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Capitals Aim to Solve Defensive Woes

Apr 19, 2010 – 2:16 PM
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A.J. Perez

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Bruce Boudreau referred reporters to the plus-minus stats during the regular season any time the Washington Capitals coach was queried about the strength of his defense.

Those numbers no longer bolster his argument.

"People are going to look [and say] 'That's the Capitals and they can't play defense anymore,'" Boudreau said. "The mistakes we're making are being taken advantage of by Montreal. We are making mistakes to the wrong people."

And, often, it's been his top two defensemen (Mike Green and Jeff Schultz) who have been the culprits. The duo was on the ice for four of Montreal's five goals in Game 2 on Saturday, a contest the Caps won, 6-5, in overtime to even the series at 1-1.

The only one of those Boudreau had an issue with was Montreal's final goal, a Tomas Plekanec tally that put the Habs up five minutes left in regulation.

Capitals vs. Canadiens: Series Page | Full NHL Playoffs Coverage

"The fact he's such a professional makes it easier for me. I don't think he is a guy who is going to outwardly sulk. ... His lows are followed by good highs."
-- Bruce Boudreau on Jose Theodore
"Schultz shouldn't have pinched when he did," Boudreau said. "We were in that mode when we were attacking. I told the defense to jump out and keep the pressure on them. These things happen in the regular season sometimes and [those] teams didn't score. They are just magnified right now."

Boudreau has reflexively taken up for his defensemen, especially Green, since he arrived two seasons ago and he had stats to back it up. This season, Schultz led the league at plus-50 and Green was third -- behind teammate Alex Ovechkin -- at plus-39.

But Schultz, the solid 6-foot-6 blueliner, is minus-2 and Green, the league's top-scoring defenseman the last two regular seasons, is minus-1 entering Game 3 in Montreal on Monday.

"We'll talk to them about a couple things," Boudreau said. "Sometimes you to try to eliminate the body and that's it rather than trying to go for the puck."

Boudreau told reporters in Montreal on Monday that he was was going to stick wtih goalie Semyon Varlamov, who made 19 saves on 22 shots in relief of Jose Theodore in Game 2.

"I think we said before the series started that if we were going anywhere [in the playoffs], we'd probably need two goalies," Boudreau said before the decision was announced. "We are still going to use both goalies whether Varly plays Monday or Theo plays Monday. I think they are both going to play again."

Varlamov, who is still classified as a rookie, replaced Theodore after Game 1 of the Caps' first-round series last season against the New York Rangers and played solidly all the way up until Pittsburgh ousted Washington in seven games in the conference semifinals.

"It was harder last year because I had hardly had any experience in the NHL," Varlamov said. "Psychologically, it's easier this year."

Despite allowing goals on the first two shots that led to his benching, Theodore was upbeat after Game 2 and Boudreau said he expected nothing less out the 2002 NHL MVP, a trophy he won with the Canadiens.

"The fact he's such a professional makes it easier for me," Boudreau said. "I don't think he is a guy who is going to outwardly sulk. ... His lows are followed by good highs."
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