The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller
Washington Capitals Washington Capitals' Mathieu Perreault (85) celebrates with teammates Cody Eakin (50) and Chris Bourque (56) after their goal during the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Washington, Monday, Sept. 26, 2011. The Washington Capitals won 3-1. Perreault, Borque, and Eakin are all in top contention for the Capitals' final regular season roster spot. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)  

Bruce Boudreau’s new approach reaps immediate dividends

On Monday, I wrote about how I was happy to see Washington Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau crack the whip inside his locker room (something The Washington Post also noted just this morning) when it came to ice time. So, what was the result?

After sitting out the season opener as a healthy scratch, second-year center Marcus Johansson sprung back to life on Monday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, notching a goal and an assist and drawing a couple of penalties in a 6-5 shootout win. But it wasn’t just the results of his performance that were impressive, it was how they came about. Here’s what fellow Caps forward Jason Chimera had to say about Johansson’s performance on Monday night:

“[Johansson] was hitting, he was skating, he was shooting. That was maybe one of the best games he’s played as a pro,” Caps forward Jason Chimera said. “I told him I was proud of him on the bench because he deserved it. He didn’t want to be sitting there. He’s a good player, and he shouldn’t be sitting.”

Needless to say, it was the sort of performance the team is going to have to get out of Johansson on a more regular basis in order to be successful. For the past several seasons, the Caps have been hoping to have a player establish himself as the team’s second-line center in order to take some pressure off of the team’s top line of Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble.

As for the other object of Boudreau’s ire, veteran goalie Tomas Vokoun, the results were not as spectacular. After watching the season opener from the bench, Vokoun gave up five goals on just 28 shots on Monday night, including a pair of bad-angle goals he should have stopped. Despite that, Vokoun somewhat redeemed himself in overtime, stopping five shots as his team played shorthanded for most of the extra period before keeping Tampa Bay from scoring in the shootout.

For Vokoun, the loss was doubly embarrassing, as his agent, Allan Walsh, had complained to The Washington Times on Friday night that the team’s failure to give the veteran the start in goal for the team’s home opener could be “perceived as a slap in the face.” Despite his poor performance, Vokoun stuck around the Caps locker room afterwards to face the music with the local press:

“It’s been a long, long time since I felt I played as bad as I did today,” Vokoun said. “Consequently the last bunch of years I played some unbelievable games and I lost them either 1-0 or 2-1. Today I should have lost, hands down. You probably lose 99 out of 100 games and I won it.”

[...]

“Right from the start, it didn’t kind of go my way and it started being really choppy,” he said. “Once you get a little bit on the heels, you’re misreading the plays and it was just ugly, ugly, ugly game for me.”

Kudos to Vokoun for not ducking the press like so many other jocks who have found themselves in a tight spot. Still, given his performance on Monday night and Boudreau’s history of rising the hot hand in net, expect to see Michal Neuvirth between the pipes Thursday when the Caps visit Pittsburgh to play the Penguins.

REWIND: Sean Avery, cut from the New York Rangers last week, accepted a demotion to the team’s AHL affiliate in Hartford.

Eric McErlain blogs at Off Wing Opinion, a Forbes “Best of the Web” winner. In 2006 he wrote a “bloggers bill of rights” to help integrate bloggers into the Washington Capitals’ press box. Eric has also written for Deadspin, NBC Sports and the Sporting News, and covers sports television for The TV News. Follow Eric on Twitter.