
Just like Rangers coach John Tortorella is trying to convince the world that nobody believes in his team, Washington coach Bruce Boudreau is trying to deflect any attention off the fact that his team is, indeed, the favorite to win this series now.
"We're a favorite only because John tells everybody that they're the underdog," Boudreau said about 10 minutes ago in front of the Caps' dressing room. "I don't classify that. I think there is pressure on both teams. I mean, to win three in a row, just look at how often it's been done. So, I don't classify us as the favorite at all. They haven't played well in the last two games and they're too good of a team to play three bad ones, so you have to expect that they're going to come out and play their best game of the series."
Boudreau was asked if he has made a decision as to whether Chris Clark will play?
He playfully said, "I have made a decision."
There was a long pause and then the TV reporter says, "And?"
"You'll see in warm-ups," the coach said.
In regards to not having Donald Brashear tonight, Boudreau compared it to "like not having your big brother in your lineup to protect you." However, he also doesn't think it's going to be that big of a deal because, "the whole focus is on the game."
I asked him if he thinks Blair Betts' absence tonight frees up some space for the Caps' power play. After Betts, the Rangers top penalty killer, left Game 6, the Caps scored on both of their power plays.
Not surprisingly, Boudreau downplayed that as well.
"They've still got the best penalty kill in the League and they weren't a one-man penalty kill to begin with," he said. "Their coach will tell you their best penalty killer is their goalie, so I expect that they'll bounce right back on the penalty kill. Maybe we'll be better on the power play."
Boudreau admitted he's nervous, but it's his job to make sure his players' energy is channeled in the right direction.
"You're going to see two teams that are emotionally charged at the beginning of the game," he said. "There is no doubt in my mind. It's going to be an emotionally charged game. Play with your heart and play with your head is what I call it."
I'll post as soon as I know the lineups. If Clark does play, expect him to be on the fourth line with Eric Fehr and Boyd Gordon.
-- Dan Rosen
04.28.2009 1:10 p.m. ET
This morning's press conference with Rangers coach John Tortorella was so good that I don't even know if I should try to paraphrase it. So, I won't…to a point.
Tortorella said either Artem Anisimov or Colton Orr will play tonight. He said the Caps have to get some heat on rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov. He said he thought the Rangers had a good first period on Sunday at the Garden, but every mistake they made - "and there weren't many" - wound up in the back of their net and that's why they trailed, 3-1.
He also commented on how it is important for the Rangers to get a good start tonight to wash away what has happened in the last four days.
That's all well and good, but here is the rest. This stuff is flat out awesome:
"To get home ice it comes into Game 7 and I think it's an advantage for the home team. There is also a switch in pressure, too, where they're supposed to win it now. I don't think anybody is giving us a chance at all that we're going to get things done tonight here. That's where our start is important. We need a good start to compete and then we'll see how it goes. Washington is supposed to win now. We're just going to go about our business and try to relieve some of the pressure. That's how we're going about our business now as we prepare."
"Oh yeah, yes I do (believe my guys think they can win). These guys have been rundown pretty good all year long…but that is part of what it is being a player, handling those situations. People have dealt and people are kicking it, whoever it may be. Do they care? Absolutely. As we go through an experience like this in a Game 7 - and, again I'm still learning a little bit about the personnel - there are certain levels of care. This is going to be a great experience for me in coaching this team in a Game 7 to see in this type of situation, with some of the things that have gone on in this series and all the stuff going on around them, how guys handle it. As the coach of the team, I'm looking short term. We want to win this game, but I'm always looking into a long-term perspective, too; into what we have here as a group of people. I think we have got good people, but I always believe that people can care, and then people can really care. We'll find out as they go through, but I hope all 20 of them really care. Those are the things I look at as we continue to grow."
"It's a situation where, at least from our perspective, we've blown a 3-1 lead in this series and we've had some things going on around the team, but we need to wipe it clean. And, to me it's easy in a Game 7 because it's a final. It's the final game of the series and I think it's a mindset that you can clear your head and play one game, just one game, and try to find your way. That's what is neat about it. Again, this is just the first round, and not many guys in our room have played Game 7. From short term to long term, this is great for the young players on our team to get involved in a Game 7 in the first round and experience that.
"I have always approached it that in the regular season, I think a coach has to kick and prod and try to push this button and that button and try to do this, that and the other thing to try to get your team to play hard for 82 games. When you come to playoffs, you need to be with them. I think you need to be as a group and you close the room in. It's not a coach trying to push them and do all those sort of things. You've gone through those types of battles and you need to be as a group come playoff time. Game 7 it's even more. That's how we're trying to go about it here, be together. Not too many people around us give us a chance, and that's fine. That's part of pro sports, but we're going to try to stay tight in there and try to find a way there against a very good Washington team."
"Game 7s you can get yourself so wrapped up and say, 'Oh crap, this is Game 7,' and you go out and get paralyzed. It is a game of mistakes and both teams are going to make them. It's going to come up. We're going to need a big save at a key time. They're feeling the same thing. You need to allow yourself to play in this situation and not paralyze yourself. Some guys can do it and some guys can't. Some guys get so uptight they do paralyze themselves and they're not going to be a factor in the game. Other guys look at this as an opportunity and allow themselves to play and just free themselves. Those are going to be the better players tonight. That’s where you find out how people handle these pressure situations. …That's where you find out about players. A player isn't remembered for the regular season. It's what happens in the playoffs. That's where you really find out what people are about. And we'll find out tonight."
"(Nikolai Zherdev) is going to get an opportunity. I thought at times in Game 6 he was on the cusp of bringing some offense, and he turns one over early in the game that costs us right away. Those are the situations that we just need to simplify because he is a talented guy. And, remember, this is his first playoff as a young kid. He's beginning to, or I hope he's beginning to learn what intensity you need. We've coached him along the way here. Has he stepped up? No. Tonight's a great opportunity. As we talked about, we wipe it clean. Games 1 through 6 mean nothing now. We're fortunate enough to be in a Game 7. This is where you can step up and say, 'You know what boys, I'm going to get it done for you tonight.' I hope Nik has a good night."
"We all talked about our experiences. That was part of our meeting today, just talking about experiences of Game 7. Again, I've always had the thought that I have a suit on behind the bench. I am not playing and I think it's a totally different situation. I think I can help them with some experiences as far as preparation and just try to settle things down at certain times, but I don't have the uniform on. I think it's the players' game and they're the ones that make the difference and in these types of situations sometimes I want to step away and let them try to enjoy it and find it themselves on the ice. Sure, and Schoeny and I have already started, just trying to prepare as we go to a Game 7. But we don't want them to overthink. I think that's a key thing because there's so much brought up about Game 7s. And this is just the first round. We don't want them to overthink because we don't want them paralyzed. We just want to play. The guys understand the magnitude of this. We'll see what some guys have inside them here as we go along. I think it's the greatest thing about sports are these types of situations. Some guys just thrive. A guy in this organization, Messier, just thrived in these types of situations. Other guys are hiding, are hiding. I'm not sure if we're going to have any guys hiding, but we'll find out. I don't have the answers right now."
"Innocence is a great thing. It is. I hate talking about it because I'm with another team, but I was fortunate to be involved with it (Tampa Bay) and we didn't have a clue what we were doing because we didn't have the clue about the pressure. That's what I hope helps our team here. I don't think our team feels the pressure. We've got some young guys that haven't been involved in these types of situation. Like Zherdev, he doesn't have a clue. I lived through that, watching a team not understand what was going on around them and they were having a blast. And that's so important as far as the mental outlook when you play these types of games."
"As I said to you guys, we want to win a game. We have to hopefully make the right decisions as far as who is going and we're going to go with those guys who we feel we have a chance with. We don't have much time left here. We have 60 minutes. Everybody is going to get an opportunity early on here and we're going to make the decisions from there. And hopefully make the right ones."
How can you not be pumped up for a Game 7 after reading all that?
Let's drop the puck already.
-- Dan Rosen
The circus comes to town
04.28.2009 11:18 a.m. ET
Biting and water bottles. Suspensions and, well, more suspensions. Extra security. Sean Avery. Alex Ovechkin. A goalie, now 21, playing like he's 31. A goalie, now cold, who needs to get hot again. A captain who may play for the first time since Jan. 27. Another captain who is playing on sheer guts.
It's Game 7 here in D.C. at Verizon Center. All that's missing is the clowns, elephants, tigers and tight-rope walkers.
What an unbelievable series this has been between the Capitals and Rangers and it all comes crashing to an end tonight. There will be handshakes this evening as the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs comes to an end.
I'm down at the game arena this morning to catch the words of wisdom from Rangers coach John Tortorella. I've already heard that Capitals captain Chris Clark was practicing this morning out in Arlington, Va. as if he was going to play. He'll likely be in for Donald Brashear, who got whacked for 6 games by the NHL yesterday.
Over here at Rangers practice, we are wondering if call-up Artem Anisimov will get in ahead of Colton Orr and/or Aaron Voros. You have to think it's a possibility because without Brashear, the Rangers probably don't need to worry too much about the physical retribution aspect of the game.
I say Orr is going to be out and Voros will be in because Voros provides more skill. Then again, who am I really to say that? We'll know soon...or tonight. You know how these guys are with their lineups.
Trade secrets, my friends.
Anyway, time to head out to the ice to see who is skating.
-- Dan Rosen
Brashear gets 6 games
04.27.2009 4:23 p.m. ET
The NHL came down on Donald Brashear today with a six-game suspension (click here to read full story), including five games for his blind-side hit on Blair Betts 9:54 into the first period of Sunday's game and one game for initiating contact with Rangers forward Colton Orr during pre-game warmups.
Brashear's suspension, which begins Tuesday night with Game 7 against the Rangers, can continue into next season if the Caps do not play five more games in these playoffs after tomorrow night's game.
"Brashear delivered a shoulder hit to an unsuspecting player," NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said. "It is also my opinion that the hit was delivered late and targeted the head of his opponent, causing significant injury."
Betts suffered a broken orbital bone and a concussion on the play.
After Sunday's game, Rangers interim assistant coach Jim Schoenfeld called Brashear's hit, "a late hit to the head and it was pretty vicious. He's a big strong guy and Bettsie didn't see him coming. He's hurt significantly. It was a late hit to the head."
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau didn't see it that way.
"When we watched that between periods, to me that was a shoulder, a complete shoulder," Boudreau said. "I mean, he followed through but the elbow didn’t hit him. It was a good shoulder hit."
The League, though, has made its ruling. The Capitals are choosing not to comment.
-- Dan Rosen
Morrisonn vs. Dubinsky, Bitegate 2009
04.27.2009 3:20 p.m. ET
We've got an interesting little sidebar brewing here before tomorrow night's Game 7.
Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky swears Caps defenseman Shaone Morrisonn bit him during a skirmish behind the Washington goal at the 15:03 mark of the second period.
Dubinsky even got a tetanus shot and took antibiotics to ward off infection after the game as a precaution, an announcement that interim assistant coach Jim Schoenfeld stunningly made in his post-game press conference.
He even made a point of showing reporters what appeared to be either bite marks or a scratch on his right wrist today.
"That's who I had," Dubinsky said of Morrisonn. "One-hundred percent sure."
Roughly 260 miles south of Greenburgh, N.Y. in Arlington, Va., Morrisonn flatly denied biting Dubinsky and admitted to being shocked that the Rangers were accusing him of doing it when Caps coach Bruce Boudreau told him what Schoenfeld said.
"I have no idea," Morrisonn said in front of a large throng of reporters and cameramen. "I heard that and I don't know what he's talking about. I don't know what that is all about, actually. It's weird that he said that. I was kind of shocked, but you know, this is what they do and whatever."
"He steadfastly denied doing anything and he was angry, like, 'What are you talking about?' " Boudreau said. "I said, 'I'm just asking.' "
Interestingly, Morrisonn had a pretty significant red dot in his left eye and said he got scratched during Sunday's game. He said that he went after Dubinsky because the Rangers' forward had just hit Capitals defenseman Mike Green from behind.
"Greenie got hit from behind and I came in to help out my partner," Morrisonn said. "We were both tied up and everybody was tied up. I got a roughing penalty, that's it."
While Morrisonn doesn't believe supplementary discipline is necessary - "I didn't do that so I'm not really worried about it." - Dubinsky doesn't seem to really care all that much.
"It's pretty obvious what happened as far as our standpoint and evidence and stuff like that," Dubinsky said. "Like I said, it's out of my hands. I just want to focus on my game and play and we'll let management and the team take care of the rest."
For now, at least.
We'll see what happens when these guys hit the ice for Game 7 Tuesday night.
There are so many storylines to watch that I think I need at least two more eyes.
-- Dan Rosen
Torts gets testy
04.27,2009 2:16 p.m. ET
John Tortorella's media availability Monday at the Rangers' training facility in New York -- his first since being suspended by the League for Sunday's Game 6 after an altercation with a fan in Game 5 -- got off to a rough start.
After one question about the informal practice conducted Monday, Tortorella was asked by New York Post reporter Larry Brooks to comment on his thoughts about the suspension.
"I have no response. I'm not discussing that," Tortorella said.
Pressed again by the same reporter, Tortorella did not bite.
"That's just what I said," the coach said. "I am not discussing that. Next question."
And, that is where things got interesting. Tortorella and Brooks had a rather famous press conference row in 2007 when Tortorella was coaching the Lightning and that team was playing the Devils in a first-round series.
