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Capitals vs. Canadiens blog

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Capitals vs. Canadiens blog
Dan Rosen takes you behind the scenes and keeps you up to speed on everything this 1-8 matchup has to offer.
Walker gets the call in Game 7
04.28.2010 / 6:50 PM ET

Scott Walker was a Game 7 hero for Carolina last season. He'll get a chance to be one for Washington tonight.

Walker is making his playoff debut with the Capitals tonight against the Montreal Canadiens at Verizon Center. He's replacing Tomas Fleischmann, who had 23 goals and 51 points during the regular season but has been ineffective in this series with zero points and only eight shots on goal. Walker will start the game on the fourth line with Boyd Gordon and Matt Bradley. Brendan Morrison is also getting back in for David Steckel.

Walker scored the overtime winner in Boston last season that sent the Hurricanes into the Eastern Conference Final. He sent a rebound of Ray Whitney's shot over Tim Thomas with 1:14 remaining in overtime to give the 'Canes a 3-2 win. It remains his only goal in 29 career playoff games.

"We know what he can do," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said prior revealing the lineup that had Walker in and Fleischmann as a scratch.

The Capitals acquired Walker at the trade deadline on March 3 in exchange for a seventh round draft pick. He played only nine games and contributed two goals and an assist over the last five and a half weeks of the season. He had five goals and three assists in a combined 42 games with the Hurricanes and Capitals this season.

The Capitals lineup will likely look like this:

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble
Laich-Morrison-Semin
Chimera-Belanger-Fehr
Bradley-Gordon-Walker

Schultz-Green
Morrisonn-Corvo
Alzner-Carlson

Varlamov

The Habs will not have any changes, so their lineup will likely look like this:

Cammalleri-Plekanec-A. Kostitsyn
Moen-Gomez-Gionta
Pouliot-Moore-Lapierre
Pyatt-Metropolit

Markov-Bergeron
Gill-Gorges
Hamrlik-O'Byrne
Subban

Halak

-- Dan Rosen

Lineup decisions await for Game 7
04.28.2010 / 1:02 PM ET

After the Capitals' morning skate today at Kettler Capitals Iceplex we're still not sure what the entire lineup will look like, nor do we know what the lines will be.

We can assume that David Steckel and Quintin Laing will be healthy scratches, but that still means one more forward will have to find a seat in the press box. Scott Walker said he will know after lunch. Brendan Morrison said it was a gametime decision. Tomas Fleischmann, who has no goals and just eight shots in this series, has to be wondering if it's going to be him.

Bruce Boudreau would not say anything other than he expects there will be a lineup change. Well, he could just be speaking of Karl Alzner because the 21-year-old arrived from Hershey yesterday and all indications are that he will play and probably be paired with John Carlson tonight. They were a pair in Hershey for most of the regular season.

Other than that, it will be interesting to see what the final lineup is going to be, and the lines, too. Boudreau changed them around for virtually the entire night in Game 6 most likely in an effort to get Alexander Semin going. It didn't work well enough because the Capitals lost, 4-1, despite getting 54 shots on goal.

From the Habs, Jaroslav Spacek, who has missed the last three games with an illness, made the trip to D.C. and was on the ice with the team this morning at Verizon Center, but it's pretty obvious that he's not going to play. Spacek stayed on with the scratches at the end of the skate for a long time, but Jacques Martin still played coy and said he'd be a gametime decision.

Provided we're right about Spacek, there shouldn't be any changes to Montreal's lineup because why would you make any? The Habs have won two straight, no need to change now.

I'll have more before the game, so check back and maybe Boudreau will update us on his lineup when he addresses the media in front of the dressing room at 5 p.m. ET.

-- Dan Rosen

Caps know what Game 7 is all about
04.27.2010 / 12:15 AM ET

Game 7s are nothing new to the Washington Capitals, but they were really hoping to avoid it this time.

Jaroslav Halak had other ideas, and now for the fourth straight series dating back to 2008 the Capitals will host a Game 7 at Verizon Center. They are 1-2 in those games.

"Every game is different. Every situation is different," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We're not looking at the percentages at this stage. We're looking at Game 7, our building, our fans being just as loud as the people out here and (being) determined. I think you saw we were pretty determined tonight. We just couldn't score. I thought we played a pretty good game, actually."

So, are you ready for another Game 7, coach?

"I don't know how to answer that – am I any more ready?" Boudreau said angrily. "Frig, we were ready and we are going to be as ready because we've been through it. How do I answer that? Help me out here. How do you answer that question? What do you do to get more ready?"

OK, but are you ready to fix your broken power play?

The Capitals haven't won this series yet because they can not score on the power play. They're 1-for-30 in the series, including 0-for-6 Monday. They didn't even get a shot on goal during a 5-on-3 for 75 seconds in the first period.

"It has to be that group that does it," Boudreau said of his top unit, including Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Mike Knuble and Mike Green. "We had so many good chances that on a normal day we would have scored four goals. Today was not a normal day. (Halak) was just out of his mind good.

"Sometimes goalies just get in a zone where nothing is going to beat them," Boudreau added. "He was in that zone. Everything he saw he was going to stop. It worked out well for them that (Michael Cammalleri) got that first goal for them on a perfect shot and it was like, 'OK, we're not going to allow them anything now.' And he didn't."

Semyon Varlamov clearly wasn't good enough for the Caps. He gave up three goals on 21 shots and he probably should have had at least two of them, and definitely the third goal that Maxim Lapierre scored with a harmless shot from the right side over the catching glove.

