No More Entitlements in Washington
Marcus Johansson was the first overall pick for the Capitals in the 2009 draft, and played as a first-year rookie in 2010. Johansson appeared in 69 games last season, tallying 13 goals, 14 assists for 27 points. He looked very impressive at times, and like a rookie at others, but the overall consensus was that 2011-2012 could be exciting for MoJo.
Then, the 2011 preseason happened. Boudreau was not happy with the performance of his youngster, saying they'd "like to see more from him."
In years past, Boudreau may have not even made the comment, and definitely there would have been no repercussions for one of the "star players." This year, is different. Opening night against the Hurricanes saw Johansson as a healthy scratch; Boudreau had benched him. The strategy worked, as Johansson was a demon on the ice Monday night against the Lightning. He was all over the rink puck-handling and making plays, and scored a fantastic goal that highlighted his skill and determination.“I think the obvious answer is yeah we’d like to see more from him,” Boudreau said. “Maybe we expected too much from him at the start. He’s only a second year guy, even though he played great at the second half of the [2010-11] season. But I thought yesterday was his best practice and I thought today he worked really hard.”
Also in the Tampa game, the top line gave up a a go-ahead goal to the Lightning due to sloppy, lazy play. Boudreau was visibly upset, and immediately took his superstars off the ice. On the ice for only 8 seconds, Backstrom lazily chased after a puck heading towards the corner, seeming almost uninterested. Ovechkin then watched as the Lightning's Dominic Moore accepted the pass in the slot and fired home a shot. Ovechkin's responsibility is to disrupt the shooting lane (or just do SOMETHING). Instead, Backstrom and Ovie left Vokoun high and dry and the end result was a goal. The Capitals would go on to win the game in the shootout, but there may not have been a shootout or even overtime necessary if Backstrom and Ovechkin did their jobs.
Boudreau's response? Yanking the Ovechkin line off the ice immediately and berating them on the bench, and didn't send them out again for almost a full 3 minutes (in hockey time, that's approximately equivalent to a full series in an NFL game). Again, Boudreau was not afraid to bench his superstars to send a message. The message was received by the "lunch pail" lines, as they provided all of the offense in the game. The message was also received by Ovechkin, who spoke to the media about "being better."
There is a new sense of accountability in Washington this season, no more entitlements. Whether it be Ovechkin getting benched, Johansson being a healthy scratch, or Neuvirth starting the season over the elite Tomas Vokoun. If the trend continues, these Capitals will do big things.
Worried about Tomas Vokoun's 5-goal shellacking on Monday night? Neil Greenberg says relax, nothing to see here. Vokoun is a notoriously slow-starter, and his first game is usually his worst.
Pierre LeBrun blogs about how MchPhee & Boudreau set the tone for this season.
10/13 @ Pittsburgh
10/15 vs. Ottawa
10/18 vs. Florida