After a Game 5 loss there, Tortorella and Brooks got into a heated exchange over the coach's reluctance to discuss strategy. It happened again Monday as Brooks told Tortorella his silence on the suspension was unbelievable.
"You guys have your opinions, write them. Next question," was Tortorella's reply. "You guys think you're entitled to all information, Larry. I am not giving you any information."
Finally Brooks said he was not seeking information, just an opinion from the coach that was put into the news cycle by the actions that resulted in a one-game suspension.
"You have your opinion," Tortorella said. "You don't need me in the conversation. So I'm not going to answer that. You don't need mine and I'm not going to give it to you. Next question, please."
Finally, the line of questioning moved to several other topics and Tortorella was much more forthcoming.
--Shawn P. Roarke
Lots of news from Caps practice
04.27.2009 12:14 p.m. ET
I'll make this short and sweet as I have to get to writing my main stories today.
My colleague, Shawn Roarke, is in Greenburgh for the Rangers today and I'm in Arlington for the Caps.
Caps defenseman Shaone Morrisonn denied biting Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky even though he was accused of doing it after Sunday's game by Rangers interim assistant coach Jim Schoenfeld. We're waiting on a response from Dubinsky.
Donald Brashear had no comment on the potential that he could be suspended by the NHL for either the pre-game contact he made with Rangers forward Colton Orr and/or the hit he gave to Blair Betts 9:54 into the game. We'll know later.
If Brashear is suspended, either Chris Clark or Michael Nylander will play for him. My bet is it will be Clark, who told me today that Caps coach Bruce Boudreau told him to just be ready.
Roarke reports that the Rangers have called up forward Artem Anisimov from Hartford of the American Hockey League, a sign that Betts is hurt bad, as Schoenfeld indicated, and won't be able to play Tuesday.
ESPN erroneously reported that Mike Green and Brashear were suspended this morning. The Brashear news is a possibility, but not official. The Green report was shocking and completely untrue. I'm told that a fan posing as a Washington Post reporter called ESPN and told them Green and Brashear were suspended. ESPN put it on its bottom line ticker and reported it on SportsCenter this morning. It was completely untrue and they retracted it immediately. Green was laughing about it this afternoon.
-- Dan Rosen
So much to say
04.26.2009 8:40 p.m. ET
If I could break it all up into little blogs I would, but after writing four stories for the site I am exhausted. And, to be honest, after you read all of the stories I wrote - I will post here shortly - I do not know what else I can say about Game 6.
The Caps dominated and won, 5-3. The Rangers were missing for 40 minutes.
They better show up Tuesday night for Game 7 or they'll be done.
Some interesting notes following this one, which had a circus atmosphere throughout:
Rangers interim assistant coach Jim Schoenfeld, who was serving as head coach Sunday for the suspended John Tortorella, said Brandon Dubinsky required a tetanus shot because he was bit by Caps defenseman Shaone Morrisonn during a skirmish with 4:57 to play in the second period. Most of the players had already left the building by the time Schoenfeld made that announcement.
The six forwards who played on the Rangers' top two lines on Sunday - Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Nikolai Zherdev, Markus Naslund, Nik Antropov and Sean Avery - have combined for 12 points in this series.
The Caps top-six forwards on Sunday - Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Viktor Kozlov and Tomas Fleischmann - have 26 points in the series.
Differing opinions by both coaches on Donald Brashear's hit on Blair Betters 9:54 into the game. Schoenfeld said it was a vicious hit to the head while Bruce Boudreau said it was a shoulder shot.
Betts didn't return and is probably out for Game 7, though no official word has been given other than Schoenfeld saying his injury is severe.
Lundqvist was pulled for the second straight game for the first time in his career.
Alex Ovechkin has scored a goal in three straight games.
The last time Tom Poti had four points in a game was on Feb. 19, 2004, when he was a Ranger playing against the Islanders at Madison Square Garden. Now, that's irony.
Enough for now.
-- Dan Rosen
Lines et. al.
04.26.2009 2:11 p.m. ET
There may be a circus atmosphere around here at Madison Square Garden, but there is a game to be played and it's a fairly important one.
The Rangers win and they play Boston in the Eastern Conference Semis, which starts sometime this week.
The Caps win and there will be a Game 7 back at Verizon Center on Tuesday night.
Here are the lines and defensive pairings for tonight.
Note: Aaron Voros is going to play for Colton Orr today.
-- Dan Rosen
Schoenfeld, Gernander, Daigneault and Avery
04.26.2009 1:12 p.m. ET
Jim Schoenfeld will serve as the head coach today for the Rangers and his assistants will come from the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Hartford. Wolf Pack coach Ken Gernander will handle the forwards and assistant J.J. Daigneault will handle the defensemen.
Schoenfeld also confirmed that Sean Avery will be back in the lineup after being benched by coach John Tortorella for Game 5.
Schoenfeld met the media in a relax, 12-minute press conference that started at noon. He defended John Tortorella's passion and fire as a coach and said the Rangers have no further comment on the League-imposed one-game suspension for squirting a fan with water and throwing a water bottle that struck a fan during a break 6:33 into third period of Game 5.
"Once a decision is made we live with it and move on," Schoenfeld said.
Schoenfeld, was served a one-game suspension in 1988 for his own incident with recently retired referee Don Koharski, was asked if he learned or changed after that incident when he was coaching the New Jersey Devils in the playoffs:
"You're always trying to make yourself a better person, a better coach, a better player," he said. "You don't analyze the events of the day. It's kind of a day wasted. But you are who you are. Everybody brings something to the table. A team is comprised of different components. And some of the players are skilled players, some of the players are checkers, some players are heavyweights - they all have a different emotional element they bring. And you are who you are. But yeah, you want to keep in check for sure. Listen, you guys might be different, but if I could rewind the tape and put the erase button on over the course of my life, I'd have a sore thumb. There would be a lot of things I'd like to change. But, you are who you are and maybe you needed to do those things to get to this point in your life. You don't know. I don't know the big picture. We all have things we try to keep in check but sometimes they're the things that enable us to do what we do. Sometimes we go over the edge."
-- Dan Rosen
Rangers issue statement
04.25.2009 11:30 p.m. ET
The New York Rangers issued a short statement in regards to the NHL's one-game suspension of coach John Tortorella this evening for the incident that occured with fans at 6:33 of the third period Friday night at Verizon Center.
"We disagree with the suspension and will have no further comment," the team said in a statement.
A Washington Capitals' spokesperson told me in an e-mail tonight that the team is not commenting on this matter and is leaving it in the League's hands.
This will obviously be a major topic of discussion on Sunday before, during and after Game 6 against Washington.
Jim Schoenfeld will most likely coach the team Sunday, but since he is the only on-bench assistant coach, you have to wonder if he will be alone on the bench or if he'll get any help.
Andrew Gross of The Bergen Record and Steve Zipay of Newsday are both speculating that Hartford Wolf Pack coach Ken Gernander could assist Schoenfeld in Game 6. The Wolf Pack have been elimanated from the AHL's Calder Cup Playoffs. Gross suggests that Wolf Pack assistant J.J. Daigneault could be on the bench, too.
Earlier today, before the suspension was handed down, Tortorella was asked about the incident.
"As far as that situation, I've been asked not to comment on that by my boss," he said.
-- Dan Rosen
04.25.2009 10:10 p.m. ET
The Rangers will be without their coach for Game 6. The NHL suspended John Tortorella for one game for squirting a fan with water and throwing a water bottle that struck a fan during the third period of Game 5 at the Verizon Center.
NHL Senior Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said the League "did not take this action lightly," but that the NHL "cannot and will not tolerate any physical contact with fans." He said an investigation showed that Tortorella squirted a fan with water before he was doused with a beverage."
Caps need to score first to get Rangers chasing
04.25.2009 1:50 p.m. ET
The Caps had a full workout today with everybody on the ice. Nothing too interesting as the lines were the same as they were in Game 5.
Some interesting quotes in the locker room, though, and most had to do with how the Caps are still playing with their backs against the wall, etc., etc.
They are, though, pretty confident based on how they played in Game 5 and how they beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist four times, including one on a gift.
"If Lundqvist doesn't play well, they're in big trouble," Alex Ovechkin. "It's probably 90 percent of their team is Lundqvist right now."
How about that statement everybody? Ovechkin just put it out there, didn't he?
Gotta love it.
The Caps also did a lot of talking about how scoring first actually forces the Rangers to completely alter their game.
They've got something there considering the Rangers are geared more toward defensive hockey and when they have to press for goals they become more prone to giving the puck away a lot of the time.
"We have the ability to come from behind and we've done it throughout the year, but we want to make them have to come from behind," Brooks Laich said. "If you look at their numbers, they haven't scored a lot of goals in the regular season for whatever reason. We want to make them chase us and we want to make them open it up. With our structure we'll keep going and then we'll capitalize on some of the chances."
Brian Pothier had a brilliant comment on this topic:
"They're a totally different team when they score first," he said. "I think what they do is they take all five guys and contract and they really limit us to perimeter shots. They don't have to make really any attempt to push for that goal because they have the lead.
"When we get the lead first, they're doing a lot more; they have to stretch, they have to push, they have to try and create some opportunities and that opens up their fortress a little bit. So, it's huge (scoring first), especially against that team. It's a big obstacle to overcome if you let them score first."
Before I head to the train, here are some more of the interesting comments from this afternoon in Arlington, where the good vibes and great quotes were busting through the walls.
"What can I say about (Matt) Bradley. He's always working hard. And it doesn't matter what. I think he can score goals. Every game he has chances. When he gets with confidence, when he feels in good shape and can score goals, he's pretty good. He energizes our team. He's always working hard. He's always getting hits. He's always controlling pucks in their zone. You can see how they played against probably the best line of the Rangers."
"Last night was great. Our starting five did a great job of getting the puck in and just saying, 'This is going to be a long night. We're going to work.' It set the pace for the game. It's going to be absolutely paramount (Sunday). Because in that rink (the Garden), if they come out flying - which they will - and get the crowd into it and get their momentum, we're going to have to give them counter-punch off the start to get things settled down and get into the game. They will be flying early."
"If we lead they're trying to score on us and it's more open from their side. When they have the lead they play very good defensively. It's something we've known since the first game."
"Being one of the top goaltenders, you're going to see (Lundqvist's) best effort in Game 6. I think we just woke up a beast is what we did. Last night we got a couple of lucky breaks, but we know that he's going to play his best game of the series and the Rangers in general are going to play their best game of the year. They want to end it tomorrow. They don't want to come back to Washington. We can't be happy with the little bit of success we had. They're still in control and we're going to have to put a big effort in tomorrow."
"You always want to make a team uncomfortable. I think they're more comfortable with a 1-0 lead or a 2-1 lead. They really know how to handle that situation, but maybe being down 2-0 is not something they're familiar with so maybe they have to take some chances and get out of their gameplan and run around a little bit."
-- Dan Rosen
Caps force another one at the Garden
04.25.2009 12:33 a.m. ET
My eyes are kind of droopy now, so I'll make this a quick blog tonight and catch up with all of you puckheads interested in this series again tomorrow morning.
Suffice it to say, the Caps played the exact game they wanted to play tonight. They got the lead early, played with confidence and kept the Rangers from doing anything on offense.
Washington had only 21 shots on goal, but the Rangers had just 20 and Simeon Varlamov came up with his second shutout of the series.
The Capitals were very good at keeping the puck down low and they were extremely patient as well. For instance, Mike Green, who played a much better Game 5 than he did Games 1-4, didn't fire at will from the point, choosing instead to pass the puck.
"Me and the other guys are not going to shoot into the shin pads anymore," Green said.
Alex Ovechkin scored another one of his magnificent, highlight reel goals. You can already see the video on the home page. It's just sick, disgusting. I don't know what else to say.
The Caps got the secondary scoring they needed as Matt Bradley popped in the first two playoff goals of his career. And, Alexander Semin didn't hesitate to shoot - a problem in Game 4 - as he snapped home a shot right off a Nicklas Backstrom faceoff win.
It was a good night for the Caps and their fans, who were really into the game and derisively chanted "Hen-rik, Hen-rik, Hen-rik" after all four goals.
On the flip side, the Rangers are one unhappy team right now, but at least publically they say their confidence is not wavering.
"We're up 3-2," said coach John Tortorella, who would not go into specifics as to why he benched Sean Avery. "If you asked me at the beginning series, being up 3-2 going home, I'll sign up. There is no sense of being down about it. We need to have to have short term memory and try to learn a little bit tomorrow and then we're going to play an afternoon game. That's the best thing we can do is play afternoon game and I'm sure they feel the same way."
The Rangers need to locate their offense or they could find themselves right back here for Game 7 on Tuesday night. Somehow they lead in this series despite scoring only 7 goals and have given up 12. They have been outshot 170-119.
OK, enough for me. I'll be back on tomorrow morning, blogging live from Arlington, Va. again.
-- Dan Rosen
IT'S OFFICIAL: AVERY NOT IN LINEUP
04.24.2009 6:54 p.m. ET
This is official: Sean Avery is listed on the lineup sheet as a scratch for Game 5 against Washington tonight. Aaron Voros, who played for Chris Drury in Game 1 here at Verizon Center, is in the lineup for Avery.
