Friday, April 21, 2:30 p.m. ET

The Washington Capitals

Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 21, 2008; 2:30 PM

Washington Post staff writer Tarik El-Bashir was online Monday, April 21 at 2 p.m. ET to take your questions about the Caps as the team prepares for a playoff-elimination game against Philadelphia.

A transcript follows.

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Tarik El-Bashir: Good afternoon everyone and thanks for joining me for a rare Monday afternoon chat. As you may have read on my blog this morning, most of the Caps believe the outcome of tonight's Game 6 in Philly will be determined in the first period. History would seem to support that notion: The first team to score has won each game so far.

On that note, let's get started.


Alexandria, VA: Any idea why the NHL would schedule games 6 and 7 on back-to-back nights? I mean, any idiot could see that this was going to be a rough and physically taxing series. It just strikes me as a foolish move.

Granted, of course, the Caps need to force a game 7 before they worry about such things...

Tarik El-Bashir: I think if the Caps win tonight, having Game 7 tomorrow might actually work in their favor. It's at home, and the Caps are the second youngest team in the playoffs. Younger legs could make a difference.


Chincoteague, Va.: With the job the Flyers have done thus far in "silencing" OV, do you think that the Caps have been out-coached by the Flyers?

Tarik El-Bashir: I wouldn't go that far. But I was talking to someone about Ovechkin's offensive struggles yesterday and he told me to look for Ovechkin to come from behind on the rush tonight, rather than sprinting ahead and waiting for a pass. Because when he sprints ahead, it makes it much easier for Timonen and Coburn to mark him.


Vienna, Va: What effect (if any) will Cote's insertion into the lineup have on tonight's game?

Tarik El-Bashir: I think Cote's presence might hurt the Flyers. This game means to much for Cote to go running around, and you know he's not going to play much. He played about three minutes in each of the first two games of the series.


Maryland: Who Fedorov is rooming with on the road? Is it Kozlov?

Tarik El-Bashir: Fedorov has too many years in the league -- so he gets his own room.


Fairfax, Va.: Tarik,

Do you think Clark and or Pothier could be playing right now but the coaches are afraid of breaking up the chemistry the team had down the stretch.

Tarik El-Bashir: No. Clark isn't ready. I ask him every morning how he's doing, and every morning his answer is the same: "Nothing new to report." I don't think he's going to play at all this season.

As for Pothier, I'm hearing it's bad and that he's not getting much better. It's probably premature to say he's done, but that's definitely on the minds of folks in the front office.


Alexandria, Va.: I think Game 5 was Kozlov's best of the series. What say you?

Tarik El-Bashir: I think Kozlov has really responded to playing with Fedorov. They seem to have some instant chemistry going on there.


Clarendon, Va.: Hi Tarik,

What do the players game-day routines consist of during the playoffs?

Tarik El-Bashir: It doesn't change very much from the regular season: Morning skate, team lunch at hotel, afternoon nap, back to the rink between 4-5.


Silver Spring, Md.: Tarik - If you weren't covering the Caps, which team would you most like to cover?

Tarik El-Bashir: Montreal Canadiens, followed closely by the New York Rangers.


Alexandria, Va.: It seems that the NBA hates Washington by putting the 2 games on at the same time. It seems that the 76ers and Flyers would never play on the same day but the Wizards got screwed. Getting way ahead of myself, would the NHL keep in mind the Wizards schedule when scheduling the round 2?

Tarik El-Bashir: It's very strange that the Caps and Wiz have gone head to head twice. But I have to imagine a lot of that is on the NHL, which really wanted all seven Caps' games guaranteed to be national in the US and Canada.


Philly: Tarik

As always, Thanks for the great coverage.

Do you have a sense about how much our young guys are fazed by coming into a crazy place like Wachovia Center? Does the crowd noise get to them or does it seem to fade away once the game gets going and they start concentrating on making plays?

Tarik El-Bashir: I talked to Mike Green about this the other day. He said it definitely makes a difference -- on the ice and the bench. Remember the two too many men penalties last game? At least one was caused by players not hearing the coaches because of crowd noise.


Arlington, Va.: Is there much tension in Philly (team and/or fans)? A 3-1 lead is sort of a double edged sword. You should, and usually are expected to win. But with one win on Saturday, all of a sudden, if they lose again tonight they have to come back here for a decisive game.

