Buffalo Buries Caps
Hockey coaches often say “Never give up a goal in the first two minutes of a period or in the last two minutes of a period.” For Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau that didn’t turn out to be the case at all on Saturday night as the Washington Capitals gave up a goal to the Sabres just 72 seconds into the contest and also gave up tallies with 24 seconds left in the first period and then with just three seconds left in the second period en route to a 5-0 whipping in Buffalo. Tomas Vanek, the NHL’s leading goal scorer with 11, potted two for the Sabres who moved to 7-2-2 on the season while the Caps fell to 5-4-1.
This game was over pretty quickly in a town the Caps historically have struggled in. Mike Green, who is battling a foot problem according to Tarik El-Bashir of The Washington Post, had his worst game of the season and was directly involved in the first three even strength goals against. In addition, Jose Theodore struggled between the pipes giving up some questionable goals including another from a bad angle off of his back, although that was on a five on three power play. Theodore seemed to fight the puck and be out of position frequently on Saturday.
Defensemen Tom Poti, who missed five games with a groin injury, returned to the lineup tonight and played just under 25 minutes to lead all Caps in ice time. However, the Caps will likely not be at full strength on defense on Tuesday in Ottawa as Shaone Morrisonn only played just over six minutes in the first period and did not return. No word on the injury or his status yet.
On offense it was flat out ugly with the power play not generating much of anything, including a five on three in the second period that lasted over a minute. Ryan Miller stopped all 29 Washington shots and the couple that got by him hit the crossbar and the post.
For the Caps it is on to Ottawa on Tuesday and word is that Alexander Ovechkin will be back in town on Sunday and play against the Senators after spending time in Russia with his ailing grandfather this week.
One other Caps note, Alexander Semin, who is off to a torrid start with 16 points, made headlines across the NHL this week by making the following remarks about Penguins star Sydney Crosby:
“What’s so special about (Crosby)?” Semin told Yahoo! Sports through a translator. “I don’t see anything special there. Yes, he does skate well, has a good head, good pass. But there’s nothing else. Even if you compare him to Patrick Kane from Chicago. (Kane) is a much more interesting player. The way he moves, his deking abilities, his thinking on the ice and his anticipation of the play is so superb.”
Semin also criticized the way stars like Crosby are promoted, saying there’s too much focus on stats and not enough emphasis on skill.
“I think that if you take any player, even if he is “dead wood,” and start promoting him, you’ll get a star,” he told Yahoo! Sports. “Especially if he scores 100 points. No one is going to care about anyone else. No one is going to care whether he possesses great skill. Let’s say you put someone in front of the net and let him deflect pucks in, and he scored 50 goals; everyone will say “Wow!” and then hand him a $10 million per year contract. That’s what they like here.”
Semin’s remarks drew negative comments from around the league including Mike Milbury of Hockey Night in Canada radio on Friday and Don Cherry on Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada television. Boudreau was quick to point out to El-Bashir the following on the matter.
“I thought that was the biggest comment I’ve seen from him in three years,” Boudreau said of Semin. “I’m just glad to see he’s talking. Obviously, you don’t want top give anybody [bulletin board] stuff. But he said it. If it might mean he’s coming out of his shell a little bit, then good for him.”
“Not good for him that those comments were made,” he added. “I think Crosby is unbelievable. I think he is a great player and all of those things. But it was also through an interpreter, so it could have been taken out of context. Somehow. It could have had a different meaning. Obviously, I didn’t talk to him about it. But if it was what he said, then it’s interesting to finally see how he thinks. We would never had known that in former years.”
“But it’s not how all the Capitals think of Mr. Crosby.”
For the record, I personally don’t care what Milbury has to say and think that Hockey Night in Canada made a mistake in hiring the former Islanders GM because he does not do a good job of promoting the game as evidenced by the fact that he called Washington “The Craps” on NBC last season and then roundly criticized Ovechkin during the playoffs. He also was a lousy GM and, in my opinion, they ought to paint his face white, give him a red nose, and call his segment on Hockey Night in Canada “Clowns Corner.”
Hershey Bears News
Down on the farm things are going well for the Caps as their minor league team, the Hershey Bears, are off to an 8-3 start despite a 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phantoms at the Giant Center on Saturday night. Caps defensive prospect Karl Alzner leads the Bears in plus minus at plus eight. Daren Machesney has carried most of the load in goal playing 8 games (5-3) while Simeon Varlamov has only played two contests (2-0) and is currently recovering from a groin injury.
New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur, eight wins shy of tying Patrick Roy’s NHL record of 551 career victories, injured his elbow in a 6-1 Devils win over the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday night. Brodeur had played every minute of New Jersey’s 10 games this season before he was hurt 6:38 into the second period. He did a split to make a sprawling stop, got up slowly clutching his left arm, and skated off the ice with the Devils leading 3-0. No word on how long #30 will be out.
Last week the Anaheim Ducks were in Toronto to play the Maple Leafs and an NHL scout jokingly said to me, “I’m looking to see what team Brian Burke cheers for when a goal is scored!” Burke, who is the GM of the Ducks, is in the last year of his contract and is rumored to be going to Toronto to take over for interim GM Cliff Fletcher after this season. One of Burke’s favorite coaches, Ron Wilson, is already in place with the Leafs after being fired in San Jose following last season’s second round playoff defeat to the Dallas Stars.
Speaking of the Leafs, Wilson’s crew is one of the early season NHL surprises sitting at 5-3-3 overall. Toronto is rebuilding and was expected to be near the bottom of the NHL but Wilson is a very good defensive coach. The Leafs have a good group of defensemen with Tomas Kaberle, Pavel Kubina, Mike Van Ryn, and Jeff Finger plus rookie Luke Schenn who was drafted fifth overall in the 2008 NHL entry draft. Add in Vesa Toskala in goal and playing Toronto is not going to be as easy as most people believe this year.