Over the last two days Rangers coach John Tortorella has been questioned repeatedly about Avery and his undisciplined play, particularly in the final 10 minutes of Game 4 Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Tortorella was secretive about his lineup this morning, telling the media the lineup we ice at 7 p.m. will be the lineup we ice. Well, Avery is not a part of that lineup and for now we can all draw our own conclusions as to why.
Avery committed a pair of unnecessary penalties at the end of Game 4, giving the Capitals power plays at 10:21 and again at 16:54 of the third period. Washington did not convert on either for the tying goal, but that's not the point now.
Tortorella is doing one of two things here: Sending Avery a message that his actions will not be tolerated, or putting his team in a better position to win because he is worried that Avery is a target now, by the officials and the Caps, and any time he touches another player a penalty will be called no matter what.
Both points have merit. A message might be necessary, but the idea that Avery could actually put the Rangers at a disadvantage now just by his presence on the ice, even if he is a good boy, is a plausible argument as well.
The question now: Is this a one-game, team-imposed suspension or is this Tortorella just making Avery a healthy scratch?
The coach doesn't have to say why he made this decision, but you can bet it will be the first question asked in his postgame press conference now matter what happens in the game.
Fair or not, that's the deal right now. Avery is the story even though Tortorella didn't want him to be this morning.
In other news, the Caps are icing the same lineup as Game 3, meaning Chris Clark is not playing.
-- Dan Rosen
AVERY SCRATCHED, PER MSG NETWORK
04.24.2009 6:40 p.m.
According to the MSG Network, Sean Avery is scratched tonight in favor of Aaron Voros.
Draw your own conclusions. I'll post when it's official.
-- Dan Rosen
NO AVERY IN WARM-UPS
04.24. 2009 6:34 p.m. ET
A quick scan of the Rangers shows no Sean Avery in warm-ups. We can not find No. 16, but Aaron Voros is out there for warm-ups now.
More soon when lineups come out, but is Avery under a team-imposed suspension or is he just not playing tonight or is the coach playing coy with everyone and Avery will play tonight?
Remember, Voros has skated in warm-ups in all four previous games, too, and he played in Game 1 for Chris Drury.
-- Dan Rosen
Will Captain Clark play?
04.24.2009 5:23 p.m. ET
Bruce Boudreau, just like his counterpart on the other bench, is secretive about his lineup. However, Capitals captain Chris Clark said before Game 2 of this series that he's been cleared to play and yet he still hasn't.
So, now with the Caps facing elimination tonight, you have to wonder if Boudreau will turn to Clark in favor of someone like Donald Brashear, who has played in all of 6:58 over the past two games?
"There have been thoughts about it, but his time will come hopefully," Boudreau just said not 15 minutes ago about the captain. "I mean, everybody who is not playing is disappointed. I wouldn't want it any other way."
It certainly didn't look like Clark was going to play at this morning's skate. He stayed on the ice for extra work along with injured goalie Brent Johnson and forward Michael Nylander, who has been a healthy scratch for the last two games.
Asked if Clark isn't playing because Boudreau doesn't think he's quite ready yet after watching him in practice, the coach said, "The lineup is what it is. I'm not going to go into the why and how. We'll figure it out."
I asked Boudreau if he's big into motivational speeches and if he plans to give one before tonight's game?
"If I need to motivate the guys when they're facing elimination, I think we're in trouble," Boudreau said, "but I have been known to get excited."
I wish I was a fly on the locker room wall for that.
Lineups and the line combinations will come after the puck drop. Stay tuned...
-- Dan Rosen
Very optional skate, Torts not willing to discuss Avery
04.24.2009 1:22 p.m. ET
The Rangers had only eight guys on the ice at Verizon Center this morning and I'm told not a single one of them talked to the media. Chris Drury and Sean Avery were two of the eight skaters, but John Tortorella wasn't willing to discuss his lineup for tonight.
Tortorella, though, got asked a lot of questions about Avery and he didn't end up saying much.
"My biggest concern is a team that I feel needs to get better," he said. "Whether we're up 3-1 or it's 2-2, or we were down 3-1, we need to be better as a team. That's our whole focus."
Tortorella then got another question about Avery, and, again, he refused to say much.
"And again, I'm not going to get into a conversation with you guys about Sean," he said. "I'll give you this, when Sean and I met for the first time when I came here, we both talked that we were going to handle it like men, go through the process, and I'm not going to talk to you guys about Sean Avery or anything else."
Regarding the game, Tortorella said he'd obviously like to see the Rangers stop the parade to the penalty box, but also less turnovers and more puck possession time.
He knows how good the Caps' offense can be and that Henrik Lundqvist has taken on far too much of the load so far in this series.
"Even last game in the first period where I thought we played one of our better periods of the series, we still had chances to put the puck on net and have really good scoring chances and shot it wide," the coach said. "You don't keep the puck that way."
That being said, the Rangers are up 3-1 in this series so players other than Lundqvist must be doing something right.
"I just like the way we've scrapped through it even though we haven't been perfect and at times not anywhere perfect," Tortorella said. "We have still scrapped through it and found a way to get things done."
-- Dan Rosen
Green OK, Caps to throw kitchen sink at Henrik
04.24.2009 12:05 p.m. ET
Relax Caps fans, Mike Green is not sick. In fact, I asked him this morning if he has been fighting any type of illness in this series at all and he flat out said, "No."
So, that problem is solved.
There was a lot of talk this morning out here at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex about what the Caps need to do in order to beat Henrik Lundqvist tonight.
At first I just assumed they needed to throw more bodies at the net to create traffic, but after watching the first four games I think we can all deduce that they may just create more problems than it's worth.
After all, as Bruce Boudreau said, the Rangers already have two defensemen and a forward in front of the net, so adding two more bodies will give the shooters less space to get the pucks through. Plus, if the puck squirted out to the corner, the Caps wouldn't have enough guys to go to those dirty areas of the ice to win battles.
Also, and I think this goes without saying, it's not as if Washington has a Tomas Holmstrom or Johan Franzen type player. There are only a few of those guys in the League.
"People are nitpicking on what we should do and what we shouldn't do," Boudreau said. "It's a tough situation, but we have to find a way to do a lot of things."
"I think we got traffic to the net, but we also got opposition traffic, too, and we have to miss those guys because they block an awful lot of shots," Sergei Fedorov said. "It would be nice to get closer to the net, of course, but I think it doesn't matter as long as the shots get to the net."
All that being said, Brooks Laich expects the Capitals to throw just about everything they can at the goalie tonight.
"Pucks will be coming from everywhere," he said. "Bodies will be coming. There are going to be scrums in front of the net. They're going to do the same thing defensively. They're going to collapse five guys to the house to try to protect him and we just have to make sure we're more determined than they are."
Boudreau might give his the boys a Herb Brooks-esque motivational speech tonight, but he did say this morning that they all know exactly what is at stake. And, Laich said nothing more really needs to be said.
"Now it's just the sense that this is the last stand," Boudreau said. "It's like, the exam is today, we better start studying. You always had a little breathing room because it's never been the finality of what could happen, but today the proverbial things that you want to say, the backs against the wall, all those things, that's it. I don't want to stop coaching and I don't want to stop teaching, but at the same time the players know exactly what is at stake."
-- Dan Rosen
Welcome back to Arlington
04.24.2009 10:08 a.m. ET
Got the early train out of Metropark in Iselin, NJ today so I could make it down here in time for the Capitals morning skate at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. The Caps are on the ice now and they'll be talking to the media later and I'll have further updates. The Rangers skate at 11:30 at Verizon and I'll get you something from them as well.
Here are some interesting notes to keep you satiated for a while.
Teams that have trailed 3-1 in a best-of-7 series have won only 8.7-percent of the time (20 of 229). The last team to do it was Montreal in 2004. The Habs came back to beat Boston in seven games. ...
The Caps are averaging 37.2 shots on goal per game. The only other team in the playoffs that is averaing more than 36 shots on goal per game is San Jose, and the Sharks also trail, 3-1. Hey, you run into a hot goalie and you know what happens. That being said, I don't think the Caps have run into a hot goalie in this series. They've run into a great goalie. ...
Washington is 7-17 all-time in Game 5s, including just 4-10 at home and 2-5 when they are facing elimination.
-- Dan Rosen
Lundqvist is in the Caps heads
04.23.2009 4:25 p.m. ET
It might sound a bit harsh, but I don't think there is any way to sugarcoat it anymore.
Henrik Lundqvist is officially in the Capitals' heads and the psychological edge he now holds in this series is overwhelming. It might just be the difference in the series ending in five games or going longer.
Everything you hear and read from the Caps now are these glowing words about Lundqvist. It's out of respect, sure, but at what point do the Caps say, 'To heck with the other goalie, let's just go out there and beat him.'
"Too many good saves," Alex Ovechkin said today.
"I think we played good enough in the games, but one guy beats our team," the Russian sniper also said.
"Their goalie is playing a little bit out of his head, and I don't even know if it's out of his head - it's normal for him," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said today. "It's the way he plays."
"Last year we were playing against a team (Philadelphia) that was more about the hockey team than the goaltender," Caps forward Brooks Laich said today. "This year, the goaltender is really the star of their team. The reason that they've won three out of four is he's stood on his head. Sometimes he can be in your head."
No, wait, there's more…
"If you look at 3-1, it's a daunting task, winning three games against this goalie, that might be tough," Boudreau said.
"Their best penalty killer is their goaltender, and he's playing great," the coach later added. "We're averaging 37 shots to 20, and we're having a tough time beating him."
Is that enough of a sampling to see how much Lundqvist is in their heads right now?
I think so.
What the Caps have to do is get him out of their thoughts. Of course, that's easier said than done.
Hey, so is winning three games against Lundqvist, but no one said that can't be done either.
"Here in locker room of course it can feel terrible, feel sick, but you go to the ice, you forget and work hard and try to win the game," Ovechkin said. "It's no more chances for them. It's all about us right now."
-- Dan Rosen
Rangers staying the course
04.23.2009 1 p.m. ET
No one really thought the New York Rangers were going to be pushing out their chests and feeling all high and mighty today, right?
Not a chance.
"I think our guys have had a pretty level head on as we've started playoffs here," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "We've had some tough times through our first two games here and we've had some good times, where we haven't gotten too down or we haven't gotten too high. That's the key. We're playing against a very good hockey club, a team that doesn't feel it's out of it here at all, so we need to keep on playing. It's about playing the next game, it's about preparing for the next game and do the best we can. We're not looking at the numbers are as far as winning and losing. We're getting prepared to play another game."
I asked Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky if they think it's possible for the Rangers to sustain the kind of energy and effort they had in the first period Wednesday night for an entire 60-minute game.
"I don't see why not," Callahan said. "We're not going to be able to sustain momentum the whole game, it's pretty tough to do in a playoff game, but there's no reason we can't come out and have a good period in the first like we did last night."
"Absolutely," Dubinsky said. "We have a good hockey team in here. There is all this talk about all the pressure they've put on and all they've done, but we have a good group and we're going to be ready to go."
Tortorella said energy and effort was not the Rangers problem in the second and third period when they got outshot, 30-10, by the Capitals.
"I thought we had our energy," he said. "We're playing against another team and sometimes you have to give them credit for how they're playing at certain times. I thought we worked our (butts) off last night. We were ugly? At times we were, but other times we were really good. That's all part of playoff hockey. Our energy was there, but they made some key plays at key times and ended up with some scoring chances."
Asked directly by a veteran reporter if Sean Avery was going to be in the lineup for Game 5, Tortorella would not say and went back to the old philosophy of, "Oh, I'm not going to discuss lineups."
You have to at least believe that Tortorella is thinking about benching Avery, who nearly cost the Rangers the game in the third period with his undisciplined play. Avery was called for two penalties in the final 10 minutes of the game and both appeared to be avoidable.
"If we keep on flirting with the discipline problems we'll lose, and not just one game; momentum changes," Tortorella said. "We've been flirting with that all series long and a big part of our situation (Wednesday) night is I thought our penalty killing was just outstanding along with some great goaltending at key times. But, you can not keep going to the well like that with the lack of discipline we have shown at times and expect to continue to be in the series. We've gone there too many times."
-- Dan Rosen
Some extra notes and quotes from Game 4
04.23.2009 12:32 a.m. ET
Henrik Lundqvist's 38 saves tied his playoff career-high. He also stopped 38 shots in Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Semifinal against Buffalo, but the Rangers lost that one, 2-1, in overtime. That was the night Chris Drury of all people beat Lundqvist with eight seconds left in regulation to force OT. Maxim Afinogenov scored on the power play 4:39 into OT.
Chris Drury's goal 2:23 into the second period wound up being the 17th game-winner (tied for fifth all time) of his playoff career and his 47th career playoff goal (tied for eighth all time).
Alex Ovechkin played 28:47, the most minutes by any forward. Mike Green played 29:51, the most ice time for anyone in the game. Marc Staal led the Rangers with 24:04 of ice time.
Ryan Callahan had six hits to lead all players. Michal Rozsival blocked a game-high four shots.
Here are some extra quotes that wound up on the cutting room floor, so to speak:
"I thought (Marc Staal and Dan Girardi) played well. I thought the two kids played well. They were holding the line, which is so important against offensive players. You don't stop them. You can't stop them. It is just trying to contain them as best you can. You have to give some credit to a pretty hard working Washington team...but we found a way to get a win."
