The Washington Post

Postgame: Capitals vs. Canadiens, Game 1

Apr 15, 2010

Post staff writer Gene Wang discusses the outcome of the opening game of Caps-Canadiens first-round playoff series.

Hello all, and thanks for joining me for the inaugural Capitals playoff postgame chat. Let's get started following the Caps' 3-2 overtime loss to Montreal

Are you going to be on The Mike Wise Show tomorrow?

Heck yeah, at the usual time. That would be 1 p.m. for all the non-regular listeners.

As one will predict Canadiens will win this first -round of play off 6 to7 based on either lucks, stronger defense or better goaler?

Halak was really good early, but Theo played better down the stretch. Halak was the biggest reason Montreal won.

What's up! Go Theo!

Theo played great in the third period and OT. He wasn't the reason the Caps lost.

Montreal dominated that game, couldn't get the puck out of our zone

Especially in OT. And the Canadiens did a good job on Ovi.

Who won?

Canadiens in OT, 3-2.

So OV is hurt, right? And what was with the Caps looking like a poorly conditioned team for about the last 40 minutes tonight?

The Canadiens did look fresher late in the game. They were buoyed probably knowing they had nothing to lose after rallying in the third period. Montreal had all  the momentum.

Have the Caps ever won a home playoff game in OT at Verizon Center? I mean with this game, the Pittsburgh game last year, the Philly game the year before that they just seem to freeze in OT in front of the home crowd. I don't get it. Ovechkin was terrible tonight. If this is the way they will play, they might escape Montreal but I don't know how much further.

Ovi had no shots and five blocks. He didn't look good, that's for sure. All the players said Game 1 was so important. Now they've lost home-ice advantage.

So did Montreal do a great job on Ovechkin, or do we think he just isn't 100%?

Doesn't matter if he's hurt. No excuses this time of the year. He'll be the first to tell you that.

Will Halak fade as the series continues like Lundquvist did last year?

Halak was fabulous, and he's the kind of goalie who can get on roll. I don't see him fading. The Caps just need to capitalize on their opportunities.

If what you wrote is true--Montreal was buoyed by their play--then are you also implying the Caps turned tail and retreated after Halak frustrated them most of the night? If true, that would be quite telling.

Didn't it seem to you that the  Caps appeared frustrated when they couldn't get much past Halak? The last thing you want to do is give a  No. 8 seed the feeling they can win, and that's exactly what happened.

What can the Caps do to adjust to the Habs' style for Game 2?

I thought for sure the Capitals were going to come out and make a statement in the first period. That's what the Caps have to do in Game 2. They need to come out and leave no doubt they are the better team. None of this waiting around for the third period.

What a bummer. Do you think the team is going to take this as a wake-up call and come back down to Earth, or is it going to be the kind of loss that they can't get over?

I have no doubt they will take this as a wake-up call. The Caps seem to be at their best when they are backed into a corner, which they kind of are now.

I'm unclear, did Ovechkin play tonight?

Very funny. I'm sure Canadiens fans would say they barely noticed him on the ice.

How do you see this game for setting up the tempo of the series? Any emerging trends?

Well, the Caps have to know this may be a protracted series. They may have been thinking sweep, but now it's on, and we could be in store for seven games.

Gotta play BMo in Game 2, right? Flash just doesn't work at center.

That's s omething BB definitely will look at tomorrow. Flash had a nice opportunity early, but he was unable to convert because of Halak.

Geno, are the press banned from the locker room, tonight? It seems that the team may want to avoid the media.

I'll  find out soon enough, once this chat is over. I suspect many players will duck out early.

Doesn't this remind you of the first round last year? Run into a hot goalie and a scrappy team.

Yes, Game 1 has the feel of the Rangers series. The Caps just better hope they can end this in five or six.

Every year in the playoffs there is a brutal forecheck, yet for some reason every year the Caps can't handle a heavy forecheck. Where is the coaching? Its not like you don't know what is going to happen.

I'm not going to lay this at the feet of BB. The guy took a franchise that was struggling not that long ago and turned it around. He knows how to coach.

Passes not crisp. Hesitation. Turnovers. Very sloppy and this is the most diappointing thing. Did they not learn anything after the way they started last year? To the Habs' credit, they played totally mistake-free hockey.

