How to Solve Tim Thomas in the Playoffs

Last season, the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup with grit, a stiffing defense, and a big weirdo in net by the name of Tim Thomas. Thomas had an incredible 1.98 GAA, .940 Save Percentage, and 4 shutouts in last year’s playoffs. In the Finals, Thomas went into beast mode, giving up only 8 goals in 7 games, giving Boston its first Stanley Cup since 1971-72. Naturally, he was the Playoffs MVP.

Well the Bruins are back to defend their title and are trying to become the first team since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings to win the Cup in back-to-back years. Standing in their way however, will be our 7th-seeded Caps, a rag-tag group of veterans, AHL’ers, and Russians that I’m pretty sure Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury still think are Eurotrash.

Unless he suffers a gruesome injury or chooses to skip out on a game because of an Obama appearance, the Capitals will have to find a way to consistently score on this Tea Partier from Flint, Michigan. And that, for them hasn’t been easy.

Timmay is a career 14-5-3 against Washington, which includes a save percentage north of .920. He’s consistently beaten the Caps in their own barn, winning 7 of 9 career games against them. While Thomas went 1-1-1 against the Capitals this year in 3 starts, he also stopped 82 of 89 Washington shots. He was nearly impenetrable, no matter how much we only want to remember his — um — poor performance in the March 29th shootout.

So on those 7 goals, how have the Caps beaten Thomas? Is there a particular place on the ice that the Caps have had more success shooting?

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Matt Hendricks: The Not So Secret Weapon

Photo credit: Greg Fiume

The surprise is that there was no surprise.

With the Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens locked at two as the clock hit zero in overtime, Matt Hendricks got ready to take the ice for the shootout. The fourth liner, not one of the highly skilled Russians or Nicklas Backstrom in his grand return, was set to shoot first in the most important gimmick of season — that is, if you don’t count the one 48 hours ago. And once again Hendricks made the moves you know by heart: fake, leg lift, deke, deke, wrist shot, score. Eight goals, 12 opportunities, one move.

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Neuvy smirks after taking a Rene Bourque slapshot off the mask. (Via @WashCapsRock)

The Washington Capitals’ season is still on shaky ground. Buffalo’s loss to Pittsburgh on Friday kept their hopes alive, but Saturday’s game versus the Montreal Canadiens held huge determinative power. Perfect time for a Comebackstrom.

After having his initial shot blocked, Alex Semin found a wide-open Mathieu Perreault in the slot, for a one-timer. 1-0 Caps. Unguarded in front of the net, Matt Hendricks hit Jay Beagle with a cross-crease pass to put the good guys up 2. Erik Cole then scored a momentum-killing goal with one minute left to go in the first.

In the second period, the Canadiens dominated. Tomas Plekanec tied it up when he went around a slow-skating Roman Hamrlik and scored on the backhand.

After multiple scoring chances for both teams in the third period, the game went to Overtime. Then the shootout. Thanks to goals by Matt Hendricks and Alex Semin, Caps win 3-2.

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Montreal Canadiens Pregame: The Comebackstrom?

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

Somehow, inexplicably, the Caps won on Thursday. It was a manic mess of a game, like something the Flaming Lips would do if they played hockey. In case your blood pressure is returning to normal and bowels are solidifying, here comes another cataclysmic hockey game to freak you out all over again.

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Matt Hendricks Embarrasses Tim Thomas in the Shootout

By now we all know Matt Hendricks has Serious Shootout Skills. But the shootout is a gimmick, a sideshow that decides games for no good reason except to entertain fans. The shootout never really meant much… until tonight.

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The Capitals held practice after taking their 2011-12 team picture on Monday. Practice wasn’t too serious though, and  Matt Hendricks thought it was the right time  to teach Mathieu Perreault the finer points of fighting. Notice how he manhandles Perry and Carlson and uses the a headbutt to finish them off.

Here’s hoping Perry never decides to drop the gloves in an actual NHL game.

