The Washington Post

Washington Capitals vs. Carolina Hurricanes

Mar 10, 2010

Washington Post staff writer and Capitals Insider blogger Tarik El-Bashir was online Wednesday, March 10 at 2 p.m. to take your questions about the Caps' match-up with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Good afternoon and thanks for stopping by today's Caps/NHL chat. It's been too long. How have you been? Have a seat. Let's catch up.


Hi Tarik. Will you talk to Brian Pothier before/after the game? It must be hard on him to have been moved from the team at this time. I saw him play in Atlanta last week and he looked good. I kind of feel sorry for him.

I have not talked to Brian since the trade, but I will seek him out after the game.

When I saw him in Buffalo at the morning skate, we talked for a bit and agreed that he might be on his way out.

He's in the last year of his deal. The Caps have John Carlson and Karl Alzner knocking on the door. Coach Bruce Boudreau sometimes scratched him for no obvious reason (which is generally a sign that the coaching staff isn't a big fan of yours).  

Then, sure enough, around 2:30, he was gone.

It will be tough for him to miss a potentially deep postseason run wading through some rough waters here his first few years. But he knew he would be on the move sooner or later.

Tarik is the NHL going to suspend Cooke or what? If this goes by without a severe suspension it will be disgusting. Cooke is a multiple-offender and this hit was dirty and perhaps season-ending for Savard. What gives?

I don't know, but the pundits in Toronto think he might skate since Mike Richards also did not receive anything for a similar hit on David Booth earlier this year.

Remember, what Matt Cooke did was dirty, but not against the current rules. The GMs decided today that they want to make such hits to the head illegal. But it wasn't a crime when Cooke leveled Marc Savard.

Word out of Pittsburgh is that Cooke had a disciplinary hearing with Colin Campbell earlier this afternoon. We should know in a few hours whether he'll face a ban or not.





Tarik, there are a number of rumors out there that the Caps made a strong push to at the trade deadline to acquire Tomas Kaberle from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Have you heard anything from your sources about this? I think that he would have been a terrific fit in Bruce's system.

I have not heard anything concrete re: Tomas Kaberle. But there certainly was some buzz last Wednesday in Buffalo about the potential for a deal.

I do think a trade (for someone) might have fallen through. Why else would the Caps want to have 15 NHL caliber forwards on the roster? Depth is nice. But this is creating a headache for Coach Bruce Boudreau and heartache for his players.


Andy Sutton was available for a 2nd round pick, maybe a little more for the Caps....was he the opportunity for a big crease clearer the Caps missed out on? and who else available for that role ?

I was told by a league source I trust that the Caps indeed scouted Andy Sutton and called GM Garth Snow about trading for the biog defenseman. Why they didn't get him, though, is a mystery and will likely remain one because GM George McPhee almost never talks about stuff that goes on behind closed doors.

I've heard Corvo says it takes some time to adapt to the Capitals' system. Is it possible to describe what this system is in a few words and how it differs from other teams' systems?

When the Caps are on the attack, Coach Boudreau asks his D-men to be more involved. When defending, D-men in Boudreau's system have different responsibilities. In Carolina, Corvo was responsible for the right wing. In Washington, he's responsible for the center of the ice.

Tarik, seems to me the Canes want it more than the Caps tonight. According to the computers, the Canes have a 55 percent chance of making the playoffs if they win 13 of their last 17, 90 percent if they win 14 of 17. Both tall orders, but do you believe the Canes players actually believe they have a chance, or are they just taking it game by game?

Motivation will be an issue for the Caps the rest of the season. For all intents and purposes, the Caps are in, likely as the No. 1 seed in the East.

Many of the teams they'll face down the stretch will be a lot hungrier (remember the Stars?). I consider Carolina to be in that category, even if they are longshots.

The Caps have two reasons to play well over the next five weeks: 1) The Presidents' Trophy and 2) so that they enter the playoffs on a roll.


Do you think that when the Caps are up a couple goals they get bored? This version of the team has reminded me sometimes of that bored gifted student who puts themself in a tough spot just to see if they can get out of it.

As I said a moment ago, finding ways to remain motivated is going to be a challenge. Perhaps Monday's loss to the Stars will serve as a wakeup call.



Lost of hockey players lose teeth, but I'm not sure I've seen them play without 2 front teeth since the '70s. Is Walker trying to turn back the clock, or he's just waiting for the off-season for permanent replacements?

Scott Walker, Quintin Laing, Brendan Morrison and John Erskine all are missing their top teeth. Some are just better about wearing their false ones.

Since we talking about teeth, let me give you some advice. Never ask an NHL player about their teeth (especially if they still have all of them). It's the kiss of death. If they ever lose one, they'll never forgive you. Trust me.


