Backstrom back vs. Habs in DC

The Canadiens are down in Washington, DC tonight to face the Capitals and the home team will get their top centre, Nicklas Backstrom, back in the lineup tonight. After missing 40 games due to a concussion caused by Rene Bourque’s elbow in January while Bourque was a member of the Flames, Backstrom will line up with Alex Ovechkin on his left and Marcus Johansson.

Bourque was suspended five games by the NHL and was acquired by former GM Pierre Gauthier while he was suspended on Jan. 12, for Mike Cammalleri in a deal that also involved prospects and draft choices.

Katie Carrera blogging for the Washington Post writes that Caps coach Dale Hunter has coached just one game this year with Backstrom, Ovechkin and Mike Green all in the lineup. That contest was a 3-1 win over Calgary on Jan. 3, the game in which Bourque elbowed Backstrom.

Asked after the morning skate whether he was concerned that he’d be playing against Bourque in his first game back, Backstrom replied, “I don’t really care about that. It happened. I’m not going to waste any energy on that.”

When the Habs and Caps met on Jan. 18 at the Bell Centre, Washington’s Matt Hendricks fought Bourque and that probably settled things for now. With a playoff spot on the line for the Caps, it’s doubtful there will be any vendettas to settle tonight.

Just how much ice time Backstrom gets tonight is an open question and his condition on the bench will be monitored by the training and coaching staff. But if he’s able to contribute significant minutes, it will likely energize Ovechkin and add depth to their forward lines. Brooks Laich has been Ovie’s centre most recently, can move down to the third line and check the Habs’ top unit of Cole, Desharnais and Pacioretty. And that all means a great deal to Washington’s chances to holding on to eighth place.

The Caps are, of course, fighting for the final playoff spot in the East and with the Sabres loss to the Penguins on Friday night, Washington can break the tie in points they have with Buffalo (both have 86) if they beat Montreal tonight. They are ahead of Buffalo now in eighth by virtue of the first tie-breaker, most wins minus shootout wins (and they have a big edge in that tie breaker, 36 to 31).

As the Sabres showed in when beating the Caps 5-1 on Tuesday, Washington’s problems this season really begin in their own end. They’ve been outshot by opponents 46 times this season, compared to outshooting their foes on 31 occasions — this from what was once the most dynamic offensive team in the NHL. When the opposition gets right on top of the Caps’ defenders, they lack the ability to easily escape and move the puck to their forwards. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff got his forwards to attack the puckcarrier and it worked often, disrupting Washington’s attack before it started.

While the Caps have good news on Backstrom, however, the news is not so good on their starting goalie Tomas Vokoun. A former Hab draftee (he played one period for the club back in 1996-97 before the Predators picked him in the expansion draft of ’97), Vokoun could be gone for the rest of the regular season with a groin strain. He had missed six games with the injury but came back against the Bruins on Thursday. In that game he re-injured himself making a save late in the first period.

Michal Neuvirth came in and went the rest of the way in a 3-2 shootout win and he’ll most likely face the Habs tonight. He’s been the less consistent of the Caps goalies this season and, over his last five appearances, has a 3.54 average and .881 save percentage.

Based on their lines at the morning skate, here’s how the Caps might look tonight

Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson
Jason Chimera, Mathieu Perreault, Alex Semin
Keith Aucoin, Brooks Laich, Troy Brouwer
Matt Hendricks, Jay Beagle, Mike Knuble

Karl Alzner, Dennis Wideman
Roman Hamrlik, Mike Green
John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov

Michal Neuvirth
Braden Holtby


  1. alwayssunny says:

    Now that the shock of the Gauthier firing has worn off I have been doing a lot of thinking. Pat Hickey and I agree that Jacques Martin would be the best choice for coach next season. But he has made it clear he wants the GM position. So assuming he gets that.. this might sound crazy but I think it is time to welcome home “Le bleuet bionique”. He has learned a lot from Lemaire the last few years, he’s out of an NHL job, he speaks pretty good French. Martin as GM will be a no-brainer, I’d like to see him give Mario a call.

    • LA Loyalist says:

      Martin as Coach? Were you in a coma the past two years?

      If Martin were named coach or GM of Habs for 12/13… I think I would have a stroke
      online……………………………………………………. and more importantly the Forum Ghosts would take the last train for the coast and abandon us for lobsters and beer and fishing.

      God. I have to stop reading stuff on here.

      • HabFab says:

        You are not grasping the full horror of his post. He is suggesting Martin for GM and Tremblay for Coach.

        • HardHabits says:

          Pfffft. He’s an amateur Stephen King wannabe. I’ve already suggested Roy as GM and Tremblay as coach.

          Mine’s a slasher thriller and his is a psychological drama. Although I have to admit whereas mine is all blood and guts his is a much more disturbing idea.