"(Chris Drury) is an easy guy to pull for. He is an important guy in the locker room. He is much healthier, improving the last couple of days. I think he has things figured out. Is he all there? No. We have to make a decision here, do we take him out or stick with him and give him ice time and certain situations and see what he can give us. That was the call. I felt Chris was healthy enough to add...not just put the uniform on. Oddly he scores the winning goal."
"The guys have all been playing extremely hard. I've just been trying to chip in whereever and however I can. I just went out and got a good break and got one in."
"It's huge. (Henrik Lundqvist) is amazing. There's not much you can't say what he does for this team. For us, it's a great example of what hard work and dedication does. He certainly brings that everyday."
"(Ovechkin) shoots it really well and you have to be ready for it. If you have balance on the wrong foot or you don't keep your glove high enough he will score. In the second there it was a tough one, up by my head almost. I just tried to be patient on it. If I go down too fast he will score on it, but when you're confident and you're having a good game you let the puck come to you."
"I think we have to start next game exactly the way we did the third game here. We have to get it going again. It's going to be tough, but it's not over yet."
"I think we waited until the third to really bring it. We were real loose in our neutral zone and trying to maybe be a little too cute and we turned pucks over. That allowed them to possess the puck maybe more than we're comfortable with. Unfortunately we didn't have enough fire power at the end."
-- Dan Rosen
Even a tired Lundqvist dominates
04.23.2009 12:17 a.m. ET
Henrik Lundqvist had to keep telling himself, "You're not tired, you're not tired."
He really was, but his exhaustion didn't show in the final 10 minutes of Game 4.
Lundqvist finished off a brilliant performance with 38 saves against 39 shots. If Mariano Rivera is considered the best closer in New York, well the Rangers goalie is a close No. 2. He was fantastic throughout the entire game and controlled the entire defensive zone in the third period.
"You don't want to accept that you're tired," Lundqvist said. "You just try to tell yourself that you have so much energy and you have to stay tall, especially when they scored because you know they are going to come even harder now.
"Oh, I'm dead tired," the goalie later added. "Everything is heavy, but you try to regroup. You keep telling yourself, 'You're not tired, keep focused, keep focused.' I knew they were going to have four or maybe five really good scoring chances and I have to be ready for them."
Lundqvist also couldn't get caught clock watching even though it was really hard to do with 10 minutes left. Of course, Sean Avery helped that cause by taking two uncalled for penalties in the final 9:39 of the game, forcing the Rangers to play in their defensive zone for long periods of time.
"When there were 10 minutes left I knew they would get three, four or maybe five scoring chances and at least 10 shots," Lundqvist said. "I just prepared for it and told myself, 'Let's close it here.' When you see the guys block shots and just battle so hard in your own zone you get excited."
-- Dan Rosen
Quick on the draw
04.22.2009 11:47 p.m. ET
Winning a majority of faceoffs in a game doesn't correlate to sure victory in a hockey game, but it's logical to think that it's better to have the puck than not. Winning two-thirds of the faceoffs in a game, as the Rangers did against the Capitals on Wednesday, can have a bearing on victory -- and it was one of the factors that helped New York go up 3 games to 1 in the series.
"I don't think 'Dubie' lost too many faceoffs tonight. I haven't seen the stat sheet yet," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "He's played well. He's played well and that's why he's getting in the positions he's being into. That's the way it has to be. It's not about experience. It's not about paycheck. It's not about draft pick or where you were. It's about getting the job done and I have leaned on him quite a bit, especially this evening. Him and Ryan (Callahan, who had a game-high six hits).
Even Drury won nearly half his faceoffs.
"(Drury) is an easy guy to pull for," Tortorella said. "He is an important guy in the locker room. He is much healthier, improving the last couple of days. I think he has things figured out. Is he all there? No.
"We had to make a decision here, do we take him out or stick with him and give him ice time in certain situations and see what he can give us, versus bringing another player in. That was the call. I felt Chris was healthy enough to add, not just put the uniform on. He was honest with me and I thought he did some good things for us. Oddly, he scores the winning goal."
-- John McGourty
Lines for Game 4
04.22.2009 6:44 p.m. ET
Of course, we're only taking educated guesses here, but this is what I think tonight's lines will look like for both teams.
Note: Drury could center the third line, but with his wrist or hand injury (presumably that's what it is), I have to think Korpikoski will take most of the faceoffs and will be the pivot man. Drury is obviously limited.
-- Dan Rosen
No surprise, it's the same lineup for Caps
04.22.2009 5:28 p.m. ET
Bruce Boudreau just met the media here at Madison Square Garden for his usual 5 o'clock pre-game gathering. He confirmed that yes, he will be going with the same lineup tonight as he did in Game 4, which means Donald Brashear will again be in for Michael Nylander and obviously Simeon Varlamov is starting in goal.
"I mean, how can you not?" Boudreau asked rhetorically.
Boudreau gave a little insight as to why he benched Nylander, who he thought played well in the first two games, in favor of Brashear, who played less than three minutes.
"I think it was more what Dave Steckel gave than what Donald Brashear gave, putting him up on the third line," Boudreau said. "He gave size and is a good forechecker. It makes for a pretty big, strong, physical line."
Steckel, who was the fourth line left wing in Games 1 and 2, was the third line center in Game 3 with Brooks Laich on his left wing and Eric Fehr on his right. Steckel is 6-5, Fehr is 6-4 and Laich is 6-2.
"It's more the playoff style hockey that goes into it," Boudreau said. "It's more grinding and more of a physical nature all the time."
The third line has not produced an even-strength goal for the Caps in any of the games so far (Laich scored on the power play in Game 3), but Boudreau thinks the trio of Laich, Steckel and Fehr can pop one in, maybe even tonight.
"Brooks got 23 (goals in the regular season) and Fehr just started to score this year (12 goals)," Boudreau said. "Dave played a lot of fourth line, but he still got eight goals and he scored 30 for me in the American (Hockey) League. He had a real good scoring chance last game. I expect the same."
The conversation with Boudreau turned to Sean Avery, which is basically inevitable now. Boudreau said he thinks his guys have done a good job of being disciplined against Avery so far, "but it's only three games. If it goes a long time he can get under your skin, so we have to make sure it's a constant thing."
I asked if that means reminding them all the time not to get involved with No. 16?
"I do everything as a parent," the Caps' coach said. "There are a lot of times you don't have to remind your kids to clean their room, but you do anyway."
Boudreau also said Chris Drury being limited in any way has no effect on how the Caps' plan to play tonight.
"We don't really play against other players," he said. "Obviously they have players that we show traits of what they're going to do, but we worry about ourselves more than them."
-- Dan Rosen
Tortorella: "I just want us to play"
04.22.2009 1:15 p.m. ET
The last thing John Tortorella wants his New York Rangers team to do is overanalyze the situation. They still lead the best-of-seven series, 2-1, and they still have home-ice advantage after stealing it away with a pair of wins in Washington.
Tonight, though, the Rangers have to play better defense (and smarter defense) if they want to steal momentum back in this series.
"We know we didn't play well in certain areas (in Game 3)," Tortorella said. "It's just a matter of keeping the game simple. Like I said after the game, we have to play defense against this team. If you play sound defense you'll have the puck more and maybe get involved in our offense, so that's a key."
Tortorella said the Rangers "were mesmerized by the puck" in Game 3. They did a lot of staring and not a lot of playing, and as a result the Capitals were able to find cutters down the middle for a couple of goals.
"We weren't in bad position, but when you watch the puck you pull yourself out of position," Tortorella said.
Other than that, I'm sure already read right here that Chris Drury is supposedly in tonight. Tortorella said that emphatically this morning.
The Rangers had an optional skate at the Garden and boy was it ever optional. Only six guys took the ice, including Drury, Blair Betts, Fredrik Sjostrom, Paul Mara, Aaron Voros and Stephen Valiquette. Voros and Valiquette will not play tonight and Mara was out of yesterday's practice due to personal reasons.
-- Dan Rosen
Green needs to be better
04.22.2009 1:05 p.m. ET
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau couldn't have been any clearer or more direct when he was asked about defenseman Mike Green, who has looked somewhat out of sorts in the first three games of this series.
"I just don't think he's playing as well as he can," Boudreau said.
The coach went on to say that Green has gotten a lot of positive press for his remarkable season - he had 31 goals and scored at least one in eight straight games to set an NHL record for a defenseman - but maybe as a result Green is trying to do too much to impress people.
"Instead of playing like Mike Green, he's trying to impress people with hits and skating and staying out on the power play," Boudreau said. "When you try to do all of those things usually you don't do any of the things as well as you can. We've talked to him about it, about playing within himself."
I asked Green if he agrees with Boudreau's assessment and, not surprisingly, he said yes.
"Yeah, at times you try to do too much or you want to win so bad that you catch yourself making plays that maybe you shouldn't," Green said. "It's part of the game. You reel yourself back in and you step up the next game."
Interestingly, after Game 2 Boudreau said Alex Ovechkin looked like he was pressing and trying to win the game on his own. Well, Ovechkin must have taken it to heart because he played an extraordinary Game 3 despite not scoring a goal.
He did everything else to help his team win. Maybe Boudreau is trying to send Green a message, too.
-- Dan Rosen
Offday updates: Drury limited, Caps in good spirits
04.21.2009 5 p.m. ET
Since this is an offday and we've got other games going on tonight, I don't want to overpopulate this blog today. So, here's a rundown of the pertinent information as I have taken in both practices today, first the Caps at MSG and then up in Greenburgh, N.Y. for the Rangers.
From New York...
Definitely the more interesting news was coming out of the Rangers dressing room this afternoon. Chris Drury, who played only 1:34 in the third period last night and just 10:58 in the game, skated in practice, but he was acting as the sixth defenseman, filling in for the absent Paul Mara.
Mara was out with a family issue and should be back tomorrow. Meanwhile, Drury, who did not take a faceoff last night after taking only two in Game 2 (clearly this is a hand or a wrist injury), is still day-to-day. However, since he was not on a line in practice there is much speculation about his status for Game 4 tomorrow night.
Drury says he's getting better everyday and we shouldn't read too much into where he was participating in practice today, so we won't. We'll see tomorrow how healthy he really is. At least we all know how much the guy is fighting it and how bad he wants to play. He admits it's frustrating.
Rangers coach John Tortorella changed up his lines entirely for this practice: He had Sean Avery skating with Scott Gomez and Ryan Callahan. Markus Naslund was with Brandon Dubinsky and Nikolai Zherdev. Fredrik Sjostrom, Lauri Korpikoski and Nik Antropov made up a line and Aaron Voros was with Blair Betts and Colton Orr.
It's interesting that Zherdev, who has been invisible in this series, was on the second line, up from the third line. Tortorella knows he needs to get more of the sensationally skilled Ukranian right wing. Maybe moving him up will send Zherdev a message that he needs to get involved more? Who knows?
Not much news to report here as the Caps are in good spirits. Alex Ovechkin, Sergei Fedorov, Brooks Laich, Viktor Kozlov, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin did not skate today.
There was a lot of talk about Simeon Varlamov and his sparkling performance so far in this series. Hey, Varlamov didn't skate either. What, two good games and already he can take his option? Who does this guy think he is?
D-man John Erskine is getting some love after his third excellent performance. It also helps that he did not react to Sean Avery, who threw a punch at Erskine in Game 3 and was called for roughing. Erskine said he's played against Avery a lot to know all about his antics. Last night was nothing new to him.
Backstrom was also feeling the love after his incredible Game 3 performance.
The Caps are feeling good, but they understand they are still under the gun in this series. Winning one game does not change that.
"A wounded animal is the most dangerous animal and we were very close to digging ourselves into a hole that very few teams have ever come out of," Boudreau said. "Everything is not all rosy yet. We're still down 2-1 and they have still stolen home ice from us and they have two days to adjust. We're glad we won, but it's not great yet."
-- Dan Rosen
And, from the losing dressing room
04.21.2009 12:18 a.m. ET
"We stunk - simple," were the words from Rangers coach John Tortorella after tonight's drubbing.
Nobody in the Rangers dressing room was arguing with him.
"We have to be a lot more poised with the puck when we have it," Markus Naslund said. "We have to be aware of their key guys, where they are and play them harder. I think we made it an easy night for them and gave them scoring chances. We just need to be sharper overall."
Gotta say that's a pretty fair assessment of the Rangers' end of things tonight. Now you have to wonder how they're going to come out Wednesday night in Game 4 as the team that is now under a bit of pressure.
If the Rangers lose Game 4, the Caps steal home-ice advantage back in this series and turn it into one that looks like it will go the distance. A win, and the Caps will be on their heels going back to Verizon Center for Friday night in Game 5.
The Rangers were too passive tonight, watching too much as the Caps again won the puck possession game. The difference is this time the Caps were stronger in the attacking zone. They decided it was time to stop shooting from the points and start creating more down low off the cycle. They darted to the net hard and caused the Rangers to scramble a bit.
Here are some other key points from the Rangers end of things:
Most importantly, captain Chris Drury looks seriously banged up. He played only 1:34 in the third period and only 10:58 for the entire game. Drury, who we think has a hand or a wrist injury, did not take a faceoff. I'm hoping to get more information from him tomorrow, but he's a warrior and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he's in for Game 4 despite the obvious injury. "I am healthy enough to dress," Drury said. "I am healthy enough to be in the lineup so I have to try to help the team. I will continue to do that."…
Ryan Callahan could have changed the way this game was played, but his shot from close-in in the first period clanged off the left post and skidded through the crease. Thirteen seconds later, the puck was in the Rangers' goal and the Caps had a 2-0 lead. It was the definite turning point of the game, but now the Rangers have to make sure it's not the turning point of the series. …
Little to no blame goes to Lundqvist for this one. He was left in the cold a lot of the times by his teammates, Callahan said. "It's not fair to Hank. He has been coming up with big saves and we can't do that." Still, Lundqvist wasn't absolving himself.
