Capitals-Penguins: Second Round, Game Two Preview

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Capitals-Penguins: Second Round, Game Two Preview
(Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images)
The Washington Capitals host the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7:00 PM in Game Two of their best-of-seven second round Stanley Cup playoffs series. Washington leads the series 1-0 after beating Pittsburgh 3-2 in Game One.

HURTING ON THE BLUE LINE?

The Capitals recalled defensemen Karl Alzner and Tyler Sloan from AHL Hershey, where they were competing in the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs.

Caps D-men John Erskine, Tom Poti and Mike Green all took shots to various body parts in Game One. Erskine is the most serious of the three. He took a hard shot to the boot and tried to skate this morning but could only make it for a couple minutes before coming off the practice rink.

Erskine is now listed as "questionable" for tonight's Game Two.

Poti and Green participated in the morning skate.

Alzner and Sloan both spent time with the Capitals earlier this season. Alzner had 30 games with the parent club, recording one goal and five assists with a minus-one rating and two penalty minutes.

Sloan played 26 games with one goal and four assists with a plus-four rating and 14 penalty minutes. Sloan is best remembered for cleanly laying out Rene Bourque of Calgary in his first NHL game in October.

From Capitals Insider:
"We've only had six healthy defensemen up here and I think we were playing with fire if someone would go down in warm-up," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We've got John [Erskine] banged up a little bit. He's going to try it and see if he can go. But we figured we take precautionary measures and call up a couple of guys just in case. If we had to go to one, they both know our systems as well as anyone."

THE NEWEST RUSSIAN SENSATION

Everyone in DC has been patiently the arrival of the Semyon Varlamov era for a while now. But after his save on Sidney Crosby in Game One, the rest of the NHL now knows the name of the 21-year old rookie netminder. Not that they pronounce it correctly.

In the hours since the Caps Game One win, it's all the larger hockey community wants to talk about, even overshadowing media darlings Crosby and Ovechkin.

Publications such as the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, USA Today, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette all have stories up about "The Save" and the mystery of the now-famous young backstop.

His own coach is staying away from him for fear of "messing him up," but Bruce Boudreau let him know through the press how he felt about his biggest save of the playoffs.

"He owed us one," referring to a goal on a soft wrist shot from the point by Mark Eaton just moments before.

Varlamov was philosophical about his Game One experience.

"The first goal could have rattled a 21-year-old goalie, and the second goal could have killed a 21-year-old goalie. But this is the playoffs. You can't really dwell on your mistakes. You have to forget them quickly."

But everyone will remember his effort on the save.

"There was no other option left," Varlamov said. "I had to play it with my stick. There was nothing else I could do. If he put the puck anywhere else, it would be in the net. So, I guess it was lucky."

GETTING ON TOP

The Penguins really took play to the Caps in Game One early in the game, registering the game's first six shots on goal. In Game Seven against the Rangers, the Caps didn't get a shot on goal until 13:04 of the first period.

In both cases, the other team had scored before the Caps got their first shot.

So, what gives?

Ultimately, the Caps are doing a lot of damage in the first period during the playoffs. Washington has scored 10 of its 22 goals in the first period, the most in the NHL this playoff season. The Caps are 4-0 when leading after the first and 3-1 when scoring first.

So why has the team looked shaky the first few minutes of the last two games?

Here's one opinion, by Game One hero David Steckel, "It seems like it takes a goal [against] or for the other team to take momentum away from us in the first 10-15 minutes for us to wake up."

"But we can't always start behind the eight ball. We've talked about it until we're blue in the face. It's just about guys being ready and prepared. Whether it's the using the same routine or breaking it up and trying to find something else, we have to do it."

The Caps are notorious slow starters for afternoon games, but coach Boudreau thinks nerves may have played a part in the last couple of games.

"Normally we're one of the best first-period teams in the league. But we're in new territory for a lot of these guys. Especially last game [Game One], we didn't have a clue what we were going to come up against. Maybe now we'll be able to relax a little bit."
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