Tag: Lightning-Capitals

Joe Thornton, Patrick Eaves, Brian Rafalski

Your primer for tonight’s three playoff games

As I mentioned earlier today, from a sheer quantity standpoint, this will likely be the best remaining night in the 2011 playoffs. Obviously, schedules are subject to change, but if things stay the same this would be the last night with three games. The rest of the evenings will likely include no more than two contests, with many one-game nights as the playoffs go on.

Don’t be too sad, though, because each game becomes that much more significant as we go deeper into May and eventually June. If you want a quick guide of tonight’s three games, you’ve come to the right place. As always, start times are according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).

Philadelphia @ Boston (Versus) – 7 p.m.; Bruins lead series 2-0.

The Bruins are saying all the right things about taking this game seriously. Considering their recent history (from their first round comeback against Montreal to last year’s collapse against Philly), they obviously should.

The Flyers’ lineup changes are still a bit up in the air, with Chris Pronger and Jeff Carter’s statuses unknown. Boston should see few changes aside from Shane Hnidy taking big Adam McQuaid’s spot on the blueline.

(Other links of potential interest: Peter Laviolette won’t blame the goalies alone and Tim Thomas dominates Game 2.)

Washington @ Tampa Bay (NHL Network) – 7 p.m.; Lightning lead series 3-0.

It’s natural to focus a lot of attention on what the Capitals are doing wrong, but don’t lose sight of the great work by the Lightning. They are getting contributions from big name players and lesser known skaters alike, not to mention their outstanding elder in net.

It’s unclear if Mike Green will play for Washington while Simon Gagne and Pavel Kubina are question marks for Tampa Bay. Alex Ovechkin says the Caps will win this game while Bruce Boudreau thinks that it’s dumb to ask if his job is on the line. Yes, you’re right in thinking that there is a lot of pressure on the Capitals at the moment.

San Jose @ Detroit – 8 p.m.; Sharks lead series 2-0.

The Sharks and Red Wings were in this exact position last year, at least from a series score standpoint. San Jose ended up splitting the two road games before closing out Detroit, so surely the Wings want to hold serve at home.

They’ll try to mix things up by separating Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, a perfectly reasonable move since both are comfortable (and adept) in the center spot. There’s been plenty of “gamesmanship” as this series gets nastier, with all of the vitriol caused by the impolite Jimmy Howard snow showers and the back-and-forth between the teams’ two coaches. These two teams are high on talent, but that’s not the only reason this series has been so entertaining.

Bruce Boudreau’s mum about job questions, Mike Green’s status or starting goalie

Bruce Boudreau

It’s natural to face some questions when you’re a top seed down 3-0. Those questions are probably that much more vexing when you’ve been forced to answer similar ones in the past. In other words, the Washington Capitals are probably in a collectively sour mood this afternoon.

One can only imagine Bruce Boudreau’s expressive face getting redder and redder as the assembled media asks him the questions he must know they’ll ask. It’s tough not to laugh at the thought, really, unless you are a Capitals fan.

Either way, Boudreau still had to at least address those questions following the team’s morning skate. There are functional questions beyond the typical tripe about “heart” and “choking.”

Let’s look at how he approached the three most pertinent questions.

1. Is he worried about his job security?

“Listen you guys have been asking me that all year,” Boudreau said. Is your job on the line? Well then, I don’t wanna answer that.”

He then muttered under his breath, “Stupid question, stupid.”

Well, OK then.

2. Will Mike Green play after sporting a noticeable limp after Game 3?

Here’s an update on Green from Katie Carrera of the Washington Post, since Boudreau wasn’t particularly forthcoming on that issue.

Based on how limited his movement was, it doesn’t appear likely that the two-time Norris Trophy finalist will be in the lineup as Washington faces elimination.

Coach Bruce Boudreau wouldn’t discuss Green’s status. “I’m not going to talk too much about injuries today,” he said. “We’ll see who’s out there tonight.”

If Green is unable to go, Sean Collins make make his Stanley Cup playoff debut tonight against the Lightning.

3. Will Michal Neuvirth start or will the team turn to Semyon Varlamov instead?

Carrera reports that Neuvirth didn’t skate today. Boudreau seemed fairly non-committal on the issue, though.

Michal Neuvirth didn’t skate this morning but when Boudreau was asked if he was contemplating a goaltending change, the coach replied “No.” In a follow up question asking if Neuvirth would start, though, Boudreau said “Maybe.”

It’s unfair to place all the blame on Neuvirth, but perhaps the team will respond to a change in net either way. Varlamov was a part of the Capitals’ last two playoff runs, so he certainly wouldn’t feel out of place.

Green status and the team’s starting goalie might not be clarified until the warmups – if not the beginning of the game itself – but if more information surfaces, we’ll keep you informed.

