- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 13, 2008

Players couldn’t hear Bruce Boudreau call out the line changes, so he resorted to tapping guys on their shoulders. There was a point when members of both teams stopped playing because of a whistle from the crowd. By the end, Shaone Morrisonn’s ears rung.

Yep, it was officially time for playoff hockey in the District on Friday night.

Twelve Washington Capitals players made their NHL playoff debuts in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Philadelphia Flyers at Verizon Center.

“I’m not going to lie to you. I was nervous,” Morrisonn said. “I think our whole team was. You could tell guys were a little tentative, but it was so exciting. There is nothing else like it. I almost can’t describe it. It was the crowd, the atmosphere, the intensity — everybody was hitting and everybody was into it.”

Even though it was the first NHL postseason exposure for many of the Caps players, it didn’t look like it in the early stages of the game. Washington looked like the dominant team in the opening seven minutes, but then the Caps didn’t take a shot for more than 14 minutes.

After the Caps earned a 2-1 lead on a goal by David Steckel — one of six to record a point in their first playoff game — the Flyers answered with three straight goals. Boudreau thought the team lost some its aggressiveness and tried to protect the lead instead of pushing for a greater advantage.

“We realized we were down 4-2 going into the second [intermission] and we weren’t really playing our game,” Morrisonn said. “We all said, ‘Let’s just relax and play,’ and that’s what we did.

“I talked to [Alex Ovechkin] afterward and even he was nervous. I didn’t think he could get nervous — he is the best player in the NHL.”

Most of the guys who are in the midst of their first NHL postseason have playoff experience at other levels. Steckel referenced his time in the Calder Cup playoffs after the game when discussing the contributions from the fourth line.

Even Nicklas Backstrom, a 20-year-old rookie from Gavle, Sweden, had his time with Brynas in the Swedish Elite League to relate Friday night to.

“There was more speed and more fighting after the whistle,” Backstrom said. “I think that was the big difference — and the crowd for sure. … The [playoff] games [in Sweden] are more physical, but the rink is smaller here, so there is like 20 or 30 more hits here than at home. It is kind of tough to compare.”

One player who didn’t get to join his teammates making their playoff debuts was defenseman Jeff Schultz. He left the regular-season finale with an undisclosed injury and was not ready for Game 1 despite practicing for two days leading up to it.

He was on the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex again yesterday and said afterward he hopes to be in the lineup for this afternoon’s matinee at Verizon.

“I was just in awe of the crowd and the atmosphere,” said Schultz, who watched the game in one of the suites. “Especially during the third period — I was gritting my teeth and clenching my fists.”

And what about the 53-year-old coach who spent 16 years toiling in the minor leagues and waiting for an opportunity at this level? Well, he tried to keep his emotions in check after the game.

“Yeah, it was pretty cool,” Boudreau said with a smirk. “Usually the first round in the American League draws about 1,700 [fans] a game.”

Today’s game


When: 2 p.m.

Where: Verizon Center

TV/Radio: Chs. 4, 11, FM-106.7

Goalies: Flyers — Martin Biron (0-1, 5.08). Capitals — Cristobal Huet (1-0, 4.00)

Injuries: Flyers — Out: LW Simon Gagne (concussion), D Mike Rathje (hip/back), D Derian Hatcher (broken leg). Questionable: LW Patrick Thoresen (groin). Probable: D Randy Jones (flu). Capitals — Out: C Michael Nylander (torn rotator cuff), RW Chris Clark (groin), D Brian Pothier (concussion). Probable: D Jeff Schultz (undisclosed).

Outlook: Schultz said after yesterday’s practice he thinks he is ready to go, but Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said the team will wait until after the pregame skate to make a decision. Daniel Briere didn’t practice with the Flyers, but coach John Stevens said he was resting. Game 1 was his first after missing the final two contests of the regular season with a knee injury, and he scored two goals against the Caps. Stevens said Jones likely would return to the lineup, but Hatcher is still not ready. He’s trying to come back quicker than expected from a broken leg. Since the current playoff format was adopted in 1993-94, teams that won Game 1 have prevailed in the series 68.2 percent of the time, and the figure rises to 71.2 percent in the conference quarterfinals.

Corey Masisak



Fill in the gaps: While the Caps put together a great comeback to steal Game 1, they need to remember what put them in that situation in the first place. Three second-period goals put them in a 4-2 hole, and specifically the first two were a bit troubling. The defense let Daniel Briere slip behind them as he left the penalty box for a breakaway and Washington left the middle man — Vinny Prospal — alone on a 3-on-2 a few seconds later. The result was a 2-1 lead quickly became a 3-2 deficit. The Caps need to tighten up the coverage in their own end.


Gang up on Green: Flyers coach John Stevens thought his charges did a good job of containing Alex Ovechkin — although he made an incredible individual effort to notch the game-winning goal. The problem to him was the team’s lack of containment when it came to Mike Green. The defenseman scored two goals early in the third period to erase Philadelphia’s 4-2 lead and weaved through the Flyers forecheckers and was an offensive threat most of the night. He finished with seven shots on net and six more that were either blocked or missed the mark. Stevens feels 13 chances for Green is way too many.

Corey Masisak

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