Posts Tagged ‘Mike Green’

October 19th, 2010

Hockey Night in Washington: Caps vs. Bruins, October 19, 2010

Green Thomas
Tim Thomas with the save as Mike Green slides. File photo by Pete Silver

I’ll be at Verizon Center tonight tweeting live during tonight’s game between the Caps and Bruins.  Click here for a link to my Twitter feed.  I ought to be up and running between 6:45 and 7:00 p.m. U.S. EDT.  Hope you join me then.

POSTGAME THOUGHTS: Nobody like dropping a game at home (3-1), but there wasn’t a whole lot to complain about tonight when it came to effort.  The Caps got the lion’s share of the chances, outshooting Boston 36-21, and head coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game that the team played as hard in the first 10 minute as they had all season.  Unfortunately, the bounces weren’t going their way tonight—two great scoring chances melted away thanks to broken sticks—though you also need to tip your cap to Tim Thomas (18 saves in the 3rd period), who after all is a little more than a season removed from winning the Vezina Trophy.

I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Alexander Semin’s play.  He let loose with a team high 10 shots on goal, and seemed to create a scoring chance every time he touched the puck in the offensive zone.

A couple of weeks back, I wrote a post about why intimidation still has a place in hockey, and having defensemen who can engage in a physical battle in front of the net can be so incredibly important.  For an example of what I was writing about, be sure to watch the entire video of Milan Lucic’s goal.  I don’t mean to pick on Jeff Schultz, who is a solid all around defenseman.  He’s not a physical guy, and Lucic was able to take advantage in this instance.

Special teams continue to be a good news/bad news proposition.  The penalty kill continues to be perfect as Boston went scoreless on four chances with the extra man.  Without Mike Green in the lineup, Washington’s power play can’t help but be hobbled, and it went scoreless in four chances.

The big question tonight was about Michal Neuvirth, who was lifted just 12:42 into the game after giving up two goals.  It turns our Neuvirth has the flu, and Boudreau admitted after the game that he had no idea anything was wrong until Neuvirth complained of dizziness and a headache.  While Neuvirth didn’t say anything beforehand, it’s clear that Boudreau didn’t seem terribly upset, noting that he understood why a competitor like Neuvirth would prefer battling through an illness instead of sitting out.

Semyon Varlamov was more than adequate in relief, stopping 13 of 14 shots.  Only a Matt Hunwick shot from just inside the blue line eluded Varlamov, a shot that he simply couldn’t see through a Boston screen.  As for who will start Thursday in Boston, Boudreau wouldn’t say.

If there was one silver lining, it was seeing Marcus Johansson get his first NHL goal and first NHL point in the second period.  Matt Hendricks did a great job on the forecheck to keep the puck below the goal line. Jason Chimera picked up the loose puck and popped it onto Johansson’s stick as he the rookie cut to the net on the right wing side.  After the game, the kid said he didn’t know where the puck was, but that he’d be sure to keep it.

If you’re filling out a fight card, tonight’s game had what you were looking for with a pair of tilts: Matt Hendricks vs. Greg Campbell and John Erskine vs. Lucic.  With his fight, Lucic snagged a Gordie Howe hat trick.  We were almost treated to a heavyweight bout in the first period when it appeared that DJ King and Zdeno Chara might rumble, but it didn’t materialize.

April 12th, 2010

Washington Capitals Stanley Cup Playoff Notebook: Preface

Heading into yesterday’s regular season finale with the Boston Bruins, the Washington Capitals had little, if any, unfinished business.  For certain, the team was committed to helping Alex Ovechkin secure his 3rd straight Rocket Richard Trophy.  And there was little doubt in my mind that if the chance presented itself, the team would do everything it could to get Alex Semin his 40th goal and Mike Green his 20th.

