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Postseason Notebook -- April

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals
The Capitals closed out a record-setting 2008-09 regular season by setting a new team standard with 108 points and matching the club mark (established in 1985-86) with 50 wins. Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom and others had excellent seasons to help the Caps finish with the second-best mark in the Eastern Conference.

April 1 vs. New York Islanders
Green is Golden –
Caps defenseman Mike Green scored a pair of power play goals in a span of 83 seconds midway through the third period on Wednesday to lift the Capitals to a 5-3 come-from-behind win over the New York Islanders at Verizon Center.

In the process, Green became just the eighth NHL defenseman ever and the first since 1992-93 to reach the 30-goal plateau. The two power play goals were his 17th and 18th of the season, establishing a record for most power play goals in a season by a Washington defenseman. Scott Stevens previously held the mark with 16 in 1984-85.

Green’s 30-goal season is the 17th ever recorded by an NHL defenseman. Boston’s Bobby Orr notched the first 30-goal season by an NHL blueliner in 1969-70. The drought between the Caps’ Kevin Hatcher scoring 34 goals in 1992-93 and Green’s 30-goal season in 2008-09 is the longest ever between 30-goal seasons by an NHL defenseman.

Green joins Stevens, Hatcher and Larry Murphy as just the fourth defenseman in Caps history to reach 70 points in a season. Green’s 18 power play goals this season are tied for third in the league, just one off the pace set by Calgary’s Mike Cammalleri and Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek.

With his three-point night, Green extended his scoring streak to seven straight games (seven goals, five assists).

Climbing The Mountain – Thursday night’s win over the New York Islanders pushed Caps goaltender Jose Theodore’s career mark to 213-213-30-15. It is the first time Theodore’s career record has been square at .500 since Nov. 9, 1998 at which time he held an 8-8-2 lifetime record in the NHL.

If he wins his next start, Theodore would move above .500 for the first time since Feb. 17, 1997 when he was 5-4-1.

Nick At Nite –
Nicklas Backstrom notched a goal and an assist in Wednesday’s win, and the helper was his 60th of the season. Backstrom becomes just the fourth Capitals center ever to record as many as 60 assists in a single campaign.

He joins Dennis Maruk (a club record 76 assists in 1981-82), Michal Pivonka (65 assists in 1995-96) and Adam Oates (69 helpers in 2000-01) on that short and elite list.

Thirty For Theo – Wednesday’s win was the 30th of the season for Theodore. It is the third time in his career – and the first time since 2003-04 – that he has reached that milestone. Theodore’s career best is 33 victories, established during that ’03-04 campaign. With five games remaining this season, he could get enough starts to even or better that mark.

First Scrap – Caps defenseman Jeff Schultz was sent off for fighting the Islanders’ Tim Jackman at 3:16 of the second period. The fight was the first of Schultz’s 169-game NHL career. The Washington blueliner did good to avoid fistic damage from Jackman, who was engaged in the 33rd regular season bout of his NHL career. Wednesday marked the 19th time this season that Jackman has dropped the gloves.

April 3 vs. Buffalo
Crown ’Em –
The Caps’ hopes of matching a franchise record of 30 home wins went by the wayside on Friday night when Washington was handed a 5-4 overtime setback from the Buffalo Sabres. But the point gained by virtue of the overtime loss was enough to push the Caps’ point total to 102 – matching the second most ever recorded by a Capitals team – which is sufficient to clinch a second straight Southeast Division title.

It is the fifth division title in franchise history.

April 5 vs. Atlanta
Late Thunder –
Michael Nylander earned the hard hat and the game’s third star designation for his efforts on Sunday. He has scored six of his nine goals in the third period of games this season.

Sunday’s goal was just Nylander’s second at Verizon Center this season and his first since Oct. 13 against Vancouver. The goal against the Canucks was a penalty shot tally that came in the Caps’ second home game of the season. 

Chasing Records – Sunday’s win was the Caps’ 48th of the season and it pushed the team’s standings point total to 104, second most ever in franchise history. With three games remaining, Washington still has a chance to equal or exceed the franchise standards for wins (50) and points (107). Both marks are currently held by the 1985-86 Capitals (50-23-7).

This One Goes to Eleven – Keith Aucoin scored the first power play goal of his NHL career midway through the second period of Sunday’s game. In doing so, he became the 11th different member of the Capitals to score a power play goal for Washington this season. 

20 For 21 – Brooks Laich’s goal was his 20th of the season, marking the second straight season in which he has netted 20 goals.

Last season, Laich scored 21 goals on 122 shots on goal for a gaudy 17.2% shooting pct., leading some to believe that he would be hard-pressed to achieve the plateau again. But Laich’s solution was simply to shoot more, and it has worked. He has 20 goals on 178 shots in 2008-09 (11.2%).

With a pair of assists on the afternoon, Laich enjoyed a three-point game that pushed his point total to 50 on the season. It is the first time he has reached the half-century mark in points, giving the Caps five players with 50 or more points for the first time since 2002-03. The ’02-03 team had six: Jaromir Jagr, Robert Lang, Sergei Gonchar, Nylander, Peter Bondra and Kip Miller.

April 7 at Atlanta
Kid Stuff –
We’re not sure how or why Caps goaltender Simeon Varlamov was not named one of the game’s three stars in Washington’s 4-2 victory over the Thrashers in Atlanta on Tuesday, but he was arguably the best player on the ice for either team. Varlamov did earn the Caps’ hardhat for his efforts, and he also ran his record to an impressive 4-0-1 in this, his rookie season in the NHL.

