Habs look to score vs. reeling Caps

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The Canadiens have not scored a goal against the Washington Capitals in nearly a year. After three straight shutouts, they’ll try to reverse that on Friday night down in Washington, when they play the Caps at the Verizon Center.

The Habs last goal scored vs. the Caps came on March 15, 2011 — beware the Ides of March — when Andrei Kostitsyn scored early in the second period of the Habs 4-2 loss in Washington (video). Since then, they’ve gone over 216 minutes without a goal against the Caps, being blanked three times, all at the Bell Centre, twice this season.

This could be a good time for the Habs to play the Caps, a team that had high expectations for the season that could be on the verge of imploding. They’ve lost three straight, five of six (or six of seven, if you consider a shootout loss to be a loss) and in the past 17 games, have only grabbed 12 of a possible 34 points.

Washington has slipped in the standings out of playoff position and there seems to be some ill feelings around the club. Coach Dale Hunter threw goalie Tomas Vokoun under the bus after the Caps’ performance against the Senators on Wednesday, saying his club played a good road game — a dubious claim to anyone else who watched the game — but didn’t get the saves.

While Vokoun wasn’t outwardly upset and didn’t pout in practice, Hunter’s statement still prompted a rebuke from Vokoun’s agent, Alan Walsh, who told the Washington Post’s Katie Carrera in part, “Hockey’s great coaches throughout history never resorted to publicly singling out a particular player, blaming him for a loss. Where I come from, you win as a team and lose as a team. The oldest, most tired excuse in the book is to blame the goalie.”

Backup goalie Michal Neuvirth, who came in after Vokoun surrendered four goals on 11 shots, also defended his partner.

Hunter also made ex-Hab Roman Hamrlik a healthy scratch against the Senators but, as Carrera reported, didn’t tell him why. When told by reporters Hunter’s reasoning was that Hamrlik had taken some bad penalties in recent games, including one that led to a goal last week against Carolina, Hamrlik replied, “You should ask him about the penalties because when he played, I think he make lots of penalties himself. He should know better. This is the game, guys go on emotion time. I know I take bad penalty, but if it’s the reason I didn’t play that’s his decision.”

The 37-year-old defenceman added, “It’s not fun time, you know, especially when you’re older, you want to enjoy; you want to have fun,” Hamrlik said. “But it’s difficult time to play hockey when you know, you go to the game if you’re gonna make mistake [then] you’re not gonna play. It’s not easy. It’s real difficult on your body and your mind.”

Renaud Lavoie of RDS reported last week that the Caps were shopping Hamrlik.

Owner Ted Leonsis, who is never reluctant to share his views in public, characteristically got into the act on Monday on his blog after the 5-0 loss to Carolina, calling it “the worst game of the season” and “an unexceptable performance.” On his blog Thursday, Leonsis called the game against the Habs “a very important game for us.”

It’s unclear whether Alex Ovechkin, who is playing far beneath his best in any case, will be in the lineup Frday. In fact, it seems doubtful. He was seen limping after the game against Carolina on Monday. He didn’t skate Tuesday, skated very little before the Sens game on Wednesday and didn’t play in Ottawa, and, as Carrera reported, only skated briefly on Thursday, with difficulty and not at full speed.

Even with Ovie in the lineup, not much has gone right for Washington since his centre Nick Backstrom was concussed by Rene Bourque’s elbow in a Caps-Flames game before Bourque’s trade to the Habs. Backstrom remains out indefinitely and GM George McPhee searching for a short-term fix in the middle.

They’ve recently gotten defenceman Mike Green back from his extended injury layoff, but he’s looked rusty in his three games, and was minus-3 against Carolina.

The Caps power play has not clicked lately. They managed a PP goal vs. the Sens, but including that game they are on a 2-for-21 pace in recent games. In the 23 contests since Backstrom went out of the lineup, they are 9 for 64, around 14 percent. Their penalty kill languishes near the bottom of the league, at 80.1 percent, 25th. But they are mid-pack at home, slightly better at 83 percent.

Assuming Ovechkin is out of the lineup and Hamrlik is in, here’s how the makeshift Caps might look on Friday, but don’t hold me to it.

Mike Knuble, Brooks Laich, Troy Brouwer
Matt Hendricks, Mathieu Perreault, Alexander Semin
Jason Chimera , Marcus Johansson, Keith Aucoin
Mike Beagle, Jeff Halpern, Joel Ward

John Carlson, Karl Alzner
Roman Hamrlik, Dennis Wideman
Mike Green, Jeff Schultz

Tomas Vokoun
Michal Neuvirth

39 Comments

  1. boing007 says:

    What happened to Simon Gagné?

    Richard R

  2. JohnBellyful says:

    Moved comment to other thread.

  3. Newf_Habster says:

    According to Darren Dreger on his Twitter, the Oilers and Hemsky are talking to have his contract extended for more two years.