"I'm no goalie but I thought maybe he should have had it," Boudreau said. "It was a good shot right under the bar and he'd been sitting there not getting a lot of shots for the last 40 minutes or so. I don't know. I don't want him to fault him on any of them."
 
But, could we see Jose Theodore in Game 7?
 
"I haven't gotten that far yet," Boudreau said. "It is just 15 minutes after the game. I am sure Theo would be ready if we decided to do that.

"I think we just go and do what we do," he added later about Game 7. "I don't think there will be too many changes at all. I thought the team played good and that was as good what we could put out there."

It's not going to be good enough if Halak plays king of the world again.

-- Dan Rosen

Subban in for Habs, Morrison out for Caps

04.26.2010 / 6:50 PM ET

Game 6 is about to get underway and as expected there are changes. For one, Montreal rookie defenseman P.K. Subban, called up just this morning, will be in the lineup and likely paired with Roman Hamrlik. Sergei Kostitsyn will be scratched and Jacques Martin will likely use Marc-Andre Bergeron in a fourth-line role.

Brendan Morrison is going to join Quintin Laing and Scott Walker as Washington's healthy scratch forwards. Morrison was scratched for Game 1, but played in the last four. David Steckel will jump in and will see time as the left wing on the fourth line with Boyd Gordon and Matt Bradley, but he could shift to center depending on the faceoff matchup.

Shaone Morrisonn will also be back in the lineup after missing the last two games with an unspecified injury. Tyler Sloan comes out of the lineup.

Here are the lines and lineups that the team's showed in warm-ups:

CAPS

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble
Laich-Belanger-Semin
Chimera-Fleischmann-Fehr
Steckel-Gordon-Bradley

Schultz-Green
Poti-Carlson
Morrisonn-Corvo

Varlamov

HABS

Cammalleri-Plekanec-A. Kostitsyn
Moen-Gomez-Gionta
Pouliot-Moore-Lapierre
Pyatt-Metropolit-Bergeron

Gill-Gorges
Markov-O'Byrne
Hamrlik-Subban

Halak

-- Dan Rosen

Boudreau firing back this morning
04.26.2010 / 1:45 PM ET

Bruce Boudreau is fed up. He's done answer any questions about Mike Green "because I'm tired of it and because it's unwarranted," the Capitals coach said this morning.

Green has been a target for criticism in this series because he has only two assists and he's coming off a 2009 postseason where he looked like anything but a Norris Trophy finalist.

"I said it yesterday, I don't see anybody asking Duncan Keith, who's minus 5 with no points, or Drew Doughty, who's out and was minus-6 in the series and minus-2 in a critical game," Boudreau said, failing to mention that Doughty, just 20 years old, led the Kings with seven points in their six-game series against Vancouver.

"Why are we focusing on Mike Green?" he asked rhetorically. "He's not scoring, but he's playing well. He's playing 26 minutes a game and it's just unwarranted but you guys want to keep talking about him, put him down and say he's the reason why the series is 3-2. It's not right."

Boudreau was in a lighter mood when talking about Jose Theodore and his nomination for the Masterton Trophy.

Theodore joins Kurtis Foster and Jed Ortmeyer as the finalists for the award given to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

Theodore's two-month old son passed away in August.

"I don't think anyone should have to go through what he's had to deal with not only this summer but during the course of the year," Boudreau said. "Dealing with the grief and coming out and going on a streak from January on when he was basically undefeated is a pretty remarkable thing. Not only that, he doesn't look like he's sullen or anything. He's keeping up the good show while he's around all the guys. I'm sure him and his wife still have difficult times dealing with it, but he's been a fabulous teammate. With him being nominated, I think that's great."

-- Dan Rosen

Belanger looks good to go

04.26.2010 / 1:30 PM ET

Washington center Eric Belanger said his energy should be fine and he'll be in the lineup tonight for Game 6. Belanager had at least eight teeth knocked out when Marc-Andre Bergeron's stick hit him in the face during the first period of Game 5, but he was able to eat small pieces of solid food over the past two days to stay nourished.

"They just patched a couple of teeth that the nerves were damaged so I can get on the plane yesterday and feel comfortable," Belanger said. "When I get back hopefully we can get some more work done in a couple of weeks, maybe some implants and whatever needs to be done."

This is the second time in Belanger's career that he's had some teeth knocked out. He previously lost three on the top bridge and that's the reason he doesn't wear a mouthguard. He can't bite down hard enough on it.

When Bergeron's stick caught him in the face, Belanger knew what he was up against.

"Yeah, because it happened to me before and the flashes I had after it happened was, 'Holy crap, I'm going to have to be in the dentist chair for a lot of hours,' " Belanger said. "I went through the process before and it took me a year to fix everything. I knew the chances were there for me to be hit again. Just part of the game I guess."

Belanger did get a call from Bergeron the next day. The two were teammates in Minnesota.

"He felt bad," Belanger said. "It was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. It's no big deal."

-- Dan Rosen

Musings on what is special

04.25.2010 / 10:45 PM ET

Washington is 1-for-24 on the power play in this series, so Montreal is 23-for-24 on the penalty kill. Yes, even hockey writers are capable of figuring that out.

But does this mean the Capitals' power play has been that bad or the Canadiens penalty kill has been that good?

Not so sure we can figure that one out, but why not attempt to anyway. The answer probably lies in the middle, but that seems like a copout.