Tarik El-Bashir: All I know is this: if the Caps win tonight, I'm tuning into WIP on the way home tonight. Nothing like angry Flyers fans.


Chantilly, VA: You noted Fedorov's influence on Kozlov. How much of Semin's showing up in the playoffs can we attribute to Fedorov's influence?

Tarik El-Bashir: I think Fedorov has a major impact on all of the young players, especially the European forwards.

But judging from the way Semin has played the past few games I think something may have just "clicked" with him. Sometimes it takes young guys a few years. Sometimes it takes a trip to the playoffs. But whatever has happened to him, the Caps had better hope it sticks. Because he's a remarkable talent when he comes to play.


Woodley Park: I've been offered tickets for tonight's game, and I'd need to catch a train very soon.

Understanding that you're likely stationed in the press booth, are you still able to get a feel for just how rough their home crowd is toward the visiting teams' faithful?

On that note, any recommendations on preferred emergency rooms in downtown Philly? (Just in case.)

Tarik El-Bashir: The fans here are pretty rough. But bad things can happen anywhere if you're crazy enough to wear an opponent's jersey into a visiting arena.

As for downtown hospitals, I hear Penn has pretty good emergency room.


New York, N.Y.: Win or lose tonight, what do you think the Caps and the fans are going to take out of these last few weeks?

Tarik El-Bashir: Regardless of tonight's outcome, I think the Caps and their fans can rest assured knowing that they've got a team that should be able to make a run for the Cup -- soon.


Huntsville, Ala.: Tarik, Has Semin ventured into the English speaking realm yet? It sure looks like he's speaking English on the ice, especially to the Flyers.

Tarik El-Bashir: Semin still prefers to speak to reporters through an interpreter. As for what he's saying to the Flyers, he's probably yelling at them in Russian.

He sometimes does this to me, too. The last time he did, I turned to Fedorov and asked him what he had just called me.

Fedorov laughed and said, "Oh it was nothing bad. But I probably shouldn't say."

I've been wondering ever since.


McLean, VA: Tarik,

Do you think the Caps would have been better off in this series with Olie in goal? He's bigger, stronger, and therefore not as likely to get pushed around and knocked off his game. I feel like Huet is Pete Peeters reincarnated: quick but a little too small for the playoffs.

Tarik El-Bashir: That's really tough to say. Olie is certainly bigger and stronger and with that temper of his, he probably would have chopped down on the back of a few Flyers' ankles.

That said, how could you not stick with Huet considering how well he played down the stretch?


Baltimore: Tarik,

How is Olie holding up being benched so long?

Tarik El-Bashir: Olie is not really talking right now. But he's also not being a problem in the room. So he's dealing with a difficult situation as professionally as possible.


New Bern, NC: Tarik,

Two questions.

1. Do you think the Flyers attempt to intimidate the Capitals has failed and that the Caps size is wearing down the Flyers?

2. TSN pointed out Fedorov's "flamingo" that lead to a Flyer ppg. Have you heard any conversation of that? Its the first remotely negative comment that I've heard directed at Feds since the trade. I want him to stay.

Tarik El-Bashir:1) I think the Caps failed to match the Flyers' intensity and physical play in Games 1-3. They've done that the past two games.

2) I have not heard anyone talking about Fedorov's "flamingo."


Murrells Inlet, SC: We appear to have talented players and some who offer "grit". This series, however, has shown that we cold use a little more toughness. Would you agree that McPhee needs to acquire a couple of wingers to help Ovie on the goal-scoring side as well as a couple of established, tough, defensemen?


Tarik El-Bashir: I think the Caps already have the player they need. Unfortunately for them, Chris Clark will be sitting in the pressbox tonight.


Washington, D.C.: What's with all the criticism of Ovechkin I'm hearing? He's averaging a point per game. He's leading the team - both teams - in hits. Yes, he's not getting the same looks and shot totals...but I think he's been very effective. And FINALLY the rest of the team seems to be taking advantage of the space that comes from having Philly key on one guy. Are expectations just too high for OV? I saw a graphic where he already has as many points as Lemieux and Gretzky did in their first forays into the playoffs. So what's the big deal?

Tarik El-Bashir: Ovie has set the bar sooooo high. And besides, the folks on TV need something to talk about.


Silver Spring, Md.: Tarik

If you could only give one answer to each:

1. What has impressed you the most about the Caps all year?

2. What has disappointed you themost about the Caps all


Tarik El-Bashir:1) The streak of not losing back to back under Boudreau. I think it went for 49 games.

