Washington Capitals - New York Rangers Game 4 chat

Apr 20, 2011

Washington Post sports reporter Katie Carrera previewed Game 4 of the Capitals' playoff series against the New York Rangers

Hi everyone, my apologies for the late start to this live chat but breaking news waits for nothing. Fire away with those questions. 

How does Chimera change the dynamic and approach of the top line? Is crashing the net still their priority or do you see them trying to outskate the Rangers?

From talking to Chimera, I don't think the game plan will change much. The Capitals know they need to match (or exceed) the Rangers' physical play and dominate that aspect of the game again. Chimera knows he will be needed to crash the net and fill some of the void with Mike Knuble presumably out for Game 4 but he may also be able to stretch out the Rangers' defense with his speed. 

Does Mike Knuble's absence mean that Eric Fehr gets a jersey tonight? He would seem like the most logical player given that he's got a good shot and has some size.

When I asked Coach Bruce Boudreau if Knuble made the trip, he said: "I'm not going to talk about any players today...you’ll see tonight whether he’s here or whether he’s not." But when considering the veteran right wing hasn't skated for three days and several Capitals players talked about stepping up in his absence, everything points to Knuble at least missing Game 4.

The ripple effect is interesting. Jason Chimera will likely be on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and it looks like we will see Eric Fehr make his series debut. Fehr has skated on the third line the past two days with Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson, so that's probably where he'll be tonight. Fehr has made an impact a few times this season after returning to the lineup from injury or serving as a healthy scratch. And we know he's been itching to see playoff action so look for him to try to make an impact tonight.

Is there any update on why Knuble will not be playing tonight?

The Capitals haven't offered an update on Knuble's status beyond Coach Bruce Boudreau telling reporters that we would "see tonight whether he’s here or whether he’s not". That said there was no sign of Knuble at Madison Square Garden (or at KCI the past two days) and he hasn't missed three days of practice this year with the exception of when his jaw was broken back in November. 

As for what might be ailing the right wing, based on replay footage from Game 3 it appears as though Knuble took a Mike Green shot off his right hand on the same shift that he scored a goal. After the puck went in the net, Knuble removed his glove and examined his right hand. That shot off his hand may be why he will miss time.

Do you think that it was ill advised for coach Boudreau to make the comments he did yesterday morning about MSG on 105.9? Sports is full of stories about comments like that ending up on locker room walls and motivating teams much more than any "win one for the Gipper" speech from their own coach.

I'm not sure the comments matter that much to anyone outside of the New York fanbase, but Boudreau said them so it became a topic. That said, there might be a few creative signs in the stands tonight at the Garden and I'd expect this crowd to be a little chippier than usual (which is saying something for a crowd that called the injured referee "weak" for struggling to get off the ice in Game 3). 

The Garden is old, it's under construction. We just had a false fire alarm going off while working in the media area (no one flinched) but those are the type of comments I think fans can get fired up about more than players.

Is it set in stone that Chimera will be on the 1st line? Brooks Laich is more of a net crasher and fills that role better if you ask me, as well as on the power play. Any other info out there about what the lines will be in general tonight?

The only one who knows for certain what the lineup will be is Boudreau, but we've also seen line combinations in practice and again today for the morning skate -- although some players elected to take their option and not hit the ice this morning. 

Part of the reason you might see Chimera up top rather than someone like Laich, is Boudreau often stresses the importance of having balance among his forward lines. Shifting Chimera up and putting Fehr in on the third unit minimizes the overall change in the lineup, not to mention Laich can take important faceoffs where Johansson may not be the ideal choice. 

We'll post the lineup the Capitals skate during warm-ups later today, but based on practices it could look like: Ovechkin-Backstrom-Chimera, Sturm-Arnott-Semin, Laich-Johansson-Fehr, Hendricks-Gordon-Bradley.

During the press conference today, it was hard to hear the questions. What question did BB refuse to answer as a non-hockey question?

It was whether Boudreau expected any crowd reaction to the comments he made about the Garden tonight.

You mentioned that they seemed loose. How does the team feel from a confidence perspective relative to other "must win" games you covered through the season such as contests with the Flyers or Lightning towards the end of the season?

They were joking around with each other on the bench and everyone seemed in pretty good spirits ahead of Game 4. I'm not sure this is a 'must-win' game but it's a 'win-would make-life -easier' game for the Capitals. If they can come back into the Garden and win the physical battle the way they did early on in the series, stay patient, stick to the system and not take an abundance of stupid penalties then they'll be in good shape to make this a shorter series. 

If the Rangers tie things up the Capitals know they're looking at another long haul in the first round, and an opponent that is gaining in confidence every day. As for how this compares to regular season games, there's a different vibe but I think that's because the playoffs are an entirely different animal in terms of intensity level. Everything is mangified in the playoffs, the Capitals know that and momentum in a series is a funny thing. One game might mean a lot to one series, but not another between different teams. 

