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Angry Caps speak out on Bourque-Backstrom incident

Jan 4, 2012, 3:34 PM EDT

Backstrom Getty

The Washington Post’s Katie Carrera spoke with a few irate Capitals on the heels of Rene Bourque’s elbow to Nicklas Backstrom’s head Tuesday night. The general consensus? Bourque’s punishment didn’t fit the crime — in either penalty minutes served or frontier justice.

Alex Ovechkin: “It was head shot. It was kind of on purpose. I tell the referee, ‘He goes like straight in the face with an elbow. So why give him only two minutes?’”

John Erskine: “If I had got a chance to get on the ice I would have said something to [Bourque]. It’s a tough call, you want to do something but you don’t want to get sucked in and take a penalty because right now every two points is huge for us.””

Erskine’s comments are intriguing. While the Capitals are hardly pacifists — Erskine and Matt Hendricks have eight combined scraps this year — they have gradually removed some of the tough-guy element from their roster. Matt Bradley and DJ King were jettisoned in favor of more versatile skaters while Erskine’s been in and out of the lineup.

An understandable move, but there’s always the Buffalo Sabres Conundrum to consider. Every team knows what Buffalo learned earlier this season: Not sticking up for your stars is equally damaging, if not more, than sticking up for them. Erskine wasn’t able to get after Bourque because he was bolted to the bench — he didn’t play the final 16:28 against Calgary — but you get the sense he was ready to find Bourque had coach Dale Hunter sent him over the boards. (Of note, Hendricks only took three shifts in the third.)

So, the question: Do Erskine’s words compensate for a lack of action? Intentions are great but at the end of the day Bourque didn’t have to answer the bell and the Caps might be without their leading scorer for a while. That’s something veteran winger Mike Knuble was very aware of.

“[Backstrom's] probably been, with a team that’s been inconsistent he’s been consistent,” Knuble said. “He’s been our most consistent player and plays in any situation and he’s very valuable to us. I don’t know if he’s going to miss time or whatever but it’s a big hole if he does.”

UPDATE: Stephen Whyno of the Washington Times has more angry Caps reactions, including Jay Beagle calling it a cheap shot and ex-Bourque teammate Troy Brouwer saying “he’s [Boruque's] got that little bit of an attitude to him.”

  1. flavadave10 - Jan 4, 2012 at 3:54 PM

    As a hockey player, you have to defend your teammates. If I saw my teammate get elbowed like Backstrom did, I’d personally make sure that he realized that actions have consequences, if you catch my drift.

    This seems to be a problem for the Capitals. Vokoun gets iced by opposing players a fair bit and I’ve seen opposing players hit Vokoun after he has the puck on numerous occasions. I rarely see the Capitals stick up for him. Until the Capitals realize that they are a team and they have to stand up for each other like they would for their own brothers, they’re not winning a Stanley Cup. Where’s Donald Brashear when you need him?

  2. bcjim - Jan 4, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    Erskine is right…its easy to do that stuff when you have a 10pt lead in the SE by Xmas but when you *need* the 2 pts….its just going to have to wait. In this case (Calgary), it may wait til next year but it wont be forgotten.

    If they were up or down 3-4 goals last night, I also think Borque would have be dealt with promptly but it was 3-1…and a 6-on-4 powerplay late for Calgary….too risky.

  3. jpelle82 - Jan 4, 2012 at 5:54 PM

    no excuses. you do something to show backstrom that you have his back. he’s been the best guy on your team and now it looks like you are going to let other teams take runs at him unabated. you make it look even worse with your ninny comments after the fact

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