2) That it took management so long to recognize that Boudreau belonged in the NHL.


Haymarket, VA: What's up with the "Vengeance Now" slogan at Wachovia Center? Hasn't it been ages since the Caps faced the Flyers in the playoffs? I guess those Philly fans really DO have big chips on their shoulders!

Tarik El-Bashir: I think the slogan is referrring to last season, when the Flyers finished dead last and got beat up by everyone in the NHL.


Odenton, Md.: Hey, Tarik -- we waved in the rain as the train went north, yesterday. I'm amazed that right now tickets are still available for the game tonight. Can this be a sign that the fans are not as jazzed as they were for Game 3 up there last Tuesday? Ted Leonsis seemed to give the idea that the popularity is waining.

Tarik El-Bashir: I disagree. Tune in around 7. The building will be loud and filled beyond capacity -- just like it has been all series.


Washington, D.C.: Boudreau should keep Ovie out of the box on bench penalties. In the event the opposing team takes a penalty during their power play, our best open ice player would be stuck in the box during 4 vs. 4 hockey. I guess the other argument is that after the penalty is up he make spring a break-away coming out of the box.

Tarik El-Bashir: I asked Boudreau about that the other day. It's definitely a risk you take, but the trade off is that Ovie is halfway to the other team's net.


Alexandria:"That said, how could you not stick with Huet considering how well he played down the stretch? "

Because he wasn't playing well the first few games. Everyone said Olie shouldn't see another game because he wasn't playing well (I can't completely agree with that, but that's another story), and that there was no room for sentimentality in sports, but we can let Huet play such a mediocre game & NOT pull him because he did well down the stretch?

Tarik El-Bashir: I disagree. Pulling goalies in the playoffs rarely works, especially when your backup hasn't played in a month.

You pick your horse and you ride him. That's Bruce's philosophy, and I think he's right.


Arlington VA: How big a loss is Knuble for Philadelphia?

Tarik El-Bashir: Absolutely huge. Knuble had at least one point Games 1-4, including a big time 2OT winner. He's also the guy who stands in front of the net on the PP.


Richmond Va.: Do you think Ovechkin is being a great distraction? Other players are benefiting from his tight coverage, and on the powerplay, his standing around is putting more bodies in front of Biron just cover him.

Tarik El-Bashir: Brooks Laich said it in my story this morning. When Ovechkin goes in front, it rattles the Flyers' defensemen a little. And if they're focused on boxing out Ovechkin, they might forget about the back door.


Washington, D.C.: Tarik --

I have no problem with Ovechkin's contribution this series. He's working hard and making things happen even if he's not getting goals.

To get a win tonight, I think it's some other Caps who need to step up and get in the game a little more. I'd like to see Erskine have a more solid game, and where's Fleischmann been? I know those guys aren't marquee, but there's more room for improvement there and it could help the Caps? Agree? Who would you like to see step it up tonight?

Tarik El-Bashir: I would like to see Shaone Morrisonn and Tom Poti have their best games of the series. They've been up and down in the first five games. It's time for them to bring it.


Washington DC: Hey hey hey!

So, Caps winny or losey tonight? Whad you think?

Tarik El-Bashir: I completely agree with what the players said this morning. If they escape the first period on even footing, or down just a goal, they will have a decent shot and forcing this thing back to D.C.


Arlington, Va.: Explain to me the logic of moving Ovie down in front of the net? Why take the puck away from the game's most dangerous sniper? We need him to shoot the puck, not set up for deflections.

Tarik El-Bashir: I was told that Ovechkin actually volunteered to go in front.


Washington, D.C.: Thanks again for being so accessible to the fans. Assuming that the Caps win tonight and tomorrow, can't we assume that the Caps can take either the Rangers or the Penguins in the next round?

Tarik El-Bashir: You do realize the Caps have to win TWO more games before worrying about that.


Washington, D.C.: Story of the series so far? Story of the Caps so far?

Tarik El-Bashir: After a timid start in the series, the past two games we've seen the Caps' team that finished the regular season with seven straight wins. The question now is whether the young guys have adjusted to play playoff hockey a game or two too late.


Tarik El-Bashir: Thanks for joining me this afternoon, and for helping me get through a long (and cold) day here at Wachovia Center. Talk to you next week. Maybe?


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