Screen shot 2010 04 12 at 12 12 27 PM
Mike Green failed to get his 20th goal, but there are bigger fish to fry this Spring in D.C.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, at this point in the organization’s development, individual goals count for little with everyone focused on bringing Washington its first Stanley Cup.  So yes, there was exaltation when Semin tallied his 40th goal in the first period.  But while it might be possible for somebody to have mixed feelings after Ovechkin and Green were kept scoreless during the balance of a 4-3 shootout loss, the overriding buzz in the locker room after the game was one of anticipation.

The preliminaries were over, and now the real business was at hand.

Standing in the locker room after the game, it was hard not to remember just how different the end of the regular season could look here in Washington, and just how far the organization has come in such a short amount of time.

For me, my mind wandered back to the scene following the regular season finale in 2007, the last year that the team failed to make the playoffs.  On April 7, 2007, the Caps went away quietly at home at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres by a score of 2-0.  Though it was only three years ago, and it was already apparent that Ovechkin was the sort of transcendent talent that would eventually catapult Washington back into playoff contention, the fans hadn’t come back yet.  Instead, the stands that day were filled with noisy Sabres fans, either folks from Western New York who decided to spend a long weekend in the nation’s capital, or just some of the many local residents who were transplants from the economically depressed Buffalo region.

In the bowels of Verizon Center after that game, the press gaggle around Buffalo head coach Lindy Ruff was pretty deep — and why wouldn’t it be, with the team having just completed the regular season with the league’s best record.  That Sabres team was just one year removed from an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, and was one of the prohibitive favorites to win it all that Spring.

Unfortunately for those Sabres, the burden of increased expectations was too much for them to handle, and they went down meekly in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Ottawa Senators.

The postgame presser with then-Caps coach Glen Hanlon wasn’t as well attended.  Back then, Hanlon’s postgame comments were always delivered in a small room just off the entrance to the hallway that leads to the Caps locker room.  Even though there were few of us in attendance, I’ll never know how we all managed to fit into that room.  The mood there, like it had been in the Caps locker room, was actually pretty hopeful.  Talking to Hanlon, Olie Kolzig and Chris Clark that day, it was more than clear that the team had turned a corner, and that better days were just ahead.  And all of them were looking forward to being part of the fun.

Of course, none of them are around now that the party is really getting started. 

Today, Bruce Boudreau’s postage press conferences are now held in an interview off the main press lounge, a room big enough to handle rows of chairs and more camera crews than I ever remember seeing crowd into the broom closet where Hanlon used to take questions.  A locker room that used to be easy to navigate is always crowded, and its about to get even more crowded once Montreal comes to town for Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs on Thursday night.

Today, it’s the Capitals who posted the best record in the regular season, and now it’s this team that needs to work under the burden of increased expectations.

What will the result be?  We all know that the same kind of pressure that breaks most substances also turns coal into diamonds.  But we also need to know that not every ride to the Stanley Cup is an uninterrupted escalator ride to success.  Even the best team of the post-Original Six era, the Edmonton Oilers, experienced a dramatic setback before winning five Cups in a seven-year stretch.  In the Spring of 1983, Gretzky, Messier, Kurri and all the rest were the favorites heading into the finals against an aging and battered Islanders squad.  But only four games later, the same team that would write its name in history was left battered at the hands of the dynastic Islanders in a four-game sweep.

But if you talk to those players now, to a man, they’ll tell you how that loss made possible all of the victories that came later on.  Sometimes you need to take one step back to get that extra step up to be successful.

Over the past three years, the Caps have made multiple incremental improvements in all aspects of their on-ice performance, incremental improvements that have culminated in the best regular season performance in the team’s history.  They are the favorite to win it all, and anyone who tells you they aren’t is stone cold crazy.

I don’t have any doubt that we will see Alex Ovechkin lift the Cup above his head as a Stanley Cup champion here in Washington.  Will they do it this year?  My heart says yes, but my head, filled with decades of memories of other clubs with broken dreams, isn’t so certain.  I guess I’ll just have to stick around to find out.