By: Justin Creech
Washington, DC—The Washington Capitals wrapped up the regular season Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center by having another one of their heralded players reach another milestone.
Alexander Semin reached the 40-goal plateau for the first time in his career early in the first period, but the Capitals ultimately fell to the Boston Bruins, 4-3, in a shootout. With the Capitals already having secured the President’s trophy and having known their playoff seed for quite some time, individual achievements was all that was of any importance on Sunday.
Semin reached his at 2:23 of the first period on a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Boston’s Tim Thomas low to the blocker side and elicited a fist pump from Semin.
The goal, coupled with teammate Alex Ovechkin’s 50th on Friday marked the first time in NHL history that two Russian teammates each scored 40 goals in a single season, and the first pair of Capitals to accomplish that feat since Dino Ciccarelli, Geoff Courtnall and Mike Ridley in 1988-89.
“When he wants to play and he’s wanted to play an awful lot these days,” said Boudreau. “So, he’s as skilled as there is in the league and when people just focus on our one player he comes through, so it’s a pretty good second weapon to have.”
The Capitals finished the regular season with franchise records in wins (54), points (121), and home points with 65. The Capitals also finished with an NHL-leading 313 goals (not counting shootout “goals” reflected in the league standings) and are the highest scoring team since the 1995096 Pittsburgh Penguins (362).
The Capitals also received goals from Eric Belanger and Mike Knuble, and Semyon Varlamov stopped 35 of the 38 shots he faced in regulation and overtime before yielding shootout goals to David Krejci and Miroslav Satan.
Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau picked Boyd Gordon and Matt Bradley to shoot for the Capitals in the shootout, later stating that he felt they deserved an award for the hard work they have put in all season, and also that the outcome of the game had no effect on either team’s playoff seeding.
Alex Ovechkin was held pointless in his bid to secure the “Rocket” Richard and Art Ross trophies. Ovechkin finished the regular season with 109 points (50g, 59a) which are three behind the Canucks Henrik Sedin for the league lead. Ovechkin still has a chance at the “Rocket” Richard trophy as he is currently tied with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and has a one goal lead on the Penguins Sidney Crosby.
The Capitals made a concerted effort in the first period to get Ovechkin on the scoresheet, but after a brilliant stop by Thomas early in the second period on an Ovechkin shot from in tight, it was apparent Ovechkin decided Sunday just wasn’t his day.
“To me it doesn’t take away from the year he had,” said Boudreau of Ovechkin’s failed bid to tie Sedin. “But, sometimes you just can’t dig it up to do it. Boston looked to me like their whole concern was to not let Alex score.”
Boudreau and the Capitals focus now turns to next Thursday when they will open the playoffs against either the New York Rangers, or the Montreal Canadiens; which depends on the winner of Sunday’s game at Wachovia Center between the Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.
Boudreau said he and his team are glad the regular season is over and they can now focus on what they really want; a Stanly Cup Championship.
“We are just anxious to get going,” said Boudreau. “We know we are going to play a good team. Once you have clinched stuff in the regular season, this is your next goal- this is the carrot, the thing that is going to drive you. Starting next week we are looking forward to the next challenge.”
Boudreau said he doesn’t have a preference on who the Capitals draw in the first round; just that he and the rest of the team know whoever they get is going to be a tough draw.
“Only 16 out of 30 teams can make the playoffs, and they’re all good,” said Boudreau. “We’ve got our hands full with whoever we play. Either way it’s going to be a tough [series].”