Washington Capitals Game 1 postseason chat

Apr 13, 2011

Washington Post sports reporter Katie Carrera previewed Game 1 of the Capitals' playoff series against the New York Rangers

Hi everyone, 

Thanks for joining me on the first Capitals Insider live chat of the playoffs. If you have any questions about Game 1 between the Capitals and Rangers or about the series in general, fire away. 

Hi Katie, Is Tom Poti going to be available to play in the 1st Round? If yes, do you see him making an appearance soon?

The short answer is maybe. The Capitals haven't ruled Poti out for the first round but the defenseman continues to say that he doesn't feel quite ready for game action yet. Poti has gone through several consecutive days of hard skating at this point, though, so that's a positive sign. Unfortuantely things are very slow going and setbacks are unpredictable with groin problems like his. 

The second part is even once he's ready, will the Capitals throw Poti, who has played in only parts of 21 games and not since mid-January, into the playoffs immediately or wait until another injury occurs on the blueline? We'll have to wait and see.

Im still skeptical about our goalies but I have a feeling that Neuvirth is going to have a helluva game. How early do you think Bruce pulls him out if he's having a bad game? Do you think it can happen first game?

How long of a leash Bruce Boudreau gives Michal Neuvirth (or any other goaltender that might come in for that matter) may be one of the biggest questions of the postseason. Boudreau never hesitated to switch netminders in previous playoff series, but he does seem to have a considerable amount of confidence in both Neuvirth and Varlamov. 

I think it depends on the style of a game and how specific goals are allowed. The Capitals have lost games this season that you couldn't blame on the goaltender so it may truly be a case-by-case thing. 

As for Neuvirth, he appears ready to show what he can do in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He's handled the media crush the last few days extremely well and in the weeks leading up to the postseason has been proud to point out his unblemished record in playoff series since he came to North America.

How do you think the disappointment from last years playoffs will help the Caps in this year's run to the cup?

The Capitals learned several things about playoff success in that early exit, but I think some of the most important elements is the need for a killer instinct and attention to detail. The players and Boudreau have emphasized establishing good habits all season, especially since the switch to a more defense-first system. 

Last year, a few players have acknowledged, that they let up a little when they had the lead against the Canadiens. That isn't the kind of error you make after a year to stew about everything that went wrong last spring. I think we'll see a consistent level of intensity and, in theory, attention to details like work in the corners and crashing the net from the Caps.

Hello, fellow native Greensburger -- any chance (short of an injury to Varly or Neuvirth) that Holtby comes up to play goal for the Caps in the playoffs?

Unless Neuvirth or Varlamov suffers an injury I don't think we'll see Holtby in Washington this spring. Or at least it's highly unlikely. That said, if injuries occur to either netminder currently in Washington as they have all season the Capitals won't hesitate to bring Holtby up. 

Can we expect Wideman to be back with the team for the second round?

Right now it's too early to tell. Boudreau estimated today that Wideman could return in three weeks but it will all depend on how his rehabilitation goes and how quickly he can regain the strength in his leg.

If I might ask a non-playoff question. How did Matt Hendricks get nominated for the Masterton trophy which is above all a trophy for sportsmanship ? Generally, guys who lead the team in fighting majors are not considered true sportsmen, regardless of the role of the enforcer in hockey.

The Masterton Trophy mentions sportsmanship but the emphasis of the award has always seemed to focus on perserverance and the dedication to the sport of hockey. Past winners have included players that have overcome severe injuries or in the case of former Capitals' goaltender Jose Theodore, the loss of a young child. 

But the Masterton can also go to a player who stuck with the sport long enough to get a chance at this level. That's the way we -- the DC chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association -- saw Hendricks, who played more than 300 games in the minors before getting a crack in the NHL. For Hendricks to walk in with a professional try-out this fall and earn his first one-way deal in February on top of the rest of his career made the nomination an easy decision for us.

Physical presence becomes much more significant in the post season. I am not talking about fighting. I am talking about the willingness to pay the price physically, in front of the net on offense and defense, blocking shots, playing through injury, willing to stand up for one another, not backing down from opponent intimidation etc... Are the Caps willing to pay the price in that respect?

The Capitals have been saying all the right things when it comes to being prepared for the heightened intensity level in the playoffs and the physicality that comes with it. That said, we'll know pretty quickly how sincere they are. 