Alex Ovechkin tries to rally Capitals: ‘It is not over. We’re going to win’

Alex Ovechkin
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If you want to test the validity of a Washington Capitals critic right now, the simplest way is to ask them about Alex Ovechkin. If that person says that he’s “choking,” there’s a solid chance that person hasn’t witnessed a single game in the series.

Simply put, Ovechkin has been willing his team to near-victory in their first three games. He has two goals and one assist for three points in Washington’s three losses and nine points in eight playoff games, overall. If there’s a valid criticism, it’s that he occasionally tries to carry the team on his back. There’s also the possibility that coach Bruce Boudreau might be stretching him a bit thin; NHL.com reports that Ovechkin played 5:45 of Game 3’s final 11 minutes.

You won’t confuse Ovechkin’s statement as the second coming of Joe Namath’s Super Bowl III guarantee, but he still provided what could be a rallying cry (of future punchline) when interviewed after Game 3. (You can also watch video footage of his responses here.)

Q: How would you describe what you’re up against now. Is this still winnable?

A: It is not over. We won’t give up. We’re going to win.


Q: Did you think after the second period that you guys had things under control?

A: I think we’ve had all three games in our hands, but we lost all three. It is hockey and it is hockey. Again, it is not over. They win three. We can win three. It is going to be a battle.

One thing that cannot be overlooked – although spotlighting it might make those losses hurt even more – is the fact that all three games have been very close. Throwing out one empty-net goal, all of the Lightning’s wins were by one goal.

That indicates that Tampa Bay has been better in tight games, for sure, but it also should bolster the Capitals’ confidence that a breakthrough might turn things around.

The thing is, Ovechkin’s been throwing his body around and creating scoring chances this whole time. If Washington hopes to come back, they’ll need some of their other players to step up. (We’re looking at you, Nicklas Backstrom.)

Lightning take a shocking 3-0 series lead; Who’s to blame in Washington?


The Tampa Bay Lightning might just be the hottest team in hockey right now. They won their sixth consecutive playoff game thanks to another strong third period performance, leaving the favored Washington Capitals on the brink of elimination.

Tampa Bay 4, Washington 3; Lightning lead series 3-0.

Expect plenty of “Lightning strikes twice/thrice” type puns from this one, as the game turned on a dime in the final frame. The Capitals managed to take a 3-2 lead into the third period, but the Bolts scored two goals just 15 seconds apart to win Game 3.

It’s natural to fixate on the Capitals blame game, but let’s give Tampa Bay their much-deserved credit first. Sean Bergenheim continued his unexpected hot streak by scoring the game’s first goal. Alex Ovechkin should not be a scapegoat in Washington, as the spirited Russian set up Mike Knuble’s 1-1 goal and also scored a goal. John Carlson made it 2-1 while Vincent Lecavalier is also red-hot lately, as he banged in a rebound to make it 2-2. Ovechkin pounced on a loose puck to give the Caps a 3-2 lead on the power play.

Tampa scores two goals in a stunning 15-second span

For yet another game, Ovechkin’s big goal wouldn’t be enough for a Capitals win. Steven Stamkos capitalized on a bad Eric Fehr turnover to fire an absolute laser to make it 3-3.

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Things went from troubling to downright heart-breaking when the Lightning took a lead thanks to Ryan Malone crashing the net. The puck went off of his skate, but it was ruled a good goal. That would ultimately be the game-winner in this contest.

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It might be easy to blame Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth and it’s true that he allowed a goal or two that he would like to have back. Still, the tough-to-rattle goalie made some huge saves to keep Washington in the game. Neuvirth stopped a Bergenheim shorthanded chance and nullified a horrific Nicklas Backstrom turnover to keep the deficit at 4-3, but the Capitals couldn’t pierce the Lightning defense again.

The Capitals three biggest scapegoats

Naturally, the next question is: who or what should get the blame? Here are my three potential choices.

1. Horrible third periods: If there’s one signature thread to the first three games of this series, it’s that the Lightning finished games stronger. They out-shot the Capitals 15-5 in Game 3’s final frame, winning that period 2-0. Washington carried much of the play in Game 2, but Tampa Bay turned it around in the third with a 11-5 shot deficit (both teams scored one goal in that third period). The Lightning didn’t out-shoot the Caps in Game 1’s third, but they limited Washington to a 5-4 shot advantage as they sat on their lead and also scored an empty-netter.

So, overall, the Bolts out-scored the Capitals 4-1 (counting an empty-netter) and doubled their shots (30-15) in three third periods.

2. Bruce Boudreau: Personally, I think the Capitals might make a mistake if they get rid of Bellicose Bruce. Still, in this media congested age, it’s easy to lose patience after a few disappointments. While I’m easier on him than most, it’s tough to deny that Guy Boucher is coming out on top. Here’s what Keith Jones and Mike Keenan said about Boudreau in the first intermission.

