Friday, April 16, 2010

Will the real Alexander Ovechkin show in Game Two?

image The Canadiens will be looking to contain Alexander Ovechkin in Game Two   Photo: Molly Riley (Reuters)

Having had the night’s sleep to reflect on their stunning Game One victory, over the Washing Capitals, the Montreal Canadiens were back on the Verizon Center ice for Friday morning practice.

After being outplayed in the first twenty minutes, the Canadiens came out strong in the next forty minutes and overtime to pull out the 3-2 win.

Despite shutting down the two-time defending Hart Trophy winner Alexander Ovechkin, the Canadiens still allowed 47 shots at Jaroslav Halak. They know there is still work to be done going into Saturday’s Game Two.

“We were very fortunate to be in the game,” said Canadiens coach Jacques Martin. “Our goalie kept us in it early  and that’s what we have to remember.

“It took us a while to find our game and that’s one thing we need to correct moving forward. You can’t play a first period like the one we did last night”

After leading the league in shots in 2009-10, some have speculated that the Capitals sniper may be injured based on his performance Thursday night. If so, the Capitals aren’t talking, and neither is Ovechkin.

“It was my fault. I didn’t play my game and maybe I was too excited,” the Capitals captain said. “Our line didn’t play well and we’ll make some changes.

“Tomorrow is going to to be a  different game for us.”

It would be highly doubtful of any injury to Ovechkin, given the fact Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau called him out after Game One and reiterated after Friday’s practice.

“He’s 100 percent healthy. We’re not making excuses for him,” Boudreau said. “He just had a bad game, and they played very well against him.

“I wasn’t trying to light any fire, but when he’s playing on top of his game, it doesn’t matter how (or who) they’re playing against him.”

Boudreau also acknowledged that the Canadiens cannot be underestimated in light of coming into the series as the overwhelming underdog.

“If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s the number one versus an eighth seed, and it was an eight seed vs an eight seed, everyone would say, ‘What a great game from two evenly matched teams.’

“We’re not going to change our game, but they’re a lot better than what their regular season indicated. they went through stretches where they beat everybody.”

Players playing injured wouldn’t be something new in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Whether a player is injured or not, they know the importance of the post-season. Bob Baun, Dickie Moore, Maurice or Bernie Geoffrion are prime examples of that.

“That’s the playoffs. Guys are hurt and some guys show it, some guys don’t,” said Canadiens veteran defenceman Hal Gill. “But It comes down to what happens on the ice and getting wins.”

Gill, who earned a Stanley Cup ring with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, knows what it takes in the playoffs and what to expect from an opponents top players from one game to the next.

“I’m sure he’s gonna come back and play a lot better than he did, That’s the exciting part of the challenge",” he said. “He’s a dynamic player that can change your game and we have to be just as hard on him as we can.”

Fellow veteran rearguard Jaroslav Spacek noted that shutting down Ovechkin’s linemates Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble, is also a factor.

“We all played good against that line,” Spacek said. “If you make it hard on him (Backstrom) and that makes it tougher for Ovechkin because he wouldn’t get as many pucks fed to him.”

Game Two goes Saturday night at 7pm.

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