Crash the net! (Photo credit: Brian Babineau)
The Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins had split wins in each other’s cities. Saturday afternoon’s bout in Boston was the first of two games within 30 hours, and another example of how tight this series has been.
After a scoreless first, Alex Semin wristed the puck past Tim Thomas while Joe Corvo writhed in pain in the periphery. Jay Beagle sent a loose puck dribbling past Thomas to make it 2-0– the first time either team has had a two-goal lead all series. Dennis Seidenberg got some space from Ovechkin and beat Holtby near-side to get the Bruins on the scoreboard. Just a few seconds later, Marchand (with help from Peverley) pushed the puck through Holtby’s five-hole and tied the game.
And then…. in the third period…
Yes. Mike Knuble crashed the net to make it 3-2 for the Capitals. Johnny Boychuk tied it up while Dennis Wideman was in the penalty box. On the Brouwer Play, Troy Brouwer scored a brouwer play goal, his first brouwer play goal and the game-winner. Caps beat Bruins 4-3.
Wideman grimaces in pain after being laid out by Tuomo Ruutu. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon!)
After an extended 10 day break to rest an undisclosed injury, the Capitals welcomed their kapitan back to the lineup Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. During the three game stretch in which Ovechkin sat out, the Caps went 2-1-0, their most dominant win coming Saturday night in Montreal when Braden Holtby shutout the Canadiens.
Alex Semin’s Canadian Ice Dad, Jason Arnott, also returned from injury, forcing Jason Chimera to the press box. Pre-game, head coach Bruce Boudreau told CSN that while it was great that two of his top six forwards were returning, he also had a fear that there would be a letdown. “You know, the guys have been working so hard while [Ovechkin and Arnott] have been out. I’m scared they’ll look at them returning and go ‘they should carry the load now.'”
In the first period, however, Boudreau would have nothing to worry about. Led by a determined Russian Machine, the Capitals as a team hit everything that moved and rifled 16 shots at Cam Ward, feeding off the energy of a Verizon Center crowd they hadn’t played in front of for sixteen long days. The Caps would not see their hard work be rewarded, and the game would remain scoreless until early on in the second period. After Nick Backstrom took a tripping penalty at 1:06, Joe Corvo brilliantly found Jussi Jokinen wide-open in the slot for a one-timer. Jokinen converted and the Hurricanes would take a 1-0 lead.
Nicky calmly celebrates his second period goal while Ovi spazzes out. (Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck)
Unquestionably, the Washington Capitals came into tonight’s tilt against Carolina facing adversity for the first time all year. They had lost three consecutive games, two of which pathetically, and had generally looked careless and sloppy throughout each. After Monday’s 5-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils, their jolly Captain faced questions about his leadership after showing a lack of tact during Bruce Boudreau’s press conference with Caps media.
The Caps also came into tonight’s game a bit bruised up. They would be forced to pick themselves off the mat without early-season standouts Michal Neuvirth and Mike Green, who were nursing lower-body and upper-body injuries respectively.
So in came the recently-rehabbin’ Semyon Varlamov, Tom Poti, and a reinvigorated Russian Machine.
Tonight, it only took two minutes to realize that our beloved Caps came to play. Alex Ovechkin laid out Chad LaRose with a fiery open ice check. Unequivocally, that hit set the tone of the game.
Nicklas Backstrom then decided to celebrate his birthday in fashion – albeit a day late – scoring in both the first and second periods. Semyon Varlamov made all the big stops when needed and our heroes dug deep and prevailed despite third period momentum-changing tallies by Sergei Samsonov and Eric Staal. Thanks to Brooks Laich, the Caps beat Carolina 3-2. LOSING STREAK OVAHHH!
Mike Green needs help (Rick Stewart/Getty Images).
This week, the Caps free agent picture became clearer as the organization announced they will not be renewing the contracts of defenseman Joe Corvo and forwards Brendan Morrison and Scott Walker, and Tarik El-Bashir reported that José Theodore‘s tenure with the Washington Capitals may be over.
All this leads to more speculation as to what the roster will look like next year. ESPN and the writers of Puck Prospectus have addressed the offseason needs for all 30 NHL teams and surprised no one by stating that the Caps need a shutdown guy on defense.
