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What We Learned: For Capitals, no defense wins no titles

Ryan Lambert
Puck Daddy

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Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

The Washington Capitals are an excellent hockey team.

Oh yeah, believe it. Alex Ovechkin(notes) and Alex Semin and Nick Backstrom and Mike Green(notes) and a whole bunch of other guys are really good at hockey and they pile up goals in often-hysterical fashion. Hell, they did it all year and pretty well walked away with the President's Trophy.

So how in the world are they 1-1 against the Montreal Canadiens, who spent the 2009-10 campaign playing hockey that, objectively, could only be called "not especially good?"

The answer is what, way back in October, you would have guessed it would be. The terrifying two-headed hydra of goaltending expertise that is Jose Theodore(notes) and Semyon Varlamov(notes) is not reacting well to having the bright lights of the postseason shine on it.

Two games. Eight goals against. Some might try to defend the guys and say both of those games went to overtimes. They wouldn't really be helping their own argument. Great, eight goals allowed in just over six and a half periods as opposed to six periods. That makes it a lot better.

(Coming Up: Stat keepers gone wild in Buffalo; Adrian Dater's Colorado pom-poms; the Thrashers' Plan B; the Kovalchuk conundrum; the Blue Jackets may go Whale; Osgoofus and Gallant; Spezza gets no respect; Pekka Rinne's(notes) big save; getting Iginla to the Leafs; the futures of Paul Kariya(notes) and Marty St. Louis; and Dan Carcillo's hero moment.)

Wanna know how I know the Caps don't have a goaltender they can actually believe in? Well Japers Rink had a poll about who should start for the Caps in Game 3 in Montreal. And the leader, at press time, was Varlamov. By 10 percent.

Now, 10 percent is not an incredibly small number, but that means that a full 45 percent of people still think Theodore should be the Capitals starter for Game 3. That's Jose "3.70 GAA and a .875 save percentage in 81 minutes of work" Theodore, not Jose "Hart Trophy Winner" Theodore. Or maybe that's who these Internetters think they're voting for.

And because 45 percent of people think he's a more legitimate starter for this team, the Washington Capitals are done. Oh sure, they might sneak past the Canadiens in six or something like that. But really: Imagine what a team like the Devils or Penguins would do to this team. Have you seen these Crosby goals? It would be obscene.

These guys aren't exactly running at Ovechkin levels of talent. Ovie had one bad game and everyone in the media got on him about it, prompting him to bear down and pick up a goal and three assists and help lug this horrendous goaltending and defense — lest we forget that those six guys are at least partly complicit in the Caps' giving up an average of four a game to the Canadiens — to an overtime win.

What happens when Theodore and Varlamov bear down? They get the save percentage up to .890?

Washington probably has the juice to win a few more games this postseason. Slug out a couple 5-4, 4-3 wins. No problem. But a team with cogent defending and competent goaltending is going to make them look very bad on the way to an ugly crashout that, frankly, the rest of the team just doesn't deserve.

What We Learned

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Anaheim Ducks: Corey Perry(notes) has been announced as a member of the Canadian team at the upcoming World Championships. The team also features Steven Stamkos(notes), Rene Bourque(notes), John Tavares(notes) and big-time enforcer Evander Kane(notes). In other words, they are all set up front.

Atlanta Thrashers: In a Q&A with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Thrashers owner Bruce Levenson reveals that they brought newly-named GM Rick Dudley in a year ago with the idea that he would take over the team if Don Waddell and Co. flamed out. Yeah, no one saw that coming right?

Boston Bruins: I'm pretty sure the statkeepers at Game 2 in Buffalo on Saturday went a little overboard. They recorded 99 hits between the two teams. Ninety-nine. Keep in mind this was a 60-minute hockey game. The only players that weren't credited with a hit were Andrej Sekera(notes), Miroslav Satan(notes), Blake Wheeler(notes) and ... Shawn Thornton(notes)? OK, whatever.

Buffalo Sabres: Tom Vanek is doubtful for Game 3 Monday night after crashing hard into the boards on Saturday, prompting many Buffalo fans to whine about the inequity of it all. It's the playoffs.

Calgary Flames: Great roundtable on the Flames at season's end and why it all went so terribly wrong for Darryl Sutter's "elite" team.

Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes signed NBA legend Michael Jordan and assigned him to Albany. Oh, that says "Michal" Jordan. They're probably different people then. (PS, This is a joke that has never been made before I'm sure.)

Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane(notes) scored his 11th career playoff goal Sunday. In 18 games. That kid's pretty good I'd say.

Colorado Avalanche: Adrian Dater, who for so long was quite down on the Avs as they did everything in their power to give away that eighth and final playoff spot, has now hopped back on the bandwagon and is waving his pom-poms vociferously. He's upset because he believes the following hit was illegal. As usual, he's wrong.

