Posts Tagged ‘Sadness’

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’.

Dreams on Hold

Yikes. Stephen Strasburg likely needs reconstructive “Tommy John” surgery on his elbow and will be out from 12 to 18 months. Jordan Zimmerman, who started last night for the Nats after undergoing the very same thing is evidence that there is a 90% success rate for this procedure.

But it’s a long, tough road ahead for the Nat’s young phenom who finished the season with the highest strikeout to innings ratio of any pitcher in the major leagues. He’s flying out to the West coast to get a second opinion.

The human arm was not really built for the strains of major league pitching. Young pitchers are like thoroughbreds; capable of generating so much power, but ultimately extremely fragile. The Nationals have been extremely cautious with Strasburg, making sure he’s limited to 90 or so pitches per outing; putting him on the disabled list for a shoulder strain and pulling him promptly last week when he winced in pain after throwing a change-up.

If the reaction of my colleagues in the office is any indicator, this is a stunner. No, more than that- it’s heartbreaking. All the promise and potential…on hold…while the Nationals and the Washington area at large holds its collective breath for the next year.


When Your Sports Team Embarrasses You

I didn’t spend a second on the ice, I lost no teeth, my personal Power Play is working just fine, thank you. Nevertheless, I am a little red-faced today over the infamous, notorious and historic Washington Capitals collapse last night.

There is a tremendous irony here that leads to a few suggestions for next year’s Washington hockey team. This would not be such a horrific embarrassment for the entire city or for Washington area sports or specifically for the Caps, if they had not done so well in the regular season; if they had not fashioned one of the best regular-season records in the history of the sport.

So noting the trends from the first round of this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, here are my suggestions for next year.

Home Ice Does Not Matter

There is no advantage to playing at home. In fact, as three of the four division winners in the Eastern Conference can attest- home ice is actually a disadvantage.

Having the Best Record in the Regular Season Does Not Matter

All it gets you is home-ice advantage. See above. And it guarantees you will play a dangerous team that has nothing to lose.

The 82 Regular Season Games You Play Mean Absolutely Nothing

Other than to qualify for the post-season, play mediocre hockey and just barely squeek into the playoffs. This will give you both the away-ice advantage and tremendously reduced expectations.

You Don’t Need Such a High-flying Offense

It masks your defensive liabilities. If one hot goalie can shut down your entire offensive juggernaut in the playoffs it doesn’t really matter how many goals you scored in the regular season.

Lights, Sirens and Fights

If you really like the sounds of the siren going off and the little flashing red
light- activate them during intermission between periods. To make up for fewer goals
get into more fights. This will make the games more entertaining and emotional.

Get a Really Hot Goalie

And you don’t have to pick him up until a week before the playoffs. Remember- you don’t want to win a whole lot of regular season games. The real season is from April through June. The rest of it is all window dressing.

I think that about covers it. In an effort to win fewer regular season games, you can probably shed a lot of high-priced stars who, as it turns out, didn’t show up for the playoffs anyway.

In their place, get guys who block shots and goons who beat the crap out of people. That will also require less emphasis on the Power Play and more on Penalty Killing. But that’s cool because it’s a lot easier to slap a puck away to the other end of the rink than to fit it through a tiny slit and past a goaltender and into a fairly narrow net.