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Caps go for Thirteen

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Like you, when I saw the Caps were down 1-0 on an early power-play for the Rangers, I didn’t panic. After all, we’d just seen Boston go up 1-0 in the first period two days ago.

Seeing the Mike Knuble goal helped ease any fears I might have had; that was Harlem Globtrotter-esque. You could easily set that play to “Sweet Georgia Brown.” Ovechkin comes in on the net from the right; fakes a shot and swings around behind the net. Ranger’s goalie Hendrik Lundqvist slides over to the other side of the net, expecting the wrap around from Ovie and what does he see? Nicklas Backstrom coming in on him from the left front.

Lundqvist takes the post and commits to blocking the wrap-around from Ovechkin, dropping to his knees with his ankles out (they call that “the butterfly”). Ovechkin passes up to Backstrom, but Lundqvist sees that he still has a reasonable angle on Backstrom, so he recommits (decides not to get back to his feet and take a new position).

Backstrom takes the puck and backhands it between the legs of the defender that is immediately behind him and catches Mike Knuble coming in with speed from the right. The whole play couldn’t have taken more than two seconds, but you know it was going in slow motion for Lundqvist.

As soon as he saw the puck clear his defender and Mike Knuble closing in on it, he knew he was beat, and there wasn’t anything he could do but pray that the next sound he heard was either the “clang” of the cross bar or the “thunk” of the boards.

I do have to admit to being a little concerned when New York made it 5-3 and their power-play looked unstoppable. Personally, I’d rather the Caps be a few goals behind early than jump out to a big lead. My reasoning is that when the Caps’ jump out to a big lead, it’s too easy for the players to start to take their foot off the gas and let a team back into the game.

When the Caps are behind though, they focus on getting the puck into the net.

Ovechkin’s 500th career point is a great example of that. Ovechkin’s coming down the left side. It’s just him, the defender, and the goalie. Alex pushes the puck way right like he’s about to turn to the inside, or maybe try one of his classic shots where he uses the defender as a screen. The defender takes the inside position, but Ovechkin draws the puck back to himself and pushes it between the defender’s legs.

Ovechkin draws his stick in, and slides around the defender to the outside, and picks the puck back up on the other side of the hapless defender. Lundqvist again takes the near-side post but Ovechkin slides the puck towards the middle and flips it up over Lunqvist’s left shoulder for the score.

The Capitals currently lead the league in points, goals, and goals-per-game, yet no single player on the Caps roster has registered a hat-trick (three goals in one game) this season.

New York played a great game last night; their power-play was outrageous. They scored five goals and they still lost the game. There was a lot to be encouraged about for the New York fans, but I know how heartbreaking that kind of loss can be.

ESPN ranked the Capitals 2nd in their weekly power rankings this week. They recognized Washington’s (at the time) 11 game winning streak, but still placed them second behind San Jose. They even mentioned in the rankings about how tough it must be to be on an eleven-game winning streak and still be ranked number two. If I’m Boudreau, I’m showing that ranking to the players today.

“These people don’t respect you,” I’d say. “Even though you haven’t lost in nearly a month, nobody wants to give you any credit. You’re Washington; you play in a lousy division, you’re not from a ‘hockey-town.’ The only thing you’ve got going for you right now is this win streak. The best way you can get back at these guys is to keep on winning. The more you win, the more you make these guys look like fools.”

“We all know this winning streak must end, but you decide when,” I’d continue. “The only way we are going to silence our critics is to win the whole-friggin’-thing. Bring the Cup to Washington, and you’ll have earned their respect.”

Caps face Atlanta tonight. This has all the markings of a “trap-game.” Washington pasted Atlanta 8-1 last time, and Atlanta just lost their best player in a trade to Detroit. The Caps need to go into this game thinking that enough is not enough. They need to keep their feet moving and their sticks down. Don’t win it in the first period, win it in the third.

Yesterday I was wearing my “retro” white Ovie jersey (I still can’t get the hang of “sweater”) and today I’m wearing the “retro” black one. Let’s keep the ball rolling and go for the baker’s dozen!

C! A! P! S! Caps! Caps! Caps!

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Capitals Drop Game 2 Despite Varlamov’s Fantastic Start

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In what was expected to be another aggressive, offensive affair, Game 2 turned into a tale of two goalies.

On one side, there’s the young, four-year veteran who is regarded as one of the best young goalies in the NHL. On the other side is a raw but talented 20-year old prospect that is in line to be the future goaltender of his team who is making his first career playoff start.

Rookie Simeon Varlamov replaced Jose Theodore, who allowed four goals in Wednesday’s one-goal loss. The bold move was announced to the team Saturday morning.

Varlamov allowed only one goal in his impressive debut but for the time being it is overshadowed by the Game 2 loss and the two-game hole the team has dug itself into.

The deciding goal came with 12:16 to play in the first period. Varlamov failed to stop the puck from flying over his left shoulder once Rangers right winger Ryan Callahan fired the shot. He finished the game with 23 saves.

“He was phenomenal tonight. He did everything he could. There was nothing he could have done on the goal. It was a backdoor one-timer right under the bar,” defenseman Brian Pothier said. “He was solid. I don’t think he made any mistakes tonight.”

The Capitals tried everything they could to get a shot past the Ranger’s Henrik Lundqvist but were incapable of taking him out of his game. Washington continuously attacked the net, outshooting New York 35-24 but was unable to get anything to go through.

“It was just a matter of us finding a way to score a goal. We had a ton of chances. They blocked a ton of shots. We need to figure out some kind of recipe to get some goals,” Pothier said.

The lack of points was not the result of a lack of effort on the Capitals’ part. They have outshot the Rangers 70-46 in the series so far. That statistic and the fact that they are down 0-2 should say more about the performance of Lundqvist than it does about Washington’s offense.

“We played a great game, I thought. We made a mistake and they capitalized on it. We couldn’t penetrate their defense they had. They did a great job of blocking shots and Lundqvist is obviously an exceptional goalie so we need to figure out a way to get pucks through,” Pothier said.

The Capitals started the game fast and attacked the net as they tend to do but towards the end, passing miscues continued to hinder scoring chances.

Another factor in the two losses was the team’s failure to alter their regular season style of play to accommodate their postseason matchups, Mike Green said.

“I think we’re just so used to playing a certain way and now with playoff hockey the game changes a bit and we have to adjust. If you’re going to win you have to adjust.”

Washington, who boasts the NHL’s third best road record, will have to continue their playoff quest in New York’s Madison Square Garden on Monday. In order to be successful, they must find a way to solve the predicament Lundqvist puts them in on a game-by-game basis.

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