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Bruce Boudreau’s coaching career with the Washington Capitals had even more memorable moments in his third season with the team. In installments No. 1 & No. 2 we looked at the best moments in Boudreau’s first two seasons at the helm. This article describes more memorable moments that happened after his first two eventful seasons with the team.
Memorable Moment #1 – Opener Against Boston Bruins
The Caps opened up the 2009-2010 season against the team that had the best record in the Eastern Conference the previous season, the Boston Bruins. For this game, Boudreau started veteran goaltender Jose Theodore in goal, who was the Caps’ primary starting goalie the previous year but had been replaced in the playoffs by rookie Semyon Varlamov. Boudreau said at the time he started Theodore since he generally was successful against the Bruins in TD Garden and had a good showing in training camp.
Early in the game, Theodore made some key stops. The Caps scored the first goal of the game, a power play goal by Brooks Laich near the end of the first period. They added a second goal near the middle of the second period when Alex Ovechkin scored, with assists from Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom. Both Laich and Ovechkin scored again during the third period, with Laich once again, scoring on another power play. The Capitals won 4-1. This game marked the first time the Caps had beaten then-Bruins starting goalie Tim Thomas. Backstrom had three assists in the game while Semin had two assists. It was undoubtedly a great way to start the season. One lineup note – free agent acquisition, Mike Knuble was on the second-line in this game, while Alexander Semin played on the first-line with Ovechkin and Backstrom.
Memorable Moment #2 – Victory Against San Jose Sharks in October
The Caps played the San Jose Sharks on October 15. Up until that evening, the Caps had never beaten San Jose during the entire 11-year span since owner Ted Leonsis had bought the team (1999). In this game, however, San Jose took multiple penalties early in the game, leading to two two-man advantages for the Caps and a power play goal by Alexander Semin. The Sharks tied the game later in the first period. Ovechkin scored two goals less than 30 seconds apart early in the second period. These two goals were the first two goals that Ovechkin had ever scored against San Jose. Matt Bradley added a fourth Caps goal during the third period, resulting in a final score of 4-1. This win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Caps (which included a shootout loss and an overtime loss). The Caps went on to win their next five games following this game.
Memorable Moment #3 – A November Full of Injuries, a Suspension, and Minor League Call ups
The Caps played 14 games during November 2009. They won eight and lost six, with three of those losses being either in overtime or in a shootout. From an injury standpoint, it was a very rough month. The month started and ended with Ovechkin being injured. Ovechkin injured his shoulder in a 5-4 overtime loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets on November 1 and ended up missing the next six games. On November 30, Ovechkin injured his knee during a knee-on-knee hit on defenseman Tim Gleason in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes which the Caps won. That same hit resulted in him earning a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct and two-game suspension.
Ovechkin’s injuries were not the only injuries affecting the Caps that month. On November 6, defensemen Mike Green and Jeff Schultz were both injured in a game against the Florida Panthers. Green missed one game while Schultz missed four games. Alexander Semin injured his wrist early in the month and tried to play through it. While he played one game ( against the New York Islanders on November 11) in which he scored two goals, his play was generally not at his normally high standard. He was sent home from a road trip to see a doctor on November 16 and did not return to the lineup until the end of the month. Mike Knuble broke his finger in the game against the Minnesota Wild on November 13 and did not return until December 11.
Forward Boyd Gordon had not played since October 12 due to a back injury, and came back on November 14 only to aggravate the injury and did not return for a while. Other injuries during this time frame included ones to defensemen Milan Jurcina, Tom Poti, and Shaone Morrisonn. Morrisonn suffered a head injury in a game against the New York Rangers on November 17 and did not return until December 7.
Besides the injuries, highlights of the month were Tomas Fleischmann’s fantastic offensive production, scoring five goals and five assists, playing on the top line in the absence of Ovechkin. Fleischmann had missed all preseason games and most of the games in October because he had a blood clot and was required to take blood-thinning drugs. Mathieu Perreault was called up from the Hershey Bears early in the month for the first time and scored two goals. Other players called up from Hershey were defenseman John Carlson, defenseman Karl Alzner, forward Andrew Gordon, and forward Jay Beagle, although none of them, including Perreault, remained with the Caps for the remainder of the season. The Caps won their last three games that month which were the first three wins of a six-game winning streak.
Memorable Moment #4 – Trade of the Captain and Appointment of a New Captain
It was on the afternoon of December 28, 2009 when the Caps traded their longtime captain, Chris Clark, and defenseman Milan Jurcina to the Columbus Blue Jackets for veteran forward Jason Chimera. Prior to the trade, Chimera was best known to Caps fans as one of the Blue Jackets involved in the scrum on November 1 that resulted in Ovechkin’s shoulder injury. The Caps had a game that evening against the Carolina Hurricanes and lost 6-3. They went on a West Coast road trip and lost their next two games, as well, to the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings respectively. They returned home for a game on January 5 against the Montreal Canadiens. Before that game, the Caps announced that Ovechkin would replace Clark as the team captain. The rest of the team readily welcomed the news when told by Boudreau. Another notable moment of this game was Fleischmann, who had generally played wing, was inserted as the second-line center, being flanked by Semin and Laich.
