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Teammates believe Semin ready to break out

by Dan Rosen
Since Alexander Semin doesn't do interviews in English, if you want to learn about his thoughts and his feelings you have to go to his teammates and hope they can get a gauge on Washington's enigmatic Russian right wing.

Alex Ovechkin thinks his close friend is about to break out of his series-long slump. Brooks Laich thinks his linemate is becoming more and more of a weapon as his slump goes on.

Call it wishful thinking if you'd like, but there's merit to both statements.

"Montreal has done a good job on him, but he is increasingly becoming the most dangerous player on the ice the longer he goes without a goal," Laich said Sunday before the Capitals boarded their charter flight to Montreal for Game 6 on Monday night. "Good players you can't hold back forever. They're eventually going to break out. He was a 40-goal scorer this year in 70 or so games. He just keeps shooting and doing the things that he's doing, pucks are going to go in, and once he gets one you're going to see two, three, four. He's going to start scoring."

The Capitals sure could use it.

If Semin, who had 40 goals in 73 games during the regular season, puts one or two past Jaroslav Halak at Bell Centre on Monday night, Washington could be preparing for Philadelphia by 10 p.m.

Semin hasn't scored on any of his 29 shots on goal in the series and he's gone 12 straight playoff games without a goal. He did not score in the seven-game series against Pittsburgh last season.

However, he did look more assertive and aggressive in Game 5 and he had a brilliant chance to tie the game up in the third period with a one-timer from the slot that Halak made a marvelous pad save on.

Semin finished Game 5 with nine shots on goal, just two off of his career high. It was encouraging, but …

"How many goals and assists did he get?" Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau asked later Friday night.

When told it was zero, Boudreau responded, "OK. He did put in a better effort than he put in the previous four games, but if we don't get him scoring it's easy to check certain guys. He's just got to come through. That's 12 games in a row in the playoffs he hasn't gotten one."

Nobody believes Semin's struggles are for lack of trying. You maybe could have argued that earlier in the series when he did not look into it at all, but now he definitely has shown signs of a player trying to break out of a slump.

He did, though, go without a goal in six straight games on two occasions this season, so it's not as if a slump like this is new to him. However, each time he broke out of the slump with two goals in the seventh game.

The Capitals hope this slump doesn't reach seven games.

"I think mentally it's a good thing that he doesn't speak English so he doesn't listen to you guys," Ovechkin said Sunday. "The most important thing is the teammates help him a lot. He's trying, and the last game he played very well. He played pretty hard, made some hits and shot the puck. It's going to be coming soon. I don't think somebody worries about it.

"He's a top forward in the League, and when he plays his game it's pretty amazing how he can play."

Laich said he hasn't seen Semin show any displays of frustration other than what is normal after a loss.

"He's been the same Alex that he's been all year," Laich said. "When the hockey team is winning games everybody has similes on their face. The ultimate goal is to win the hockey game. When we don't win he's frustrated that maybe he hasn't scored and he could have helped the team more, but everyone feels that way. I feel the same way, too. Ovi feels the same way. But his attitude hasn't changed. He's not moping around. In practice he's been shooting pucks and he's the same Alex he's always been. We know he's going to come around."

Can the same thing be said about the Capitals' power play? It is slumping as much as Semin.

Washington is 1-for-24 on the power play in this series and 1-for-31 dating back to the final two games of the regular season.

"If they're getting frustrated it's just because we're doing our jobs," Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges said. "They just have so many weapons for us to be worried about. We still have to be wary of that and play a disciplined game which means stay out of the box."

With an extra day of practice between games, Boudreau was able to get in some work on the power play on Sunday.

"We'll find out tomorrow (if it worked)," he said. "It's like everything else, you just constantly practice it, get better at it and we'll see how it works."

The message, as it usually is when a power play is struggling, is to simplify things.

"For our keys it's a simple game; don't be so casual or cute, just do our thing and be done with it," Ovechkin said.

Who knows, maybe Semin can get the power play going?

That would be the ultimate tonic for the Capitals.

Notes: Boudreau gave no hits on any lineup changes he's thinking about, choosing only to say that he still is thinking about it and "we'll find out tomorrow if anything has changed." He said the players have not been notified yet, either. … Eric Belanger, who had eight teeth knocked out by Marc-Andre Bergeron's stick in the first period Friday night, will be a game-time decision. Boudreau is worried about Belanger's energy level because he has not been able to eat a lot since the injury. … It appears that defenseman Shaone Morrisonn will return to the lineup Monday after missing the last two games with an undisclosed injury. Tyler Sloan would come out.

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