Caps-Canadiens, Game 5 results

Apr 23, 2010

Post staff writer Gene Wang discusses the outcome of Game 4 of the Caps-Canadiens first-round playoff series.

Thanks for  joining me for the postgame chat following the Capitals' 2-1 loss to Montreal in Game 5 at Verizon Center. The series moves back to Montreal on Monday for Game 6, when the Capitals again will try to close it out. Let's get right to your questions.

Why is it the team with the best home record in the league can't play a full game at home, and take advantage of that...advantage?

Yeah, puzzling how home-ice advantage has meant virtually zero in this series. My guess is the Caps have fewer distractions on the road, ie less media following them everywhere. Coach Bruce Boudreau often has said the road team can have an advantage for that reason.

Capitals choked again! You have to hand it to the Canadiens. They just wanted this game more. Disgusted!

I'm not calling this a choke. They are still ahead in the series and are 2-0 at Bell Centre in this series.

Yeah, the Caps are still clearly favored to win the series, but in my opinion, game 6 becomes a MUST-WIN to me. Montreal is 2-1 in DC, and no reason to think they won't come out on top if it does come to down to a one game winner-take-all. We havent lost in Montreal yet, and we better finish them off Monday...

I agree completely, although I still like the Caps' chances if there is a Game 7. We all know how this team tends to play when the odds don't appear in its favor.

It seemed like the Canadiens were EVERYWHERE at pivotal times and the Caps couldn't find open passes. What do you think stifled the Caps offense?

That's easy: Jaroslav Halak. He made some fabulous saves. The Caps had plenty of chances, but Halak was just up to the task tonight.

Why is BB insisting on dressing Sloan and Fleischmann who have just been terrible in the past 2 games? Has anyone asked BB yet? It's so frustrating having so much depth to rely on 2 players who should be benched.

You are definitely right to be concerned about Fleischmann, who hasn't been good in more than a month. There wasn't necessarily a reason to change lineups after the Caps had won three in a row, but now, don't be suprised if Boudreau does just that.

THis team basically started off slow again and this time where punished and couldnt come back this time. Do this Cap team learn anything from regular season to now?

You would think so, but apparently this team prefers to do things the hard way. Hasn't that been the case so many times during the regular season?

Any news as to whether Canadiens D-man Spacek will return for Game 6?

I haven't seen anything on Spacek's status, but I'm sure we'll know more tomorrow morning.

So, what should the caps do or how should they prepare to win in Montreal on monday?

Just keep firing on Halak. Remember he began strong the last time he got to the start against the Caps, but Washington eventually broke through and was able to chase him from the game. Halak was just too good tonight, and that happens sometimes.

What do you feel was the Canadien's biggest strength in this game? Defense? Halak?

Halak for sure. As I mentioned earlier, when a goalie is on his game as Halak was tonight, you just have to tip your hat to him and move on to the next game.

Mike Green is not a top d-men.. Who cares about the regular season.. He stinks in this series

I can't agree with that completely. Entering tonight's game, he was second on the team with 11 blocks. Now there's definitely plenty of room for improvement, but you can't pin this loss on Green.

I feel like the Caps are happiest as the underdogs--this is their element and they perform much better when the expectations are against them. Would you agree?

As crazy as that sounds, I agree. They always seem to play better when circumstances surrounding them aren't necessarily comfortable.

One is the incredibly bad puck clearing by defensemen and, for God's sake SHOOT THE PUCK!!! SHOOT THE PUCK SHOOT THE PUCK!!!! Don't pass it, SHOOT!!!

I thought they did get plenty of quality chances on Halak. The Caps had 38 shots, 37 of which Halak stopped.

If the Caps don't make it to the finals let alone the next you get rid of Bruce?

That has not crossed my mind once during this series. The guy knows how to coach. It's amazing how hot and cold fans can be regarding a coach. First he should have been fired for losing Game 1, then he was a genius in Games 2-4 for putting Boyd Gordon in the lineup for David Steckel and starting Varly. You can't have it both ways.

I don't want to overreact, but I do worry about the Caps being able to complete for championships. They don't seem to have the urgency, discipline and concentration to play a full 60 minutes of hockey. They choke at home in the playoffs (1-2 this year and two Game 7 losses the last two years), they take dumb penalties and they make bad turnovers. In all honestly, is this a team that can win a Cup? And are the players able to acknowledge their lapses in judgment?

Do you think the reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins are chokers? They lost at home last night to Ottawa when they could have sealed the series. Right now the only team who is sitting pretty is the Flyers. Does anyone think they are going to win the Stanley Cup?

What is up with Alex Semin and disappearing in the playoffs - you would think a 40 goal scorer would be better than this in this series.