-- Dan Rosen
From the victors
04.21.2009 12:06 a.m. ET
There will be only one entry per team tonight because to be quite honest, I'm kind of spent after an incredibly long day.
As I'm sure you already know, and you can most definitely read in many places here on NHL.com, the Caps made this a series tonight at Madison Square Garden with a 4-0 win over the Rangers, one New York coach John Tortorella called a "good old fashion spanking."
A couple of key points coming out of the Washington dressing room:
Alex Ovechkin still hasn't scored in this series, but boy was he effective in Game 3. Ovechkin made some sparkling defensive plays, including one on Lauri Korpikoski that you'll be able to read about on our main page shortly. He also assists on both of Alexander Semin's goals. …
Semin showed up tonight in a big way, and that's important for the Caps. They can't just rely on Ovechkin. …
Nicklas Backstrom played what the two Capitals' beat writers, from the Washington Post and the Washington Times, are calling the best game they have seen from any Capital this season. That's saying something considering Ovechkin plays for this team and he had 56 goals, but they're probably right. Backstrom had three assists and was the best player on the ice every single time he was out there. He was marvelous. Even Caps coach Bruce Boudreau was at a loss for words. …
Give a ton of credit to 20-year-old Russian rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov, who came into Madison Square Garden of all places and preserved his first playoff shutout in only his second playoff game by making 33 saves. He was stoic throughout, even when Sean Avery was trying to get in his face. …
Both myself and my colleague, John McGourty, thought John Erskine was the Caps best defenseman tonight. Thankfully for us, so did Boudreau, who called the 6-foot-4 stay-at-homer "special." Erskine kept his cool early in the second period when Avery threw a punch at him, and the great Rangers' pest was the one that went to the penalty box. …
And, finally, I think Boudreau made a smart coaching move tonight by putting Backstrom with Semin and Tomas Fleischmann and Ovechkin with Sergei Fedorov and Viktor Kozlov. The little switch seemed to result in even more puck possession, but the lines looked more balanced the Caps were able to cycle the puck more.
-- Dan Rosen
Varlamov starting again, Brashear in for Nylander
04.20.2009 6:50 p.m. ET
UPDATE: I had the Caps lines wrong. They are as follows:
Fleischmann-Backstrom-Semin, Ovechkin-Fedorov-Kozlov, Laich-Steckel-Fehr, Brashear-Gordon-Bradley. Their D pairings are Green-Morrisonn, Poti-Jurcina, Erskine-Pothier.
ORIGINAL POST: Warm-ups are over here at Madison Square Garden and to no one's surprise, 20-year-old rookie Simeon Varlamov is back in net for the Capitals after a strong performance in Game 2 when he let up only one goal on 24 shots.
The bigger surprise is that Donald Brashear is in the lineup tonight and Michael Nylander, who was the Caps third-line center for the first two games, is out. Clearly Caps coach Bruce Boudreau feels he needs some muscle in this game, a desperation one for the Caps.
So, with Brashear in, David Steckel will move up to center the third line between Eric Fehr and Tomas Fleischmann. Boyd Gordon will center the fourth line with Brashear on his left and Matt Bradley on his right.
Boudreau hinted there could be line changes, so to speculate on how the top six will shape out would be tough to do. It's possible nothing happens and that Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Viktor Kozlov stay together along with Brooks Laich, Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Semin on the second line.
That may be how Boudreau starts the game and he could adjust from there.
On the Rangers side, the same lineup should be playing and the same lines are expected as well. Chris Drury may get more than the 15-plus minutes he played Saturday, but it's all a guessing game now. You'd have to think that with Brashear in the lineup, Colton Orr will get more minutes.
The Rangers lines should look like this: Avery-Gomez-Antropov, Naslund-Drury-Callahan, Dubinsky-Korpikoski-Zherdev, Sjostrom-Betts-Orr.
-- Dan Rosen
04.20.2009 3:15 p.m. ET
OK, so the New York Rangers lead 2-0 in this series heading into tonight's Game 3 at Madison Square Garden.
Let's talk history. It's beautiful for the Rangers when they lead 2-0 in a series, but it isn't so pretty for the Caps when they trail 2-0.
The Rangers have won 19 of 20 series' in which they won the first two games. The Capitals, meanwhile, have trailed 2-0 in a series four times and have NEVER come back to win the series.
However, history has proven it is possible for teams to pull out of the 0-2 hole. Just look at the Caps for cryin' out loud. They are only 3-4 in series' in which they jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
Heck, in 1996 and in 2003 they won the first two games on the road, but went on to lose the series. Hey, didn't the Rangers win the first two games of this series on the road?
Yes they did.
So, this is a six in one, half a dozen in the other theory I guess.
That being said, when the Caps fell behind 2-0 to the Rangers in the 1994 Eastern Conference Semifinal, they went on to lose the series in five games. I don't think that means anything, but some history buffs and stats folks think otherwise.
Got all that?
So, what does it all mean?
Um, well, after wasting my time looking it all up, not all that much to be honest.
-- Dan Rosen
Ovie up to some tricks
04.20.2009 1:30 p.m. ET
It was easily the best scene of the morning when nearly everyone saw Alex Ovechkin, wearing only his Under Armour apparel, sitting on the visitor's bench during the early portion of the Rangers' morning skate here at Madison Square Garden.
Apparently, a Rangers trainer approached Nate Ewell of the Caps' excellent media relations staff and told him to tell No. 8 to leave the bench before Rangers coach John Tortorella has a heart attack.
Ewell walked over to Ovechkin and told him he couldn't sit on the bench, but he could go up to the stands if he wanted to. Instead of doing that, Ovechkin stood up, stretched out his chest a bit, muttered something under his breath and walked back to the Caps' dressing room.
So, why did you go out there Alex?
"Just Tortorella pisses off," he said in his broken English.
Obviously that means he wanted to piss Tortorella off. It didn't work because the Rangers coach said he didn't even notice Ovechkin on the bench. However, asked why he thinks the Rangers wanted him to leave the bench, Ovechkin said, "Because they're afraid of me."
I'm not sure Ovechkin's move really worked because nobody on the Rangers side of things seemed all too concerned about it, but we'll have to wait until later to see for sure.
Perhaps more importantly, we'd also like to see if the Capitals are going to adjust for Game 3, and by that we mean trying to find ways to both crash the crease and avoid the Rangers incredible shot blockers, who have accounted for 50 through two games.
Ovechkin wasn't dishing on what they would do, but Caps coach Bruce Boudreau did admit something has to change. He said the Caps played good enough for a regular season game in Game 2, but the playoffs require you to give a little bit more.
"I think puck possession is an important thing because if we have it and they don't then they can't get the crowd involved," Boudreau said. "But, we know they're going to come out hard. I mean, who wouldn't? They have a chance to put a large stake in our hearts today. We know what that means and we know what we're up against. We just have to find a way to weather that storm."
Ovechkin said it's unfair to cast doubt on the Caps just yet. He referred to the San Jose-Anaheim series out west.
"San Jose right now is losing 2-0 and they're the best team all season," Ovechkin said. "It doesn't mean they lost the series. They lost two games in their home building like we did, but it's not over."
As for any pressure, no, No. 8 said he doesn't feel that either. However, he did admit there is pressure on his team right now to get a win tonight or else face the prospect of being down in the dreaded 0-3 hole.
"Now we're in the playoffs and we have to win the game," Ovechkin said. "If you're tired it doesn't matter, you have to work hard and work you're you know what off."
-- Dan Rosen
Rangers ready for Garden to rock
04.20.2009 12:50 p.m. ET
The New York Rangers, happy to be home with a 2-0 series lead over the Washington Capitals, know their famous building will be rocking and rolling tonight.
The Garden always gets louder in the playoffs, but I vividly remember how deafening it was back in 2007 when the home team skated in for Game 3 with a 2-0 series lead over Atlanta.
I expect something like that tonight. The Rangers do as well, which is why a lot of the talk around the room this morning was about controlling their emotions so they can get off to a good start.
It's a challenge, captain Chris Drury said, but it must be done.
"You don't want to waste (your energy) on unnecessary stuff," Drury said. "When you need it in the second and third, you'll regret getting your emotions going too much early on.
"Someone said this year during the Super Bowl, I think it was a guy on the Cardinals who had been in the Super Bowl, that he told the guys, 'Don't waste it in warm-up,' " Drury continued. "It might have been (Kurt) Warner. Who else would it have been?"
Rangers coach John Tortorella isn't concerned about his team getting too caught up in the pre-game and the roar of the Garden crowd.
"I think they can handle it," Tortorella said. "You need to keep yourself on an edge, but under control."
Rangers defenseman Derek Morris told me there will be no shortages of reminders from Tortorella about how important it is to stay on an even keel through warm-ups and the game's first 10 minutes or so.
"I think you know him well enough now that he's very focused and he gets us very focused," Morris said. "We know what we're doing and we're concentrating on our first shifts."
I asked Morris if when he leaves the Garden this afternoon if he'll try to get his mind off the game a bit before returning.
"You go over scenarios," he said. "You go over how you're going to forecheck, how they're power play is going to be, how we're going to kill it, if Ovechkin gets it on the wall what do I have to do? All that stuff."
-- Dan Rosen
Boudreau very pleased with defensive effort
04.19.2009 7:57 p.m. ET
They may be down in this series, 2-0, but nobody can accuse the Washington Capitals of not playing a firm and smart defensive game. Through two games they have allowed only 45 shots and according to coach Bruce Boudreau's count, only 13 scoring chances, including just five in Game 2.
"I think all six D have to be given credit when that's all you're giving up," Boudreau said.
That being said, the Caps are still trailing in this series and Boudreau said he was definitely going to remind his team that in their video session on Sunday.
"I think everyone believes that we're still right in the middle of this thing and no one is hanging their head," Boudreau said. "We're frustrated because we think we're playing well and we're getting nothing to show for it, but I'll point out in a video meeting that we're not playing well enough."
When I asked him if he's contemplating line changes, as most coaches who are trailing in a series do, Boudreau said, "If you've been around our team this year you'll know we probably haven't gone two games all year with the same line combinations, so it's a definite possibility. We'll see."
In point-of-fact I haven't been around the Capitals a lot this season, but I have been watching, just like all of my colleagues at NHL.com.
-- Dan Rosen
Stay the course, avoid frustration
04.19.2009 12:50 p.m. ET
The Capitals are trying not to get frustrated, trying to stay positive. It's what they have to do at this time of the series, which resumes tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden.
This isn't a matter of the Rangers befuddling the Caps. Washington knows exactly what it has to do, now it's a matter of going out and doing it.
That means finding a way to avoid the sprawling Rangers, who are blocking shots left and right. That means finding a way around the Rangers' defensemen and getting in front of Henrik Lundqvist. They need a guy that will get in his face in a legal way. Heck, when given a chance (and they are limited) Sean Avery has done that well for the Rangers so far in this series.
"I think that's every team's goal," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I've been going through all the scoring chances and we stopped at the net, we went to the net. They just do a great job of blocking shots and it's hard to get the pucks through. We'll have to find different ways to score on this guy."
How do you do that, coach?
"Miss them, quite frankly," Boudreau said. "It's a shoot it where they ain't type thing. They do a very good job of dropping back and they're all committed to blocking shots. It's a fine way to play."
With so much being made of how the Rangers are clearly paying the price to win in this series, I asked Boudreau if the Capitals need to play harder?
"Define harder," he responded.
I defined it as crashing the crease, going into the dirty areas to find the loose pucks, getting in Lundqvist's kitchen, so to speak.
"Well, we're trying as hard as we can to get to the front of the net," Boudreau answered respectfully. "We've had 70 shots in two games to their 44. We're doing what we can, but we have to do better. Maybe we need 45 shots a game, I don't know. As to getting in his kitchen, he's too good of a player and too smart to let anybody get in his kitchen for want of a better term. Those are the things we have to do, we have to find a way. They're a good hockey club, but certainly they have allowed goals in the past and we have to find a way to get them in the future."
I think that was a fair response from a coach who clearly has the pulse of his team. Read for yourself:
"We haven't really been getting second shots to be honest with you as much as we'd like to," Caps forward David Steckel said. "When the rebounds have been there the Rangers have done a great job of blocking us out to get to them. That's a key that we're going to focus on for Game 3."
"They are paying the price, blocking shots and taking hits to make plays," added Matt Bradley. "They're doing all the those things to win and they're winning, so maybe we'll have to do more of that kind of stuff."
Another quick note, 17 of the 24 players on the Caps roster took the ice for today's optional practice, including all three goalies, Chris Clark, Donald Brashear and Jeff Schultz. The seven who didn't skate were Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Viktor Kozlov, Sergei Fedorov, Alexander Semin, Mike Green and Tom Poti.
-- Dan Rosen
Another day in Arlington, Va.
04.19.2009 10:50 a.m. ET
This blog entry is clearly for all of you die hard hockey fans who need their fix with their Sunday morning coffee and bagel.
I'm at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex right now and there are a few players on the ice, but it's only the scratches, including the injured Brent Johnson and Jeff Schultz along with Chris Clark and Donald Brashear.
