Caps coach Glen Hanlon holds court three times every game day, and he had some interesting quotes when we spoke with him shortly after 5 p.m. this evening, just hours before face-off for tonight’s game between the Capitals and the Lightning at Verizon Center.
On Alexander Semin’s impending return:
“It’s not as hard for him I think as it is for someone without his ability to miss a month or three weeks and come back.
“I’m not expecting Alexander Semin to just come walking in here and change our fortunes. It’s up to everybody to do the things that we need to do. We need to still crash the net and we need to make crisp passes. Semin will be on the ice for 20 minutes. He is not going to come in and score five goals for us. We are expecting more production from our power play and it’s going to help having him in there.
“And I’m hoping that it excites Michael Nylander, not that Michael Nylander needs it. But I think if I had come here I would be expecting to play with Alexander Semin or Alexander Ovechkin. Not doing that for six of the first seven games would be I think a little disappointing.”
On whether he believes that a struggling power play is better off getting six or seven chances on a night rather than just two or three, as the well-disciplined Lightning are sometimes prone to allowing:
“I think it does. It [helps] execution. You have to get opportunities. We’ve spent a lot of time on it here [in practice]. Watching us in practice it looks better with Semin in there, by where he is. We’re counting on this to happen. But I’m not trying to set myself up for failure. If we’re 0-for-3 at the end of the night, it’s not Alexander Semin’s fault. Everyone has to share the responsibility for doing the right things.
“We’ve been pretty patient with everything here in terms of keeping the lines together and keeping the power play groups fairly [stable]. We have a belief that this is going to be successful and we’re not going to waver from it at this point.”
On what he believes is the problem with the power play:
“I think it’s execution of passes. I think it’s the fundamental things of receiving a pass and giving a quick pass. And getting the point shots through to the front of the net, getting a shot on goal is important. We don’t have much trouble getting it in [the zone]. Penetration time is not our problem. Ours has been the execution of passes, and net presence which I thought was better both 5-on-5 and 5-on-4 the last game.”
On whether he expects Boyd Gordon to spend the night up against the Vincent Lecavalier line:
“Here’s what you run up against. You play Tampa Bay, and you’ll like see either Lecavalier or Richards six of the first 12 shifts. You want Gordo to do that, but you can’t have Boyd Gordon playing eight of the first 12 minutes because Ovechkin and Semin will just sit there, and John [Tortorella] will be quite happy just to keep on if I want to match those guys. I think you will see him out there against them, but I can’t leave Ovechkin sitting on the bench all night long and I can’t leave Semin. So eventually they are going to have to play a shift against those guys and get the job done. And I’m comfortable that they will do it. The plan for [the Lightning] is usually their top players play close to 23 to 24 minutes. They try to get the lead with their top players, and it’s a great strategy.”
On playing just his second of eight games with more or less a full and healthy lineup:
“I think we’re drawing confidence from that. I think our best 40 minutes was the Carolina game [on Oct. 6]. Our best 120 [consecutive] minutes was against the Islanders and Pittsburgh [last week]. But our best 40 minutes of hockey I felt we played was the [first] two periods against Carolina with this lineup. We’ll see. I think the players are getting a good feeling about that.
“I though we were learning how to win then and got a little nervous and sat back too much in the third. We must have gotten into five or six controlled forechecks and stopped pressuring pucks and things like that. But I thought the first couple periods were real good, solid hockey.”
On whether Tomas Fleischmann could spell Semin at even strength on occasion tonight:
“Last game we had Gordo playing against Crosby. But in the middle of the second period we took a bunch of penalties, and you look down the bench and see that Gordo isn’t recovering. Most of the time he is. Well, you can’t put a player out that hasn’t recovered. So if I’m saying that I’m going to play Semin on a regular shift, and I look down and he has been out for a minute and 30 seconds on a power play and his shift comes up and I look down and see that he hasn’t recovered yet, that’s my decision to put in a fresher player. You could see Flash in that spot.”
On what Brian Sutherby needs to do to get back into the lineup:
“I was asked that question on Comcast. It has nothing to do with Brian. I know what Brian can do. He is in a really tough situation right now and he has been unbelievable with it. We have not scored a lot of goals lately. And we’re counting on this group to get us some goals. I have just made a decision that this is what the lineup is going to be. Brian is a centerman. I don’t want to go through our lineup one-by-one, but the centermen I’ve felt have done a good enough job. I know what Brian can do. I feel for him. This has nothing to do with Brian Sutherby as a person. I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for him. I feel for him. Sometimes, coaching isn’t about sending five guys out on the power play. You have to tell someone they’re not playing. We don’t want to see injuries. We don’t want to see people not [getting the job done]. But sometimes people don’t play for eight or nine games and they end up playing the last 70 games better than they’ve ever played.
“I thought Stecks did a really good job. Brooks Laich has done a good job because of his versatility and his speed. I think he has worked to become one of our faster skaters. I like Brooksie’s ability to kill penalties and I like his speed. It’s tough. We all want to see Sudsy in there. But there are only so many spots. Sometimes when you’re trying to do what you think is right when you’re trying to take the next step … I’m giving some people some really good opportunities here. And they appreciate it. It’s just up to them. It’s time. It’s time to step forward and take advantage of it.”
By the way, Marc Denis will start in goal for the Lightning against Olie Kolzig for the Caps.