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My Caps Collapse Theory for 2011

Caps fans have these theories to explain the misfortunes for each of the team’s 36 years, though for most of the first decade we didn’t have to worry about collapses in the playoffs- it happened in the regular season. IMHO, this time around there are three reasons for the latest epic playoff fail.

#1) Statistical Inevitability: They were too hot at the end of the regular season. Heading into the playoffs, in their last 20 games, they were 16-3-1. Add the 1st round series win in five games over the New York Rangers and they were 20-4-1 as they began play against Tampa. In the middle of the season a 4-game swoon after a hot streak is not that odd; it’s almost inevitable. In the playoffs, it ends your season.

#2) Subliminally- They Set the Wrong Goal: They were too fixated on getting past the 1st round in order to erase last year’s epic fail against Montreal when they blew a 3-1, 1st round series lead after posting the best record in hockey. They played a series of very tough, low-scoring games against the Rangers capping their 1st round success with a perfectly-played game at home. There was relief and way too much satisfaction for managing to get into the 2nd round. Oh, they all say they’re playing for the Stanley Cup, but psychologically, the Caps were really playing just to get past the 1st round and as heavy favorites going into the series with Tampa- they figured it was going to be a piece of cake. Please note the lack of euphoric celebration in the Lightening locker room last night. Those guys are all business, know they have one more series ahead of them to get to the finals and are not sitting back, all pleased with themselves like we were.

#3) Bruce Boudreau does cute television commercials, but in the end, gets outcoached when it really matters. Tampa threw the Caps off with their 3-1-1 defense and Boudreau never really figured out an adjustment to handle all those defensive players just hanging back near their own goal. Then when they got ahead, instead of staying with the conservative, defensive approach, Tampa threw the Caps off again, switching to an aggressive, offensive-oriented game. Line changes screwed the Caps repeatedly, it seems. Some of that is lack of execution, but some of it was just plain bad timing. I suppose in an ideal world, you have someone like Bruce Boudreau get you through the regular season and then you bring in a really good strategist to coach you through the playoffs. But that’s not how it’s done, so even though he has a great regular season record as a coach, he’s not been able to lead the team past the 2nd round—ever.

They should not blow up this team. There are so many really good, young players- they have the potential to be a dominating franchise for years to come. I hope they keep this great mix of youth and veterans; with a good strategist guiding them in the playoffs- they’ll do ok sometime in the next couple of years.

We should be grateful we have one of the best teams in hockey even if they are perpetual playoff underachievers. And there were some great moments this season. I will never forget that crazy come-from-behind victory over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden with the fans chanting “Can you hear us.” That’s the memory I think I’ll hang on to.

Oh and one more thing about next year: Keep your expectations nice and low. Let them surprise us for a change instead of endlessly disappoint us.

Enjoy the golf, boys. We still love ya’.

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