I'm thinking the rest of the Caps will have a meeting today and maybe won't skate at all, but we'll know soon enough.
Meanwhile, the story here is about frustration setting in to a team that knows it has a whole lot more to give in this series. All the talk now about the Caps is how they're not paying enough of a price to win this series. The Rangers have blocked 50 shots and have won both games. It's pretty amazing to see.
Mike Green said it best yesterday when, with a lost look on his face, he mentioned how in the playoffs now the Capitals may have to adjust their style to win. You can play one way all season, but playoff hockey is notoriously different than regular-season hockey and the Capitals are figuring that out the hard way.
As for the Rangers, they are skating in Greenburgh, NY this afternoon at 3. They really don't have much to complain about at all because they have done everything necessary to take a 2-0 advantage back home.
For your morning reading list, check out yesterday's game story as well as thoughts from Alex Oveckin.
If the Rangers do end up winning this series, it's looking more and more like they would be playing the Boston Bruins, but there is still plenty to be decided in both series' and I'm of the opinion that the Caps and Canadiens will have their say before it's all said and done.
-- Dan Rosen
From the Rangers perspective
04.18.2009 6:50 p.m. ET
Give Chris Drury all the credit in the world. The guy is a warrior because he was clearly playing hurt (I think he had basically one arm) and still put in a gutsy effort with 15:25 of ice time and three blocked shots. He only took two faceoffs, but Drury deserves our praise for playing.
"It felt great, you know," Drury said. "There's not much of a worse feeling than going out for warm-ups and having to come in here and get undressed. That's tough, so to go out there and be able to stay and contribute, it was a fun day."
Give a ton of credit to Fredrik Sjostrom as well. The grinding, fourth-line, penalty-killing winger played a heck of a game and he, too, looked like he was hurting (upper body?). Sjostrom had a key sequence on a penalty kill late in the second period when he blocked an Alex Ovechkin slap shot that had to be humming at over 100 mph and then later cleared the puck down the ice before leaving. It was a 35-second shift and it was awesome.
"That's Sjoo's role," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "He's in a role that's very important against this team."
Also, everyone was heaping a ton of priase on Ryan Callahan's slender shoulders. The second-line right wing scored the lone goal of the game 7:44 into the first period and had another masterful performance by using his speed, wits and guts to frustrated the Caps, specifically Alex Ovechkin, who he was matched against a lot.
Callahan had 20:41 of ice time, a goal on three shots, two hits, two takeaways and two blocked shots.
"I hated playing against him in the American (Hockey) League because I knew he was going to be a good player," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He's got great speed and he's committed. All of the Rangers are committed to playing the way that John wants them to play, but when you got that much speed you can get back and you're always doing your job. His job is to shadow Alex."
Added Tortorella regarding Callahan: "It's exciting for the organization as far as how he's going. Still a young man with not a lot of playoff experience. That's what defines a player in these type of situations. It's not just the goal, it's the other little things he's doing. This is a great building block as he plays in the playoffs."
Lots of good vibes around the Rangers now, as one should expect.
-- Dan Rosen
From the Caps perspective
04.18.2009 6:36 p.m. ET
"Lots of chances, but in the playoffs if their goalie plays great and steals the game it's tough to play," Alex Ovechkin said. "They win 1-0 and we have an opportunity to bounce back."
Yes, they have an opportunity to bounce back, but they'll need to find a way to get in Henrik Lundqvist's kitchen a little bit. They have to frustrate the goalie or risk losing this series in four games.
He's too good for the Capitals to think they can beat him with shots from the perimeter.
"The tough areas are around the net or in the slot and we gotta get into the gray areas where we can get quality shots," defenseman Mike Green said. "I mean, Ovie gets in the slot there with (Alexander) Semin passing to him and he hits the cross-bar. That's a quality shot, but the stuff from the outside, we have to learn to go to the net because the rebounds are going to come to those areas, especially if we're shooting from the outside."
Not surprisingly, there is no panic in Washington's dressing room. The Caps are trying to remember what they did last year when they lost three in a row against Philadelphia before rallying to even the series. They lost Game 7 in overtime.
They are also taking a look at what Carolina did in 2006 when, as the second seed by virtue of winning the Southeast Division, the Canes lost Games 1 and 2 at home against Montreal before rallying to win the series and eventually the Stanley Cup.
Boudreau reminded his team of that fact after Saturday's game. It's happened nine times since 1994 that the higher seed lost both Games 1 and 2 at home but still rallied to win the series.
"I think it's an important thing," Ovechkin said.
-- Dan Rosen
Rangers win another by one goal
04.18.2009 6:05 p.m. ET
I figured before I got to writing my last story of the day, which won't go up until Sunday morning, I'd offer you a few of my thoughts on the Rangers' 1-0 win here at Verizon Center this afternoon before later posting some of the players and coaches thoughts.
For one, the Rangers are doing just a masterful job of blocking shots. They had 21 in Game 1 and an amazing 29 this afternoon. It shows the commitment on their part to lay it all on the line for cause.
I also think, and Caps defenseman Mike Green backed me up on this, that the Capitals are making it easy for the Rangers to block shots and easy for Henrik Lundqvist to stop the ones that get through.
They are shooting too much from the perimeter, and even though it takes a lot of guts to step in the way of those shots, they are easily seen so the Rangers can do it. And, the ones that are getting through, Lundqvist is making easy saves because he sees it the whole way.
The Capitals need to put more pressure on Lundqvist by crashing his crease and making it hard for him to see the puck. They haven't frustrated the All-Star goalie yet and as a result he is dominating this series.
I thought Simeon Varlamov looked like a 20-year-old rookie at times out there, but for the most part he played a solid game and definitely gave his team a chance to win. Unless he came up with a masterful glove save, he had basically no chance of stopping Ryan Callahan on his goal 7:44 into the first period. It was a great 2-on-1 by Markus Naslund and Callahan, set up mostly by a great play and pass in the neutral zone by Brandon Dubinsky.
More to come later...
-- Dan Rosen
VARLAMOV IN, (Drury, too)
04.18.2009 1:10 p.m. ET
Mystery solved: ROOKIE SIMEON VARLAMOV IS STARTING IN GOAL FOR THE WASHINGTON CAPITALS.
This is a shocking, shocking development.
Varlamov, a 20-year-old Russian, was the first goalie out on the ice for warm-ups, leading many in the press box to speculate that he is the starting goalie over Jose Theodore. Usually the goalie who comes out first is the starter.
It was confirmed when the Capitals' PR handed out the roster sheets for today's game and Varlamov's name was in bold.
Varlamov was 4-0-1 during the regular season with a 2.37 GAA and .918 save percentage. He is considered the Caps' goalie of the future, but apparently that future is right now. His last three starts came against Atlanta, Buffalo and Tampa Bay - all three are not playoff teams.
This is a gutsy, gutsy move by Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, last year's Jack Adams Award winner. He better be right about Varlamov, who has played in the playoffs in Russia as well as in the World Junior Championship for his home country.
Theodore allowed four goals on 21 shots in Game 1. Boudreau did not give him any public reassurances that he would be starting, but did say Friday that "Theo is our No. 1 goalie." That led everyone to believe that Theodore was going to play today, but Boudreau also said, "It's never safe to assume anything."
Then again, just earlier today Boudreau said there is only one lineup change and that's Brian Pothier for Jeff Schultz. He wasn't lying. Jose Theodore is in the lineup; just not the starting lineup.
The gamesmanship in this series is off the charts.
Chris Drury is also in for the Rangers. He missed Game 1 with an undisclosed injury, but skated the last two days and said he felt better Friday than he did Thursday and definitely Wednesday, when he skated briefly in warm-ups but decided he couldn't go.
Make sure you check out our Ovechkin Iso Cam during the game.
Here are this afternoon's lines and D pairings:
Ovechkin-Backstrom-Kozlov; Laich-Fedorov-Semin; Fleischmann-Nylander-Fehr; Steckel-Gordon-Bradley
Morrisonn-Green; Poti-Jurcina; Erskine-Pothier
Avery-Gomez-Antropov; Naslund-Drury-Callahan; Dubinsky-Korpikoski-Zherdev; Sjostrom-Betts-Orr
Staal-Girardi; Redden-Rozsival; Morris-Mara
-- Dan Rosen
Boudreau: Stop cryin Torts
04.18.2009 11:20 a.m. ET
Well, it's officially on now.
Both coaches met with their respective ends of the media this morning and because John Tortorella's session was so brief (39 seconds, total) I was able to make it over to the Caps locker room door where Bruce Boudreau was holding his session.
When asked about Tortorella's comments yesterday questioning the legality of the Capitals' faceoff wins in Game 1, Boudreau had an are-you-kidding-me look on his face and had this to say about his counterpart on the other bench:
"You know what, they won the game and all he did was cry about the two things we won about, faceoffs and a penalty," Boudreau said. "He's playing the whole game and it's actually pretty lame quite frankly. The faceoffs. He's talking about Nicky Backstrom. He was 48 percent. He was one of the worst centerman the first half of the year in faceoffs altogether. You know, we went in and I talked to the League and the League said they are perfectly legal, so I mean he's just cryin' right now. It's a dumb thing to cry about.
"I haven't said nothing except responding," Boudreau added. "We're told not to do this and he's trying to play the gamesmanship and get the referees on their side. That's fine, and they'll probably do better on faceoffs today, so what am I supposed to do? Cry? We never had 70 percent all year. We had one good day on faceoffs. Give us a break."
The Capitals did win 70-percent of the faceoffs in Game 1. Backstrom, who was 48.7 percent on his 1,171 draws during the regular season, won 13 of 18 Wednesday night.
Yesterday, Tortorella said about the faceoffs:
"We were terrible. They’re a good faceoff team, Fedorov and Backstrom. I guess my biggest concern is that I just want to make sure that the faceoffs are legal. The tape I watched...I just hope that the faceoffs are legal, because the tying up and kicking can’t be done until the puck hits the ice. And a number of them I don’t think were. So that’s something we have a concern about."
Can't wait to hear what he has to say after today's game, assuming he does get wind of Boudreau's comments.
-- Dan Rosen
04.17.2009 3:39 p.m. ET
Jose Theodore is on the hotseat for his play, but the rest of the Capitals are trying to cool him off by taking some of the blame.
"I don't think the criticism of Jose is just," Brooks Laich said. "When you give up goals you give up goals as a team. We can't let (Scott) Gomez, (Nik) Antropov, (Markus) Naslund and (Brandon) Dubinsky walk in front and take wrist shots. They're good players and they're going to score on those."
"I mean, guys were getting shots from the slot," Mike Green said. "If we're getting shots from the slot we're usually going to score, too. We can't leave (Theodore) out to dry like that."
-- Dan Rosen
Ovechkin: We need to stay physical throughout
04.17.2009 3:25 p.m. ET
There was a lot of talk about physical play at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex today because Game 1 was a very physical game. Caps forward Brooks Laich said it was the most physical game the Capitals had played all season.
"There were some big hits and guys getting their bell rung," Laich said. "It was a lot of fun."
I asked Alex Ovechkin if the Capitals were as physical in the third period as they were in the first?
"Um, no, we didn't play a physical game in the third period like we always do," Ovechkin said after thinking about the question for a moment. "Maybe the game was tied and after (Brandon) Dubinsky scored his goal we were a little bit frustrated, but we didn't want to get some hits because if you get some hits you may get some penalties. We just tried to score goals. It was close, but not close enough."
The Caps were outhit on the stat sheet, 35-27, in Game 1. However, Mike Green had a major blow on Fredrik Sjostrom late in the second period and Ovechkin crushed Lauri Korpikoski at the blue line with 1:45 left in the first period.
"I thought for our team we played the body quite well," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "All the big hits were our guys hitting them. In the playoffs you always want to be more physical and able to eliminate the guys better. I thought we did an adequate job."
Added Green: "We want to be the aggressors, not the ones getting punished. We made it clear that we're going to play a physical series and hopefully that will take a toll on them. We expect them to push back and it be a hard series, but we want to be the aggressors."
-- Dan Rosen
More from Rangers practice
04.17.2009 3:09 p.m. ET
There was a scare over at the Rangers practice at Verizon Center when 6-foot-6 wing Nik Antropov collided with Henrik Lundqvist during a drill. Lundqvist was down on the ice, writhing in pain. He finally got up and slammed his stick in disgust.
Don't worry Ranger fans. He's OK. Just a little soreness in his neck, but he'll be fine.
John Tortorella is concerned about the Rangers play through the neutral zone. He said they need to be sharper through the area if they want to win the puck possession game and keep pucks deep.
"We had opportunities and decided not to at certain times and that's a recipe for disaster against this club," Tortorella said. "Washington did some good things in the neutral zone, but we don't want to be a team that's just going to be chasing the puck all night long."
Tortorella also had some very nice words to say about Ryan Callahan, who is a smart, energy winger for the Rangers and has earned his spot on the second line.
"He's a guy that does everything," the coach said. "He's in every situation. He's earned the responsibility and the chance to be in those situations because he's succeeded. Players sometimes need to believe they can score regularly; I think he's beginning to realize that and believe in himself. But he also does other things away from the puck. Last-minute situations, penalty killing, blocking shots, finishing checks - he's becoming a complete package and still very early in the process."
