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The Official Site of the Washington Capitals

Off-Day Notebook

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals
Bounce Back Ability – Caps goaltender Jose Theodore had a tough night in the nets in Game 1 on Wednesday, getting saddled with the loss after allowing four goals on just 21 shots. Including a 7-4 setback to the Florida Panthers in the final game of the regular season, Theodore has now dropped two straight starts in regulation.

What Theodore has not done in almost a year is lose as many as three straight starts in regulation. The last time he lost as many as three in succession was a four-game skid from April 24-May 1, 2008 when he was a member of the Colorado Avalanche. That losing streak was in the second round of last year’s playoffs and it resulted in the Avs’ ouster at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings, the team that went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Victory at Verizon – New York netminder Henrik Lundqvist has been in the NHL for four seasons now, but last night’s win over Washington in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series was just his second ever at Verizon Center.

Lundqvist has a 1-3-1 career regular season record at Verizon Center to go along with a 3.52 GAA and an .869 save pct. at the Phone Booth.

Lundqvist’s only previous win over the Capitals in the District came on Feb. 10, 2007 in a 5-2 New York triumph.

When the series shifts to New York next week, the Caps could gain a bit of an advantage. Despite authoring a pair of uneven starts in his two appearances on Broadway this season, Theodore has had great success at Madison Square Garden during his career. He holds an 8-3-1 record with a 2.09 GAA and a .929 save pct. in a dozen career starts at the Garden.

Old Foes – The first-round playoff series between the Capitals and Rangers is not the first time Lundqvist and Theodore have gone head-to-head in a postseason series.

During the lockout season of 2004-05, Lundqvist was playing for Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League. He had yet to play in the NHL at the time. Lundqvist led the league in goals against average, save pct. and shutouts during the regular season.

Once it became apparent that the ’04-05 NHL season was dead in the water, Theodore signed on with Djurgardens IF. Theodore’s club hooked up against Lundqvist’s in the playoff finals that year, with Lundqvist’s team prevailing.

Lundqvist was 12-2 with six shutouts, a 1.05 GAA, and a .962 save pct. during the postseason that year. He allowed one goal against in each of Frolunda’s four wins in the final series and set national playoff records for GAA, save pct., shutouts and longest shutout streak (172 minutes, 29 seconds).

Misfiring Guns – Each of Washington’s four vaunted “Young Guns” found his way onto the scoresheet in Wednesday’s Game 1. Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green each had a pair of assists while Nicklas Backstrom had one, and Alexander Semin scored a goal.

The four “Guns” launched a total of 20 shots on goal to account for more than half of Washington’s total of 35 for the game, but the foursome fired more than that many wide, high or just off of the intended mark.

The four “Young Guns” combined to have 18 shots blocked (including 10 from Ovechkin) by the Rangers’ defense and another 11 bids missed the net altogether.

Ice Disparity – Caps defenseman Mike Green skated 30:47 in Game 1. With just 18:29 on the night, Washington blueliner Tom Poti was second among Caps defensemen in ice time. The difference of more than 12 minutes between Washington’s top two blueline performers in terms of ice time was one of the largest this year.

On March 5 against Toronto, Poti skated one seven-second shift before leaving with an injury. Green skated 31:03 that night, and Shaone Morrisonn was second in ice among Caps reaguards with 18:04, leaving a 12:59 disparity.

And back on Oct. 18 against the Devils, the Caps deployed center Sergei Fedorov as one of the team’s six defensemen. Fedorov’s 20:45 was second to Green’s single-game season high of 34:05 that night, a difference of 13:20.

The common link between the Oct. 18 and March 5 games was the unavailability of Poti, who returned to the Caps’ lineup for Game 1 after having missed the final three regular season games.

Captains Comeback? –
Neither the Capitals nor the Rangers had their team captains in the lineup for Wednesday’s series opener. Caps captain Chris Clark has been sidelined since January; he underwent wrist surgery and has been cleared to play. There is no word yet as to whether he might make an appearance in the lineup for Saturday’s Game 2.

Along with Washington center Sergei Fedorov – who has played on three Stanley Cup championship teams during his NHL career – Clark is one of only two Capitals with Stanley Cup finals experience. Clark was a member of the 2003-04 Calgary Flames team that took the Tampa Bay Lightning (then coached by current Rangers bench boss John Tortorella) to Game 7 of the Cup finals before falling.

Rangers captain Chris Drury also has a great deal of postseason experience. He played for a Cup champion in Colorado and has played in the Stanley Cup finals on three occasions. Drury missed New York’s final regular season game with an undisclosed injury and, despite skating in the pre-game warm-ups, was also on the sidelines for Wednesday’s Game 1.

Drury practiced with his teammates on Thursday and is likely to be back in the lineup for Game 2 on Saturday at Verizon Center.

Familiar Face – It has been 15 years since the Caps and Rangers last met in the Stanley Cup playoffs. In the spring of 1994, the Caps and Rangers hooked up in the second round (Eastern Conference Semifinals) of the playoffs that year, with New York winning in five games.

Jim Schoenfeld was the Caps’ bench boss in those days; he took over midway through that 1993-94 season from Terry Murray. These days, Schoenfeld wears a bunch of hats on Broadway. He is the Rangers’ assistant general manager, player personnel and interim head coach for the Blueshirts and he also serves as general manager of the team’s AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack.

Ratings Bonanza -- Comcast SportsNet’s coverage of last night’s Capitals-Rangers first-round Stanley Cup playoff game delivered a 3.3 household rating, reaching approximately 76,000 households, in the Washington, D.C. market, topping all other national and local cable sports networks for the evening including ESPN and MASN.  CSN’s Caps audience peaked during the 9:30-9:45 p.m. quarter hour when approximately 105,800 households (a 4.6 rating) tuned in. Last night’s game posted a 4.5 average household rating in the critical advertising demographic of men aged 18-49.
The Caps’ post-season ratings surge on CSN comes on the heels of a record-breaking ratings season, which delivered the highest-rated Caps season in the history of the network.  This season the Caps posted a 1.1 average (more than 25,000 households), which is a 65% season-over-season increase, and a 182% increase over two seasons.

Sacco To Coach At Worlds – Ex-Caps winger Joe Sacco has been named as an assistant coach for the Team USA entry at the 2009 IIHF World Championship from April 24 to May 10 in Berne and Zurich-Kloten, Switzerland.

Sacco, who spent three seasons with the Capitals from 1999-2002, has served as head coach of the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL for the past two seasons. He will serve under former Caps head coach Ron Wilson, who is the Team USA head coach. Wilson was Washington’s bench boss during each of Sacco’s three seasons in the District.

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