    Should it happened, AK46’s trade value will skyrocket again for at least third time. :)

  4. GAME DAY ALERT

    That’s right troops, it’s game day.

    GO HABS GO

    GO HABS GO

    GO HABS GO

    I’M READY FOR A WIN, ARE YOU?

    Line up ladies, it’s GO TIME!

    CAREY CAREY CAREY

    10/10 FOR 10

    WHO’S WITH ME?

    CAREY CAREY CAREY

    They Call Me Shane

  5. HabFanSince72 says:

    Obviously I’m not hoping this happens but a loss to the Caps tonight moves the Leafs into 10th place and moves us closer statistically to Yakupov. It also makes the Caps buyers instead of sellers so increases the value of AK46.

    Of course I would never wish for this. In fact I’m ashamed to even be thinking it.

    All I’m saying is there is a silver lining to a defeat.

    Which won’t happen anyway.

    GO HABS GO!


    Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

    • She’s a win win situation.

      We win a game we’re entertained.

      We lose and well, nothing wrong with that at this stage in the game.

      We all knew it was coming, you just have to wait for the right time to shout it.

      Me….

      I’M STILL IN FOR THE WIN

      GO HABS GO

      CAREY CAREY CAREY

      10/10 FOR 10 :lol:

      They Call Me Shane

    • Marc10 says:

      Yeah, we’re all in the same boat. We love our Habs, but we’re not going to get anything done this year. Might as well get something for it that has the potential to right the ship as quickly as possible.

      Seems like either or the top two would be great fit for the Habs. Superstar Winger or skilled Big Center.

      My dream scenario, we play the Caps… AK46 scores five and absolutely pile drives the Caps into the ice. The next day we trade AK to Washington for their first rounder next year… and next year the Caps land us the first pick as they go into full rebuild mode – their Stanley Cup window having closed… That’d be priceless.

      We then proceed to win the Cup and PG is canonised by the Pope.

      OK… I’m kidding… but let’s get something for AK and let’s hope we get a really high pick this year. That’s where we’re at I’m afraid.

    • Habsman1970 says:

      Yeah, I am in the same boat with you.. It’s one of those “I am not hoping for the Habs to lose, just not pulling for a win” type of approach :)

      ONCE A HAB, FOREVER A HAB!!!

  6. temekuhabs says:

    14 Carolina 61 23 26 12 58 160 184 16-12-4 7-14-8 5-2-3 OT 1
    15 Montreal 61 24 27 10 58 160 167 11-14-8 13-13-2 5-4-1 Lost 2

  7. temekuhabs says:

    All together now!! Were #15!!! We’re #15!!

  8. pmaraw says:

    great, they’re not looking to win, just to score.

  9. Mike D says:

    So happy PG didn’t trade for Carter. In addition to what we would have had to give up to get him, we would also be stuck with that brutal contract on a player who’s character is at least questionable. I really have no idea if he’s a party boy or an ego-maniac or not, but SOMETHING is/was up with him for Holmgren to sign him to that crazy long contract and then trade him away so quickly.

    Carter is a good player, no doubt. His stats, except for this year, are really impressive and he still has youth on his side. He’s the type of guy who should be a lock for 30+ goals with 40 or more not being out of the question. He’s a true #1 center and can play wing effectively to boot. But to all those who were pining for him, go back say 5 years ago and have a look at some the players who were in that same category that Carter is in today, and look where they are now. Off the top of my head…..

    Dany Heatley, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Wade Redden, Martin Havlat, Sergei Samsonov, Maxim Afinogenov, Mike Cammalleri, Dustin Penner, Sheldon Souray, Olli Jokinen, Alex Tanguay, Jay Bouwmeester, JP Dumount, Jonathon Cheechoo, Simon Gagne, Alex Semin to name a few. All these guys’ careers have taken nose-dives since then, or are at least in strong decline. Most were between 25 and 30 years of age at that time, just like Carter is 27 today.

    Then there’s players who have been up and down since then. These guys have bounced back after a few rough seasons, but are players who people thought would CONSISTENTLY be long-standing pillars atop the points race. Guys like:

    Danny Briere, Thomas Vanek, Marian Gaborik, Vinny Lecavalier, to name a few.

    Basically, my point is that no matter how good a player is….or seems, how promising they look, or how good they have been over their still-young careers, any one of them could see their play and production take a sharp turn for the worse. If that happens, the last thing a team needs is to be stuck with them and their cap hit for another 5,6,7,8 years or more.

    Many of us gripe about Gomez and Kaberle and how they are preventing our team from progressing because we’re “stuck” with them. We complain about how their salaries prevent us from fitting better players under our cap. Valid points. However, both of their contracts expire in two years after this one, and Kaberle has only been on the team for about a month or so. Imagine if one or both of these guys were signed for another 5 or 6 years instead of 2?!?!?! That is the reality that teams like Tampa, NYI, NYR, LA, NJ might be facing in the near future. Technically the Isles are already there with DiPietro and Yashin.