Drury on ice
04.17.2009 12:46 p.m. ET
Rangers captain Chris Drury is skating at practice at Verizon Center this afternoon and is on his normal line, between Markus Naslund and Ryan Callahan.
Drury missed Game 1 with an undisclosed injury and has been listed as day to day.
-- Dan Rosen
No sign of Schultz
04.17.2009 11:51 a.m. ET
Washington defenseman Jeff Schultz did not skate this morning at the Capitals' practice and Brian Pothier told me today that he is going to be playing Saturday afternoon in Game 2. Schultz, who also didn't practice Thursday, is being listed by the Capitals as day-to-day.
Schultz was the guy that Brandon Dubinsky undressed on his way to scoring the winning goal midway through the third period Wednesday night. Schultz fell down on the play.
More news to come out of Caps' camp later, but suffice to say that both Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green said they need to create more traffic in front of Henrik Lundqvist if they hope to beat the Rangers' gold-medal winning goalie. Green told me they were getting too much from the perimeter in Wednesday's game and without traffic in front of him, Lundqvist is going to stop those shots every single time.
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau still won't announce who will be the starting goalie on Saturday, but he did let on a little bit more than Jose Theodore would likely be his guy. Still, there is nothing etched in stone yet and Boudreau said it's not safe to assume anything.
The Caps had a good skate today and then finished with a light-hearted shootout game. The goalies picked the teams and Sergei Varlamov somehow managed to select Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Sergei Fedorov and Mike Green to shoot against Theodore. Needless to say Varlamov was at an unfair advantage and he won the shootout competition.
-- Dan Rosen
Just a bit more from the Caps
04.16.2009 3:10 P.M. ET
A couple of interesting comments today out of the mouth of Washington coach Bruce Boudreau, and this has nothing to do with his take on the goalie controversy he has now encountered/created.
Regarding Alex Ovechkin's impact for ice hockey in Washington, the coach had this to say:
"Look at the crowds. We're sold out every night. People are looking to know him everywhere he goes on the streets. I think the Frozen Four's success here had a lot to do with the way Alex Ovechkin has brought hockey into the limelight in D.C."
What about Viktor Kozlov finally scoring a playoff goal in his 22nd career game?
"I think it was probably important for Viktor and we need Viktor to play well to succeed. I was really happy for him, and you could see it on his face that he was happy. He'd much rather have not scored and us won, but maybe it bodes well…you've seen it happens so many times when a guy gets nothing and all of a sudden he's on fire. He could be the R.J. Umberger of this series, you know."
Hey, coach, isn't it amazing that the sun actually came out today and all is OK?
"Yeah, I was really surprised that the sun did come up and the world is still fine. We know they're going to play better on Saturday. We know they're a real good team, but we also know how we're capable of playing. It's a loss in the loss column, but still there's (nine) minutes to go and it's a tied game. I mean, it's not like it was a 5-1 game and geez we were outclassed and we were not ready. I think we were ready and we did a lot of real good things and we want to build on those things."
-- Dan Rosen
Pothier feels for Schultz
04.16.2009 3 P.M. ET
I asked Caps' reserve defenseman Brian Pothier today if he immediately thought he would be playing in Game 2 after seeing Jeff Schultz get beaten by Brandon Dubinsky and then fall down as the Rangers' young forward scored the winning goal?
Clearly Pothier wasn't about to throw Schultz under the bus, which I actually specifically asked him not to do, but he understands what Schultz went through.
"That happens to every player in the National Hockey League," Pothier said. "At one point they make a mistake, it just so happens that it was a tough time for Schultzie. It happens. It's happened to me more times than I would like to admit. It happens to everyone in this League."
I pressed further to ask Pothier what he saw and what he thinks Schultz could have done differently?
"He tried to be aggressive and he made an attempt to play him at the blue line and Dubinksy made a nice play and took advantage of the opportunity," Pothier said.
Pothier has not been told if he is going to play Saturday, but he is hoping to get in at some point during this series. Schultz was not one of the 11 skaters who participated in today's optional practice at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va.
-- Dan Rosen
How about these two
04/16/09 2:55 P.M. ET
First off, Chris Drury remains day-to-day, though he did skate today in the Rangers optional. When my story gets posted I will link to it here.
There is all of a sudden a lot of talk around the Rangers about the play of the defense pair of veterans Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival, two players who have been ridiculed by the Garden crowd all season.
Well, Redden and Rozsival played a very steady, smart game Wednesday at Verizon Center and earned extra ice time over the younger pair of Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. Rozsival 28:15 and Redden played 27:35.
"They were playing well so we played them," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "One of the key things with their game is they were willing to take a hit to make a play. They protected the puck well. We were probably successful with them getting out of our end zone when we could. Overall their game was really good, and that's why they ended up with the minutes."
As for Staal and Girardi, who early in the game were matched against Alex Ovechkin's line, Tortorella thought the two youngsters "fought it for a little bit there," but Tortorella does think he'll start Game 2 with the two of them as a pair again.
"It's to be expected when you open a series," he continued. "Redds and Rosy, I thought they really stabilized us when they were coming at us pretty hard."
It didn't help that Girardi opened the game by taking a holding penalty just 18 seconds in. He was also called for tripping 53 seconds into the third period, leading to Alexander Semin's game-tying power-play goal.
"We're going to move by it," Tortorella said. "They responded well when they've struggled. It could've (bothered Girardi), but I just think the overall speed of the game affected them a little bit. I think they'll bounce back. Redds and Rosy get 26 or 27 minutes, but that may be different Saturday afternoon depending on how it goes. I still have a lot of confidence in Marc and Danny.
"Girardi and Marc Staal are the foundation of our back end as we move forward. This is an experience. This is how you gain experience in these types of situations."
-- Dan Rosen
Live from Arlington, Va.
04/16/09 10:35 A.M. ET
I'm sitting in the little media alcove at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex right now. The Caps aren't scheduled for practice for another 30 minutes, but already there are five guys on the ice and more are streaming out of the room.
Think these guys are eager to put last night's loss behind them.
The obvious prevailing storyline today is what's the word on Jose Theodore? Will he play again on Saturday or will Bruce Boudreau turn to rookie Simeon Varlamov.
I'm of the opinion that Boudreau has to go back to Theodore. They signed this guy to be their No. 1 goalie and you have to let him be just that, especially at this time of the year. Just because he had one off night - and, yes, he was off - doesn't mean he can't find his game on Saturday and help the Caps get this series evened up before heading north to New York.
It wouldn't shock me, though, if Boudreau doesn't make any announcement on who his starting goalie is going to be today. He may want to let Theodore stew a little bit before announcing that he's going back to the 32-year-old veteran for Game 2.
Of course, there is the chance that Boudreau doesn't know yet who he will play. We'll find out soon enough, but I liken Theodore to the Caps' penalty kill. They allowed the Rangers anemic power play to score twice, so does that mean they're going to completely change who kills penalties for them.
So, why change the guy in net right now?
Just my two cents. More to come later from here and, thanks to my buddy, Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record, I'll be updated on what's happening with the Rangers over at Verizon Center later on this afternoon. When word comes from Andrew, specifically on the status of Chris Drury, I'll post it here.
The Caps practice at 11 and the Rangers are at 12, and since it's about a 30-minute ride on the Metro from here to there, it's near impossible for me to make it to both skates.
If for some reason I find I'm able to, I certainly will try.
-- Dan Rosen
Fair or not, it's time to question Caps' goaltending
04/16/09 12:30 A.M. ET
So now the questions start about the Capitals' goaltending, which wasn't good tonight. Jose Theodore needed to be better for the Caps to win and he was pretty shaky, allowing four goals on 21 shots, including three on 11 in the second period.
Worse yet, none of the goals he allowed came off a deflection, a rebound or through a screen.
Will Bruce Boudreau turn to rookie Simeon Varlamov for Game 2.
"Anything is possible," the coach said.
Boudreau is more concerned about overcoaching now. He knows that outside of Theodore, his team played well enough to win Wednesday night. The Capitals converted twice on the power play and managed to get 35 shots on Henrik Lundqvist.
The difference, though, was the goaltending and that's what everybody was saying before this series began.
Theodore was going to have to be good if the Caps were going to move on because it was fairly easy to assume that Lundqvist was going to be on his game.
Theodore bravely took most of the blame for the loss tonight, though Boudreau wasn't absolving Jeff Schultz of anything. Schultz got beat badly by Brandon Dubinsky on the play that led to the game-winning goal 11:43 into the third period.
Still, it's the goaltending that will keep Boudreau up through the night. He said that he didn't want to pull Theodore after the second period because it would look like he was panicking, and that's a bad sign. There was no need to pull him after Dubinsky scored because so little time remained and the game was still close.
Pulling him at all tonight would have shattered Theodore's confidence, but both the goalie and the coach better be ready to answer some questions about the shaky play in net about 11 hours from now.
"There's times when you sit there and you say that i didn't make the save that was needed," Boudreau said. "But, I'm sure he's going to bounce back. He's a professional and he's played the game long enough. I'm sure he feels bad enough.
-- Dan Rosen
Rangers thoughts after win
04/16/09 12:15 A.M. ET
It's already past midnight, so I won't offer too much more insight than what will already be up on the site soon.
Here is what some of the Rangers had to say, quotes that did not make it into any of my copy off of tonight's game, a 4-3 victory in which the Rangers stole home-ice advantage away from the Capitals:
On weathering the Capitals' surges: "Yeah, weather it and we have to do a better job of staying out of the box, myself especially. We can't let them have the seven power plays. That's going to be a big part of it. We know they have talented players and the less time you give them with thepuck the better."
On forcing the Caps' to shoot from the outside: "They're a dynamic team. You give them all the credit in the world. They played great, but our goalie played unbelievable tonight. Yeah, we have to leave them to the outside."
On horrid start, getting outshot 14-4 in the first period: "We were nervous in the first period, as expected. I thought the building was tremendous. It's great to see the people in the building here in Washington. You're first playoff game in an away building, I thought we were a nervous club, but I thought we rebounded well in the second period. We got our legs underneath us and played a simple game and grew from there."
On special teams (Rangers scored two power-play goals but gave up two and committed seven minor penalties): Our power play has fought us the past couple of months. Our PK is going to have to be good. I'm not sure how penalties we took, but it was too many. It's too dangerous with that group they put out there. I thought the penalty killers did everything they possibly could, especially at the end those last two at the end to keep the puck out of the net. Our PP is going to have to score a big goal at a certain time to stay in there. So special teams, especially at the end, killing was very good tonight."
On weathering the Caps' early push: "It was one of the things we talked about before the game. We knew they were going to have their spurts. It's how we control ourselves and maintain ourselves during them and I think we did a pretty good job of that. (Lundqvist) came up with some real key saves during that time. It was definitely a boost for us to weather it and continue on."
On the first period: "It wasn't our best period, but at the same time we didn't let them have anything. That was a big plus for us. Always the first game of a series it tough. You come in with a lot of emotions and it's a tough period to play. We're happy that we were able to come away 0-0."
-- Dan Rosen
04/15/09 7:03 P.M. ET
Just got the roster sheet handed to me and, gad-zooks, CHRIS DRURY IS SCRATCHED.
This will require more work later, but I guess John Tortorella wasn't kidding when he first called the Rangers captain "day to day" on Monday and the same yesterday before calling him a game-time decision today.
Drury did take warm-ups, but apparently his undisclosed injury is worse than I or anyone else in the media thought. To be honest, I really thought the Rangers were playing head games here.
So, Drury is out and Aaron Voros is in. That shakes up the Rangers lines.
Now I expect to see Brandon Dubinsky with Ryan Callahan and Markus Naslund. The third line will be Freddy Sjostrom with Lauri Korpikoski and Nik Zherdev. The fourth line will be Voros with Blair Betts and Colton Orr. Sean Avery, Scott Gomez and Nik Antropov will skate on the first line as expected.
As for the Caps, as expected Donald Brashear and Brian Pothier are scratched, meaning Boyd Gordon and Tom Poti are in.
-- Dan Rosen
Big crowd, little news
04/15/09 5:23 P.M. ET
There was a larger than normal crowd outside of the Caps' locker room just about 25 minutes ago waiting for coach Bruce Boudreau to come out. When the doors finally swung open and Boudreau appeared even he said, "Whoa."
Yup, it's playoff time.
The odd thing was so many people were waiting around for Boudreau and there were so few questions. His answers were short and they weren't all that informative.
Boudreau said Boyd Gordon is playing tonight, but Donald Brashear is taking warm-ups. I'd be shocked if Brashear plays tonight. The coach also was asked about defenseman Tom Poti.
Yup, he's taking warm-ups. Let's leave it at that.
I bet Poti does play and Brian Pothier is out. Will Pothier skate in warm-ups, too?
"Maybe," Boudreau said. "You're going to have to watch it."
Yeah, we will, but it won't matter once the puck drops.
As for the excitement he feels heading into Game 1, Boudreau said it's the same as last year, only different.
"It's a different opponent that poses the same problems," Boudreau said. "We know the intensity really ramps up at this time of the year and we hope we're ready to handle it. I mean, it's what we grow up to do. When we're playing in the playgrounds and the streets we're not saying, 'It's game 30 of the season, let's win it.' We're always talking about the playoffs and winning. It's an exciting part of the year."
Rangers coach John Tortorella did not address the media at the normal 5 o'clock slot because he talked at the game arena earlier today. League rules state that the coach has to talk to the media at least once before the game at the game arena, which is why Boudreau addressed the media and Tortorella didn't.