The team seemed energized by the appointment of the new superstar captain and the other lineup moves as they won 4-2. Fleischmann scored his 15th goal of the year, while Semin scored his 15th and 16th goals. Coincidentally, that night was also the night where prized prospect John Carlson scored the game-winning goal in overtime for the U.S.A. against Canada in the World Junior Championship Finals for the Gold medal.
Memorable Moment #5 – Franchise Record 14 Game Winning Streak
On January 13, when the Caps were playing the Florida Panthers in Florida, they came back from a 4-1 deficit and won in a shootout 5-4. In their previous game the day prior, they had come back from a 4-1 deficit against the Tampa Bay Lightning but ended up losing 7-4.
Ovechkin and Backstrom scored third period goals to tie the score. It may have been a relatively unremarkable win, but it was the win that started a franchise-high winning streak of 14 games. They returned home from their road trip and beat Toronto, Philadelphia, and Detroit, in succession. After that, they beat Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh. They returned home and won three more games to close out the month of January. Their record for January was an impressive 13-2. They had a 10-game winning streak going into February. They beat Boston 4-2 on February 2. Then on February 4, they defeated the New York Rangers in New York 6-5 in a penalty-filled affair where they fell behind 5-3 at one point. They returned home the next day to the Verizon Center to beat the Atlanta Thrashers 5-2 as a major snowstorm (a.k.a. Snowvechkin) was about to hit the East Coast and the Washington D.C. area in particular. As the D.C. area was still digging out from the snowstorm, the Penguins came into town for a game scheduled for February 7 that was nationally televised on NBC. After falling behind in that game 4-1, the Caps proceeded to tie the score and win in 5-4 in overtime on a power play goal by Knuble. Ovechkin had a hat trick while fellow superstar Sidney Crosby had two goals for Pittsburgh.
That game was the end of the winning streak. They traveled to Montreal and lost 6-5 to the Canadiens, despite a hat trick from Laich. They played the Ottawa Senators the next day in Ottawa and lost 6-5 in regulation, wasting a hat trick by Alexander Semin. They lost their next game to the St. Louis Blues, which turned out to be the last game before the 2010 Winter Olympic Break.
Memorable Moment #6 – Win Against Chicago Blackhawks March 14
The Caps were scheduled to play the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday March 14. This particular game was nationally televised. Chicago was leading the Central Division at the time and was regarded as one of the leading potential contenders for the Stanley Cup. The game started off poorly for the Caps as Chicago captain Jonathan Toews opened the scoring for the Blackhawks in the game. Then about midway through the game, Alex Ovechkin earned a major penalty and a game misconduct for boarding defenseman Brian Campbell, who was injured on the play. Some people believe that had Campbell not been injured, Ovechkin would not have been assessed the major penalty but rather a minor penalty. With about a minute left in the penalty, Alexander Semin was assessed a goaltender interference penalty, putting the Caps on the wrong end of a 5-on-3 power play. Toews scored another goal to put Chicago up 2-0. They added a third goal during the second period. Early in the third period, Laich scored a power play goal. Shortly after that, Backstrom and Eric Fehr added two goals in quick succession to tie the game. Backstrom scored the game-winning goal in overtime, as the Caps earned two points in a unforgettable game they had started so poorly. Ovechkin ended up with a three-game suspension for boarding Campbell. Given that he already had a suspension from earlier in the year, he now had a history of being suspended, so a suspension this time was even more certain. Some fans felt that Ovechkin lost some of his offensive fire after this particular suspension, that combined with the earlier suspension and his Olympic team’s performance, resulted in him scoring only six more goals for the rest of the season. He ended up with 50 goals for the season which was one behind league leader, Steven Stamkos, despite the fact he lead throughout most of the season.
The Caps final record that year was a then-team record 54-15-13 for a total of 121 points (still a franchise record of points). They ended up winning the Presidents’ Trophy. Ovechkin ended up with 50 goals. Semin ended with 40 goals, his career-high. Backstrom ended up with 101 points. Unfortunately, the playoffs did not go well for the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Caps. After getting off to a 3-1 series lead against Montreal, they proceeded to lose 3 straight and lost the series. The Caps outshot the Habs but their goalie, Jaroslav Halak, made many timely saves. As a result of that series, the term “Halaked” came into being, with an especially bad connotation for Caps fans.
By Diane Doyle