Posts Tagged ‘Playoffs’

Doctor- I Don’t Think I Can Handle Another Game #7

Capital's Netminder, Braden Holtby (Photo by Patrick McDermott - Getty Images)

Actually, I didn’t do so well through game #6 between the Boston Bruins and the Washington Capitals. It’s just so excruciating. And with hockey, there’s no time for rest- for the players or for the fans. A mad rush on goal is the next second’s defensive collapse. And vice versa. For three friggin’ hours.

And these teams are so evenly matched, it’s ridiculous. Never before in the entire history of the National Hockey League have six playoff games in a single series each been decided by one goal.

I do think Cap’s coach, Dale Hunter, has the right attitude and maybe that’s what really matters. He says “you have to enjoy it.” “It” being the opportunity to even be in a game #7. Certainly, the Caps have exceeded all expectations already.

So…yeah…you players…go on and enjoy this. As for me, I’ll be sitting on the edge of the couch either screaming or crying, hyperventilating as I pace around the living room, biting my nails, or answering phone calls in a totally unfriendly manner (the audacity of anyone ringing or texting me during playoff hockey is more than I can fathom).

I don’t know what you call all that….but I don’t classify it, technically, as fun. There is, however, an intriguing possibility. What if they win? It could happen, you know.

There is a victory dance I have developed in recent weeks after Caps and Nationals wins. It frightens my pets and simultaneously startles and amuses my girlfriend, but I have danced this dance many times in the month of April already. It’s a combination of the Twist and the Mashed Potato, and involves a lot of gyrating arm and wrist action with considerable doses of White Man Overbite.

It’ll be that or sitting in my chair in the bedroom/office. In the dark. Shaking my head. Don’t make me go there, Caps. Please. I would respectfully ask that you ignore any past histories, omens, jinxes and victim mentalities and jam that little black puck in the Bruin net early and often.

Go. Red.

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’.

Stanley Cup Dreams

When a sports season ends badly, fans famously utter the cliché about waiting until next year.  It can feel like a really long wait.   The road to the Stanley Cup begins anew tonight as the Washington Capitals host the New York Rangers.  Will it be heartbreak or redemption for last season’s sad and humiliating 1st round defeat by Montreal when the Caps blew a 3-1 series lead.

This is not last year.  The Caps were the best team in hockey in 2010; an absolute offensive scoring juggernaut.   They were cocky, full of themselves and missing a couple of ingredients—defense and grit.  They ran into hot goalkeeping and lost their confidence and had nothing to fall back on.

This time around, they don’t have half the offense.  But they do play tough defense and it’s no big deal for them to win low-scoring games.  Last year, the Caps got hot in February winning 14 straight.  This year, they’re hot right now.  They are 16-3-1 in their last 20 games.

The New York Rangers have a spotty offense and terrific goal-tending but the Caps will never take them for granted.  On December 12th,   the Rangers crushed Washington, in New York, 7-0.   It was Washington’s worst defeat in five years.  It marked their 6th straight loss.  It was the moment the Caps fully understood they needed to change their character.   That loss has helped make the Caps who they are today- a scrappy, gritty, tough, defensive-oriented team that thinks nothing of scoring just a couple of goals a game- they’ll shut you down and hold you to one.  There is no shortage of incentive for the Caps against these Rangers.  

There’s nothing sure in sports, of course.  But even if they do lose to New York in the 1st round, they will have done all the right things to give them the best chance possible.  Pucks take funny bounces; the NHL playoffs are notorious for upsets.  So the only thing you can control- is your philosophy and your work ethic.  They have the right philosophy and they work their tails off.  It’s all you can ask for.  It’s how they have, once again, become the #1 seed in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.   

Here’s what some others think of the Caps chances in this opening series against the Rangers:

Caps in 6

Our friends at  in South-central Saskatchewan, Canada call it Caps in six.  This wasn’t just one guy from Moosejaw, Saskatchewan- this was a whole panel of famous Moosejawnians; the morning radio hosts of Country 100, the Director of Hockey Operations for the Moose Jaw Warriors, the Head Coach of the Moosejaw Generals and the Head Coach of the Moose Jaw Miller Express.

Rangers in ?????

Edmond Dantes of the  says if the Caps don’t start goalie, Michal Neuvirth, they’re toast.  He bases his pick on the Caps-Rangers head-to-head contests this season, painfully outlined above.

Caps in 4

Over in Pennsylvania, way northwest of Philadelphia in the Lehigh Valley, Kevin Amerman of the  puts it this way as he predicts a Caps sweep:

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is very good, but not great enough on a team with little identity to stop Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Knuble and company.  

Caps in 7

SB Nation/Denver’s Matthew Muzia sees a nail-biter but totally buys into the change in the Cap’s philosophy.  He points out a Ranger upset would not that be that huge considering those 7-0 and 6-0 Caps losses to New York earlier in the season.

Rangers in 5

The Boston Globe’s  Kevin Paul Dupont does not think the Caps can overcome Ranger goalie Henrik Lundqvist.  Dupont thinks we’re going to get all rattled and frustrated.

Caps Are the Betting Public’s #2 Pick

Over at this is how fans are thinking about the Stanley Cup playoffs in general.  This is folks talking with their money:

San Jose Sharks 76%

Caps 69%

Boston 62%

Detroit 57%

Caps in 5

Dave Gross with the Ottowa Citizen  makes the most sense of all these guys:

Capitals win if: They slam the foot on the gas and keep it there. This should be a motivated team considering the frustrations of the past two playoffs. Boudreau pointed out the team’s better suited now to low-scoring games after continuing to win with fewer goals (for and against) this past season.


 Go Red!