Off-Day NotebookPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Second Chance – Marcus Johansson and Alex Ovechkin are tied for the team lead with five goals each. Johansson netted his fifth of the season in Vancouver on Saturday night, firing a wrist rocket high to the short side on Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo. Minutes earlier while the Caps were shorthanded, Johansson had an eerily similar look at Luongo on a 2-on-1 break with Brooks Laich. Johansson took aim short side high, but missed on that earlier opportunity. He made sure that didn’t happen the second time around. “I felt like I had him the first time,” says Johansson. “I just didn’t get it where I wanted to. I was lucky to get a second chance there.” Taste Of Their Old Medicine – The 2009-10 Capitals were a dominant offensive team, leading the league in goals scored and power play efficiency. One of the hallmarks of that Capitals team was its ability to take control of games early, especially in its own building. The Caps would forecheck teams into submission in the first 20 minutes, often drawing two or three power play chances and using that edge to jump out to a two- or three-goal lead. Washington led the NHL that season with 92 first-period goals. The way the Canucks came out in the first was somewhat reminiscent of that, and last season’s Vancouver club led the NHL in goals scored and power play efficiency. “Ever since I’ve played them,” says Caps winger Troy Brouwer of the Canucks, “they’ve always come out – especially in their own building – and have had great starts. They’ve got a lot of speed and a lot of energy in the building and they utilize it. “They did tonight,” he continued, speaking specifically of the Caps’ 7-4 loss in Vancouver. “They got a quick goal. I thought we weathered it pretty well; we were able to come back with a goal of our own. And then same story as last game, we got ourselves into penalty trouble and we were playing catch up the entire game.” Net Change – Caps coach Bruce Boudreau made his first in-game goaltending change in Saturday’s game, removing Tomas Vokoun in favor of Michal Neuvirth at the start of the second period. Vokoun surrendered three goals – two of them on the power play – on 17 shots in the game’s first 20 minutes. To some of us upstairs, it looked as though Boudreau was merely trying to get his team’s attention after they’d been forechecked into submission in the first period. “Sometimes when you change goaltenders, it has nothing to do with the actual goaltender,” said Brouwer after the game. “It’s just to try and give the team a spark and think that’s what it did. I feel bad for Tomas; two power play goals and a tough one from behind the net, which happens. There’s not much he could have done, not much better he could have played. He’s been unbelievable for us as of late.” Turns out the coach didn’t necessarily see it the same way. “I just didn’t think Tomas was very sharp,” explained Boudreau after the game. “He played eight games in a row at a very high level. I thought the first and third goals weren’t very good. [Michal Neuvirth] was sharp in practice; I thought this was as good a time as any to get him involved in the game again.” Seeing his first game action in three weeks, Neuvirth was nicked for four goals on 26 shots and was saddled with the loss, his first of the season. Vancouver’s seven-goal outburst was the most against the Caps in nearly 11 months, since a 7-0 setback to the Rangers in Manhattan on Dec. 12, 2010. Line Dancing – The Caps’ forward line combos remained relatively consistent throughout the life of the team’s seven-game winning streak, save for the odd shuffle with the team’s fourth line. But Boudreau toyed with his combinations in each of the two losses on the Western trip. In the second period of the Vancouver game, Boudreau left his top combination of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Brouwer intact, but shuffled the other three trios. “I just didn’t like the chemistry that was going on,” says Boudreau, when asked what he saw that prompted the switch. “I wanted to make a move to generate a little bit more offense.” Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin flanked Johansson, while Jeff Halpern manned the middle of the checking line where Laich had skated since season’s start. Mike Knuble skated the right side of a line with Matt Hendricks and Mathieu Perreault. Killing Softly – Last season, penalty killing was a Washington strong suit as the Caps finished second in the circuit with a kill rate of 85.6%. The Capitals allowed 43 power play goals all season, a ratio of about one every other game. This season, the Caps have a kill rate of just 77.1% and have surrendered eight power play goals on 35 opposition power play chances, a rate of nearly one per game. “The thing that really has to get better is our penalty killing which was very good last year,” said Boudreau after Saturday’s loss to the Canucks, in which Vancouver scored twice with the extra man. “It’s really not very good right now. We have to correct that. The both games that we’ve lost, it’s put us in a big hole. And the games that we’ve won, we’ve still allowed PK goals. So we’ve got to shore that up. We shore that up, and I think a lot of other things will take care of themselves.” Discipline has been compounding the Caps’ penalty killing woes. The Capitals went into Thursday’s game with the Oilers as the league’s least penalized team. They were faced with eight penalty killing situations that night and five more on Saturday against the Canucks. “The three penalties in the first period all could have been prevented,” says Boudreau. “[They were] lazy penalties. Hooking. Make a mistake, and compound it by taking a penalty.” Washington has been faced with an average of five penalty killing situations per night on the road this season compared to just three at home.
Even in the best of times, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau is known for his line-shuffling proclivities. So it should come as no surprise that he has toyed with his forward combinations in each of the last two contests, both Washington losses. After starting out the season with seven straight wins, the