Tarik, I am curious what resources you have when you are covering the games -- do you watch the feed with Joe and Locker for example or is it a different feed? I remember when Mike Green got suspended the TSN guys had access to a camera angle that made it look worse than what we saw on Comcast. Do you get in-game reports about injuries etc.?

At home, I generally have replays from the home and visiting feeds (without the sound). That's about it.

The Caps only have one update when a player gets injured: "May return." It doesn't matter whether he's on the way to the hospital with a broken leg, or whether he's got minor leg cramps, it's "May return". Reporters don't even ask for the update anymore.


Tarik--Do you think there needs to be player changes on the PK, or is the problem more systems-related? They seem to just sit back and wait for the opponent's PP to make the first move, rather than attack a bit more, and try to cause a turnover. They just aren't aggressive enough, IMO.

I agree with assistant coach Dean Evason's assessment. Most schemes will be effective -- if you get players committed to following the scheme, players committed to blocking shots and timely saves from the goalies.

But since the Caps don't usually seem to get all of that on the same night, I would try switching the system and getting more aggressive.

I spoke to a former NHL player this morning who told me this: the best PKs get after the opposition (in the neutral zone and in the D-zone) and make the PP beat you. Pressure the puck carrier. Pressure the points. Send two guys into the corner after loose pucks. 

But I'm not the coach. All I know is this: The PK broke down against the Pens last season and the Caps lost.





With Yankee Stadium now out of the picture with the Dec. 30th Pinstripe Bowl, where do you see the Winter Classic headed next year? Detroit or Denver would be a logical choice, since I guess it's the West's "turn" to host, but how much chatter is having the game at Nats Park getting?

I spoke to a source about this yesterday. He told me that the Caps are virtual locks to be in the game. The opponent, however, is still being worked on.

The Caps would love for the game to be at Nats Park. The NHL? Not so much. They can make ice at almost any temp. But rain will force the game to be postponed. And as any longtime Washington area native can tell you, we're as likely to have a rainy 60-degree day on New Year's as a rainy 40-degree day.

Once the opponent is sorted out, then they'll start working on the site.

I expect that we'll have more details in the coming month now that the Olympics are over and the NHL is focusing on league business once again.



Tarik, With Carlson seeing extensive action recently and looking pretty good IMO, do you envision him being in the postseason mix? Has he passed Alzner at this point?

Yes and yes. I still believe that Karl Alzner has a bright future in the NHL. It's just that John Carlson is more NHL ready than Alzner.

Not a question, but I just want to put this out there. Please, if you are going to the game tonight, do not "whoop whoop" Brian Pothier. The guy was a class act while here, and deserves some appreciation and respect. You'll just be making the fanbase seem classless and immature if you do.

Can I second this?

Tarik, Is there one potential first-round matchup the Caps do not want to see? Tampa possibly? (New Jersey, Buffalo and Pittsburgh are the obvious choices but they are unlikely first round opponents).

Based on the way the standings look today, I would say New York. The Rangers can't score to save their lives, but they've got the x-factor in Henrik Lundqvist. They also got Sean Avery, who until his meltdown last spring, was doing a pretty good job of getting under everyone's skin, and one heck of a coach.

The reporters, on the other hand, don't want to see Atlanta. Great PR staff. Nice building. No nightlife. Long-ish flight.

Yes, it is all about me. It's my chat, after all.




Your article on Jose Thoedore's son made me cry. It's amazing he's been able to put together the season he has. If he keeps this play up, do you see the Caps possibly offering him a 1 year extension at a discounted price?

I wouldn't rule anything out. But Theodore will need an incredible postseason to get a new deal here. No knock on him. It's a numbers thing at this point.

One more thing to consider: if Jose does have an incredible  postseason, the Caps probably won't be able to afford him. Remember, he's 33 and playing for what could be his last NHL contract.






For the love of Gawd, can someone please tell Craig Laughlin that it's pronounced Noyvi, not Noovy? Drives me NUTS!! Also: I e-mailed Ted the other day about lousy Comcast sound during home games, and he said he'd look into it. Can you help to spread the word? Something must be done!

That's what makes Craig so great. He decides how players should pronounce their names.

Maybe it will get Caps fans to start chanting, "Nooooooovy!" when he makes a big save. Sort of like in Vancouver and the "Luooooooo!" chants for Roberto Luongo.

Just an idea.



Am I being unreasonable to say the Matt Cooke should be suspended for the entire season and playoffs for his hit to the head on Marc Savard? What is it going to take for these types of hits to stop? A player dying on the ice?

TSN is reporting that Matt Cooke will not be suspended. No one denies that the hit was dirty. But under the current rules it's not illegal. It's sort of like a loophole in the law.

