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Tag:2011 NHL Playoffs
Posted on: May 5, 2011 12:24 pm
Edited on: May 5, 2011 1:22 pm
 

Caps GM gives Boudreau vote of confidence

And just like that, Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau’s seat cooled considerably.  

"I expect him to be back,” GM George McPhee told Tarik El Bashir of The Washington Post on Thursday, a day after the Caps were swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning. “He's a good coach.

“Someone said he's not a good playoff coach There's no difference between a playoff coach and regular season coach. Either you're a good coach or you're not. He's a good coach.”

Boudreau's record in the regular season and the playoffs can't be much more dissimilar.

The Caps have won four consecutive division titles, the Presidents’ Trophy a season ago and  were the top seed in the Eastern Conference the past two seasons. It’s the playoffs where the talented team that boasts Alex Ovechkin and other Stars have struggled under Boudreau, winning only two of six playoff series. Boudreau's playoff record is 17-20.

Earlier Thursday, Caps majority owner Ted Leonsis preached his usually fare -- humility with a heavy helping of patience -- on his blog

The best course of action for us though is to let a few days pass; be very analytic about what needs to be improved; articulate that plan; and then execute upon it.

Clearly we know we have to improve to build a franchise that is as good as our fan base.

I appreciate your emails. I appreciate all of the advice we are being given by media and bloggers. I understand that we are what our record says we are.



-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 5, 2011 1:56 am
Edited on: May 5, 2011 3:10 am
 

Caps' Backstrom at a loss to explain struggles



Nicklas Backstrom couldn’t be counted on for much this postseason, although the Washington Capitals center always provides an honest assessment. 

“I think it feels like I’ve been working hard every game, but around the net it just wasn’t there,” he told reporters after the Tampa Bay Lightning complete a sweep of the Caps Wednesday night.. “I don’t know what happened, but it was so (expletive) frustrating.”

The weight of the first year of a 10-year $67-million contract? Trying to be too precise? An undisclosed injury? 

Whatever the cause, Backstrom finished with two points (both assists) in the playoffs. His regular season was hardly spectacular as he followed up a 101-point 2009-10 with only 65 points this season. The drop was likely due to a shift in team’s strategy that stressed defensive responsibility, a bad power play and a  hand injury that hobbled him the closing month of the regular season. 

“Nicky Backstrom didn’t score, but no one’s going to stand up here and tell me he didn’t try,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Backstrom, the team’s second-leading scorer behind Alex Ovechkin in the playoffs the last two years, never appeared comfortable out there. Shots he would have buried a season ago would roll off his stick. Passes he used to hit missed their mark. 

“Obviously, you don’t want to see that happen,” Backstrom said (via  Ryan O’Halloran of CSNwashington.com). “I take full responsibility for not being that good. I wasn’t as good as I should be.”

Alexander Semin can share some of the blame as well. He all but disappeared after he scored in overtime in Game 1 of the first-round series against the New York Rangers, finishing with six points. 

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: US PRESSWIRE
Posted on: May 5, 2011 12:48 am
Edited on: May 5, 2011 11:23 am
 

Another year, another 3-0 lead for Bruins



The Boston Bruins had the Philadelphia Flyers here before, 12 months ago actually. 

A 5-1 victory by the Bruins at TD Garden on Wednesday put the Flyers in an 0-3 deficit. --- the same one they climbed out of to become the  third team in league history to drop the first three games in a series and still advance. 

This, however, isn’t the same Flyers team. And the Bruins aren’t about to fall victim to a rare comeback two seasons in a row. 

"Going into the series I was hoping for it," Bruins goalie Tim Thomas told NESN. "It is what it is. It's a different year. It's totally different."

Thomas didn't even start a game agianst the Flyers last seaosn as Tuukka Rask remained in net as the series slowly slipped away. 

The two of the first three games of last year’s second-round series were all one-goal contests and another would have been a two-goal game had it not been for an empty-net goal. Thanks largely to injuries to the Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger and the team's goaltending struggles, that hasn't been the case this postseason. Other than Game 2 that went to OT, the Bruins have coasted. Overall, the Bruins have outscored the Flyers, 15-6. 

"We're trying to keep that out of our mind," Boston center Brad Marchand told NESN. "It's a brand new year. We have a new team here. Half the team is new guys. It's a new season, so we're not worried about that at all. We're writing our own new chapter."

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: May 4, 2011 11:50 pm
Edited on: May 5, 2011 3:16 am
 

Capitals' season lost by inaction in December

The Washington Capitals latest postseason failure can be traced back to December.

Caps GM George McPhee had the perfect opportunity to bounce coach Bruce Boudreau during the team's eight-game skid -- not because he’s a horrible coach, not a nice guy or a bad spokesman for a rug cleaning company. McPhee needed to show there were consequences, the NHL equivalent of sitting your kid in the corner for a timeout.

The end result of McPhee’s inaction came to pass on Wednesday: Washington was swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 5-3 victory in Game 4 of the second-round series. The Caps became the first No. 1 seed in the 17-year history of the current playoff format to fall victim to a sweep in the first two rounds.