          • HabFab says:

            Yes, but you are a maestro and we accept you walk a fine line with that sanity thing 🙂

          • ZepFan2 says:

            If your scenario transpired, Tremblay would be fired after 9 games.

            “You cannot petition the lord with prayer!” – James Douglas Morrison

            The Soft Parade

          • alwayssunny says:

            And if he were fired, plan B. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Peanut.

      • alwayssunny says:

        It has been argued by none less than Pat Hickey that he did the best that could be done given his position.

      • Nina76 says:

        LA Loyalist……….I agree 100% we have had enough of silence we need someone that will inform the fans & the Media what is going on .I think the fans deserve it

  2. joeybarrie says:

    @ Habsolutely.
    I was comparing Gomez contract with Richards. I was implying about the contracts of Redden and Drury.
    When the owner of a team is willing to spend $150 million in one year on player salaries alone. Then coaches like Torts get a lot to work with.
    They are paying Richards 22 million for his 64 points. Now while his season has picked up. 22 million for Maxpac would be insane no?
    They are spending 14 million this season alone on players who are not even on their NHL roster. And it certainly isn’t due to injury like our issues.
    In 2 years they are spending 90 million on 6 players. So unless Molson is willing to give out insane contracts left and right, then dump em in the AHL and move on to another 60 million contract going into a players 40’s. Then we cannot compete. Its astonishing to me the NHL somehow allows this. Then lets them off scott free by retiring the player or dumping them in the AHL.

    • LA Loyalist says:

      Good post Joey. God knows I’ve ripped you elsewhere, but your analysis is quite interesting.

      May I add that a further distortion is that the young stars on entry level contracts are extra valuable because of their low cost. You not only have to manage timing the costs of your core stars but their ages, too.

      Perhaps the real key to success is strong and lucky low picks, I just read that Henrik Lundqvist was #205 (!) I remember Halak was probably lower than that, Markov wasn’t high, we got Mark Streit out of nowhere, Emelin from Russia.

      As important as nailing a high draft pick is right now – the right one – our future will hang on scouting and drafting such under the radar or late bloomer guys who turn into total studs and whose cost is manageable until later in their careers.

      • joeybarrie says:

        Halak was 9th round if I remember correctly. So despite his solid ability, getting Eller for a 9th round is a good return.
        By the way, a lot of the points I make is simply based on my desire to show a different side. If we all agreed this place would be boring.
        The Canadiens have been a few pieces short as a contender the last few seasons, plus injuries. Its true that if we had the luxury of letting our young talent grow here we might have been able to hold on to those pieces. However, there are only so many top 2 line players you can have.
        Gainey gambled on Gomez. He came up pretty short. We lost McDonagh and are stuck with 7.3 million. We could have over paid Richards last season. How great would our team look with Richards and Cole. But Cole has been the better value. But we can’t look in retrospect, cause different things happened. Including the injuries to Lang and Tanguay.
        I like where our can go, but we gotta get there and hopefully not continue to keep losing our best players to injury.
        There is NO team in the NHL that has had our luck with injuries. Markov, Gionta, Cammalleri, AK, Gomez, Gorges, Lang, Tanguay, Pacioretty, Spacek, even Koivu missed 25 games his last season.
        11 top players missing 25-50 or more games for 4 years.

  3. H.Upmann says:

    Do we have a game against the Leafs left? That’s one game we have no right losing

    • D Mex says:

      I believe Habs last game of the season is vs TO at the ACC.
      In a perfect world, Habs will go into the game 3 points back and kick butt, resulting in Burke being removed (finally) from his throne of arrogance.

      ALWAYS Habs –
      D Mex

  4. Soolz says:

    Bring back Guy Carbonneau! He shouldn’t have been let go to begin with – Stupid move Gainey!
    Season: G W L T Pts Win %
    2006-07 NHL MTL 82 42 34 6 90 .549
    2007-08 NHL MTL 82 47 25 10 104 .634
    2008-09 NHL MTL 66 35 24 7 77 .583
    Career NHL 124 83 23 271 .589

    And that was with some serious issues, Prima Donna’s and a reported dressing room that was at odds (so people say).

    • Stev.R says:

      I liked Carbo and he was a scape goat for the terrible nose dive we suffered in 08/09.

      Who is still around from those years? Pac, Markov, Price, Pleks…

  5. matt jordan says:

    Anyone noticed what’s happened to Nino Neiderreiter this year. One goal and one point…in fifty games…

    As if the Islanders don’t have the sense to send the guy to the minors for at least a conditioning stint, or back to JUnior which i believe is where Neiderreiter would have to go.

  6. novahab says:

    Who are people kidding, the Caps can do what ever they like to the Habs and get away with it. Wake up people this is the NHL, where our team gets no respect from the crooks in strips. I say we’ll get at least 8 penalties and they will put Bourque out of the game one way or another. Time to bring on Roy and expose these crooks once and for all.