Tarik, lots of speculation in Caps land about who the team would benefit from seeing in the playoffs. If you had to take a stab at it, what teams do you think we match up well against? Also, is it inevitable that we see the Penguins in the ECFs?

I think the Caps would like to see Atlanta in the first round. They match up well against them and play well in their building.

That would likely be a relatively short series, at leat on paper. And, as we all know, Stanley Cup winners often benefit from a short first round.

And yes, I do think it is inevitable that the Caps will have to go through Pittsburgh at some point in the playoffs.  So just prepare yourself now.


What's your take on the result of the trade deadline? Seems we have way more guys, and with some good players getting scratched every night, seems like it could become an issue. We've already seen Brads publicly complain. Any idea how Bruce and the new captain maintain positive energy?

It is a problem, and it has created a delicate balancing act for Bruce Boudreau. In my mind, it's one more thing he didn't need to deal with.

But at some point (and I suspect soon) it's all going to make sense. Someone is going to get hurt and the Caps are going to be thankful for the depth.

This is NOT the time of year to make recalls from Hershey.


I thought Varly looked much better than the Tampa game on Monday. I do think it's only a matter of time, but right now, unless Jose implodes, you gotta think the #1 job is his, no matter what Varlamov does?

I do not get the sense that Boudreau has settled on his playoff goalie -- yet. The fact that he plans to alternate his netminders down the stretch proves that. Whether it's fair to Theodore or not, Boudreau us giving Varlamov every chance to win back the job.

Who will win the MVP? Right now I don't see how it isn't Ovechkins to win, but Miller has done well and the olympics didn't hurt his resume (even though it shouldn't be considered, it will), and Crosby is scoring goals at a decent rate (see olympic comment as well)

About two weeks before the Olympic break, I felt that Miller was the leader for MVP. I mean, has anyone done more with less around him than that guy? Probably not.

Now, though, I'm starting to think it's Ovechkin's to lose. He leads the league in points and plus minus and is tied for goals. And he missed EIGHT games.



Tarik - what did you do the other day during the post-game interview to make Boudreau unable to look at you without laughing? Just curious...

I was holding a flipcam. And a digital recorder. And a pen. And a notepad.

It was new for him and for me. We were both laughing about it.


Tarik, What's your opinion on the crowd yelling "O" and "red" during the national anthem? In my opinion, its disrespectful and crude and would very much like to see it stop. Any thoughts on how we can get the Caps fans to honor our national anthem?

I do not like it for two reasons:

1) The 'O', I believe, is for the Orioles. They're in Baltimore and are terrible. The Caps are in DC and very good.

2) They've shouted 'Red' in Carolina for years. Not very original.

Either way, I wish it would stop. I prefer to hear 18K signing the anthem. That's cool.



For those interested in a little Caps history, the whoop whoop stuff started with Larry Murphy WHEN HE WAS WITH THE CAPS, then continued whenever he returned. It then evolved into what it is today. Folks back then thought that with his size, he should have played like his partner Scott Stevens. Murphy has had the last laugh, however, with four rings and a plaque in the HOF.

There you have it. Whoop, whoop.

Tarik: Can you expand a little bit on your response about Carlson being more NFL ready than Alzner. I thought he was progressing well, and then it seemed like something happened. Is it size and strength? There were rumors that he was part of a trade package - did you get a sense that he was potentially part of a deal? thanks

I do not know of a specific deal that Alzner might have been a part of. What I do know is this: As I called sources from front offices around the league leading up to the deadline, a few times I was asked what I thought of Alzner off the ice. Sounded to me like people were doing some homework on him.

This is a silly question, but I'm curious: What happens when a player is traded? Where does he stay? How much time he does to pack a bag? Does his family go with him? Chimera has one year left, so I know his family has relocated. What about players like Belanger and Corvo and Walker?

The new guys are all living in a hotel down the street.

And no, traded players don't have time to pack much. Generally, their new team wants them ASAP. Belanger, who was on the road with the Wild when he was dealt, told me today that he's excited to have his wife flying in this afternoon because she's bringing him some clothes. He only had one suit and a pair of jeans.


One thing I have noticed during this GM Summit is the amount of exposure George McPhee has gotten. What is the league-wide perception of him?

It's always been my sense that he's well respected around the league. But like here in Washington, he's also somewhat of a mystery.

Can I trademark the nickname Belanger-ie Model?

That's a good one.

Folks, I could sit here and chat with you all day. Unfortunately, I need to get downtown. So I'll have to talk to later.

In This Chat
Tarik El-Bashir
Tarik El-Bashir covers the Washington Capitals ice hockey team and the NHL.
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