One thing I forgot to mention earlier today was Boudreau walked into the small media room alcove at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex and asked if anybody knew if Chris Drury practiced on Tuesday.
I told him I was there and yes he did. With that, Boudreau nodded his head and walked out.
See, he was curious, but clearly he doesn't read this blog...or any other for that matter.
-- Dan Rosen
Lines for Rangers-Caps Game 1
04/15/09 3:25 P.M. ET
Here's what I think the lines will be for tonight's game at Verizon Center, and this is assuming Chris Drury plays for the Rangers and both Boyd Gordon and Tom Poti play for the Caps:
-- Dan Rosen
Thank God it's Wednesday
04/15/09 3:10 p.m. ET
John Tortorella doesn't know what he would have done if the Rangers had to wait until Thursday to open their quarterfinal-round series against Washington.
In fact, he doesn't even want to know. It kind of scares him.
"I think if you do too much practicing and too many meetings and too much thinking…that's why I'm glad we are playing on Wednesday," Tortorella said Tuesday before the Rangers departed for D.C. "You get right into it. We don't want to overthink it. We want to execute what we want to do and we'll see where we go."
How do you not overthink it when it's the playoffs and everything is magnified?
"By just keeping it simple," Tortorella responded. "How you don't overthink it is don't overcoach it, and that's why I'm glad we are playing Wednesday. Sometimes we try to find things to do with the players when you have too much time off. It's about playing. It's instinctive. It's a spontaneous game. It's a creative game."
"I know there is a lot of talk about this, that, the other thing, what are you going to do there?" he later added. "It's about executing our gameplan. If we do that I think we have a good chance of competing and trying to find our way."
-- Dan Rosen
Drury in or out?
04.15.2009 / 1:06 PM ET
OK, this is getting kind of ridiculous. There hasn't even been a puck dropped in the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs yet and already there are head games being played.
For instance, according to the Bergen Record's Andrew Gross, who was over at Verizon Center this morning for the Rangers' morning skate, Chris Drury remains a gametime decision. Apparently, Rangers coach John Tortorella said that twice in his morning presser even though Drury was one of only seven players that went on the ice for the Rangers' optional morning skate.
Nobody is quite sure what his injury is. Even Drury said, "I haven't figured it out yet. I'm still waiting to be told."
Does anyone think Drury isn't going to play tonight?
Earlier today I asked Mike Green what the secret is to beating Henrik Lundqvist? He paused for a moment and I said, "Or, is there even a secret?" Green said there is, but he wasn't disclosing it.
"I don't want him to know where I'm going to shoot," Green said.
Something tells me Lundqvist already has an idea from his scouting, but Green's right. Why divulge if he has something up his sleeve.
This should be an interesting series to say the least.
-- Dan Rosen
News and notes from Caps' land
04.15.2009 / 12:57 PM ET
Alex Ovechkin was the first guy off the ice today and was out of the dressing room in approximately 18 seconds, or so I think. None of us here covering the Capitals' morning skate so No. 8 leave the ice and so none of us caught him for an interview.
Oh well. We'll definitely catch up with him after tonight's game, win or lose.
As for the rest of the Caps, here's my story on what they were saying this morning.
It looks like Boyd Gordon will play tonight to fill out their 12 forwards. Donald Brashear, who arrived on the ice late today, missed the last 14 games with a sprained left knee. Gordon missed the last 10 games with a broken finger. The other two guys on the fourth line are likely Matt Bradley and David Steckel.
Brashear didn't look great when he was on the ice just doing some shooting drills, but even so Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said both players will skate in warm-ups tonight and a decision will be made after that. Gordon, though, was off the ice when the rest of the regulars came off so that's a sign he might be playing.
Defenseman Tom Poti, who has a groin injury, said he'll also a gametime decision, but it appears that he's going to play. Poti skated this morning and was off the ice with the rest of the regulars while Brian Pothier stayed on the ice with Brashear and captain Chris Clark (wrist surgery), who has been cleared to play.
That Clark has been cleared is a bit surprising considering he told Tarik El-Bashir from the Washington Post on Tuesday that he doesn't think he'd be back until the second round. Well, the doctors cleared him and now there's a chance he could play Saturday if Boudreau decides to make a lineup change. He hasn't played since Jan. 27.
In other news, Boudreau said he has talked to his team about the Stanley Cup and even said he has shown them a video. It's in stark contrast to Rangers' coach John Tortorella, who said Tuesday that he will not do that because it's too far away and he's only thinking about Game 1.
I don't think there is a right or wrong in this case. It's a matter of opinion, really.
I asked Boudreau if the routine or the approach changes now because it's the playoffs.
"The routine? No, the routine does not change," he said. "The approach? You do a little more research. You have time. We're playing them for two weeks maybe. In the regular season you play New York today and Philadelphia tomorrow. As soon as the game is over you've got 24 hours to think of Philly. We've known since Sunday that we've got the Rangers so we've had four days to actually prepare for them, one team. All we're worried ab out is one team now."
-- Dan Rosen
Look who it is
04.15.2009 / 9:55 AM ET
ARLINGTON, Va. -- The dateline reads Arlington because I just arrived here at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Washington's beautiful practice facility which is located on the 8th floor of the Ballston Common Mall.
Yes, it seems out of place, but it's actually really very nice.
And, wouldn't you know it, there is one guy out on the ice right now for the Caps. He's 15 minutes early. He's wearing a smoky visor. He's got a bag of pucks that he just dumped out near the blue line. He's skating around a bit. No. 8 is stickered on the back of his helmet.
Morning of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and here is Alex Ovechkin, the only Capital on the ice, firing pucks at a goal no more than 30 feet away from me. He's trying to hit the top corners. Now he's out at the blue line and playing with the puck a bit. Here come the shots.
Ovechkin had 528 of them during the regular season, 56 went into the net. Still, it's not good enough. He needs to practice.
How could anyone not like this guy?
He's still the only Capital on the ice. It's amazing.
Two kids wearing No. 8 t-shirts are standing near the glass with their mother. You think they're ever going to forget this day? Not a chance.
Oh, wait, here comes someone else. It's Brian Pothier and now he's wristing pucks from the blue line and Ovechkin is trying to tip them in. More practice for No. 8.
Pretty crazy, huh?
Now the rest of the Caps are starting to come out of locker room for the morning skate.
Well, I'm here, bunkered down for a few hours and I'll be giving you some more Capitals' thoughts and information later on in the blog. Keep hitting refresh.
-- Dan Rosen
Your response, Mr. Lundqvist?
04.14.2009 / 8:00 PM ET
"I try to play big and I'll leave it like that," Henrik Lundqvist said this afternoon. "I try to play big."
His answer was in response to a question he got regarding Alex Ovechkin's comments on Monday that Lundqvist's pads are big.
According to Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post, Ovechkin said about Lundqvist, "Well, he has big equipment. You have to make some traffic and go to the net. ... He's a great goalie, but you still can beat him."
El-Bashir then asked Ovechkin if Lundqvist's pads are too big and the Russian superstar responded by saying, "Oh yeah," while chuckling.
Lundqvist, who defended his pads by saying they are measured all the time by the League, wasn't taking the bait when he was asked to respond to No. 8's remarks.
"You get so many questions about so many things that you will pick out things that you like and some things will stand out a little bit more," Lundqvist said. "I don't think he tried to stir the pot. He just probably got a few questions about me and that's it."
I asked Lundqvist if he could tell me what he thinks Ovechkin's biggest weapon is. He said his combination of speed and strength. Since Ovechkin had 528 shots on goal this season, I also had to ask the goalie if he can describe No. 8's shot.
"It's heavy, but it's also very fast and that's what makes it tough," Lundqvist said.
He'll be seeing a lot of it in the next week or two.
- Dan Rosen
Not from this coach
04.14.2009 / 7:45 PM ET
One thing John Tortorella told me a few months ago when he was still an analyst for TSN and I was doing a feature story on him is that he didn't want to be critical, just analytical. He also wasn't in the business of making predictions.
Nothing has changed in his new role as coach of the New York Rangers.
A television reporter asked Tortorella today if he thinks he has the horses to go all the way this year? It was a fair question for a TV guy searching for that perfect sound bite.
"You got the wrong guy if I'm going to start predicting," the coach said. "All I'm worried about is one game and that's in Washington tomorrow night. You might as well forget about asking me about predictions because you're not getting any."
Heck, Tortorella wouldn't even say for sure if Chris Drury (undisclosed injury) is playing Wednesday night. The coach called Drury, who practiced for the first time in five days Tuesday, "day to day," but we all know it would take a catastrophe for Drury to miss Game 1.
-- Dan Rosen
I've been swayed
04.14.2009 / 7:37 PM ET
Call me a bandwagon jumper if you must, but I'm OK to admit it when my opinion has been swayed.
Thanks to some conversations with a few of the great folks who follow the Rangers on a daily basis, including TV color man Joe Micheletti, who knows way more about tactical hockey than I do, my opinion on how the Rangers have to play Washington has changed.
Monday on the NHL Network's Playoff Preview show and earlier in this blog today I mentioned how I think the Rangers might have to revert back to the defensive style they played under Tom Renney. It was more of a sit back and wait approach rather than the attack style John Tortorella has had them playing since taking over.
Now I think if the Rangers sit back against the Capitals they can seriously get burned. The fact is they are going to have to establish the puck possession game early and try to get as many shots on Jose Theodore as possible. If they can rattle Theodore early it may go a long way in deciding how they do in this series.
The Rangers, of course, agree with my new opinion. The last thing they want to do is defend all night long against the Capitals. Of course, though, they have to be reliable defensively and they must, and I stress must not overpursue.
If they get out of position, forget about it.
"We need to be reliable defensively, but at the same time we're going to need to score goals against this team in order to win," Rangers forward Blair Betts told me. "We need to be aware when their top players are on the ice, try to be hard against them and try to make them play defense."
Added goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who has to be the star of the show if the Rangers' are going to win this series: "We just have to focus on playing really sharp and smart and not give up pucks in the wrong areas. They are good when you lose pucks and they're coming with speed and skill. You have to really come back hard. If you're slow coming back, they are going to take advantage of it."
-- Dan Rosen
On our way
04.14.2009 / 10:00 AM ET
One more night without an NHL game. That's all. Phew. I don't know if I could take much more.
I'll be heading to D.C. this evening after taking in Rangers practice over in Greenburgh, N.Y. this morning. The Rangers are expected to hit the ice at 11 a.m. ET for their final tuneup before opening the Stanley Cup Playoffs tomorrow night at the Verizon Center.
Lots of storylines permeate throughout this entire series.
Will Alex Ovechkin take over? Will Jose Theodore be good enough for the Caps? Will Henrik Lundqvist steal a win or two? Will Chris Drury play in Game 1?
Will the Rangers find a way to score some goals? What will Sean Avery do?
I said this on the NHL Network preview show last night and I'll say it again here: For the Rangers to win this series, or at least have a puncher's chance, they can not get into an up and down game with the Capitals. It doesn't work. Washington is far superior up front.
Really, and again this is only my opinion, if the Rangers are to win this series not only will they need great goaltending from Lundqvist, but they may just have to revert back to Tom Renney hockey. By that I mean a more defensive style where the defensemen don't move up as much. I say this because when John Tortorella took over he began implementing an attacking style, his 'Safe as Death' philosphy if you will. They may have to play a more structured defensive game instead.
But, listen, I'm not a coach. I'm just a guy who will be documenting this series for NHL.com. It will be interesting to see if I'm right, though.
On a side note, later today I hope to be able to give you more information regarding Drury's status for Game 1. Drury is banged up and hasn't skated in the last four days. We're not 100 percent certain if it's an upper or lower body injury, but it doesn't really matter. His status for Game 1 is iffy at best right now. Hopefully we know more later today, but with teams notoriously tight-lipped regarding injuries in the playoffs I'm not holding my breath.
Also, expect to see Ovechkin on the left wing with Nicklas Backstrom and Viktor Kozlov. A few games ago Washington coach Bruce Boudreau used Ovechkin with Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Semin. It was the line that led the Russians to the gold medal at the 2008 IIHF World Championship. However, Ovechkin-Backstrom-Kozlov has been a line for most of the season and it is very balanced. Boudreau should have it together for Game 1.
We're also not sure if Tom Poti is going to be able to play in Game 1 for the Caps, but Donald Brashear should be ready too go after missing the last 14 games due to injury. I wonder if Colton Orr is in the Rangers' lineup, will he try to square off with Brashear. Fights are limited in the playoffs, but that one could be a doozy.
-- Dan Rosen
04.13.2009 / 2:44 AM ET
We all remember what Sean did on April 13, 2008 during the Rangers' first round playoff game against the Devils when he forced the NHL to create what many refer to as "the Sean Avery rule." However, since being reinstated back into the league and returning to New York, Avery has played a cleaner, smarter game -- with the exception being his high-stick to goaltender Tim Thomas during a commercial break.
Avery can certainly help the Rangers, as he has recorded four goals and seven assists in just 17 games with the team this season. The last time Avery faced the Capitals was when he was still a member of the Dallas Stars on October 25, 2008. He recorded a goal and an assist to go along with a two minute minor for high-sticking. All eyes will be on Avery this time and we’ll see which player shows up, the disturber, or the gamer; he may even wind up being John Tortorella’s antidote to Alex Ovechkin, we’ll see.
-- Matthew Cubeta