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.)