Washington has complained about trying to be too fancy, trying to do too much on the power play. Usually fancy works because the Capitals' skill is so good, especially with Nicklas Backstrom on the half-wall and Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green at the points. Don't forget the crease-crashing Mike Knuble and the usually deft Alexander Semin.

Fancy isn't working now, but it usually never does -- or at least not often enough -- in the playoffs, because teams are too buckled down and tight. Even down a man, teams in the playoffs rarely give too many inches of ice.

Washington isn't moving the puck around well enough and is not getting enough quality shots at the net -- or really shots at all. It has 37 shots on 24 power plays, and that's just not enough to have it consistently work.

The Canadiens are a big reason why.

Hal Gill and Josh Gorges have led the way with nearly five minutes of PK ice time per game. Along with the forwards, such as Travis Moen and Dominic Moore, they're taking away a lot of time and space.

Most importantly, the Canadiens have done two things extremely well to negate Ovechkin's success: 1) When he's at the point, they are keeping a man high to stay near him while also getting sticks and themselves in the shooting lanes; 2) When he's floating around the zone, they're keeping themselves within a stick's length of him to keep him on or near the wall.

If Ovechkin's not a factor, how can Washington's power play succeed? The Caps have quality players out there, but Semin and Tomas Fleischmann are also struggling and Brooks Laich hasn't been effective enough in front.

Blame the Caps' power play all you want, but give credit where it's due. Montreal is killing it on the PK.

-- Dan Rosen


Caps with chance to close it out tonight

04.23.2010 / 6:45 PM ET

Either way the Canadiens are heading home after tonight's game so all those clichés about win or go home are sort of out the window, aren't they?.

Will they have a reason to show up in Brossard for practice tomorrow? Well, now there's the question that will be answered within the next few hours.

The only lineup change Montreal is making is the big one in net where Jaroslav Halak will take over for Carey Price after he ceded he crease to Price about halfway through Game 3. The rest is the same considering Jaroslav Spacek isn't even here.

Washington won't have any lineup changes either. Shaone Morrisonn, who hasn't played since logging only 10 minutes in Game 3, is again out. He's considered a healthy scratch, but our suspicion is he has an unspecified injury.

Doesn't matter much; Morrisonn is out and Tyler Sloan is in.

Here are the lines and D-pairings for both teams:

HABS

Cammalleri-Plekanec-A. Kostitsyn
Pouliot-Gomez-Gionta
Moen-Moore-Lapierre
S. Kostitsyn-Metropolit-Pyatt

Gill-Gorges
Markov-Bergeron
Hamrlik-O'Byrne

Halak

CAPS

Ovi-Backstrom-Knuble
Fleischmann-Belanger-Semin
Laich-Morrison-Fehr
Chimera-Gordon-Bradley

Schultz-Green
Poti-Carlson
Sloan-Corvo

Varlamov

Enjoy the game!

-- Dan Rosen

Boudreau lauds and defends Green
04.23.2010 / 5:29 PM ET

It always seems that Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau has to defend Mike Green to all of the defensemen's detractors, and quite frankly, he's getting sick and tired of it.

That's why Boudreau feels validated that Green is one of the three nominees (along with Drew Doughty and Duncan Keith) for the Norris Trophy this season. It shows Boudreau that maybe he's not alone in how he thinks of Green.

"It's bothersome after a while that I should have to validate it," Boudreau said. "This is all I'll say on it until after the playoffs, but these awards are all given out for statistics. If you want to make a statistic for something he does negatively then feel free, but he's got the best statistics all around for a defensemen; and he's not a forward, he's a defenseman and he does it from there.

"We had the best regular season. We had the best power play. He's a huge part of all of this," the coach continued. "When you start nitpicking on him and start saying, 'Oh, look, he was on the ice for that goal against, he made that mistake,' well I turn the TV on an awful lot and the same thing happens with Drew and Duncan but nobody ever mentions that and it dries me nuts."

Boudreau congratulated Green this morning after learning of the nomination, and he was certainly pleased with what No. 52 said to him.

"He said all he wants is the Stanley Cup," Boudreau said. "His head is in the right area I hope, but it's a nice honor for him and a well deserved honor."

On the flip side, Boudreau is having trouble defending Alexander Semin's play of late. The enigmatic yet ultra-talented Russian right wing has gone 11 straight playoff games without a goal. He has only one assist in this series, and some think that was by accident.

"It's not like he hasn't had shots or chances," Boudreau said. "He's getting a lot of shots, getting his chances and he's just not putting them in. He's one of those guys that eventually they're going to start going in and when they go they will go in (in bunches).

"Players will go 0-for-11 and then they'll get five goals in five games and all of a sudden now he's on a 37 or 38 goal pace again. It happens and hopefully he'll breakout soon."

-- Dan Rosen

Habs fueled by Senators success

04.23.2010 / 3:33 PM ET

So what if it took Ottawa nearly a doubleheader to beat Pittsburgh last night and force a Game 6 back in Canada's capital city; Montreal is ready to go to the tripleheader if it means there will be a need for Game 6 at Bell Centre on Monday night.

"It took them two games last night to beat Pittsburgh, but they did," Michael Cammalleri said. "I just said that to (Maxim Lapierre), 'Hey, Ottawa did it last night.' We feed off of that."