Well, I guess the Caps did accomplish something this season.

“I knew it was a tough year,” Boudreau said after his team’s implosion was complete. “I just thought if we persevered, that something good would happen.”

Boudreau fell to 17-20 in the postseason, a record that is in contrast to his 189-79-39 record in the regular season. He’s lost four of the six series he’s coached in with the Caps, the only wins coming off the New York Rangers.

McPhee does need to share in the blame for not making the tough decision to let Boudreau go, but he deserves credit for the depth he added during the season. The Caps brought in Jason Arnott in a trade deadline deal with the New Jersey Devils. He also dealt for defenseman Scott Hannan --- even if he had a horrible second round, and finished a minus-2--- and his move not to add a veteran goalie didn’t backfire. Michal Neuvirth wasn’t spectacular, but he also wasn’t the reason the Caps got bounced early again.

“They have everything it takes to win,” said Arnott, who becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason. “No question. It’s a tough thing to do. Playoffs can go one way or another. You have to have luck. You have to have bounces go your way. For me, I think this team has a great mix of guys who can win.”

Much of the blame has to go to the Caps for not sticking to their more defensively responsible system that was supposed to pay dividends in the postseason. It was a great idea, but it could be an indication that the players may have stopped listening to Bruce sometime earlier this series because his skaters reverted back to their free-form ways.

Of course, no matter how many of us in the media or fans talk about, this is a decision that sits with McPhee and owner Ted Leonsis, who is more tolerant of the status quo then most. And if Brooks Laich, also a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent, had his way, Boudreau and his assistants, Dean Evason and Bob Woods, would be back. 

“That doesn’t fall on Bruce," Laich told The Washington Post. "We’re the guys that play the game. Bruce, Dean and Bob, I think we have a dream team of coaches. We’re privileged to play for these guys. Any criticism directed toward them is completely unjust. They put the game plan together and it’s up to the players to execute.”

In pro sports, however, you can't get rid of an entire underperforming playoff team. Replacing the coaching staff is the easier route. 

 

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: US PRESSWIRE 
Posted on: May 4, 2011 1:35 pm
Edited on: May 4, 2011 1:51 pm
 

Pronger out, Carter a game-time decision

The Philadelphia Flyers will again be without defenseman Chris Pronger, but there appears to be a chance forward Jeff Carter could be back in the lineup for tonight’s Game 3 against the Boston Bruins.

Carter took part in Wednesday’s morning skate, although he was reportedly one of the first players off the ice. The Flyers listed him as a game-time decision and coach Peter Laviolette was hardly definitive when asked about the status of the team’s top goal scorer this season. 

“I think I’m going to pass on all theoretical questions this morning,” Laviolette told CSN Philadelphia. “Jeff Carter looked good this morning.”

Carter sprained his right knee in the Game 4 of the first-round series against the Buffalo Sabres and hasn’t played since.   

Pronger did not take part in the skate and is listed as day to day with a lower body injury.  The Flyers have refused to disclose his injury. He played in Game 1 of this series and the last two games of the first round after he returned from a hand injury. 
   -- A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 4, 2011 1:19 pm
Edited on: May 4, 2011 2:23 pm
 

Is Bruce Boudreau's job on the line? Don't ask

Understandably, Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t take too well when asked if another loss could mean the end of his tenure with the club. 

“You guys have been asking me that,” Boudreau said hours before his team attempted to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning. “Is your job on the line? . . . I don’t want to answer that. Stupid question. Stupid.”

He's asked the question about 2 minutes, 15 seconds into the news conference: 


It’s not like this is the first time somebody in the sports media went to Boudreau with that line of questioning. Boudreau was also asked in the midst of a nine-game skid this season and  he had a similar reaction. 

"I don't think about it at all," Boudreau said in December . "It is what it is. We have a great group. I'm not even going to answer such a dumb question."

If only his star players were as dependable. 

As we mentioned last night , Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and most of the Caps players have been ghosts this round. Alex Ovechkin, who had a point and an assist in Game 3, tried to do it all on his own, never a good idea, but can you blame him? Nobody else has stepped up for the Caps for more than a period at a time this round. 

And it appears the Caps will have to contest this elimination game minus their top defenseman. Mike Green, who left Game 3 in the third period for what Boudreau described as a lower-body injury, is questionable (at best) for Game 4. Boudreau refused to talk about his status earlier today. 

These are again frustrating times in the Washington region and Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis wrote on his blog that he received 60 e-mails overnight:

I appreciate it.

I empathize.

I understand.

We have a game to play this evening, a unique back-to-back game. A win is a must have deliverable for us under very difficult circumstances.

I, too, am disappointed that we lost two leads last night. Every game is close and we didn’t close out that game and take a win and the momentum back in the series. I am sorry.

We have a lot of work to do.

It is best that we focus on the game tonight. Keep sending good vibes our way. We need the help. Go Caps!