    • joeybarrie says:

      How will Roy do anything but get kicked out of the game????
      What kind of magic does he have where yelling and throwing sticks will change the penalties the ref gives? How will that do anything but make it worse on us, if the Refs are being badgered?

      • HardHabits says:

        Because bending over has worked so well in the past.

        • LA Loyalist says:

          Ben Dover for coach!!

        • joeybarrie says:

          Never seen a ref take back a penalty from Torts yelling at him. Never seen a ref change their game cause Torts was screaming like an idiot. Only seen Torts getting in trouble cause of it.
          Just cause you don’t scream like a maniac or jump and down like a 10 year old. Doesn’t mean you do nothing. Honestly, do you really believe that the coach yelling at you is going to change the way a ref is handling the game?
          Does anyone think that if JM yelled we would have beaten the Flyers? All torts did was benefit from his team having a bunch of money and getting rid of the last 5 stupid contracts they handed out. He got a bunch of talent given to him with more insane contracts like paying Brad Richards 42 million in 2 years for his current incredible season. Upset at Gomez? At least he isn’t getting 22 million this season.
          The rangers are paying their top 4 players 89 MILLION this season and next….. Good luck fitting Del Zotto in.
          They also haven’t had more than 10 games missed total this season from their top 6 players. And if Henrik goes down they won’t be able to do anything.

  7. Mattyleg says:

    Did I…

    Did I just read on the other thread that the Canadiens’ scout in Europe is called…

    ‘Christer Rockstrom’


    I’m sorry, but there is no more awesome name than that.
    Conjures up all kinds of incredible images.

    …and I’m glad he’s on OUR team.

    —Hope Springs Eternal—

  8. jedimyrmidon says:

    As much as this season just plain sucks, it’s kind of “funny” how things work out (not in a good way) for the Habs this season. Bourque as a Flame elbows Backstrom, giving him a concussion for, what, 40 games? He then gets traded to the Habs just in time to face the Caps again. And now, the Habs are again in Washington and Backstrom returns. Oh man.

    So I see Bourque also scored a meaningless goal in a 4-1 loss to the Rangers. Hey, wasn’t his last goal during a 4-1 loss against the Caps – exactly the same circumstances? Pretty useless… I anticipate another loss for the Habs tonight… probably going to be worse than the 3-0 shutouts and 4-1 loss against the Caps this year.

    Also, it seems that suspended/injured players have returned just in time to face the Habs this year: Ovechkin right after the All-Star break, Tyler Myers after concussing Gomez, and now Backstrom.

  9. LA Loyalist says:

    Well, if anyone doubts the need for the “night of the long knives” (that resulted in Molson’s dumping Coach Martin and Co-GMs Bob Gainey and Pierre Gauthier) just read this quote from The Star, (notwithstanding that the article is about Dion and The Belmonts Phaneuf).

    Now of course The Star is to journalism what Fish Wrap is to Cod or the bottom of a birdcage, but that said, I am mortified to read the following:

    “But not long after Sundin’s No. 13 was raised to the Air Canada Centre’s rafters, the members of the current roster plumbed the depths of athletic disinterest in a 5-0 loss to the woeful Montreal Canadiens. The lackadaisical Leafs, dominated on that night by the last-place team in the Eastern Conference, haven’t won a home game since. ”

    “the woeful Montreal Canadiens”

    Rhetorical excesses aside, did you EVER think you would live long enough for that phrase to have any ring of truth?

    What a sad time we are living through.

    • joeybarrie says:

      You talk as if this team has always been above .600 in win percentage, and this is the worst times we have seen. You talk like the current management has made this team the worst its ever been.
      We missed the playoffs 3 years straight in the 40’s and had winning percentages in the 200s and 300s.
      We missed the playoffs twice between 94 and 97 and were in the 400s each time. 96-97 we had 31 wins.
      We were .427 with 28 wins in 00-01 and had not made the playoffs in 3 years.
      02-03 we had 30 wins.
      We have been worse and for longer, AND RECENTLY. With Savard. With Andre, With houle…. (But never with Gainey at the Helm…..)

      • Stev.R says:

        Yea ;people keep talking about how Gainey sunk the ship. People don’t remember the years before Gainey when that ship was scraping the bottom of the ocean. At least Gainey got it back above water. So we got hit by a giant wave this year, but we haven’t capsized. We’re just a little wet.

      • LA Loyalist says:

        I would a thousand times rather have this saison d’enfer and take the draft pick and try and rebuild an exciting competitive team than wallow in mediocrity for years and be all proud of it like you.

        We have NOTHING to be proud of. Maybe you are too young to know that. That’s not a criticism, we are each a product of our times, but if you grew up in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s it’s pretty hard to live with “Hey we made the playoffs! Let’s have a parade somewhere!