Columbus Blue Jackets: It's fairly likely that Kevin Dineen, coach of the AHL Portland Pirates, will be the next coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Dallas Stars: Marty Turco(notes) has come to grips with the fact that his career in Dallas is over, and he just wants to be happy again. "Turco said the best way to accomplish that is to find a team where he can play winning hockey." Uhhh, Marty?

Detroit Red Wings: Headline — "Chris Osgood helps fellow goalie through playoffs." I can only imagine it is with a series of Goofus and Gallant-like skits in which Osgood highlights are used to illustrate what not to do.

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Edmonton Oilers: Steve Tambellini on Ales Hemsky(notes): "You can debate whether or not he's our best player, but he's our most skilled player for sure." Ouch.

Florida Panthers: The Panthers' AHL affiliate made the playoffs this year, which GM Randy Sexton says is the key to a successful future. You can make several jokes here.

Los Angeles Kings: Rob Scuderi(notes) is once again showing why he's The Piece. In two playoff games, he's turned in two unreal defensive performances.

Minnesota Wild: Hockey Wilderness has started its lengthy season recap/report cards for the Wild. Good stuff.

Montreal Canadiens: Jacques Martin says his team's goaltending, from Client Jaroslav Halak(notes), was solid despite giving up six on 37 shots. I assume this was done in an attempt to dissuade anyone from potting up a goalie controversy, since he wants Carey Price(notes) stapled to the bench for the remainder of the postseason.

Nashville Predators: The Predators' owners have agreed to stay in the city through at least 2012. Surely they are betting that a Mayan apocalypse will allow them to move to Winnipeg in 2013.

New Jersey Devils: After Jacques Lemaire criticized Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) for questionable penalties in Game 2, Kovalchuk took no penalties in Game 3, but also registered no shots. Said Kovy, "I don't know. We lost. So maybe I should take a couple of penalties to win." Burn, Lemaire. In your face.

New York Islanders: Russian draft pick Kirill Petrov will attend Islanders prospect camp this summer. The big story is that his KHL team gave him the go-ahead to do so.

New York Rangers: The Rangers signed Mats Zuccarello-Aasen. He is very short.

Ottawa Senators: Jason Spezza(notes) on getting booed at home: "Always a tough crowd, but there's not much I can do about it. Just keep playing." To be specific, playing well, at least. That's an important distinction.

Philadelphia Flyers: Given the amount of questionable calls that went against New Jersey, I find the fact that Dan Carcillo of all people scored the game-winner Sunday night to be oddly hilarious and great.

Phoenix Coyotes: Perhaps the most encouraging thing about the Coyotes' 4-2 win at Detroit on Sunday night was the fact that, even after Shane Doan(notes) left the game with what I'd assume is a shoulder injury, the team played cohesive, opportunistic hockey and didn't seem to miss a beat.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Jordan Leopold(notes) is also out for Game 4. He was probably deemed unavailable by some sort of expert who saw the replay.

San Jose Sharks: This is what sports are all about.

St. Louis Blues: Paul Kariya is considering his options, including retirement. That's a little surprising. He is both 11 games and 11 points from reaching 1,000 in both stats.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Marty St. Louis implied that he is ready to become a free agent if Tampa can't get a winning team on the ice this summer. So, who wants to sign Marty St. Louis next summer?

Toronto Maple Leafs: The Maple Leafs will definitely not be in the running for Finnish goalie Jussi Rynnäs, who is supposed to be this year's Jonas Gustavsson(notes). I guess because they got last year's Jonas Gustavsson. It's Jonas Gustavasson. They got him. Last year.

Vancouver Canucks: Despite winning just 19 games on the road this season, the Canucks aren't too worried about heading down to Los Angeles.

Washington Capitals: Stayclassy.net gives us an inside peek at Jose Theodore's Foursquare achievements.

Play of the Weekend

Pekka Rinne made a very nice save against Marian Hossa(notes). Too bad the rest of his team didn't pick up the front end for him.

Gold Star Award

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Both Nicklas Backstrom(notes) and Andrei Kostitsyn(notes) were outstanding in the Caps' overtime win against Montreal. They both finished with a hat trick and an assist, but Kostitsyn finished with an even plus-minus rating.

Minus of the Weekend

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Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) finished a minus-3 in Sunday's game. Can't imagine that happens too often in the playoffs. Or indeed ever.

Oh, and also: LOL Dan Boyle(notes).

Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week

User "SchennForCaptain" has this proposal to give the Leafs a bit more pop.

To Calgary- Kaberle, Grabovski, ?????

To Toronto- Iginla

Because the one thing the Flames have been lacking lately are former Maple Leafs.

Signoff

That's like comparing apples and some fruit nobody's ever heard of.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness pretty much every day over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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