If those good vibes don’t result in four consecutive wins, Leonsis -- one of the more patient owners in sports -- would be the one to lead a makeover of the organization, or at least the front office and, in turn, the coaching staff.  As you can tell by the comments at the end of his post, it would be met with approval by most. 

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 4, 2011 1:04 am
Edited on: May 4, 2011 3:24 am
 

Canucks win after "chicken wing" penalty call

It took until the 19th overtime game this postseason before a power play goal decided the outcome.

Ryan Kesler not only deflected in the game-winner as the Vancouver Canucks secured a 3-2 victory in Game 3 of the second-round series against the Nashville Predators Tuesday night, but he also drew the somewhat controversial penalty that resulted on the man-advantage  situation. 

Kesler and Preds defenseman Shea Weber battled for the puck in the corner, a clash that eventually moved up the boards toward the blue line. Weber’s stick became entangled with Kesler, which resulted in a hooking minor called on Weber. 

“I thought it was a little bit light considering all the other stuff that was going on,” Predators coach Barry Tortz told reporters after the game. “I’ve seen it. It was as a good sell by Kesler, a chicken wing with the stick and he kept moving. If you look at it, Webs is pushing on him trying to take his stick out of there. I’ve seen it before. One of the earlier games he drew a couple penalties like that by chicken-winging the stick and holding it here. They’ll say it’s a good penalty. I’ll say it’s a bad penalty.”

The Canucks scored 40 seconds into the power play to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. 

The sequence that led to the penalty occurs about midway through this clip:



-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 3, 2011 11:20 pm
Edited on: May 4, 2011 3:28 am
 

Capitals primed for another postseason letdown



It’s hard to fathom how a Washington Capitals team that can’t hold a third-period lead would become the fourth team in NHL history to advance after it dropped the first three games in a playoff series. 

That’d take veteran leadership, grit and smarts --- all of which were lacking as the Tampa Bay Lightning eked out a 4-3 victory in Game 3 of the second-round series at the St. Pete Times Forum on Tuesday.

The Caps all but certainly lost the series in a span of 24 seconds early in the third period as Tampa Bay forwards Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone scored for the game’s final margin. A turnover by Eric Fehr led to the Stamkos marker and seconds later Malone drove hard to the net --- something the Caps still refuse to do with regularity --- and a pass from teammate Nate Thompson deflected (legally) off his skate and in. 

“I’m not surprised from what I saw from Tampa,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I’m surprised some of our guys panicked a little bit. That comes when you’re down 2-0 in the series. You’re pushing and they’re coming on pretty hard.”

Boudreau should be used this from his Capitals. He’s taken these rulers of the regular season to the playoffs each of his four seasons at the helm, although the team has only managed series victories over one team: the New York Rangers (twice). A year after they won the Presidents’ Trophy and were bounced in the first round by the Montreal Canadiens, the best team record-wise in the Eastern Conference now stands one game away from elimination.

This loss certainly can’t be pinned on Washington captain Alex Ovechkin, who scored a goal, had an assist and was all over the ice in an attempt to provide a spark even if he tried to do too much at times. And you can’t fault his optimism after the game, even if it’s misplaced. 

“Again, I think we dominated them all game,” Ovechkin said. “They just scored on their chances. They played a solid game on defense and (Lightning goalie Dwayne) Roloson played great. It’s not over.”

The only period the Caps could make an argument they “dominated” was the second as they scored three goals and finished with a 3-2 lead. It was a wash in the first period and the Caps went nearly 13 minutes between shots in the third. 

“We get up for a certain amount of time and I think that our guys think the game is over," Caps forward Jason Arnott said. "The guys just relax a little bit and then they (the Lightning) just come. In the playoffs you need to be focused and ready on every shift. If you aren’t, bad things happen.”

Minus Ovechkin and hard-nosed veteran Mike Knuble who scored the Caps’ first goal, Washington’s top forwards again turned in lackluster performances. Alexander Semin, again too choosy on his shots, didn’t record his first shot until the closing minutes of regulation. Nicklas Backstrom, who at this point better have some sort of injury to explain his ineffectiveness, has two points in the playoffs – none in Game 3 --- and hasn’t had a goal in 16 games overall. 

While the Caps’ play hasn’t been consistent, at least Boudreau is. When the going gets tough, Bruce gets tough on the refs. 

“It sounds like I’m whining,” Boudreau prefaced one comment before he complained about a first-period goal that was disallowed after Semin jumped on the ice early. Replays clearly showed that the Caps had six skaters on the ice, but Boudreau called the too many men on the ice rule “ambiguous.”

He also didn’t like Malone’s goal where he battled with Caps defenseman John Carlson for position in front of goalie Michal Neuvirth

“If you look at it, Malone is driving the net and he’s pushing our player into our goaltender and he can’t kick out his right leg to make the save,” Boudreau said. “It’s a no-goal, no-penalty call.”

Actually, it looked like a typical, hard-driving goal you see this time of year. You can forgive Boudreau, since he doesn’t see that a whole lot from his skaters.

But no worries. A loss in Game 4 on Wednesday and Boudreau may no longer have to worry about the Caps or their middling postseasons ever again.  

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com