Also see: John Carlson/Jay Beagle Mock Fight

S/T to @phaceoffhockey for the video and unibrouw.tumblr.com for posting it!

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Photo credit: Bruce Bennett

With eight games left in the regular season and the Capitals struggling to hold onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, every standings point matters. So when the Caps were unable to break a 1-1 tie with the Flyers after 60 minutes of regulation and a five-minute overtime, the shootout carried high stakes.

Enter Matt Hendricks.

Dale Hunter selected Hendy as the Capitals first shooter. The Blaine, Minnesota native did not disappoint. Hendricks used his patented move, this time baiting Ilya Bryzgalov to pokecheck. Bryz missed, allowing yet another highlight-reel shootout goal for the team’s leader in penalty minutes. Video is below the jump.

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Photo credit: Bruce Bennett

In Washington’s 5-4 victory over the New York Islanders on Tuesday, Dale Hunter went with Matt Hendricks in the fourth round of the shootout. That decision paid off. Hendricks, a gritty, fourth-line player who’s known more for his fists than his goal-scoring ability, faked a shot, deked a few times, and then deftly deposited the puck on his backhand into an empty net. No big.

“I don’t like to talk about it too often,” a bashful Hendricks told the media immediately after the game. “I made a move, and fortunately I beat him. [Nabokov’s] a good goalie.”

In his three seasons in the NHL, Hendy is a surprising 5 for 9 in the gimmick (2 for 3 in 2011-12, 2 for 4 in 2010-11, and 1 for 2 with Colorado Avalanche in 2009-10). His shootout goals have been featured in SportCenter’s Top Ten Lists and teammate Karl Alzner has referred to him as the team’s “secret weapon.”

But where did these Moves Like Jagger come from?

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Photo credit: Scott Audette

After spending time on all four lines and becoming a regular in the Caps’ shootout line-up, Matt Hendricks was signed to a two-year deal worth $1.65 million last season. Coming into this year’s training camp, Hendricks’ singular focus was to hit double digits in goals. “I had nine my first year in the NHL with Colorado,” he told the Washington Post’s Tarik El-Bashir. “I played 56 games that year. Last year, I played in 77 games and had nine goals. I need to figure out a way to get over that hump.”

For a player that accumulated 110 points in 43 games during his prep career and was named a finalist for the 2000 Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award, tallying ten or more goals seems to be well within reason. Unfortunately for Hendy, the red light has come on less frequently this season. In fact, it took 30 games for the 6’0’’, 215-pound winger to score his first goal of the year. And another 15 to get goal number two.

But complaining about Hendricks’ goal output and continuing the negative story train on RMNB is not why we’re here. On Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Hendricks — full of determination — opened the game’s scoring with one of the most unlikely and beautiful goals of the season.

Let’s review shall we?

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Everything is Happening! Pens beat Caps 4-3 (OT)

Photo credit: Justin K. Aller

Yawn. These Washington Capitals / Pittsburgh Penguins games are always such tedious affairs. Nothing interesting ever happens.

Okay, but for real. This game was a monster. The Capitals looked wounded in the first period, surrendering easy goals early and firing just four shots on net. They came back in the second transformed and reinvigorated. After Mike Knuble crashed the net and just barely missed a goal, the offense turned on. The Capitals regained the shot lead and kept their foot on the gas until the very end.

No one challenged Kris Letang on the power play, so he had a great lane and great screen on the game’s first goal. James Neal flicked one past Neuvirth right after a face off to make it 2-0. The game was six minutes old.

In the second, Dennis Wideman set up Brooks Laich for a crucial goal during 4-on-4. Alex Semin cleaned up Mathieu Perreault’s rebound to tie the game and blow our freaking minds.

In the third, Alex Ovechkin caught a wide pass from Alex Semin and beat Marc-Andre Fleury to open up a lead. James Neal finished off a brilliant zone entry by Evgeni Malkin to knot the score again. That tie took us all the way into overtime, where Malkin casually tipped in the game-winner. Pens beat Caps 4-3 (OT).

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