    That’s why it’s NEVER a good idea to sign a player, any player regardless of how good, for more than 5-7 years, even if it appears to be at a discount. Hopefully the Habs won’t make that mistake, or if they do, the player(s) careers continue to be productive. Say more Sedin-like than Drury-like. It’s actually amazing how much shorter the list is of players who were very good 5 years ago and are still good today compared to the list of players who have fallen from grace.

    Good luck LA – you’re gonna need it!

    – Honestly yours

  10. sreuel says:

    If Eklund reads these post about Ovie coming to Montreal it will be in his late night blog ( Habs close to signing ?

  11. sreuel says:

    Did anyone read the blog on TSN that the habs won’t make any deals. PG is not going to return so the new GM will make Deals in summer

  12. Hobie Hansen says:

    You’d have to think Washington will start listening to offers for Ovechkin anytime now. They’ll probably wait but if Washington is this bad 30 games into next season and someone offered them an impressive package of players that they’d bite.

    If Gauthier came knocking, I think McPhee would ask for Price, Subban and a 1st round pick.

    It would be a real tough call for Gauthier on that one. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that Ovechkin gets inspired by the Centre Bell crowd and score 50 goals again.

    • The Jackal says:

      Stamkos is on pace for more than 50, but TB still sucks. Without Price and PK, 50 goals from 1 guy won’t save us.

      • Hobie Hansen says:

        We might get hit where it hurts but if we had any sort of goaltending in our organizaton aside from Price you’d have to think about it pretty hard.

        Two short years ago Ovechkin was looking like the best player since the Lemieux and Gretzky days. And he’s still young as hell.

  13. Lizardking89 says:

    Wouldn’t it just piss the little troll (Buttman) off to have one of his poster boys in a Habs uni. Not that’s it’s possible to get Ovie just fun to think about.

  14. The Dude says:

    The Caps are pathetic…So no rah rah rahing if we beat this team.

  15. Talik Sanis says:

    I never realized it until right now, but looking at that line-up one must realize the failings of Washington’s General Manager. During the free agent period, I saw the individual signings of Ward and Hamrlik and was highly skeptical about the terms of their contracts, but seeing the team put together (granted without Backstrom and the deteriorating Ovechkin) you can tell why they’re struggling.

    The result of signing a fourth liner like Ward for three million a year (insert dig at Gomez here), taking on a visibly slowing player like Hamrlik on a multi-year deal, trading a first round pick for Troy Brower, and going into the year depending on a forty year old for top line offense is the reduction of the team to a sad parody of its former self.

    In many ways, the Capitals are suffering from the same things that brought down our team: injuries and, walking hand in hand with them, gambles that failed to pay off. We gambled on Markov returning, Gomez recovering from what we thought was a “disastrous” year (little did we know), Cammalleri maintaining his playoff form, Price building off his 2010-2011 season, a young defense core being able to compete in the NHL, and, later on, Kaberle being able to do so. Along with their belief that Brower and Ward would maintain their playoff form, and that Hamrlik still had some life left in him, the Capitals bet on Ovechkin’s return to form.

    It’s strange that every team takes gambles (look at ridiculously surprising Panthers or the Philadelphia Flyers who gambled by trading away the heart of their franchise, making themselves stronger for the next fifteen years), but with the Capitals, Jackets and Canadiens, so very few paid off. For us, only Cole has actually worked out so far. It’s the inverse of the Flyers, where only the Bryzgalov gamble hasn’t born fruit.

    • Mike D says:

      Good post. I will add one thing to McPhee’s credit:

      He got a 1st round pick from Colorado for Varlamov which will likely end up as a mid-roundish pick. In combination, he signed Vokoun who was the highest sought-after goalie after Bryzgalov, for a paltry 1.5mil during a summer where every team seemed to overpay for every player they signed.

      – Honestly yours

    • Duracell3 says:

      I don’t see the Panthers as taking much of a gamble. Maybe on the goalie but thats about it. Tons of $2.5-3.5 million players is going to give you a lot of depth.

  16. habs17 says:

    Habs win this game easily, washington is heartless and terrible we will see a 5-1 win gomez with another 2 goals, also as i reported eariler price will not be traded on monday the habs will seek to lock him up long term

    President of the Scott Gomez Fan Club

    (I support Scott Gomez)

  17. Warpy says:

    Gomez for Hamrlik Straight up!! The defence needs a veteren and Hamrlik was solid for us for years….

    Go Habs Go

  18. habsfan0 says:

    “Where I come from, you win as a team and lose as a team. The oldest, most tired excuse in the book is to blame the goalie.”

    Really? Did you watch the Monster’s performance vs the Devils the other night?

  19. habsfan0 says:

    If Scott Gomez can end his year long scoring drought, then I believe the Habs can as well.


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