Ah, but New Jersey also had a chance to force a Game 6 in Philadelphia, but went quietly into the Newark night instead. The Canadiens have chosen to focus on what Ottawa did instead, but the Capitals are well aware, too.

"There won't be any surprises tonight," Mike Knuble said. "We know they're going to come and play for their season and teams that are able to match their push do well. If you play a touch below them you're going to hang around and have a long night."

Hockey players and coaches always talk about how the first goal is so important to winning games. It's magnified tonight, at least from the Canadiens perspective.

All the Habs have done is blow chances in this series. Washington has been the resilient team with come-from-behind wins in Games 2 and 4. The Capitals feel they can score whenever they want; the Canadiens don't have that luxury.

Scoring first is vital tonight.

"If we don't score the first goal can we still win the game?" Cammalleri asked rhetorically. "Yes, but there is something to be said for a little bit of an uplift that we can use early in the game here tonight."

-- Dan Rosen

Frustrated Habs trying to find discipline
04.22.2010 / 4:28 PM ET

Brian Gionta, a playoff veteran after his years with the New Jersey Devils, talked about building a hatred for the other team in a series. The Canadiens have that now with the Capitals, but the problem is they are letting it get the best of them.

Montreal took three unsportsmanlike penalties and a 10-minute misconduct in the two games at Bell Centre. The Habs piled up 34 minutes in penalties overall while the Caps, who were not called for a misconduct of any sort, had just 18 PIMs.

Simmering is one thing, but boiling over is completely different and the Canadiens know they have to harness that frustration and try to use it to their advantage somehow in Game 5 Friday night.

''You accept that frustration. You don't fight it. You acknowledge it and then do your best to move forward in a productive manner," Canadiens left wing Michael Cammalleri said today from Brossard. "OK, we're frustrated. We've got a little fire in our belly and let's go play a game where we're not frustrated.''

The Canadiens were particularly frustrated Wednesday night because they had the Capitals on the ropes again, only to let them off the hook with some key errors that led to goals.

By the end of the game, Carey Price was called for a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties, one for rimming the puck toward the celebrating Capitals after Jason Chimera's goal and another for whacking Nicklas Backstrom with his stick from the bench.

The Canadiens held a team meeting today and you have to figure that their discipline was called into question by coach Jacques Martin.

"Let's face it, it was frustrating," Gionta said. "We were playing an extremely good game and all of the sudden the tide turned on us and it was 4-2 with 10 minutes or so to lay. It happens like that, but we have to do a better job of it for sure. Set a better example, but it's the playoffs and it's a frustrating at time.''

It wouldn't be so frustrating, Cammalleri said, if the Canadiens made the Capitals earn their goals. He thought the Habs gave them one on Mike Knuble's game-tying short-handed tally with 6.3 seconds left in the second period.

"The hard part is you work so hard to gain the lead and put yourselves in that spot and then you give it up in a situation where you feel like you're giving it to them," he said. "You'd like to make a team like Washington earn their goals. Not that they haven't earned a lot of their goals, but it seems like we've given them a couple and you can't afford to do that with them."

-- Dan Rosen

The goal that broke the Habs' backs
04.21.2010 / 11:54 PM ET

It wasn't the winning goal, but it you can pretty much go ahead and call it that.

If (more like when now, right?) the Canadiens head off into the summer golf season they will without question remember Mike Knuble's short-handed goal with 6.3 seconds left in the second period of Game 4. There has been no goal scored in this series bigger than that one, and all it did was tie the game.

The thing is, as Knuble said, the timing was so vitally important. Montreal had dominated the first 19:50 of the second period, held a 2-1 lead and was on the power play when Boyd Gordon's brilliant saucer pass found Knuble for the slam dunk past Carey Price.

Instead of leading at the second intermission, a fate the Canadiens probably deserved for how well they played, it was tied and the Bell Centre wasn't rocking anymore.

"The last 10 seconds was a huge boost for the bench," Knuble said. "We took too many penalties and gave them a chance to get momentum going, and then we just took it away in the last 10 seconds."

The play started on the other end when Roman Hamrlik's soft shot toward the net was intercepted by Tom Poti. He was simply trying to clear the puck, but Hamrlik got a piece of the attempt and the puck sort of deadened in the neutral zone near the benches.

Gordon, Washington's short-handed hero in Game 3, used his speed to beat Hamrlik to the puck and then raced into the zone. With Knuble streaking down the middle, the two created a 2-on-1 against Habs defenseman Josh Gorges.

Gorges made the wise move of diving to block Gordon's pass through the slot, but somehow the puck went under his stick and right onto Knuble's blade. It was a perfect pass for a perfect goal at the perfect time.

"When you are getting outplayed as bad as we were getting outplayed and you can end going into the dressing room tied it is a huge, huge relief," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said, "because you only have to play 20 minutes of good hockey to win a game you might not deserve to win at all."

-- Dan Rosen

Green forced to respond to Habs 'don't have much' comment
04.21.2010 / 1:54 PM ET

Well after Game 3 was in the books, Mike Green told Washington beat reporter Corey Masisak of CSNWashington.com (also an NHL.com Correspondent) that as long as the Capitals play the way they did in the second period Monday night then the Canadiens' "don't have much out there. Really, they don't."

We picked up Green's comment and used it in our game recap. ESPN.com's Scott Burnside also ran with the quote Tuesday night. It was a gem from Green, but he wasn't necessarily ripping the Canadiens as much as he was praising the Capitals.

