"Sometimes it happens right away in the first game, sometimes it takes two or three games," he said in the quiet of a losing locker room. "Things start to happen. They're trying to get you off your game, you're trying to get them off theirs."
"There's a lot of verbal jousting going on out there."
The verbal jousting continued well into the night Monday after
Caps coach Dale Hunter, who answers questions after losses as if a tow truck is about to put a hook onto his car, insisted that the match penalty against
"I think it'll be rescinded," Hunter said. "If you seen it, it wasn't bad."
But late Tuesday night, Backstrom's suspension was upheld. Exactly when a cross-check to the face, even from a player with Backstrom's reputation for clean play, "isn't that bad" is tough to say. Bias aside, Hunter might not be the best judge. As a player, he was famous for making plays that he apparently didn't think were "that bad," plays that earned him a reputation in every
Some of his past rulings suggest that reputation matters to
Memo from Julien to Shanahan: Uphold Backstrom's suspension so the Caps will learn to stop cross-checking people in the face. Response from Hunter: I need my best player to make this a long series.
This has the feel of a long series, one that is likely to get chippier as it goes along. That said, if you line up Bruins-Caps next to the mayhem that has broken out in some of the other first-round series in the Stanley Cup playoffs, this is peewee hockey with no hitting allowed.
Going into Monday night, 11 game misconducts had been handed out in five nights of play. That compares with six in the entire playoffs a year ago.
That's what playoff hockey (pause here to kick another dollar into the national debt kitty) does to people.
Most series are like this one, with every goal feeling as if it is almost as important as an overtime winner. There were two of those, one for each team, in the first two games in Boston. There, tight checking and good goaltending produced a total of four goals in two games. Seven periods-plus of hockey and the puck went into the net four times.
That changed Monday. Both teams found more open ice. The Bruins finally got some people in front of
"They got a lucky goal," Hunter said. "It deflected off one of our guys."
That goal is the difference right now. Luck, as they say, is the residue of design, and the Bruins clearly had more "net-front presence," as Julien called it, on Monday than they had in the first two games.
The Caps had to be encouraged by the fact that
Still, Monday night's game was played more in the style the Bruins prefer than one the Caps are comfortable with. There were several post-whistle "rugby scrums," as Hunter called them, that led to penalties, most notably the one at the end of the game that put Backstrom's immediate future in doubt.
"When you see the same guys every night, it gets more intense," Capitals defenseman
There will be plenty of tension in Verizon Center on Thursday night. The Caps need to stay away from silly penalties like the one Backstrom took at game's end. It doesn't matter whether Peverly got his stick between Ovechkin's legs — the game had been decided. Skate away in order to skate another day.
Shanahan has been unpredictable with his discipline since the start of the playoffs. He somehow let Nashville's
What the first three games of this series have clearly shown is that the Caps can play with the Bruins. Washington general manager