2010 NHL Playoffs: Capitals vs. Candiens Game 7 Notes

Capitals.jpgHere are some news and notes from around the blogosphere leading up
to tonight’s momentous Game 7.

First, let’s start off with owner
Ted Leonsis. He’s an opinionated fella, and the Capitals’ fan sense of
“us against the world” persona starts with him. With a post full of
one-word descriptors, here’s what he
had to say about tonight’s game:

Rise above it.

Lead.

Execute.

Win.

Simple.

Wish
us lotsa luck and good fortune.

Lotsa love back at you.

Go
Caps.

More after the jump.

Ted
Starkey of the Washington Times
says that the Capitals are facing
one heck of a ugly end to one incredible season.

During
the last few weeks of the regular season, Washington turned in
some of its worst efforts against teams playing for their playoff lives,
unable to match their opponent’s intensity.

[snip]

Now, there is no more room for error for the
Capitals if they want to
keep their Stanley Cup hopes alive, as they must turn in a good
60-minute effort on Wednesday, or head home as victims of one of the
largest upsets in Stanley Cup playoff history.

Because we all really wanted it here is Barry
Melrose’s advice for the Capitals, passed
along by Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Blog:

“You
watch Detroit play with Holmstrom, you watch Philly play, you
watch Vancouver play, you watch Pittsburgh play, you watch Boston play.
Boston, not nearly as talented a team as Washington, but they just put a
man in front of the net and they made [Ryan] Miller’s life tough every
time he sees the puck or wants to see the puck.

“Washington’s got
to get to that mentality. It’s not gonna be pretty
goals that beat the Montreal Canadiens. It’s gonna be tip-in goals,
deflection goals, rebound goals that beat the Montreal Canadiens.”

I actually agree with Melrose here. The Capitals were able to get
under the skin of Halak in Game 2 and 3 by crashing the net and not
letting him get comfortable in the crease. It’s something they’re going
to have to duplicate again tonight.

Also from Dan Stenberg, these
thoughts from Bruce Boudreau:

“I think you’re
gonna see a great hockey game with both teams willing
to do anything it takes to win,” Boudreau continued. “Both teams are in
a Game 7 in a hard-fought series where you’ve got one guy playing when
he pulls his teeth out, other guys on Montreal playing definitely
injured. That’s what character is….

“We’ve played 10 games against ’em, and every
game has been exactly the same way. The only surprise is is that the
media makes it that because we ended up so far ahead of them, that there
should be a surprise. It’s no surprise to me or the group that’s on the
ice now.”

I’m not exactly surprised by what’s
happened in this series, because of how well the Habs played the
Capitals in the regular season. What I am surprised by is how the
Capitals keep waiting to turn it on, and turn it on, and here they are
in a Game 7. Again.

According to Habs
Inside/Out
, Jaroslav Spacek is a game-time decision for the
Canadiens:

Canadiens defenceman Jaroslav Spacek, who
has missed the past three
games with a virus, skated this morning with his team and will be a
game-time decision for tonight’s Game 7, according to head coach Jacques
Martin.

Finally, defenseman Karl Alzner is set to
make his NHL playoff debut tonight for the Washington Capitals,
replacing Tom Poti who will miss the game after being hit in the face
with a puck in Game 6. Here’s some thoughts by Alzner, courtesy
of Tarik El-Bashir of Capitals Insider:

“When I
did get the call I was like, ‘That’s kind of strange,'” Alzner
after the morning skate at KCI. “Because there were still [other
defensemen available] here. But [maybe his history with John Carlson] is
what they were thinking about. I’m happy that they did.”

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    Bruins management failed to improve roster as planned

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    After missing the playoffs for the second year in a row, the Boston Bruins went into the offseason with three major things on their to-do list:

    1. Fix the defense.
    2. Get a better back-up goalie.
    3. Get “heavier” at right wing.

    By the time the offseason was over, they’d:

    1. Done nothing to fix the defense.
    2. Signed Anton Khubodin to back up Tuukka Rask.
    3. Signed David Backes.

    In other words, Cam Neely, the Bruins’ president, and Don Sweeney, the general manager, went 1-for-3. Signing Backes made the B’s heavier on right wing. There’s no disputing that.

    But the defense? It has 39-year-old Zdeno Chara on a top pairing with 20-year-old rookie Brandon Carlo. And it still has Adam McQuaid in a top-4 role.

    That’s not meant to slight McQuaid. It is less about him than the two right-shot defensemen who have been traded away and not replaced: Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton.

    The fact is, when the Bruins were winning championships and going to the Stanley Cup Final, McQuaid was a bottom-pairing guy. Since his role has been expanded, the Bruins have not made the playoffs.

    Read more: The Bruins didn’t fix their defense, but Neely still expects improvement

    Which brings us to the backup goalie. Khudobin was a bad signing, plain and simple. He went 1-5-1 with an .885 save percentage before he was dispatched to the minors — and, if you were paying attention, it was not a huge surprise that he failed to deliver. This is a goalie who hasn’t put up good NHL numbers since 2013-14. Heck, he spent most of last season in the AHL.

    And make no mistake, for bubble teams like Boston, backup goaltending can be the difference between making and missing the playoffs. Not only does it cost wins when a bad backup plays, the coach’s reluctance to use his backup means more work for the starter. Consider: only three other goalies have started more games than Rask (37) has this season, and he has not looked particularly fresh in his last few outings.

    That, finally, brings us to the head coach. Claude Julien has been on the job for almost a decade, and perhaps it’s time for a new voice with some new ideas. After all, the league is faster now, and these aren’t Milan Lucic‘s Bruins anymore. Sometimes, change can be a good thing.