Two days later, the rest of the media here picked up on what Green said and a controversy was created. Green was forced to respond after the Capitals morning skate. Not surprisingly, he said everyone is taking what he said out of context.

In fairness, though, some of the media here did not see the whole quote, only what Green said about the Canadiens not having much, and that's how it got out of context.

"I was making a comment about us, as far as if we play the way we can we don't let them create anything in front of us," Green said this morning. "It was nothing about how they're not a good team or anything like that. We have said from the start that these guys are a great team and as long as we do what we can do in the neutral zone we'll help ourselves out.

"You know, it is what it is," he added. "The thing is, from day one we have known how these guys are going to be competitors and how strong of a team they are. For not one minute can we worry about the media. We're worried about them now and we know they're going to play strong tonight."

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was asked about what Green said as well, and he mentioned that he had already spoken to Green about the quote.

"He definitely didn't mean it because he knows Montreal is a good hockey club," Boudreau said. "He was dead wrong if he used those words and was saying that Montreal was not capable of beating us."

-- Dan Rosen

Ovi not happy about Dynamo's fall
04.21.2010 / 1:19 PM ET

Alex Ovechkin was asked by a TSN reporter today what his thoughts are on the demise of his former club in Russia, Dynamo Moscow. Dmitry Chesnokov, who writes for the Puck Daddy blog on Yahoo.com, reported earlier this week that Dynamo Moscow, the oldest hockey club in Russia, does not exist anymore and an announcement was coming in a few days.

Ovechkin grew up in Dynamo Moscow's organization before coming to North America in 2005. Ovechkin's mother, Tatyana Ovechkin, was formerly played for Dynamo Moscow's women's basketball team and later became its team president.

"Well, (Dynamo) is probably the same thing to Russia as Montreal is here (to Canada)," Ovechkin said. "It's a history team, a great organization and I can't believe there is going to be no more Dynamo. It's pretty bad."

Ovechkin said the owners of Dynamo Moscow just didn't want to put any more money into the program. It is expected to merge with another Russian club.

"Growing up I played for this club and I know all the people who work there, but I hope it's not the wrost, that it's not going to be like what they say," Ovechkin said. "It's a hard situation. I didn't talk to the guys or the owner over there, but if it happens it's not going to be one guys fault, it's going to be the people that own Dynamo, they don't want to give any money anymore. But, right now I'm concentrating here in the playoffs and not about Dynamo."

-- Dan Rosen

Canadiens have to figure out 5-on-5
04.20.2010 / 6:08 PM ET

Washington has scored 13 goals in this series and 12 have come during 5-on-5 play while the other was a shorthanded goal. So, yeah, the Canadiens penalty kill has been very effective (14 for 14), but they know they have to be better at even strength.

"We have to figure out that 5-on-5," Brian Gionta said. "Obviously we need to do a better job at once they score to keep things in check. That shorthanded goal by them was a tough one because we were controlling the game, but we have to forget about that and move on and stick with our gameplan. We had some breakdowns after that."

Michael Cammalleri said the Canadiens talked about the 5-on-5 play briefly during practice Tuesday, but you have to wonder what really they can do when the Capitals are getting scoring chances from guys up and down their lineup.

"We think we can be a little sharper in certain areas, but they're good," Cammalleri said. "They create chances and they have guys with high level of skill that will be able to finish opportunities you give them. It's going to take a lot of attention on our part."

A key to the Canadiens success will be canceling out the Capitals in front of the net, or keeping them to the outside. Since losing Game 1, Washington has done a great job of sending bodies to the net, crashing the crease and even jostling the goalies on occasion.

"It's not a matter of them setting up in there, it's a matter of them getting there," Gionta said. "We have to take some of their speed going into the zone and not allow them to penetrate to get the second and third chances."

"As the series goes on we have to continue battling in front of our own net because that's where the series is going to be won, in front of both nets," Carey Price said.

-- Dan Rosen

Boudreau lauds 5-on-5 play, Green shakes nerves

04.20.2010 / 2:40 PM ET

Considering the point we're at in this series, it was a rather ho-hum morning here at Bell Centre.

The Capitals went through a full workout without only defensemen Joe Corvo and Shaone Morrisonn, who were taking "maintenance days" according to Bruce Boudreau. Washington did some work on the power play, which has been brutal in this series, but for the most part didn't show much.

Now, that could have had to do something with the fact that Canadiens coach Jacques Martin was in the building and even came out near the ice during the Capitals' practice. Boudreau said he was told Martin was there so he stopped working on anything important.

FYI, it's not illegal for opposing coach's to watch practice in the playoffs.

"I haven't talked to Jacques about it, but he was out there talking to somebody else so I'm pretty sure he wasn't paying much attention to us," Boudreau said.

Nevertheless, the power play was a topic of conversation this morning. This is not a case of the media searching for stories because Washington is up only 2-1 in this series and its power play is 0-for-14, a cause for concern both now and for the future.

Boudreau, though, wanted to put a positive spin on this by saying he has been thrilled with his team's play during 5-on-5 situations and loves the fact that they don't have to rely on the power play, which was the best in the NHL during the regular season.

"I keep using statistics in baseball, but when you have fabulous pitching you don't always have great hitting, and vice versa," Boudreau said. "If our power play was 3 for 5 one night I don't think we'd have four even strength goals. It would be nice to get the power play back on track, but this year we had so many guys that were plus that 5-on-5 we played pretty well, too."

I'll have more on the power play in a story that will be posted shortly.