He had a great assist on Alex Ovechkin's goal the other night, and tonight he led the Capitals with nine shots. Again, it was a case of Halak looking more like Hasek.

If it's true the Caps are more comfortable playing as underdogs, when will they ever become a truly elite team?

If and when they win the Stanley Cup.

As you pointed out, Caps fans seem to run so hot and cold. Is this typical of hockey fans, or are we unique?

I think it's typical of fans everywhere. I was on the Mike Wise Show today, and we had this bit with an irate Canadiens fan calling into some sports radio talk show in Montreal yelling at the top of his lungs that Jacques Martin should be fired immediately. I wonder what that guy is saying now.

Do you think OV is just much too fast for his teammates? Every game this series, it looks like he flys into the offensive zone with no one to pass to. Do you think his poor teammates can't keep up with him?

I certainly don't think that's the case. Ovie has a 100-point linemate in Nicklas Backstrom, and the other guy on the first line, Mike Knuble, has been one of the best free agent additions in the entire league.

Were there any Caps lines that you felt underperformed tonight? Was this all really due to Halak?

With the Caps on the penalty kill more than usual, they didn't get their usual rotation for all their lines, which disrupts rhythm throughout. So I'd say Washington's propensity to take penalties was to blame more than any single line.

How long Boudreau will let Mike Green ruin the PP? Why doesn't he use Carlson on PP at all? He's the only d-man at the moment who has some confidence with the puck. And I repeat myself and say it again: bench Flash!

There are a lot of you out there who have seen enough of Green and Flash, but what happens if one of them scores or assists on a goal to win the series? Players go through slumps, even during the playoffs. Not many teams are deep enough to withstand that, but the Caps are.

I can't understand why the powerplay keeps coming up flat. The same passes, the same shots from the point from Ovi, isn't it time to try different line combinations? If the Caps had scored on the powerplays this would have been a different game result.

I agree, but on the flip side, you could say the Caps wouldn't have even been competitive in this game without their great play on the penalty kill.  They do need to get the power play going, but sometimes the more you force the issue, the worse the situation can become.

How would you rate Varly's performance tonight? Were the 2 he let in softies, or should he have stopped them?

Varly played fine. This loss wasn't on him either. He will be the starter in Game 6 on Monday, and trust me, his teammates wouldn't have it otherwise.

The Caps always seem to have a propensity for not showing up when they are on top. They do great when their backs are against the wall, but lack the effort or spark to put away people they should be beating. I'm not saying the Candiens are beneath them, but come on, you are up 3-1 games, and clearly the Caps effort wasn't up to the level of play of the Canadiens. They just have a mental breakdown, and don't hustle, knowing that there is another day. Great teams crush you when they have the chance. Don't think the Caps are there yet.

So by that reasoning, the Flyers must be a great team and the Penguins not so great after their home loss to Ottawa last night. I would beg to differ on both those accounts.

Would it be too much to ask that the Caps learn that Montreal is pressuring the point and half-board on Power Play? We should have 2 guys in front of the net and force the Habs to collapse down - steal a page from Penguins and run their power play...

Bruce Boudreau is one of the best at making adjustments between games. He's going to take a look at everything and perhaps make a change on his power play lineup and tactics.

Why can't the Caps close a series? A Stanley Cup team closes series. Had they won, I would have full confidence in them winning the Cup, but this smells like another seven gamer.

Again, I use the Penguins as Exhibit A. They are the reigning Stanley Cup champions and did not close out Ottawa. It's not like players on the other team aren't getting paid to win games.

Geno - I want to know why Boudreau waited until a minute left to put Carlson out in place of Green? THat move should be a permanent one on the #1 PP unit. Bottomline - the only goal tonight Ovie scores. Whose the D-man that got the puck there - CARLSON. Boudreau's in-game adjustments were pathetic but not blaming him. This team was skating in the fog that it ran into Wednesday night.

Green is one of BB's favorites from their days in Hershey together, and he's been loyal to him throughout, so he may have a longer leash than some other players. That said, Carlson has been playing lights out, and certainly you could argue he deserves more minutes on PP.

Was it just me, or did it seem like BB looked to be a little unraveled and maybe lost his composure tonight. He seemed to be more animated than usual, and a bit uptight.

BB just finished his news conference and ripped into everyone. His quote of the night: "We had Game 5 in our building, and we played like crap for the first 10 minutes, and the game was over." 

The Caps got under Price's skin (VERY effectively). Though they did manage to get Halak pulled once, he seems cooler. It also seemed that crashing the net is the best way to beat him. Would you agree?

Couldn't agree more. The Caps have had their best success in this series against both goalies by owning the painted area with guys like Knuble and Laich. They need to take that to heart for Game 6.

