Game 3 of the Capitals-Canadiens playoff series is tonight in the Bell Center in Montreal and our home town Caps might look a bit different when they take the ice. It appears as if Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau will mix up his lines tonight in an effort to spark some of the players who have under-performed in the first two games of this playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens.
Firstly, expect Semyon Varlamov to be in goal tonight. Varly wasn't great in relief of Jose Theodore in game 2, but Theodore has been awful in the playoffs [again] and has a poor record in the Bell Center. Varlamov, on the other hand, is 2-0-0 with a 1.94 goals against average and .930 save percentage in Montreal, so he would seem to be the natural choice. He was also first off the ice at this morning's skate, which is pretty much always the sign of that night's starting goalie.
Tarik El-Bashir speculates on what these new lines might look like tonight:So, what do we need to see from the Caps tonight for them to buck their franchise record in game 3 of a tied series [7-11] and take the lead?
The first two games of the series have played into all the traditional criticisms of the Caps -- that their goal-tending is unreliable and the offense is so high-risk that it leads to costly defensive lapses. In other words, this isn't a team that plays winning playoff hockey. Varly has to shake off the rust and return to his December 2009 form. If he does, it's hard to see the Caps losing. However, Theodore should keep himself ready because it doesn't appear as if Varly has Boudreau's confidence right now. Varly [probably] has the starting job because Theodore has been bad, not because Varly has been good. In other words, Boudreau's leash on Varly could be as tight as it was on Theodore.
Do the Caps now regret not trying to acquire someone like Tomas Vokoun or Tim Thomas at the trading deadline?
A good sign for the Capitals is that their top 2 players, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, were dominant in game two. Is this a sign of things to come and will Washington's thrilling come-from-behind victory in game two give the team momentum for the rest of the series? In other words, will the Caps regress and find it difficult to score [game 1] or stop scores [game 2] or did the third period and overtime of game 2 represent a turning of the corner, with the Caps reverting back to the club that easily won the President's Cup?
Finally, the Caps need their other top skill players to come through for them. Mike Green has shrunk in the playoffs [again] and what has happened to Alexander Semin? These two cannot continue to hide behind Ovie and Backstrom. The Caps will need virtually perfect goal-tending if Semin and Green continue to disappoint in this series. However, if Semin and/or Green can start making stops and plays, the Caps should be able to gain control of the series.
Game 3 is tonight. We'll start to get some answers pretty soon.