As for Green, he was asked today if he's comfortable now after three games in the series. Green, who had a brutal playoffs last season, admitted he was nervous in the first two games, but now he's back to being himself.

It showed Monday because he was effective in playing a team high 26:51.

"I was maybe a little nervous the first two games and once we got the win there that releases everything and lets you play," Green said. "I'm back to feeling good."

The Capitals are, too, except for their power play.

"We suck," Boudreau said Monday night.

-- Dan Rosen

Escaping first period key for Caps
04.19.2010 / 11:55 PM ET

Washington wanted to weather the obvious storm that was slamming off the Bell Centre walls Monday night. The Capitals had to get out of the first period with at least a draw because the crowd was unbelievable and the Canadiens were fast and furious, too.

Despite getting outshot 10-7 and outchanced by a wider margin than that, the Capitals escaped in a scoreless tie after 20 minutes. They were lucky and boy did they ever need it, because the second period was about as good as it gets for the road team.

Boyd Gordon scored a shorthanded goal 66 seconds in. Brooks Laich scored on a twirling wrist shot at 4:42 and finally Eric Fehr scored on a rebound of Laich's one-timer at 8:33. All of a sudden, it was 3-0 and the crowd was cheering the sight of Carey Price gathering his equipment to come in and replace Jaroslav Halak.

"Our goal tonight was to come out of the first period even," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We knew (about) the crowd, and it was loud and it was crazy -- crazy good, I don't want to be misquoted -- it was really energetic and a tremendous buzz, but our goal was if we could just get out of the first period we would feel good about ourselves going into the second."

Gordon, who scored his first career playoff goal in his 23rd game, agreed that it was vital the Caps escape the first period unscathed.

"I think right off the start you don't want to give them much," Gordon said. "It's a tough building to play in, so I think we did a good job there in the first and we got the one and it kind of snowballed from there. It feels good to come into a hostile environment like this and be able to play the game we played. We played pretty simple, nothing fancy, and we managed to get the win."

They managed to get the win despite going 0-for-7 in 11 minutes and 29 seconds of power-play time. But the power play will be Tuesday's story. For now, the Caps can enjoy the fact that they have turned this series around and again have people believing they can make it short and sweet.

-- Dan Rosen


Changes coming for Game 3
04.19.2010 / 1:22 PM ET

Semyon Varlamov is likely in, meaning Jose Theodore will be on the bench in his old home arena tonight.

Glen Metropolit is also pretty certain that he's going to play tonight for the first time since injuring his shoulder on March 27. Sergei Kostitsyn is likely going to be scratched.

And, finally, Eric Belanger is probably going to move up to the second line and play between Alexander Semin and Tomas Fleischmann. Brendan Morrison and Brooks Laich, second-liners in Game 2, will drop to the third line.

Got all that?

Now, it's all probably and likely because neither coach, Bruce Boudreau or Jacques Martin, is revealing much these days. They are in full playoff mode so the subterfuge is amazing, and somewhat silly.

But, we can dissect all the potential moves right here.

Varlamov in and Theodore out is not a total surprise. Boudreau is playing the momentum card here and Varlamov is the guy who got the Caps a win in this series, so why change it up now? He has said time and again that Theodore has displayed great bounce-back ability this season and that no matter who plays today, the other goalie will likely get in again if the Caps are going to go far in the playoffs.

Theodore has not fared well in Bell Centre since he departed this city in 2006. He's 0-1-1 with a 7.42 goals-against average (12 goals on 61 shots in 97 minutes). Playing Varlamov also eliminates the fans chanting 'Tay-oh, Tay-oh, Tay-oh" all game long.

As my great friend and colleague, ESPN.com's Scott Burnside, pointed out, going with Varlamov now is probably the right call because if Theodore goes in and plays poorly tonight he might not have the head to come back and play again in the playoffs. Now, Boudreau can still go back to Theodore because he's still very confident in his game despite giving up two goals on two shots Saturday night.

The fact that Metropolit is going to play is somewhat of a shock considering the initial diagnosis when he hurt his shoulder on March 27 was 6-8 weeks of recovery time. He missed only the last six games of the regular season and first two games of the playoffs and will likely be back in just over three weeks.

Metropolit says he's been cleared and he's ready to go. He had 10 power play goals this season, so clearly he'll give the Habs' power-play unit an advantage. Sergei Kostitsyn has been invisible in this series so he's an easy guy to take out of the lineup.

And, finally, Belanger moving up is simply to get Semin going. The enigmatic Russian right wing has zero points and four penalty minutes in this series after scoring 40 goals and dishing off 44 assists in the regular season.

Semin is so important for the Capitals because he takes some of the pressure off of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstorm to score in bunches. Boudreau used Fleischmann as the center there in the first game and went to Morrison on the second game. When it became obvious that Morrison was maybe a step slow, he went back to Fleischmann.

Now it's Belanger's turn. We'll see what he can do for Semin.

-- Dan Rosen

And, what did the Habs say in response to Ovi?
04.18.2010 / 8:55 PM ET

Jaroslav Halak would not engage in a war of words with Alex Ovechkin late Sunday afternoon, but he also wasn't given the opportunity to do so.

The Canadiens did not make Halak available to the media to respond to Ovechkin's comment from early in the day about showing his nerves.

Here is what Ovechkin said:

"I watched the replay when (Eric) Fehr scored the goal and his arm like was shaking when he drank water. So, he's nervous. He knows all the pressure is on him and that's a good sign for us."

