One Final Chapter Remains

In general, having lived through each and every Capitals’ postseason series, I’m not a big fan of surging to a 3-1 series lead and injecting needless drama into them by making unheralded opposition netminders look like Johnny Bower or Glen Hall.

Here we go again.

This trauma we suddenly confront, it’s all my fault. Last Thursday here I became overcome with hubris, and, blissfully dismissive of Capitals’ postseason history, announced this opening round series over.

I should have known better.

From where I sit, there are three principal reasons for the Caps being back in hockey postseason purgatory — besides the most basic fact of their being the Caps. First and foremost, they are an ungodly 1-for-30 on the power play. One for ten is bad; one for 20 is awful; one for 30 is . . . ‘Ishtar.’ Beyond awful. Every training camp every NHL club executes this drill wherein four defenders skate defending a power play with the butt ends of their sticks. It’s as if the extra-man Capitals in this opening round series have been attacking with the butt ends of their sticks. If the Caps had been merely putrid on the power play in this series it’s already over.

Jaroslav Halak however has also staked a compelling claim to joining the litany of middling netminders who’d prematurely terminate a promising Capitals’ postseason. This is a tale we’ve read before. His 53-save performance Monday night ranks among the greatest not only in Capitals’ postseason history but NHL postseason history. He was that out-of-his-mind difference-making. He needs one more stellar showing Wednesday night to enter Habs’ lore.

And then there’s the inexplicable power outage among some of the Capitals’ most electrifying offensive sources. Mike Green is goal-less and again standing out for the wrong reasons this postseason. Alexander Semin ranks no.224 among skaters in scoring this postseason, and trails teammate Boyd Gordon in scoring. It doesn’t matter who centers him, he’s a zero. He, too, has come up small for the second consecutive postseason. And while Semin has at least pumped shots on goal, Tomas Fleischmann (no. 236 among skaters in postseason scoring) can’t control pucks and cannot make plays. It’s hard to fathom his being in the game 7 lineup, as brutal as his play has been.

Actually, beyond the appalling stats there may be an overarching reason for the present predicament the Caps find themselves in — last Friday night’s opening 10 minutes. By not showing up for them the Caps took the proverbial skate blade off of their opponents’ throats. Seedings in the NHL’s postseason in this era of parity are largely irrelevant; not working in a playoff game is an ageless prescription for trouble. The longer the Caps allowed the Habs to hang around in game 5 the more they invited the curse of yesteryear to revisit. End this series in five as they should have and the Caps would have advanced accumulating merely poor stats in some important categories, and square off fresh against a badly beaten up Flyers’ club. There will be one set of loosely gripped sticks tomorrow night in Verizon Center and another with a life-terminating squeeze applied. The Habs tomorrow night will be playing with house money.

For the fourth consecutive post-lockout postseason series the Capitals will confront a seventh and decisive game. The ‘Cardiac Caps’ of the ’80s had nothing on these guys.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Era of Ovechkin was believed to have represented a new dawn, bringing with it a permanent relegation to the ash heap of history all of those springtime folds of the past. This morning, every Capitals’ fan over the age of 35 is greying anew. Should his team be lucky enough to advance past game 7 don’t look for the under-experienced Capitals’ captain to chirp again about an opposing netminder having the shakes.

Every postseason series is a novel. The Habs, hockey’s and perhaps sports’ most storied franchise, are a worthy protagonist, never wavering in their conviction that they had a slugger’s chance against the 120-point, President’s trophy-winning, but still vulnerable Caps. They asked not to be judged by their cover.

And for their part the Caps brought to this tale a good-guys-always-finish-last aura, a tragedy in the making.

On Wednesday night, we learn whether this latest tale is a Hemingway epic of grace under pressure. . .  or a Stephen King tome of terror.

This entry was posted in Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Mike Green, Montreal Canadiens, Morning cup-a-joe, National Hockey League, NHL playoffs, Washington Capitals. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to One Final Chapter Remains

  1. penguin pete says:

    i just don’t think articles like this could be written about the playoffs in any other sport, though i guess baseball fans may disagree, but great job nonetheless.

    i understand the concern, but i really think the caps will flex and win this one handily, chipping in a couple PP goals no less.

    of course, this is all easy for me to say, as i’m lucky enough to have escaped the game 7 jitters this post-season, so far.

    find a few moments to enjoy it!

  2. pbocaps says:

    The Caps are just shooting to shoot. Most of those shots hit Halak in chest. Where is the screener in front? The redirections? The bang-bang play? The goal that went in last was because of a redirection and traffic in front.

    It also seemed the players were taking a extra second to pick the perfect spot to shoot, which allowed Halak to get in position.

    This team is very capable of finishing this but it makes me nervous when they say we just need to shoot more, rather than passing to get Halak to move side to side. Even a goalie in the “zone” will have trouble going side to side on quick shots.

  3. Chubbs says:

    Montreal Canadiens = Rocky.