        It’s like your kid coming home with straight Cs and a big smile on his face.

        That’s all.

        • Stev.R says:

          Living in the past is a little sad isn’t it? There are 30 teams in the NHL and only so many players. I know you feel like we are entitled to having the best team, but every team is equal. We have played decently well over the last 6 year, and there are signs that we could be better in the future. The goal will always be to win the Stanley Cup, but you have to be realistic. In relative terms, it has been a long time since Montreal has won a Stanley Cup, but there are many teams who have been waiting longer. It’s not about accepting mediocraty, but it’s understanding that there are ups and downs, and you can’t just snap your fingers and be up. It’s a game of chance, and we haven’t had it go our way for 19 years.

        • joeybarrie says:

          StevR is right. Its not the 60’s, its been over 40 years. The times have changed. Players come from all over the world, and their are 30 teams.
          its 2012.

      • HardHabits says:

        The Habs average since 1994 is 16th over-all.

        The Habs average over the past 10 years is also 16th over-all and that includes the top 3 over-all finish. Guess what. After this season’s 27th place finish the average will be worse.

        The Habs have had one top 10 finish since 1994.

        Since 1994 (when the Conference format was introduced) every team that won the Cup was top 5 except three that were top 10.

  10. LA Loyalist says:

    The Irony just drips, given that Bourque has been softer than Mr. Stay-Puff Marshmallow as a Hab.

    I promised my Caps fan buddy that Habs would Tanque ™ tonight, in consideration of which he’s going to return Rod Langway (as a 20 year old). Isn’t my friend nice?


  11. Habshire says:

    The first tie-breaker is fewer games played or points percentage.
    The second tie-breaker is most regulation/overtime wins not counting shootouts.

    The tie-breaker of most wins no longer exists.

    • joeybarrie says:

      The first tie breaker of fewest games played is useless anyway. Only used for standing during the season. In the end they will all play 82.

    • Stu Hackel says:

      Habshire – You’re right about the second tiebreaker, and I’ve fixed the post. The first tiebreaker is irrelevant at the end of the season. Thanks

  12. Kimberly2u says:


  13. otter649 says:

    Will there be more payback for Bork……

    • joeybarrie says:

      There will be no payback for Bourque. He isn’t doing well, and the Caps will focus on winning. If they lose they could be out of the playoffs. In fact if they lose tonight, its likely.
      If they try to stupidly avenge Backstrom and end up playing short handed a bunch of the game or risk losing a player or two, they have less chance of winning. Habs can play hot and cold. And they were cold last night.
      Habs want a draft pick, Caps want to win. Only way the Backstrom hit will even be thought about during the game, is if Bourque hits him again. Which I truly hope he does. Nothing bad or dirty. Just a clean big hit to throw some real drama to the game.
      I want the Caps to lose more than anything tonight. And not in overtime. 5-1 would be a dream come true for me tonight only. Lose the next 3 and win in Toronto cause I got tickets to the game.

      • LA Loyalist says:

        Do you want a high draft pick or not? Your post is all contradictions.

        • joeybarrie says:

          Where do I say I want both a high draft pick and a win? Of course I want a high draft pick. However it is not in my hands. I can NEVER EVER hope my team loses. How could I call myself a fan and want them to lose? One player will not change our entire team.
          I want to win every night. But I want them to win tonight more than anything. We are not in danger of dropping out of the top 5 and not guaranteed anything even if we stay 28th.
          My point above was the Caps will not be looking to do anything but make the playoffs. They won’t care one way or the other about Bourque. They are soft mentally. One little thing can lose it for them. They always screw it up in the last few minutes and go to overtime. Look at their game vs Boston.
          I made no comment about what I preferred other than a win tonight. And every single night. Have no desire to watch my team become a bunch of losers. Why would anyone want to play players who are willing to lose? Why would anyone respect that?
          Any player with his jersey hanging in the rafters would either be sick to their stomach or turn in their grave knowing we would TANK. Its pathetic and sets the tone for teams like Columbus, NYI, etc to basically be losers forever.
          If it happens, it happens. But if they don’t fight, if they lay down. They die.

          • issie74 says:

            Plus 1 Joey!


          • LA Loyalist says:

            Hey, I didn’t make the rules. I have posted several times that the draft picks should reward the teams that fell just short of the playoffs, then no one would think of tanking.

            What you are talking about is what the Greek’s called Pyhrric (sp?) victories, which were costly but meant nothing.
            Of course it’s easier to win when the games mean nothing. And of course the players should play hard.

            But that said, in this situation, it’s strategically wise to play the kids and let them learn.

            What’s the point of playing Gomez for 18 minutes? Really? And Geoffrion and Leblanc sit there? It’s the dumbest thing in the universe.

            The point is to make the team better so we don’t have ANOTHER crap year like this.

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