Canadiens coach Jacques Martin was asked about Ovi's comment, but he wasn't biting.

"That's his comments. I think I've answered the point that I felt our goaltending was strong and as usual gives us a chance to win the game," Martin said. "I think with Jaro, I think he's gone through some ups and downs, has had some adversity to deal with during the season and with each game you become stronger and you learn."

Scott Gomez, who has a history of playing with some pretty good goalies in Martin Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist, came to Halak's defense.

"Jaro got us here and (Carey) Price got us here," he said. "(Jaro) is the one who's been answering the bell and he's the reason we're standing here talking to you guys right now. He's a professional. He's been in huge games for his country."

Gomez, in typical fashion, also couldn't resist chirping Halak and the goaltending community at large.

"They're different all around," he said after being asked if he'd offer Halak some words of encouragement before Game 3 Monday. "They're weirdoes anyways, so I don't think I can make any sense to him anyways. You'd have to have some set of nuts to go up to the goaltender and tell him what you think at this level, that he should be doing different, especially in the playoffs."

-- Dan Rosen
 
Theodore or Varlamov, Boudreau has a tough call
04.18.2010 / 1:45 PM ET

Order was restored in Caps' land 31 seconds into overtime Saturday night when Nicklas Backstrom ripped a wrist shot past Jaroslav Halak to give Washington a 6-5 victory in Game 2.

However, Sunday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex there was still plenty to talk about, such as:

1. Goalies

Boudreau yanked Jose Theodore 7:58 into Saturday's game after he allowed two goals on two shots. Semyon Varlamov came in and made 19 saves to pick up the win. He was adequate. Boudreau said he doesn't yet know who will start in Game 3. Theodore is 0-1-1 with an abysmal .803 save percentage at Bell Centre since leaving Montreal in 2006. Varlamov is 2-0-0 with a 1.94 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in his short career at Bell Centre.

2. Power play

Washington is 0-for-7 with the man advantage in this series after leading the NHL with a 25.2 percent power play in the regular season. Nicklas Backstrom said the Canadiens are doing a good job of taking Alex Ovechkin out of the play and Boudreau said Montreal is anticipating the Caps' passes well, too. The Capitals have to figure out a way to score on the power play if they want to make this a short series.

3. Alexander Semin and the second line

Semin hasn't been good. Neither has Brooks Laich. And, Brendan Morrison played well below average as the second-line center Saturday night and was replaced midway through the game by Tomas Fleischmann, who had to give up the job to Morrison after his barely OK performance in the position in Game 1. Perhaps Eric Belanger will get a shot to center this line in Game 3. Either way, Semin is the key here. He has zero points and four penalty minutes in the series so far.

"To win, I think we do (need more from Semin)," Boudreau said. "That's what made the difference between our team and a lot of teams this year is that if they stop the one line, the other line would come through and if they stop two lines then the third line had two 20-goal scorers on it. We need more from all three lines."

4. Mike Green and Jeff Schultz

Boudreau went so far out of his way to be kind to his top defensive pair. Flat out, they were not good enough in either game at Verizon Center, but particularly Game 2. Green and Schultz were on the ice for four of the Canadiens' five goals, but Boudreau held them without blame until describing the fifth goal, when he would only say that Schultz probably shouldn't have pinched. Green was caught back on a 2-on-1, but he looked like he panicked when the puck came to him in the middle of it. Green was not made available to the media Sunday.

"These things during the regular season – sometimes other teams just didn't score," Boudreau said. "They are just magnified greater right now."

So, despite the win, Washington has a lot to think about heading into Game 3 and probably more questions after winning Game 2 than it had after losing Game 1 in overtime.

-- Dan Rosen

Quotes of the morning
04.17.2010 / 1:30 PM ET

Two quotes really caught my attention this morning and they likely will catch yours, too.

From the Washington dressing room, Mike Knuble talking about Alex Ovechkin:

"He doesn't have to go home and do soul searching and sacrifice a goat or something. He's one of the best players in the world and those guys are the best because they bring it every night, they try their best every night. They're human too and they're going to have an off night."

From the Montreal dressing room, Hal Gill on the Washington Capitals:

"I think the pressure is on them. They have expectations to live up to and we have our own expectations in our locker room. Sometimes that's a lot easier to handle. We just have to go out and play our game, play it sound and be meticulous on all the little things. That's what is going to make us successful. We don't have to worry about the big things."

-- Dan Rosen

Why Boudreau will make the lineup change
04.17.2010 / 1:11 PM ET

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said this morning that if he makes a change it would be to give his team "just a different dimension, a different look."

Well, by adding Brendan Morrison to the lineup and dropping out Boyd Gordon, Boudreau gives himself a true second-line center in the veteran Morrison. He also allows Tomas Fleischmann, who was manning that position as the second-line center between Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin, to play on the left wing, a more natural fit for him.

He'll likely be on the fourth line with David Steckel and Eric Fehr.

Not that faceoffs were a problem for the Capitals in Game 1 considering they won 45 of 63, but Morrison is also better on the draw than Fleischmann. Morrison won 51.2 percent of his faceoffs this season while Fleischmann won just 43.1 percent. Fleischmann was 50 percent on Thursday, though.

Gordon gave the Capitals good energy as the right wing on the fourth line, but he has to be the odd man out because his contribution is expendable when you consider that Fleischmann also gives the Capitals some scoring potential.

