Goalies all the talk in Montreal

April, 18, 2010

MONTREAL -- Ah, you've got to love Alex Ovechkin trying to take a seat in Jaroslav Halak's mental kitchen.

Ovechkin offered up a pretty lukewarm assessment of the Montreal netminder on Sunday, saying he could see Halak's hands shaking with nervousness after the Capitals scored their first goal en route to a 6-5 overtime victory in Saturday's Game 2.

But if you were expecting Halak to appear and denounce Ovechkin for his carve job, forget it. In fact, if you were expecting Halak to show up at all Sunday, you'd have been disappointed.

The Montreal netminder sent word through veteran PR man Donald Beauchamp that he would not be available to discuss Mr. Ovechkin's critique of his play. "He said he won't get involved in a war of words," Beauchamp said.

Ovechkin was asked why the Capitals had success Saturday and he suggested Halak was suffering from some playoff jitters.

"You just have to make some traffic in front of him and find the rebounds," Ovechkin said. "He gives up lots of rebounds. I watched the replay when [Eric] Fehr scored the goal and his arm was like shaking when he drank water. So, he's nervous. He knows all the pressure is on him and that's a good sign for us."


Not surprisingly, the tutorial was a hot topic Sunday in the Canadiens' dressing room.

Montreal coach Jacques Martin reiterated Sunday he thought Halak's play was fine, regardless of Ovechkin's interpretation.

"That's his comments. I think I've answered the point that I felt our goaltending was strong and as usual gives us a chance to win the game," Martin said. "I think with Jaro, I think he's gone through some ups and downs, has had some adversity to deal with during the season, and with each game you become stronger and you learn."

The best goaltending assessment, however, came from Scott Gomez.

"Jaro got us here and [Carey] Price got us here," Gomez said. "He's the one who's been answering the bell and he's the reason we're standing here talking to you guys right now. He's a professional; he's been in huge games for his country."

Someone asked if he'd offer some words of encouragement before Monday's Game 3 and Gomez said he didn't think it would help, as he really has no idea what goalies do anyway.

"I don't know anything about goaltending, I don't know if anyone else does," he said. "So, I don't know if I can go up and talk to him. I guess in knee hockey I was pretty good at goaltending.

"I think that's why they have a goaltending coach. Especially goaltenders, they're different all around. They're weirdoes anyway, so I don't think I can make any sense to him anyway. You'd have to have some set of nuts to go up to the goaltender and tell him what you think at this level, that he should be doing [something] different, especially in the playoffs."

Speaking of netminders ...

We're going to guess Washington coach Bruce Boudreau will go back to Semyon Varlamov for Game 3 simply because Varlamov got the win coming on in relief for Jose Theodore in Saturday's Game 2.

Theodore allowed two goals on Montreal's first two shots and was removed without making a stop, which he said was a first for him.

"I think it's the first time I did get pulled after two goals, but it's in the playoffs and sometimes you want to do something to change the momentum," Theodore said Sunday. "Right after that, we scored a big goal to make it 2-1. I don't think I played long enough to say I played bad."

The one factor Boudreau must weigh, of course, is Theodore has had some of his greatest moments as an NHL netminder at the Bell Centre. He won the Vezina and Hart trophies with the Canadiens in 2002, and these games would mark his first opportunity to play in Montreal in the playoffs since being traded to Colorado during the 2005-06 season.

"It's the building I've had the most success in, the most shutouts, the most first starts, the most wins. For me, it's a good building if you look at it that way," Theodore said. "When I'm on the ice in that building, I remember some good memories. I know [the fans] are going to try to distract me, but as a player, you want to be in those situations. That's going to be a situation that is going to be fun to play in.

"Today, I just focused on practicing hard. I'm feeling good, and either way, I'll be ready to go. It'll be the coach's decision, but you always want to have the chance to get back in there and bounce back."

Boudreau said his No. 1 netminder, the one who went 23 games without losing in regulation through the end of the regular season, has a history of coming back strong after disappointing outings.

"One thing about [Theodore] is he's lasted this long in this league because he's been able to put that stuff behind him and play great when we ask him to play great again," the coach said.

Boudreau also reiterated he always figured if the Caps were to make a long playoff run, they would end up using both netminders at some point.

"Heck, I don't know if we're going to get by this series, but if we do, then [Theodore] is going to play," Boudreau said. "Even if he plays on Monday and has a bad game, he knows it is the same thing. He's a professional and he'll work at it. His lows are followed by good highs, and his highs are followed by lows, and that's just been his nature."

Latest on Metropolit

Glen Metropolit, a talented, gritty center who chipped in 10 power-play goals for the Canadiens' second-ranked unit during the regular season, is hopeful he may rejoin the lineup for Game 3.

"Just got to get the clearance, you know," Metropolit said Sunday after skating. "Feeling good. Want to be out there battling with the boys."

There had been some suggestion Metropolit would be out six to eight weeks with a muscle tear in his shoulder, but he's well ahead of schedule. He hasn't played since March 27.

"It's nice to be almost there," said Metropolit, who had a career-best 16 goals. "It's been a roller coaster for me, that's for sure. I felt like I was out there part of it. I'm jumping up and down in the press box. That was a tough one last night obviously."

Martin said Metropolit would likely be a game-time decision.

Scott Burnside

ESPN Senior Writer


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