I don't think the Capitals will be intimdiated by the Rangers' physical play but they must dictate that part of the game themselves as much as possible, particularly where crashing Henrik Lundqvist's net is concerned. We know players like Mike Knuble, Brooks Laich and Matt Hendricks will all go to the net against the Rangers, but there needs to be a dilligent effort from everyone involved to create those second chances and score the gritty goals that are so necessary in the playoffs.

Agree or disagree -- anything less than making it to the Finals results in Boudreau's ouster?

I disagree. Do I think the Capitals are capable of making it that far? Yes, but there are so many uncontrollable circumstances that also line up to help a team reach the Stanley Cup final and I don't believe that reaching the Eastern Conference final alone and not advancing would be a complete failure.

That said, it's rather widely accepted -- and Ted Leonsis has said himself -- that the Capitals need to advance past the first round and do better than they did last year. 

He has shown to be streaky, I think getting him going early in the series is a key to success and potentially making it a short series. He had success against Lundquist last playoff series, but how important is it for him to get an early goal in this series?

Getting Alexander Semin involved in this series early and often is one of the biggest x-factors in the matchup. Where the Capitals (and Rangers) know what to expect from players like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom in the playoffs, if Semin can have a significant impact it could be a tipping point in their favor. 

How's he doing? I'm afraid of another concussion during the playoffs ...

Over the past few days, Green has gone through some rather intense full-contact practices and looked like his old self. He's been weaving through teammates on drills, absorbing hits on occasion and hasn't had to come off the ice early from a practice session in more than 10 days.

He's been itching to get back in the lineup for some time now and while there will always be a concern of what could happen should he be hit in the head again, it looks like Green will be back in the mix tonight. Returning after almost two months off to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, though, will definitely test Green and everyone will keep a close eye on his performance.

Katie - You've covered the Caps extremely well with very little, if any, credit from the blovinators on the blog. I wanted you to know that some of us out here really appreciate your efforts and look forward to your insights, which have been coming at a fever pitch as the Great Test approaches. The Caps haven't beaten the Rangers since November, and last year, the Habs-Caps games were nail-biters which were quite predictive of the playoffs. As a gloom-infested Caps fan who approaches this series with great fear and trembling, why shouldn't I expect the Rangers to advance in 5?

There is something to the message coming out of the Capitals' dressing room these days in that they're a different team now, particularly from the squad that lost 7-0 back in December given all of the system and personnel changes that have taken place since then.

While the 6-0 loss on Feb. 25 wasn't too long ago but the Capitals really have found a way to buckle down in their new system since then and that game did seem like an anomaly in what was a better second half of the season. The Capitals and Rangers are two extremely similar teams now and the playoffs are hardly the situation where one squad can catch another extremely off guard or on a so-called bad day at the office. 

Looks like Boudreau put Semin on the 2nd line with a lot of veteran experience. Will the lack of chemistry of playing together all year hurt, the last thing we need is Semin looking lost out there.

The second line of Marco Sturm, Jason Arnott and Semin hasn't played together too much this season but I think it can work. Since he arrived via trade, Arnott has shown an ability to bring out the best in Semin and that's a relationship that when it works Boudreau probably won't tinker with it much.

Both Arnott and Sturm are responsible in their own end as well, which may give Semin freedom to roam a little bit more. It may also be a move that takes into consideration the third line of Laich-Johansson-Chimera. There's plenty of speed and willingness to crash the net there but also if Johansson struggles in the faceoff circle, Laich can take the draws instead. 

Will Boudreau continue rotating the 12th winger? Will Eric Fehr be a healthy scratch for most of the Rangers series? Will Beagle see anytime, and who from tonight's lineup is most likely to sit, Chimera?

Boudreau has said before that if the Capitals lose he won't hesitate to switch things up. So I think who stays in the lineup depends on results not only of the team but the individual and their particular line as well.

It wouldn't be surprising to see Fehr get in the mix during this series if Boudreau does decide to shake things up. I'm not sure we'll see much of Jay Beagle unless injuries warrant it but depth is a good thing to have in the playoffs.  

That's all for today because it's time for me to finish preparing for Game 1 tonight at Verizon Center. Thanks to everyone who sent in questions and sorry I couldn't get to more of them.  Be sure to bring all your questions to our next chat on Friday afternoon before Game 2. 

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