- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Alexander Semin’s wardrobe for Tuesday night was a suit and a winter hat. For the first time under coach Bruce Boudreau and the first time since his rookie season in 2003-04, the Russian winger was a healthy scratch.

The Washington Capitals had lost four in a row. Semin had a team-worst 28 penalty minutes. His 14 minor penalties were tied for second in the entire NHL.

“We’ve talked about it. I guess the talk has gone away from it because we were starting to lose,” Boudreau said after the 4-3 win over the Coyotes, completed without Semin. “We’ve scratched guys. He was taking penalties seven games in a row. At some point you have to be accountable for your errors.”

Accountability had a face Tuesday – the same face it had when Semin was benched for over half the game Nov. 11 at the New Jersey Devils. But this was not just a chance to give the $6.7 million man a very expensive seat in the press box but show the entire team what

“It’s a substantial player. It’s a significant player in our lineup,” veteran right wing Mike Knuble said. “It’s not only a message to him, but to other guys in the room: If you’re not going to play hard every night, we have that balance. That’s probably a little bit of a luxury Bruce has – he hasn’t had that before. When he’s got to play with guys and live with their mistakes and live with their ups and downs. You get under the gun like we are, like we’ve been the last little bit, and if he’s got guys that are going to work hard for him, then he’s probably going to go with them.”

So Boudreau went with Mathieu Perreault instead. The fourth-line center played only 6:51, but he drew a penalty and didn’t take one. He didn’t do anything to cost the Caps a goal or any momentum.

Semin had been doing those sorts of things – a minus-3 player this season with just four goals.

“I don’t like doing those things to people that are that talented, but everybody’s got to know that everybody’s accountable,” Boudreau said. “It was a tough decision, but it was a decision, I thought, that had to be made for the group.”

Some players didn’t want to address Semin’s scratching. John Carlson politely said it wasn’t his call. Alex Ovechkin told Yahoo Sports, “I was surprised at first, but it’s not my decision,” while declining further comment.

But the message got through. And though Knuble insisted he didn’t want to make a mountain out of a mole hill about one game and one healthy scratch, Boudreau noted that now “everybody’s on alert. We’ve got to play the right way if we want to be successful.”

Players understood.

“It’s a message, and it could be you at any point,” rookie Cody Eakin said. “You’ve got to fight for the spot you want to earn and the position you want to play.”

 

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