SUN Hockey Pool

Kudos to Caps coach

Bruce Boudreau is coaching like there is no tomorrow, which is probably true in his case if he...

Bruce Boudreau is coaching like there is no tomorrow, which is probably true in his case if he doesn't find a way to get the Caps to the third round of the NHL playoffs. (Jocelyn Malette/QMI Agency/Files)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:38 AM ET

Early in the NHL season, who knew lip reading would be such a valuable skill?

First Wayne Simmonds and now it's Alex Ovechkin making noise out of earshot of the microphones.

It made me think of that Seinfeld episode when George borrows Jerry's deaf girlfriend to lip read from across the room and learn what George's freshly ex-girlfriend is saying at a party.

Only problem is between the deaf girlfriend and Kramer, they translate "sweeping together" into "sleeping together" and hilarity ensues.

I don't think there was as much confusion over what Simmonds or Ovechkin were saying.

Which brings us to Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, who left Ovechkin on the bench at the end of the game Tuesday, sparking Ovie's X-rated F-bombs (at least that's how it looked).

Boudreau is coaching like there is no tomorrow, which is probably true in his case if he doesn't find a way to get the Caps to the third round of the playoffs. He ran a boot camp (relative to past Caps training camps) and now is taking on the team's biggest star, who has a long-term deal, and not backing down.

At least Boudreau won't go quietly.

Good for him.

His actions are speaking louder than any words.

Infer what you want to infer.

HEAR AND THERE: There's talk out there about how, even at this early stage of the season, the seedings for the playoffs are pretty much set. True? Looking back at the standings on Nov. 6 of last year, compared with the end of the season, two teams that had playoff spots in the East a year ago were on the outside looking in come April (Ottawa and Atlanta). In the West, the standings were more volatile. Four teams that had playoff spots on Nov. 6, 2010, no longer had them in April: St. Louis, Dallas, Colorado and Minnesota.

* The top six teams in the East all hung on to their playoff spots. In the West, only three of the six that had playoff spots in November still had them come April. (Cross your fingers, Leafs fans).

* Interesting to note for Boston Bruins fans that last year at this time, the Buffalo Sabres were 15th in the East with eight points and wound up grabbing seventh place. The other team to move into the playoffs in the East was the Pittsburgh Penguins who were ninth in the first week of November.

* In the West, San Jose and Phoenix were 13th and 14th at this time last year and wound up in the playoffs, San Jose second in the conference. Thing is they were only two points out of eighth place after the first week of November. The other teams to move into the playoffs were the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators.

There will be some movement, but not much.

THE BUZZ: One of the keys to the fast starts by the Edmonton Oilers and the Dallas Stars: Each has given up only three first-period goals so far. The Ottawa Senators, by comparison, had given up 18 going into Friday's game ... On Dec. 16, the New Jersey Devils will retire the No. 27 once worn by defenceman Scott Niedermayer. That will serve only as a reminder of what they once were and what they are now, which is not very good.

JUST WONDERING: The Tampa Bay Lightning is on the lookout for defensive depth. Filip Kuba is doing both himself and the Senators a favour by getting off to a good start. Is there a fit there? ... Are there really any rules in the shootout? There was controversy after the Daniel Briere goal against the Devils Thursday night (Did he stop? Did the puck continue forward?). How about the guys who cut wide to the boards, then cut back into the middle, going parallel to the goal line? Technically, their forward momentum has stopped. Truth is, once the shootout was introduced to decide games, just about all logic went to the same place as Nikita Filitov's career prospects.

JUST SAYING: After signing goalie Pekka Rinne, there's no way the Nashville Predators can sign both stud defencemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, can they? Somebody's going to be moving at the trade deadline ... Speculation in Columbus is Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel is facing a must-win situation Saturday night against the Philadelphia Flyers. Ex-coach Ken Hitchcock is still under contract, so he's the logical choice in what would be a unique scenario ... The coach is almost always the one who gets kicked to the curb, but get this stat from the Columbus Post-Dispatch: G Steve Mason has given up a goal within the first four shots in nine of his 12 starts.

THE LAST WORD: Casual conversation with a team executive about the trade market: So, what's (Brian) Burke looking for? Team executive, with a laugh: "A pat on the back."