The Bruins signed defenseman Dennis Seidenberg to a four-year contract extension, taking off a likely target unrestricted free agent acquisition during the offseason and leaving only a few top four shutdown defensemen left in the UFA pool.
The Caps need as close to a sure thing as you can get. They can’t afford to let age (Sergei Gonchar) or injuries (Paul Martin, Willie Mitchell, and Mark Eaton) detract from the production of their top four defensemen during next year’s inevitable Cup run.
With Tarik El-Bashir reporting “the team does not, in fact, plan to pursue the Ottawa blue liner [Volchenkov],” that leaves just two defensemen that can fill a Top 4 spot. And more specifically, the top pairing with Mike Green:
[UPDATED YET AGAIN]
Our favorite beat reporters, Tarik El-Bashier (The Washington Post) and Corey Masisak (hired gun), are on the scene in Montreal, confirming what we feared last night: Joe Corvo and Shaone Morrisonn are not practicing with the team today.
I haven’t gotten a clear message on Corvo’s exit, but Shaone took a nasty swipe to his wrist/hand area in the second period and did not return. Corvo had a goal in game one, and ShaMo had been playing great hockey so far. Both will be missed.
Will we see John Erskine and Tyler Sloan tomorrow night? Can anyone in Hershey catch the red-eye up to Canada? Please? Pretty please?
RMNB will keep you posted.
(And by that, we mean we’ll just repeat what someone else said and then put a joke in there.)
Update 12:18 pm Corey Masisak has the scoop on Corvo’s absence:
Looks like the pirate faction of the Washington Capitals will be represented tomorrow night after all!
Update 2:27 pm Via Tarik we learn that Shaone Morrisonn is expected to play tomorrow as well. Somewhere, John Erskine and Tyler Sloan are weeping.
I know that photo isn’t from our game, but it’s too cool to pass up. (Photo credit Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Ian “Bloglethorpe” Oland joined me for tonight’s game at Russian Machine Never Breaks World Headquarters, located miles under the Alleghany Mountains and adjacent to a combination Pizza Hut/Taco Bell. You’d think this would be occasion for celebration, as the top-ranked Caps should be able to stomp the Canes even without Ovechkin, still suspended after having been caught riding dirty. And while the Capitals showed some shimmer with Joe Corvo’s two goals, their laziness and disinterest allowed the Hurricanes to exploit one too many plays. Sad to say it, but the Hurricanes beat the Capitals in overtime 4-3.
At around 2:00pm, after Alex Ovechkin was tossed and Chicago was starting the third period with a 3-0 lead, I got a call from RMNB lead writer Peter Hassett who’s currently spending his last day in California for a weekend wedding. He said and I quote:
“I thought the Tampa Bay Game was the disaster game of the season. I guess it’s this one now.”
I reminded him that there was still 1 full period of play left- which is a lot of time for the Capitals even without Ovechkin – and that Chicago blew a similar 3-0 lead to the Flyers the day before. Undeterred, Peter replied “Dude, It’s Over.”
So of course, the Capitals were victorious and won in Overtime over a stunned Chicago Blackhawks team, 4-3. SORRY PETER. We’re just going to warn you now, we’re not in the mood for happy bullets.
The Washington Capitals added depth on NHL Deadline Day, acquiring forwards Scott Walker and Eric Belanger, and blueliners Joe Corvo and Milan Jurcina, who returns to Washington after being traded, along with then team captain Chris Clark, to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Despite these moves paying off immediate dividends, questions remain about the Caps goaltending: specifically, is it enough to keep pucks out of the net in the playoffs?
“No matter how fearsome their attack, they’re just OK at keeping pucks out of their net. They’ll enter the playoffs, likely as the top seed in the East, entrusting the most critical position on the ice to the likes of Jose Theodore, Semyon Varlamov and/or Michal Neuvirth.” – NBCSports.com
So what type of goaltending does it take to win the Cup, and do the Caps have it?
[Editor’s note: Russian Machine Never Breaks is proud to announce the addition of Neil Greenberg to the fold. You might remember Neil from his excellent statistical analysis over at 5ive Hole, which he will continue to maintain. Please join us in welcoming Neil. Play nice.]
The trade deadline came and went, and while the Caps made some changes, a lot stayed the same. Most importantly: Hershey was virtually untouched. And it is probably because of this that the Caps didn’t make the “big move” most of the fans thought they would.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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