The Caps pp looked to be back on track after a rough regular season, but with Knuble out, will there be changes in the system, or will someone else take his spot in front of the net?

This may be the biggest place where the Capitals miss Mike Knuble. They needed to make getting to the net and making life difficult for Henrik Lundqvist a priority before it was known that Knuble would likely be out and that won't change now -- it only shifts the pressure on to other players to make sure they get to the crease for those garbage goals.

As for who will take his spot in front of the net, we'll have to wait and see when the Capitals get a power play tonight but it wouldn't surprise me to see Eric Fehr or Brooks Laich there. 

What do you expect from Hendricks this game? Big brawls last time and I am just waiting for a fight to break. Especially at MSG, it could send a big message and give the guys some confidence after that win.

Fighting is very abnormal in the playoffs. No one wants to put their team at a disadvantage with an unnecessary penalty and I don't think you'll see Hendricks start a scrap unless something specific happens in this game. 

Granted, the Capitals definitely discussed trying to protect Michal Neuvirth better while not allowing the Rangers to get under their skin. Finding that balance, with emotions running high in the middle of the game is the tough part. Washington can't allow the Rangers' agitators to get to them and that includes skating away from players like Avery, Prust and Boyle after the whistles.

Lots of Caps fans are freaking out over the Game 3 loss, probably due to history. But wouldn't you agree, if it wasn't for some penalties, particularly Carlson being goaded into taking a couple, and straying a bit from the system, that the Caps may have won? It took a lucky bounce on a 4 on 4 for the Rangers to win. If the Caps of Game 1 and 2 show up no reason the Caps lose tonight. Go Caps!

I agree that Game 3 was extremely close as it was a tie game before a puck that bounced off Alzner and Ovechkin provided the game-winner for the Rangers. The important part of that loss, which you mention, is how they strayed from the system a bit. 

The surplus of penalties prevented the Capitals from establishing their forecheck and took a big bite out of their physical play. The Rangers dictated the physicality of Game 3 and Washington cannot allow them to do it again, just as the team didn't allow it in the first two installments of the series. In essence, if the Capitals can maintain a consistent physical presence and adhere to the details of their game (dump the puck in, don't send three players to the corner during a 4-on-4 etc) they should be in better position to carry a victory out of New York. 

Is there a sense from the coaches and players as to where they want to draw the line between hard, physical play and turning the tables on the agitator mentality the Rangers use against the Caps? Say for instance, Matt Hendricks being told to do some of the things that Sean Avery does before and after whistles, or maybe even to fight Avery in order to get the energy level going or neutralize the Rangers'.

The Capitals say they don't want to be involved in instigator antics and the various extracurricular activities that go on after whistles, but I think today will be where we see if they take a page out of the Rangers' book for a little more snarl. While the Capitals have scored goals out in front of New York's net they've never put Lundqvist under the kind of constant pressure and contact that the Rangers have to Michal Neuvirth. 

As I mentioned in response to an earlier question, though, unless something happens that say requires Hendricks (or another player) to stand up for a teammate I don't envision a fight happening. They just don't in the playoffs, for the most part.

Hi Katie, Any word on how close Dennis Wideman is to making it back on the ice? P.S. Nice to see a fellow Bobcat hockey fan.

The short answer is we don't know for sure. While Wideman has been skating on his own at Kettler since being released from the hospital after the leg hematoma, we should have a better idea of when he could return to the lineup once he is cleared to practice with the team. 

And I always enjoy hearing from other Bobcats. 

What did BB say about MSG that got the fans riled up?

Here are BB's comments, via the Sports Bog.

How do the Caps plan to respond to the actions of Avery, Dubi and company while trying to stay out of the penalty box? It just seems the Caps let those guys have their way and cause a mess around the crease and we still ended up with more penalties without responding.

That balance is key. The Capitals don't want to back down, but the obviously can't take retaliatory penatlies. So the easiest way to respond to the Rangers as a whole will be to come out with a physical game, the more opportunities they get to finish a punishing check the better. It can't just be a few players, either, it needs to be the entire roster so that there are shifts like the one in Game 1 where Ovechkin, Arnott and Erskine all rattled the boards with the crunch of a Rangers' shoulders.

Even though Neuvirth appeared to have an adequate game on Sunday afternoon, do you feel that he was at his best? He didn't look confident and seemed a bit shaky.

Of all the games this postseason, Game 3 was arguably the toughest going for Neuvirth and part of that may definitely have to do with how relentless the Rangers were at running into him and slashing him, etc. 

The Capitals want to minimize penalties so while they will do what they can to protect Neuvirth, he may need to stand up for himself or just ignore the extracurricular stuff. It's tough for anyone to do but I expect him to respond with a strong game and perhaps make it a little tougher on the Rangers to invade his crease.

That's all for today's chat, everyone. Thanks again for all the great questions. 

In This Chat
Katie Carrera
Katie Carrera covers the Capitals for The Washington Post.
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