UNDER THE HOOD

A look at what makes a hockey team work

One of the trends right now is players taking what would seem to be low-percentage shots on the ice from bad angles along the goal line. It wouldn't appear to be the best use of a puck possession but, according to one assistant coach, it creates trouble. Many of the big goalies in the league use the "one knee down" technique to defend the post. They put their pad closest to the puck perpendicular to the goal line against the post. This leaves them in a position to push off with the leg closest to the puck and go into the butterfly if the player with the puck decides to pass into the slot. Problem is, in that position the goaltender can't help but give up a rebound when the puck is hammered at his feet. "The other thing is, if the goaltender's technique is off by a little bit and his pad is even slightly angled, a shot into the pad is going right into the slot," a goaltending coach said.

One player said firing the puck along the goal line is near the top of the list when playing against Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo.

AMBULANCE CHASING

Injuries that are or could have a big impact

TRAVIS ZAJAC, C, NEW JERSEY DEVILS

Considering the problems the Devils have had scoring goals (27th in the league in scoring; last in 5-on-5 scoring), the absence of Travis Zajac is right near the top of the list. He injured his left Achilles tendon during off-season training. He made a stop in New Jersey recently and said he has resumed skating. "It's actually easier to skate than to walk because you're in a boot," he said. He is not expected to return until Christmas. In the meantime, the Devils are trying to replace Zajac, their No. 1 centre, as well as Jacob Josefson (fractured right clavicle), their No. 2. Rookie Adam Henrique is now getting a shot on the top line with Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. The latter has been on the right side, something that was tried last season with little success.

SOMETHING SPECIAL

Pittsburgh Penguins penalty killing

Times short-handed: 40

Goals allowed: 3

Percentage: 92.5

Rank T1

The Penguins continue to lead the league (tied with the Buffalo Sabres) with the top penalty-killing percentage going into Friday night's games. Two of the three short-handed goals the Penguins have given up came Oct. 29 against the Toronto Maple Leafs after D Zbynek Michalek -- who had been leading the team in short-handed ice time per game -- was injured. The Pens have been depending on D Ben Lovejoy to pick up the slack, but he left the game Thursday night against San Jose with what looked like a hand injury, so their depth will continue to be tested. They say your goaltender has to be your best penalty killer and Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't given up a power-play goal yet this season on 35 shots (Vancouver's Cory Schneider hasn't given up a power-play goal on 38 shots).

TOP 5 ...

Salaries of Stanley Cup-winning goaltenders during the cap era.

With the signing Thursday of Nashville Predators goaltender Pekke Rinne to seven-year, $49-million contract, it makes one wonder: Does pouring a big chunk of payroll budget into your goaltending translate into Stanley Cup success?

Here are the top five salary-cap hits of Cup-winning goalies since the 2004-05 lockout season:

1. Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins, 2011: $5 million. His salary last season was actually $6 million, second highest on B's.

2. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins, 2009: $5 million. His salary was $3.5 million.

3. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Anaheim Ducks, 2007: $3.99 million. Third on team behind Pronger and Niedermayer.

4. Chris Osgood, Detroit Red Wings, 2008: $850,000. He earned himself a nice raise the next season.

5. Antti Niemi, Chicago Blackhawks, 2010: $827,000. The rookie took over from Cristobal Huet.

When you throw in Cam Ward winning with Carolina in 2006 (his salary was $684,000 that season), three of the six Cup winners during the salary-cap era had goaltenders making under $1 million.

GO FIGURE

25

The projected penalty minutes this season for Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke. The notorious head hunter said he has been trying to become a changed man. After seasons of 101, 106 and 129 minutes with the Pens, Cooke is headed for the lowest penalty-minute total of his 13-year NHL career.

100

The projected number of hits for Cooke this season. He had 192 last season, so he's on pace for about half as many hits. Has it diminished his effectiveness as a player? Depends on how you look at it. He is also on pace for 50 points and his previous best was 42 in 2002-03 with the Vancouver Canucks.

172

Projected number of goals for the New Jersey Devils this season which would put them in 27th place in the NHL. They finished last in 2010-11 in offence with 174 goals. This is probably not what the Devils imagined when they signed Ilya Kovalchuk for the rest of the century.

1

The Toronto Maple Leafs rank in 5-on-5 scoring. The Leafs have a 5-on-5 for/against ratio of 1.65. That's more than a half-goal a game improvement for the Leafs who were 20th last season (0.94). Boston and Vancouver were 1-2 in 5-on-5 scoring last season and met in the Stanley Cup final.

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