Johnson keeping Caps alive

Johnson keeping Caps alive

The Capitals returned home to take two games in a row and also found a secret weapon.

Jose Theodore has been less than stellar overall this season and Coach Bruce Boudreau has turned to a new workhorse - Brent Johnson. Johnson is 2-0-1 in his last three starts and has a save percentage of .929 on the year. With the team struggling, many were wondering whom they would turn to in order to get back on track.

Coach Bruce Boudreau discuses the Capitals victory over the New York Rangers. ANDREW TOMLINSON/ THE EAGLE
Coach Bruce Boudreau discuses the Capitals victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. ANDREW TOMLINSON/ THE EAGLE
Brent Johnson talks about his win against the Carolina Hurricanes. ANDREW TOMLINSON/ THE EAGLE
Brent Johnson talks about this game against the New York Rangers. ANDREW TOMLINSON/ THE EAGLE
Tom Poti discuses his first goal of the season against and the win over the Rangers. ANDREW TOMLINSON/ THE EAGLE
Ovechkin talks about his scoring drought and the importance of conference wins. ANDREW TOMLINSON/ THE EAGLE
Johnson has been that player, stopping 102 of 105 shots in this string of starts. He has waited patiently as the number two behind both Olie Kolzig and Cristobal Huet for four years. While Boudreau won't say whether Johnson is the new number, he has certainly made a case with his last three starts.

"Today [Johnson] was our number one goalie and he maybe again on Monday but on Wednesday we may have a different No. 1." Boudreau said. "I'm not into these goalie controversies, if you're playing good you're playing good."

Johnson isn't the only one to pick up their play in the last three games, as Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom all have improved their games. While Ovechkin still isn't scoring, Boudreau believes he will work it out himself. It wasn't a major concern to the coach as Ovechkin is still adding to the team on the ice with his passing and playmaking ability. Backstrom also showed an increase in production against Carolina and New York, grabbing an assist and contributing to the offensive rush.

The win against Carolina on Thursday was particularly important as it closed the gap on the Hurricanes' lead in the Southeast. While all wins are important at the beginning of the season, Ovechkin stressed the importance of interdivisional victories. He talked about how it is important to gain momentum in the division early, as points can be hard to come by in the ladder parts of the season.

The Caps maintained a strong fore check in both victories and had constant pressure in both offensive zones. While both were strong games, the team was more aggressive around the net against the Rangers. The team as a whole passed up several scoring opportunities against Carolina in favor of pass to a teammate. Boudreau said that while they were more aggressive against the Rangers, he did not preach anything different in practice. He credited the increased shots against the Rangers to the team settling into a rhythm.

The Capitals' next game is Monday against a weak Tampa Bay team. It's another Southeast Division matchup stacked heavily in the Capitals favor. Head Coach Barry Melrose inherited a week Lightning team that lacked in goaltending and offense. The team has started to come together as of late but have yet to face a strong cup contender.

Monday's game also marks the first time Kolzig will return to the Verizon Center after he left last year. With a brewing goalie controversy, Kolzig was aware he was no longer No. 1. As a result he chose to leave the team for the free agent market and found a new home with the Lightning. While still unknown if he will start, Kolzig comes into the game with a goals against average just under three.

One of the most productive lines for the team as a while is the new first line, which consists of Ovechkin, Semin and Backstrom. Against the Rangers this line of young stars maintained a strong fore check and were responsible for two of the three goals. The line is able to generate momentum as well as provide an adequate environment to stimulate Ovechkin and Backstrom who have struggled as of late.

The Capitals hope to continue their point streak at home Monday, as they have picked up a point in every home game this year. Boudreau will still not say who the starting goaltender is, but the logical choice would seem to be Johnson. The Capitals had a strong November last year and they seem to be continuing that trend again this year.

You can reach this columnist at atomlinson@theeagleonline.com.

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