Fleischmann had 23 goals this season, which means the Capitals' fourth line tonight could have two 20-goal scorers in Fleischmann and Fehr, who scored 21 goals in the regular season.

In fact, the last time Fleischmann played with Steckel and Fehr, the trio combined for a goal on their first shift together. It was March 20 in Tampa, a 3-1 Caps' win. Fleischmann got the goal while Fehr had the primary assist and Steckel the secondary.

With this change, the Caps grittiest line tonight could be their third line with Jason Chimera, Eric Belanger and Matt Bradley. Belanger, by the way, was 18 for 21 on faceoffs in Game 1, good for 86 percent, an absolutely sick number.

-- Dan Rosen

Lineup change coming for Capitals
04.17.2010 / 10:41 AM ET

Bruce Boudreau wouldn't confirm nor deny that he's making any lineup changes for Game 2 tonight, but it's pretty obvious that he will.

Brendan Morrison is going to play as the second line center and Boyd Gordon is going from the fourth line to a healthy scratch along with Scott Walker, Quintin Laing, John Erskine and Tyler Sloan.

Morrison was scratched for Game 1 and Tomas Fleischmann was the second-line center between Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin. Fleischmann is likely going to move down to the fourth line and play left wing with David Steckel and Eric Fehr, who was on the third line for Game 1.

The Caps' third line tonight will probably including Jason Chimera on the left, Eric Belanger in the middle and Matt Bradley on the right.

The top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble will remain in tact. Above all else, that's the line that has to play better tonight than it did in Game 1.

Here is a breakdown of what Washington's forward lines will probably look like tonight:

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble
Laich-Morrison-Semin
Chimera-Belanger-Bradley
Fleischmann-Steckel-Fehr

-- Dan Rosen

Habs coach Martin undecided on Game 2 goalie

04.16.2010 / 3:28 PM ET

Bet that little headline caught your attention, eh!

Jacques Martin, the usually tight-lipped, monotonous coach of the Canadiens was in a jovial mood at Verizon Center this afternoon, especially when he was for some reason asked what has become a daily question in Habs' land about who he would be starting in net for the next game, Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price?

Martin has, for the entire season, failed to deliver that news on the days before games. He stayed consistent Friday even though we all know it'll be Halak, who was excellent in stopping 45 shots in Thursday's 3-2 overtime win.

"We'll decide tomorrow," Martin said before winking.

Right then the journalist asking the question said, "Just wanted to see if the streak continues."

All kidding aside, Montreal does not anticipate holding Alex Ovechkin without a shot on goal in Game 2. How they react to what should be an energized Ovi will be a major factor in whether they go home up 2-0 or even.

"You can't frustrate a guy like that for very long," defenseman Hal Gill said. "You always need to know where he is and what he's up to since he can turn it on at any time. He's such a dynamic player that it's not about one of us being ready to shut him down, but the whole team."

"He had zero shots, but he probably had 10 blocked," added fellow defenseman Jaroslav Spacek. "He tried hard for it."

"I think we understand Washington, their threats, and we're just trying to maintain that," chimed in Brian Gionta. "You do that you give yourself a chance. That's what we're looking for."

The Canadiens were loose Friday and for good reason, but things can quickly tighten Saturday if Ovi and the Caps come out firing.

"You can't be satisfied," Martin said. "The goal is to win four games. You can't stay still."

-- Dan Rosen

Are the Caps' under the President's Trophy curse?
04.16.2010 / 1:00 AM ET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Dan Rosen

Warm-ups over, Game 1 set to begin
04.15.2010 / 6:52 PM ET

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

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

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

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

The lines and D pairings are as follows:

Capitals

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble
Laich-Fleischmann-Semin
Chimera-Belanger-Fehr
Bradley-Steckel-Gordon

Schultz-Green
Poti-Carlson
Morrisonn-Corvo

Canadiens

Pouliot-Gomez-Gionta
A. Kostitsyn-Plekanec-Cammalleri
Moen-Moore-S. Kostitsyn
Darche-Lapierre-Pyatt

Markov-Bergeron
Hamrlik-Spacek
Gill-Gorges

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

-- Dan Rosen

Caps ready, Boudreau feeling butterflies
04.15.2010 / 5:26 PM ET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Dan Rosen

Intimidation factor -- yes or no?

04.15.2010 / 4:39 PM ET

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

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

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

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

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

-- Dan Rosen

Does the visiting team really have the advantage in Game 1?
04.15.2010 / 1:37 PM ET

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

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

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

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

Montreal coach Jacques Martin played along with Boudreau.

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

Are we supposed to really buy this stuff?

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

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

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

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

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

-- Dan Rosen

Boudreau prickly with media at morning skate
04.15.2010 / 10:30 AM ET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boudreau wanted to put it all to rest Thursday.

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

-- Dan Rosen

Habs' information you can use
04.14.2010 / 4:23 PM ET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More news to come out of the Habs practice:

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Dan Rosen

Everyone getting ramped up in Arlington
04.14.2010 / 3:30 PM ET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some news from the Capitals' practice today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Dan Rosen




Quote of the Day

Not only is it a great idea, but if you don't [start using analytics] you're going to fall behind. You have to be on the cutting edge. It was [Arizona Coyotes assistant general manager] Darcy Regier who said, 'If you didn't invent it, you have to be the second- or third-best copier, because if you're fourth or fifth you've got no chance.'

— Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on his interest in advanced statistical analysis