Gene, The Caps can relate to a desperate team down 3-1 in a series. After all, we were that team the last 2 playoffs. Do you attribute the loss to the Habs playing for their lives, or the Caps lacking focus? -cbs75

I'd say a combination of both. The Caps lacked focus over the first 10 minutes, and the Habs took full advantage because they were well aware how poorly they had played recently, especially at home.

If you were Coach Boudreau, whom would you promote, demote or replace in the Caps' line-up for Game 6?

I wouldn't be surprised if Flash were demoted, but I'm not saying that because BB said so, although he did say during his postgame news conference that he was going to think long and hard over the next two days about possible lineup changes.

If the Caps make it through, how worried are you about the fact that the Flyers have one possibly two more extra days to rest?

Not much for two reasons. First, the Caps are perhaps the deepest team in the league, and it's not like they have to travel far to get to Philly. Second, the Flyers are really beat up.

This team cannot play a full 60 minutes of intense hockey...why is that?

Rarely does any team play a full 60 minutes of hockey in the truest sense. Hockey is such a physically draining sport that you often have to pick and choose your spots. Tonight Halak was the better man when the Caps pick those spots.

For what it's worth, I don't think it's Bruce. I think it's the defensive players who are so lazy and sloppy in their own zone. That falls more on GMGM than anyone else, but it's easily remedied. They need guys who can perform in the playoffs and play tough.

While I agree with you in general, this series is far from over. The guys who have not played well, specifically Semin and Green, have time to get on track.

Good points to my first question...however this is a team that needs to win and win now! Boudreau didn't have this team close to being ready in game seven last year against the Pen's and got crushed at home. Who would even give the Caps a chance at beating the Pen's this season? The Caps PP is just a mess and from what I heard that's all they worked on between yesterday. It showed!

The Caps were 4-0 against the Pens during the regular season, and I know the playoffs are another story, but after Pittsburgh lost that last game, 6-3, there was some doubt in that locker room. Don't you think there's some concern even now in the Pens locker room with them having to go back to Ottawa?

Do you think Bruce will roll the Semin-Backstrom-Ovechkin line in Game 6? Will Scott Walker get a jersey instead of Flash?

Scott Walker seems the  most sensible player to activate. This is why the Caps acquired him, for these kind of chippy series that require grinders to win as much as superstars.

The Caps are under .500 at home since the '07-'08 series loss to Philly, they are by my calculation 7-8. That is very surprising to me. Perhaps they ought to look at rethinking their routine when at home. Maybe stay together in a hotel or something. But 7-8 that is very poor.

As I mentioned earlier in this chat, BB often has talked about the road team having an advantage becuase of fewer distractions. But for all you chatters out there, if BB changes his routine at home and limits media access, we won't be able to give you the quality information you seek on Capitals Insider! How's that for a shameless promotion?

You're Coach Boudreau. Your team has just lost a frustrating 2-1 home playoff tilt. What do you tell your team? How you shake things up for Sunday night?

I think BB said it all when he told us his team played like crap. You can't be more forthright than that. I don't think screaming and yelling will do much good. The players know this was a team loss to a goalie who wasn't going to let much of anything past him, and they know what's at stake on Monday. They'll be ready.

What's up with Flash? he hasn't shown a thing in the playoffs.........I'd consider sitting him for Game #6..............Also, despite Gordo coming up big already this series, I think it is time to sit him again in favor of Stecks...any thoughts?

Can't sit Gordon. The guy jumpstarted the team with a shortie and then assisted on Knuble's shortie. He's been playing too well to scratch.

Do you know why BB rarely puts OV down low on the PP? In few times I've seen this over the years, it frees up Green and other pt. men to tee off on much closer shots that either go in through OV's traffic or create juicy rebounds for OV, etc.

You do make a good point, but Ovie has one of the most wicked shots from distance in the world, and putting him high allows him room to survey and fire more effectively than if he were planted on the crease.

I think someone on the Caps needs to drop the gloves with a Hab and get the team fired up, ala Poti in game two. What do you think Mean Gene?

Fighting is obviously not what got the Caps this far, and Poti's brawling in Game 2 was a complete aberration. What the Caps need to do is continue firing on Halak and muck it up in front of him to get unsettled goals. That's how they'll win this series.

The Flyers played a great SERIES and did what they had to to knock off a team they knew they could beat. The Penguins have a track record, so losing a Game 5 at home isn't as big a deal. The Caps track record, on the other hand, has been to fall behing, storm back and then crumble at the finish in two of the last three series. This one is following a slightly different script but with potentially the same outcome. Just my observation.

They did come back in the face of the longest of odds last season against the NYR, who have a better goalie than Halak or Price, so I dont' think there's a great deal of worry in the Caps' locker room.

