- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Washington Capitals want to get ugly in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals tonight in Philadelphia. Not ugly as in the tradition of the Flyers’ Broad Street Bullies but ugly in terms of doing the hard work of hockey: taking the body and crowding the net.

“A lot of things have to change,” coach Bruce Boudreau said yesterday, less than 24 hours after his Caps were blanked 2-0 by the visiting Flyers to even the series. “[Getting traffic in front of Flyers goalie Martin Biron] is something we’ve talked about since I’ve been here. When we do it, we have success. When we don’t, we don’t.

“We were trying to be too cute. Every now and again, it creeps in. A lot of times people become individualistic because they’re trying so hard to succeed. In the end, that hurts the team.”

The Caps do have to be more of a team than they were in Game 2. Boudreau lamented that six of his players took extended shifts that left them exhausted as they came off the ice. And while both Philadelphia goals were scored by its second and third lines, Washington’s similar units have produced no goals, two assists and just 19 shots so far. The checking line and defenseman Mike Green scored twice each in Game 1, but it’s hard to win a series relying on one scoring line even if it includes the otherworldly Alex Ovechkin.

“You can’t rely on one or two guys all the time, especially in playoffs when it’s really tight-checking,” said third-line center Brooks Laich, who like Tomas Fleischmann and Boyd Gordon has just one shot. “When we do have success, it’s because we get scoring from three or four lines and it’s not just Alex all the time.

“It’s not a whole bunch of X and O things. It’s more a work thing. We have to get the puck deep, get on the body, get pucks to the net. Do simple things and good things will happen. We’re a young group of guys. We’re still learning.”

Second-line left wing Matt Cooke, a veteran of 32 playoff games with Vancouver, said it’s not so much a matter of who’s scoring the goals as how they’re scored.

“A lot of times you find [ugly] goals are scored in playoff hockey,” Cooke said. “A lot of times goals are in the dirty area like [the Flyers’] second goal, a rebound goal. We’ve got to find ways to get to those areas.”

That’s more likely to happen with players like Laich and Cooke rather than talented, finesse-oriented skaters like Alexander Semin and Fleischmann. But Boudreau just wants his team to recover the style that had won eight straight games and 12 of 13 before Sunday.

“[We] didn’t have the edge that [we] had for a month and half previous,” Boudreau said. “Philly was a determined group. They played very hard, and they made us look bad. They played with a sense of urgency, and we didn’t. They made us look complacent. Shame on us if we don’t come out and play better.”

Notes — Goalie Cristobal Huet, who stopped all 32 Philadelphia shots over the final two periods of Game 2, said he feels back on his game after a shaky effort in the 5-4 victory in Game 1.

“The second part of the game last night, it was good for me to get some shots and really get into the series,” Huet said. …

Only the players who didn’t suit up for Game 2 skated yesterday. Boudreau said he had yet to decide whether he would make any changes in the lineup for Game 3.

Today’s game


When: 7 p.m.

Where: Wachovia Center, Philadelphia

TV/radio: CSN, FM-106.7

Goalies: Capitals — Cristobal Huet (1-1, 3.03). Flyers — Martin Biron (1-1, 2.52).

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

Outlook: The series shifts north for Games 3 and 4. Washington won both regular-season meetings in Philadelphia, including Bruce Boudreau’s first game as the team’s coach 4-3 in overtime. The Caps have won four straight in the building dating to last season after a string of 16 consecutive losses. Biron collected his first career playoff shutout Sunday and then went to be with his wife, who gave birth to a girl early yesterday morning. The Flyers are 4-3 all time against the Caps at home in the playoffs.

Corey Masisak



Pull up the socks: It is a hockey cliche, but it fits for the Capitals after their performance in Game 2. Philadelphia outhustled, outworked and outskated Washington en route to a 2-0 win. A few players said afterward that it starts with the forecheck, and the Caps weren’t nearly as aggressive as they want to be. When the Caps chip the puck in, they want two or three guys chasing after it, not one like what happened on many occasions Sunday at Verizon Center.


More discipline: Yes, the Flyers want to be physical, especially in front of Washington goalie Cristobal Huet. And they can probably live with a goaltender interference call every game as long as they continue to have someone planted in Huet’s way. But six penalties is probably a couple too many, and the Caps have plenty of firepower on the power play to make the Flyers pay for it. It didn’t happen Sunday, but it certainly could tonight.

Corey Masisak

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