    But just remember — if Julien does, indeed, get fired — Bruins management had three things they wanted to fix over the summer, and they only fixed one of them.

    And that’s not on the coach.

    Related: Julien’s job reportedly in danger

    They fixed the defense, but now poor offense is ‘killing’ the Bolts

    Jon Cooper
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    Two weeks ago, Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness said the team had lost its defensive mindset. His remarks came during a four-game losing streak in which the Bolts surrendered a whopping 22 goals.

    Since then, things have tightened up considerably. Tampa Bay has only surrendered 10 goals over the last five games — which coincided with Ben Bishop‘s return from injury — but now, there’s a new problem at hand.

    The Bolts can’t score.

    “It’s not for a lack of trying, not for lack of chances,” head coach Jon Cooper said following Thursday’s 2-1 loss in San Jose, per the Tampa Bay times. “The shooting sights are off on the stick, too many missed nets.

    “It’s killing us.”

    After scoring four times in a win over Buffalo on Jan. 12, the Lightning offense has really dried up. They were only able to beat Sergei Bobrovsky once in a loss to Columbus on Jan. 13, then squeezed out a 2-1 win over the Kings on Monday.

    Tampa then suffered consecutive 2-1 defeats in Anaheim (in OT) and San Jose.

    All told, it has just five goals in the last four games.

    One could point to all the missing bodies as a reason for the slump. Steven Stamkos‘ absence looms large. And while fellow injured forwards Ryan Callahan, J.T. Brown and Brayden Point aren’t elite offensive guys by any stretch, they were relied upon for depth production.

    Not having Victor Hedman is a problem, too. The minute-munching blueliner generated plenty of offense from the back end, and is second only to Brent Burns in d-man scoring across the league.

    This isn’t to say Tampa Bay is bereft of scoring options, though. Nikita Kucherov, Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn were all in the lineup last night. Killorn had a terrific chance for an equalizer late in regulation, but sailed his shot from the slot wide of the net.

    “It was a grade-A chance,” Killorn said, per the Times. “And I missed.”

    Tampa Bay needs to figure this all out, and fast. While the Bolts are only three points back of Toronto for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, they’ve got to hurdle four teams — Philly, Carolina, Florida and New Jersey — to get there.

    Thankfully, there’s some promise on the horizon. The Lightning are in Arizona tomorrow night, to play a Coyotes team that ranks 29th in the NHL in goals allowed.

    Five team stats you may find interesting

    St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen is slow to get up after giving up a goal to Washington Capitals' T.J. Oshie during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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    27.5 — Shots per game for the St. Louis Blues. Only one team, New Jersey (27.3), is averaging fewer. So while it’s true that goaltending has been their major issue, it’s also true that in the eight games since the Winter Classic, the Blues have averaged just 22.9 shots, and that’s not very many at all. Perhaps it’s related to the goaltending — i.e. they could be playing more conservatively in order to protect Jake Allen and Carter Hutton. But coach Ken Hitchcock said recently that Vladimir Tarasenko “is getting checked to death, and other people are responsible for creating the space for him. He’s trying to play against four guys right now. We need more participants in order to help him.” So it’s not all on the goalies. In his last six games, Tarasenko has no goals and just nine shots total.

    58 — Goals scored by the Washington Capitals since Christmas. That’s an average of 4.5 per game. Only the Rangers (4.4) and Penguins (4.0) are averaging four goals or more in that time frame. Since Christmas, the Caps have been led in scoring by Alex Ovechkin (17 points); however, the resurgence of Evgeny Kuznetsov (15 points) has also been key. Kuznetsov only had 17 points in his first 32 games. He’s up to 32 in 45 now.

    73.8% — The Buffalo Sabres’ penalty killing, which has been terrible. In fact, the Sabres are on pace to have the NHL’s worst PK of the salary-cap era:

    pk

    3 — Power-play goals for the Blue Jackets in their last eight games. In a related story, the Jackets are 3-5-0 in those eight games. “There’s gonna be times where it just doesn’t feel like it’s going in,” said captain Nick Foligno after last night’s 2-0 loss in Ottawa. Columbus went 0-for-3 with the man advantage against the Sens, who got a 42-save shutout from Mike Condon. The Jackets still have the NHL’s best power play (24.6%), but the Maple Leafs (24.1%) are catching up. The Leafs have scored 12 PP goals in their last 10 games.

    14 — Games the Colorado Avalanche have lost by three goals or more, the most in the league. Just how bad are the Avs? Well, they’re 30th in goals for and 30th in goals against. And if they keep up their pace, they’ll be the worst team of the salary-cap era:

    w

    Leafs claim Griffith off waivers… again

    SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 29:  Seth Griffith #24 of the Florida Panthers takes a shot on Al Montoya #35 of the Montreal Canadiens during a game  at BB&T Center on December 29, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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    Seth “suitcase” Griffith is off to join another team — a team he’s joined once already this season.

    On Friday, the Leafs announced they’ve claimed Griffith off waivers, just two months after exposing him on the wire and losing him to Florida.

    Toronto had originally acquired Griffith off — yup, you guessed it, waivers! — when the B’s cut him loose just prior to the start of the regular season.

    The 23-year-old, who played under Leafs assistant GM Mark Hunter in OHL London, appeared in three games for Toronto this season, going pointless. Griffith had a bigger role in Florida — notching five assists in 21 games — but suffered a concussion earlier this month and, after recovering, was a healthy scratch for three straight games.

    Per multiple sources, the Leafs are sending Griffith straight to their AHL affiliate, the Marlies.