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3. Nicklas Backstrom:
For years, Backstrom was the one Capitals star who jived with casual and hardcore hockey fans alike. The sweet-passing Swede has zero goals and two assists in eight playoff games, which is far worse than any supposed  Alexander Semin and Ovechkin stink-bombs from past years. Maybe he’s playing through an injury, but the Caps simply need more from their less-renowned star.

Final conclusions

Ultimately, the Capitals hope to be the fourth team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 deficit. They’ll need to shake off tonight’s loss quickly because the two teams will meet again tomorrow night.

The Lightning simply need to continue their trend of timely scoring, sufficient defense and strong goaltending. Tampa Bay’s big three forwards Martin St. Louis, Lecavalier and Stamkos are coming up huge and support players like Dominic Moore and Bergenheim are playing over their heads. It wasn’t Roloson’s best game, but maybe that’s because he set the bar so high.

Boucher said he was happy Game 2 didn’t go too deep into overtime after his team slugged it out in a seven game series in the first round, so an early second round sweep would do wonders if the squad is truly tired.

Vincent Lecavalier scores twice, Lightning stun Capitals in OT to take 2-0 series lead

Vincent Lacavalier, Teddy Purcell
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Guy Boucher might struggle to convince his team that they’re the underdogs after tonight.

The Tampa Bay Lightning took a 2-0 series lead over the Washington Capitals on the strength of their red-hot veteran goalie Dwayne Roloson, a few lucky bounces and outstanding play by their two long-time stars Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.

Tampa Bay 3, Washington 2 (OT); Lightning lead series 2-0

For the first two periods, the Capitals out-shot the Lightning but Tampa Bay still managed to build leads. Despite a 11-6 shot margin in the first period, Lecavalier scored on a Lightning power play to give his team a 1-0 lead.

The Caps were most dominant in the second period, hammering 16 shots on Roloson and allowing only three shots on their own goalie Michal Neuvirth. Roloson continued his recent hot streak by only allowing a Brooks Laich rebound tally.

The Lightning woke up in the third period, out-shooting the Capitals 11-5 as a St. Louis pass bounced off Mike Green’s skate and into Washington’s net for a 2-1 Tampa lead. It really wasn’t a great night for Green. Along with that bad moment, Green took two penalties. One was bad luck (he received a penalty for roughing even though it was a clean hit) and one was bad decision-making (an ill-advised elbow on Steven Stamkos).

It wasn’t a great day for officials, either, as they seemingly nailed both teams with dubious penalties while also letting some rather egregious infractions go unnoticed. Jeremy Roenick provided an amusing rant on the subject.

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Some felt that this the Capitals would wave a white flag, but that ignores the consistent stream of magic featured in the 2011 playoffs.

More highs and lows for the Caps

Alex Ovechkin answered the call, scoring his fourth goal of the playoffs with Washington’s net empty. Even if his team ends up on the wrong end of another series upset, Ovechkin has been a force once again in the playoffs.

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It seemed like this team’s series of baggage-shedding moments would continue as the Capitals rode a surge of momentum in overtime, but it was ultimately not to be.

Scott Hannan and his teammates were caught on a bad change on that Lecavalier game winner. Randy Jones made a heads-up breakout pass to Teddy Purcell, who sent a nice pass to a wide open Lecavalier, who took the time to settle down the puck and put it over a sprawling Neuvirth.

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To some, this was an unlucky break, but the Capitals dodged a bullet shortly before that when Green was caught deep in Tampa Bay’s zone but Steve Downie couldn’t finish a 2-on-1 chance. Washington dominated much of the game, but mistakes and bad bounces did them in once again.

The outlook for both teams

The Lightning are on an amazing run right now, winning five games in a row and five out of their six road games in the playoffs so far. Maybe it hasn’t always been pretty, but their big-name scorers came up big. Lecavalier was huge in Game 2, Stamkos scored a timely winner in Game 1 and St. Louis has been outstanding game-in and game-out.

Of course, they wouldn’t have gotten here without Roloson’s all-world, age-defying work in net. He leads all starting goalies with six wins and an outstanding 94.7 save percentage. Last season, Jaroslav Halak solved both the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. Will Rolo duplicate those results?

Meanwhile, the Capitals will face one of their biggest tests yet. It seems like they are doing what they can to break through their playoff struggles, but if this team buckles now, then every critic will be emboldened. There might be some who think that Bruce Boudreau should bench Neuvirth for Semyon Varlamov, but the biggest worries revolve around what they’re going to do about the opposing goalie.

On the bright side, Washington came back to win a series after following behind 2-0 against the New York Rangers in 2009, so they at least now it isn’t over yet.