Habs knew they had to have a big game from Halak, and that they couldn't make many, if any, mistakes. I think they may have been emboldened by watching all those lower seeds win on Wednesday.

Les Habs played stout D and countered aggressively. The Caps looked like they were playing tight and pressing. The shot selection by the Caps seemed desperate at times. They just need to play their own game and keep out of their own heads.

It felt like a Habs win once the game got into OT. It's that tried and true sports saying: If you let a team hang around, it'll come back to bite  you.

What is the point of having Semin on the 2nd line when it is clear he is better suited to helping out Ovechkin on the top line from the coverage he is getting? Knuble is completely over rated on this team, he is not a top RW player on a cup team, so why must the coach Bruce force him on the top line?

Semin should be on the top line and if other players can't handle 2nd line scoring then this team is seriously in trouble. So my question, do you agree that the caps should put Semin on the top RW position?

I disagree completely. Without Knuble, the first line has no player who will put his body in the crease and get dirty goals.  The Caps need that grit on the first line, and in my estimation, Knuble was among the best offseason acquistions in the entire league.

Brendan Morrison has far more experience in the playoffs. Do you agree he needs to start in Game 2?

They will weigh that heavily, I promise you. That's one of the lineup changes you can expect to see in Game 2.

No time to panic, but let's face it -- the Caps had about as good a regular season as possible. If they can't get it done in the playoffs, why keep Boudreau? Are they really going to improve much more?

Please tell me Caps fans aren't thinking about firing the coach yet. It's one game, albeit a very important one, but  as you said, it's in no way time to panic.

Lots of questions raised about whether the Caps system is prime for playoffs. So far, not sold with Boudreau now sitting at 10-12 in playoff games. Have to wonder whether this team is truly built for this time of year. Your thoughts?

The Caps got beat by a hot goalie. There's not much you can do as a coach to counter that. The Caps just have to continue firing and wear him down as the series goes longer.

Can you ask Bruce what he thinks we need to do differently system wise to beat Montreal? Our style does not seem effective against them.

If I make it down to the interview room in time, I'll be sure to ask, although I'm sure that question will be raised long before I arrive.

I know it "doesn't matter" but seriously, is he injured? He was falling down a lot, and he just seemed...slow. He didn't look like the OV we all know. Is it possible he caught whatever bug Backstrom had the other day?

As best we know, Ovi is not injured. We'll know more later tonight once we talk to him in the locker room.

why do 1 seeds have so much trouble in the NHL

I think a lot of it is No. 1 seeds often aren't playing for anything late in the season, and then they have to flip the switch for the playoffs.  Meantime those teams fighting to get in have played meaningful games and could be better prepared.

Can we do some positive spin here? Let's just look at the game and see that the Habs beat us with their absolute best game from every player against a team that was stuck in 3rd gear. Or am I reaching?

You are not reaching at all. I made that point earlier  in the chat. Halak was virtually unbeatable on this night.

Zero shots for Ovi in 26 minutes - what's up with that?

That's one of the first stats that jumped out at us in the press box once the game ended. That's unacceptable, and Ovi will be the first to say so. In fact, I'm sure he has already.

Do you think the Caps put on the afterburners too early? They dominated on the ice early, but down the stretch, the Habs really became the aggressor.

The Caps had the momentum after Backstrom's goal, but they allowed Montreal to regain it when Gomez scored. At that point, the Canadiens were skating without burden because they really did have nothing to lose. The pressure then fell to the Caps.

Gene, Do you think with all the pressure of being the top seed and with the home crowd these guys are having trouble dealing with it? Funny enough, it looked like Carlson was the best player out there tonight.

BB said in the first game of a series, the visiting team often has the advantage because of all the reasons you mentioned. All the pressure is on the home team to win because, well, that's what they are supposed to do. The Caps need to come out in Game 2 and play as if they were the road team.

OV hasn't been a factor in the last 20 games!!!! I'm not feeling too good about their chance. I know it's only the first game but look at the way they have been playing the last few games of the year, they sure didn't finish strong.

Ovi had several multi-point games down the stretch, so I wouldn't go that far.  But yes, I get your point. He didn't finish as strong as he started.

Very depressing outcome, but I still don't see Montreal winning three of the next six.

That's one of the  most sensible comments I've heard tonight

You would think the Caps would of been more physical with their size advantage. Hardly a forecheck established tonight!

