The Right FitPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Once you get deep into a playoff series and the two teams have developed a healthy sense of the strengths and weaknesses of each other are, it becomes a bit of a tailor’s game from the standpoint of the coaches. Zipping things up. Buttoning things down. Making alterations, adjustments. Pushing buttons. Looking for the right fit. And most of those adjustments are made by the coach whose team lost the last game. Caps coach Bruce Boudreau and his staff made some wise alterations earlier in the series, inserting Boyd Gordon into the lineup for Game 3 one week ago and also opting for Semyon Varlamov as the starter of that game and the games since. Montreal bench boss Jacques Martin has pushed a few of the right buttons, too. He has gotten good mileage from sevenths defenseman Ryan O’Byrne, who has had to step in and play the last two games for the ailing Jaroslav Spacek, a guy who averaged 21:48 per night during the regular season. Martin also wisely went back to goaltender Jaroslav Halak as the starter in Game 5, and all he did was stop 37 of the 38 shots he faced to send this series back to Montreal for tonight's Game 6. Today, the Habs called up promising defenseman P.K. Subban from their AHL Hamilton affiliate. Subban has an impressive three goals and nine points in six Calder Cup playoff contests in this AHL. That came on the heels of a regular season in which Subban rolled up 18 goals and 53 points (third among AHL defensemen) and was a plus-46. It’s possible the Habs could go with seven defensemen tonight, but Montreal center Scott Gomez did not skate with his teammates this morning. No word on whether his absence is injury- or maintenance-related. Since Washington is the team that lost the last game, all eyes are on Boudreau to see what alterations he has in store for tonight. What we know is this. Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn is back in after missing the last two games with an injury, and Tyler Sloan will be out as a result. Center David Steckel will be back in the lineup for tonight’s Game 6, and Brendan Morrison seems to be the likeliest corresponding healthy scratch. Those two moves account for the personnel changes, but some personnel shifts are also in the cards. It’s possible that Boudreau will juggle the Caps’ line combinations in an effort to jump-start struggling sniper Alexander Semin, who is without a goal in his last 12 playoff games. You can also expect some changes on Washington’s power play, perhaps even the inclusion of John Carlson as a point man and a move of Alex Ovechkin to the front line. In a few hours, we’ll see which coach has what surprises up his sleeve, and which makes the best adjustments to the sleeves and the rest of the garment.
Heading into the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs the Washington Capitals featured the third least-experienced defense corps among the 16 playoff entrants. Only the Nashville Predators (1,985 career regular season games) and the Boston Bruins (2,012) had fewer games worth of NHL experience than did