Varlamov made 29 saves on the night, many of them splendid. He was victimized only by a giveaway right in front of him that resulted in a Rich Peverley goal and Marty Reasoner’s nifty deflection of a Tobias Enstrom point shot.

With Tuesday’s win, Varlamov now has a 2.37 GAA and a .918 save pct. in his six NHL appearances (five starts).

Nice To Have You –
Both Brian Pothier and Jeff Schultz collected assists in Tuesday’s win over Atlanta, marking the first time since Feb. 28 that two different Caps defensemen besides Mike Green collected points in the same game.

Washington went 16 games without having two defensemen aside from Green collect a point in the same game. On Feb. 28 in a 4-3 overtime win over the Bruins, Schultz and Tom Poti both picked up helpers.

April 9 at Tampa Bay
Standard Bearers –
With Thursday’s win over the Lightning, the 2008-09 Capitals now hold the franchise mark for points in a season with 108. The previous franchise best was 107 points (50-23-7) by the 1985-86 Capitals.

Thursday’s win was Washington’s 50th of the season, matching the franchise mark set by that 1985-86 team. With one game remaining – on Saturday night in Florida – the Caps can establish a new franchise record for victories in a season.

Thursday’s win was Washington’s third in succession, and it ran the Caps’ record to 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. Washington has gained at least a point in seven straight (5-0-2).

The Capitals have scored at least four goals in each of their last six games, the team’s longest streak of its kind since a five-game run from Jan. 13-21, 2008.

Greening Up – Mike Green notched his 31st goal of the season – an empty-netter at game’s end – and added a pair of assists for his second three-point game in his last five. He now has 73 points on the season, the fourth most ever recorded in a single campaign by a Capitals defenseman.

Only Larry Murphy (81 points in 1986-87) and Kevin Hatcher (79 points in 1992-93 and 74 points in 1990-91) have totaled more points in a single season among all defensemen in Caps franchise history.

April 11 at Florida
The Hunt For 51 –
Washington’s bid to set an all-time franchise record by recording its 51st win of the season on Saturday in Florida fell short. Alex Ovechkin’s 56th goal of the season tied the game late in the third at 4-4, but some defensive breakdowns enabled the Panthers to net a pair of goals just eight seconds apart soon after Ovechkin’s goal. An empty-netter sealed the deal as the Cats sent the Caps to a 7-4 setback.

Saturday’s loss was the only one Washington suffered in the state of Florida this season. The Caps finished up 5-1 in the state of Florida. The Caps and Cats split their six-game season series down the middle at 3-3, with each team winning two games in the other team’s building.

Washington’s 50-24-8 regular season record is good for 108 points, most in franchise history and second most in the Eastern Conference this season. The Caps will set out in pursuit of their first Stanley Cup championship this week when they take on the New York Rangers in an Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

Nick At Night – Caps center Nicklas Backstrom picked up a pair of assists on Saturday, giving him 66 on the season and 121 for his two-season NHL career. Backstrom’s 66-assist campaign is third best on Washington’s all-time single season list, trailing only Dennis Maruk (76 assists in 1981-82) and Adam Oates (69 helpers in 2000-01).

With 121 assists in his first two seasons, Backstrom has tied fellow Swede Peter Forsberg for eighth place in most total assists in the first two seasons of an NHL career. Kent Nilsson holds the all-time mark for most assists by a Swede in the first two seasons of an NHL career with 135.

Backstrom also became the first Capital in franchise history to play in every single game over his first two seasons in the league. Ovechkin came the closest among all previous Caps; he missed just one game during his first two seasons in the league.

Hot Stick – Caps center Brooks Laich joined Backstrom as one of only two players to play in all 82 games for the Capitals this season. Laich scored the game’s first goal on Saturday, his 23rd of the season. Over the last few weeks, Laich as had one of the hottest sticks on the team.

Laich had five goals and a dozen points in the season’s final eight games. He finished with single season career highs in goals, assists (30) and points (53).

Ovi Watch – Ovechkin finished the regular season with 110 points (56 goals, 54 assists), second in the NHL behind fellow Russian Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Malkin had 113 points.

Ovechkin did win a second consecutive Maurice Richard Trophy with 56 goals, and his total of 528 shots on goal in 2008-09 is the second most ever in a single season in NHL history. Boston’s Phil Esposito holds the NHL standard of 550 shots on net in 1970-71.

Ovechkin’s goal on Saturday was the 219th of his NHL career, putting him one ahead of Mike Ridley for third place on the team’s all-time list. Only Peter Bondra (472) and Mike Gartner (397) have scored more goals in a Capitals sweater.

Defense Scoring – Caps blueliner Brian Pothier picked up an assist on Alexander Semin’s third period goal. It was the 151st point (45 goals, 106 assists) recorded by Washington blueliners this season. That’s the highest total registered in a single season by a group of Caps defensemen since the 1997-98 Washington blueline corps also recorded 151 points (42 goals, 109 assists).

Four Spot – For the seventh consecutive game, the Capitals scored four or more goals in a contest. It is Washington’s longest streak with four or more goals in a game since a seven-game run from March 11-25, 1993.

The last time Washington scored four or more goals in more than seven straight games was an 11-game run from Oct. 27-Nov. 22, 1991.

Twenty Between Tallies – The Caps scored 20 goals in between Ovechkin’s first period goal against Buffalo last Friday and his third period tally in Florida on Saturday. It’s the longest run of goals Washington had put together without a contribution from Ovechkin since the team netted 34 goals without one from No. 8 from Oct. 13 through Nov. 10 of this season.
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