Yes, the Caps do need to be more physical in Game 2. At times they seemed to take the fight to Montreal, but when it mattered, it was the Canadiens who were the aggressor.

"Thomas who? Jagr?" Pretty terrible when our star goalie has to eat his words. Not that this loss was even close to his fault. I just chalk the game winning goal scorer up to karma.

In no way was Theo to blame for this loss. But yes, the fact that Plekanec scored the winner makes it even worse for the Caps.

What do you think Coach Boudreau is telling his troops tonight?

That it's not time to panic and that they will without a doubt win Game 2. I'm sure he's making sure the players are not hanging their heads.

So channeling a popular CSN show, what's your headline for tomorrow's paper/post regarding this game? Mine would be CAPSized: Caps Lose G1 in OT

I'll leave that to headline writers, who do that for a living and are much more clever than yours truly. But if they are reading this chat, maybe that will give them some ideas.

The Skins have no OL and we blast them all the time for it. GMGM has ignored the blue line and it's no different. You win with D in the playoffs and our D cost us as usual. You can get by in the regular season with an average D. Not in the playoffs.

I wouldn't necessarily say the Caps D was the only reason they lost. Halak had a whole lot to do with it.

If this team needs a wake-up call after i) what happened last year, ii) watching the games last night and iii) playing an 8 seed they should put away, they have no chance of winning the Cup and not much of one to get out of the first round.

You make good points, but this team is better equipped to handle this setback because of some of the veterans they added. I don't see this game as indicative of what we should expect the rest of the way.

They need to settle down and play their style of hockey. They almost looked like a deer caught in head lights. Do you think they need to look at some of the healthy scratch players like Jurcina and Scott Walker in the upcoming games?

Yes, specifically Brendan Morrison

So if the Caps are suffering from frustration and fatigue, what can they do to turn their game around? Those aren't things you can coach out of them.

Winning games cures a lot, and I promise if they win Game 2, you'll see a more spry group of players  come Game 3 in Montreal.

What was the Caps' greatest strength tonight...and what was their greatest weakness?

Theo was their biggest asset, and their lack of production on the power play really hurt.

If the Caps are swept in the first round, do you agree the caps should get rid of Bruce and bring in a systems coach that employs a system that actually wins playoff games? We have no ability to grind out wins, by playing dump and chase hockey, Ovechkin has been in the league now for what, 5 years? And still doesn't know how to win a board battle and cycle the puck?

This is really bad development in my opinion of Ovechkin, and it shows, that teams have figured out how to stop Ovy, after the Canadian team showed how it's done in the Olympics, every team does the same thing now, make sure you are right on him even when he doesn't have the puck, and the only thing that stops teams now from doing that, is if Semin is another player on the wing and is a big threat when teams over cover Ovechkin.

So why not have Ovy-Backstrom-Semin on the top line? And lets do it before the 2 Russians are left with zero confidence, lets not wait till the other team has a lead then throw them together out of desperation.

It's just one game. I know it looks bad now,  but don't give up the ship because of one patch of choppy water. Remember the top line did produce the go-ahead goal, when Knuble left the puck for Backstrom.

The Caps are doing EXACTLY what they did last year. We can all stay delusional about how good we are. But lets look at the facts: Since our Cup run 1998, we have won ONE playoff series, against a seven seed in seven.

We are going to lose. Ovi isnt a winner, and Crosby is better.

Think I am a troll? I have had season tickets for 21 years and I am tired of this same song and dance every year. And by the way, for the insane people out there who cling to the fact that Ovi is better, ask Ovi and Crosby: who has a Gold Medal and a Cup and who has nothing? Sure Canada was better than Russia, sure the Penguins were better than the Capitals last year. But that is the bottom line, and its going to stay that way.

The Caps will never win.


I agree you have to say Crosby is better because he has the championship, but to say Ovi isn't a winner, well I beg to differ. I can't stress enough that it's just one game. It's a game the Caps wanted to win dearly, but it in no way means they won't win the whole thing.

Thanks for the Q&A chat, Gene. Going to bed. On to Saturday. -Nicety

You're very welcome, and on that note, have a good night, and I'll be here postgame on Saturday after Game 2.

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Gene Wang
Staff writer Gene Wang writes about the Caps, Nats, Wizards and local colleges for The Post.
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