Gene, You keep using the Penguins as an example of not closing last night but they have a history of closing the last couple of years while the Capitals do not. The frustration from fans is not this one game its a pattern of failing to close teams out series after series. Who is the leader of this team?

Ovie obviously is the captain and a leader on the ice, but in the locker room, it's guys like Brooks Laich and Mike Knuble. It's certainly understandable to be frustrated, but there just wasn't much more they could do tonight against a hot goalie. The guy stopped 37 shots, many from close range. I know it may sound oversimplified, but really it came down to that.

What kept the Caps from being as effective down low tonight? They knew they were playing against smaller Halak. They knew they would have to crash the net to score against him (tonight). What derailed their efforts besides their numerous penalties?

Halak himself, as I've mentioned throughout the chat.

Twice tonight Varly should have gotten called for a penalty (once for playing the puck outside of the trapezoid, he got lucky, and again when Varly stayed on the ice and the Caps got called for too many men). Any word on if these problems stemmed from language issues, general communication issues, or just inexperience?

Because of how he played during last season's playoffs, sometimes we forget how young Varly is. I'd write it off to inexperience.

I think Gabby needs to sit Sloan and Flash and dress some muscle for Game 6...time to pound the smaller Habs into submission. Agree?

I do agree with that, and Scott Walker would be the most logical guy to fill that role.

If the Caps lose game 6, it would seem that there would be a huge momentum shift, and all the pressure of game 7 would be on the Caps, especially, here at home. Will they be able to handle it, or crack under the pressure like last year's game 7 against the Penguins?

I'll answer that following Game 6, if necessary. How's that for being evasive?

If they had won tonight everyone would have been proclaiming a steamroll to the Cup. In game 6 the Habs are going right back into the pressure cooker of the Bell Centre. My prediction is that Washington will come out really hard for the first 5-10 minutes in Game 6, and if they score, the wind will come right out of Montreal's sails and the Capitals will cruise. (If you want an experience, go see a game in Montreal, where the atmosphere can't be beat. They'll be cheering the Habs one minute and booing them the next.)

I like your headline. Hopefully your fellow Caps fans will join you in inhaling and exhaling deeply, then getting ready for Game 6.

Gene, you keep saying Green has time to get "back on track." But he was absolutely atrocious tonight and has been all season. It seems he's totally lost all confidence and is playing scared, and he's killing us. Luckily, Semin played with a bit more heart tonight (that is to say he actually decided to try). But the puck is going right under Green's stick, he can't cover anyone, he got run over by Gomez in the crease and Varly had to bail him out, and he's not even moving his feet and skating out there. What is up? He was just as bad last year? Is it just nerves? I know we forget he's still young, but come on!

He did start the series perhaps a bit tight, worrying too much about making mistakes. He said earlier this week he was going to play more freely, and that did help him get two assists in two games at Bell Centre. He's the first guy to tell you he needs to play better, and really, what's the alternative. No way BB sits Green.

Not talking just this series, but more so their overall attitude and attention to giving maximum effort. Other posters have commented on the Caps lack of perceived effort vs. the Canadiens output and effort. For some reason, the Caps haven't yet learned to play as the favorites, they still need to cling to the underdog mentality before they come out with some fire. The Caps can be dominating when they want to be, but it's their ability to go on cruise-control when they need to be on maximum overdrive that is infuriating. You can't keep coming out flat, and expect to win. You have to play the full 60 minutes. Thought their effort was fantastic in the games in Montreal, but sorely lacking here on home ice.

The Caps do play better when they are backed in a corner, as evidenced by that win in Chicago when Ovie missed essentially the entire game and they were dowm by three goals. But you are right in that the team has to develop a better killer instinct, which will come with more playoff experience. I know that's not what you might want to hear, but often players in any sport have to go through this kind of adversity to learn how to deal with it down the road.

What is up with the Caps echoing the Pens' game results??!?! Has anyone else noticed this?

Yes, it is a coincidence of note and has caught the attention of more than a few Caps fans.

I always felt that the Flyers were a good (but not great) team that simply had the Devils' number. How do you feel about them as a match-up for the Caps?

Again, I will answer that question if/when the Caps close out this series.

Thanks for the postgame chat, Geno. I find it cathartic, in some odd way, to get my frustration out. I have legitimate concerns about this team, but I'm hoping they can grab another Bell Centre victory Monday.

Happy to chat with everyone. I'm glad I can be the guy to bear the weight of all the frustration from Caps fans. It's in my nature to be patient, so I think I'm the ideal person to listen to Caps Fan on a Ledge.


And on that note, that's a wrap for me tonight. Join me after Game 6 for another postgame chat, where everyone either will be hailing BB as the greatest coach in the game or ready to present him his walking papers yet again.

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

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