    Washington Capitals = Drago.

    As the game went on last night, I felt like the Russian crowd in Rocky IV. At first, completely against the ‘inferior’ opposition, but by the end, rooting for the underdog to slay the dragon.

    That’s not good, and never should it have come to this.

    Game 7’s are unpredictable… and unforgivable in a 1 vs 8 series that the Number One seed led 3-1.

    Let’s drop the puck and just get it over with, either way.

  4. McBride says:

    We are all culpable. I found myself getting worked up about the Philly media’s assessment of Mike Green and allowed myself to think about the opportunity that series would provide.

    I too flew too close to the sun.

  5. Hittman says:

    I’m pretty sure that I, having never played goalie, could have saved approximately 50 out of the 54 “shots” that were “fired” on Halak.

    The old maxim, “just throw it on net” in the playoffs is only so wise. Just throw it on net if you have nothing else to do, but 54 shots on goal is an indication that perhaps 35 well-placed shots would have been a better game plan than simply tossing rubber in the direction of Halak. I mean, these guys spend their entire lives aiming for the corners or the 5 hole and suddenly everything is weakly sprayed at Halak’s chest?

  6. Sherrie Van Houten says:

    I. Told. You. So.
    The Caps’ problems were–if not obvious–definitely noticeable for most of the series. But their biggest problem is that they still haven’t accepted that talent alone doesn’t cut it in the playoffs. As a longtime Red Wings’ fan (yes, the Caps are my #2 team) I saw a LOT of this up through the late 90s, at which point they finally got the idea.
    It’s all up to the Caps tomorrow night, and given the fact that BOTH my teams have managed to put themselves in the same predicament, the next 48 hours promise to be stomach-churning.
    By the way–it wouldn’t hurt to publicly apologize to the hockey gods for that column…

  7. KevinC says:

    I know this is the playoffs, and I know that anything can and will happen, but can someone please ask GMGM why he picked up Scott Walker? I think it must have been to help lock up the President’s Trophy.

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  9. Jerry says:

    I was at Game 5 and left with a very bad feeling about this series. I thought the Caps came out last night with a much better attitude, but not scoring early left me feeling very nervous. And then Camilleri happened, and then Halak just getting more confident.

    The problem is that our star players are really playing tight. Backstrom missed an easy goal, because he was trying to be too fine with his shot. Semin and Green are so tight right now (insert coal to diamond analogy.)

    And I agree with Hittman to a certain extent. A lot of the shots were just goofy wristers or quick slapshots from above the circles. Halak was amazing last night, but we need to be more intelligent with the puck.

  10. Eric says:

    It’s pretty simple. If the entire roster plays a full 60 minute game in either Game 5 or 6, the series is over. As mentioned last night, the Capitals still lack heart and motivation at every position to do what it takes to win playoff games.

    Oh, and that Halak guy is playing pretty well. Time to get in his head. Even if it costs you the occasional 2 minute minor.

  11. Ted says:

    Just get the job done tomorrow. There’s nothing to worry about. Just do your duty. The Canadiens are gonna have just as hard a time tomorrow night.

  12. Hittman says:

    The Curse of Mike Green. I’m not sure he would make the Hershey Bears playoff squad right now.

  13. Penquin Dave says:

    Obviously, none of you want to hear from our side of the fence right now having closed out in game 6 (but needing OT to do it). I have often said that I do not like all the press that Ovechkin receives. You are not great until you win a Championship. However, I believe the CAPS and Ovechkin will step it up in game 7 when they have to, despite last season and the previous seasons. This is a very diffferent team. Home ice is a great motivator and CAPS have loyal, LOUD fans. I really loved the Rocky IV and Drago references. Classic!

  14. nafyekcoh says:

    To win tomorrow, the Caps need to get back to their basic style and put a little hustle in their game. I don’t know how many pucks the Canadians beat us to last night, it appeared some of our boys were unsure of what they should do. Got to get the hustle back. The passing game is the worst I’ve seen in a long time. I don’t know if we should contribute this to Montreals playing or our lack of aggressiveness. All I know is the pace put on the puck needs to improve. Besides getting a puck past Halak and the PP, the biggest hurdle the Caps must get through tomorrow night is Mental. Watching some of the post game interviews from the last two games, our boys sound/look very down. Come on guys let’s pick it up and move on with the post-season.

  15. Amanda says:

    I remember not so long ago when Ovechkin was taunting Halak for shaking while taking a drink from his water bottle. How many games ago was that…seems like forever? Halak has now stopped 90 shots in elimination games. Now Alex says “I think we played great, we just didn’t score.” Really, great? Great = winning. Are you kidding me? Use your stick more and your mouth less.

  16. Habitual says:

    Well I guess the Game tomorrow night will tell all.The Caps will be more nervous than the Habs will be since The Habs have nothing to loose and maybe a chance to go further in the Quest of the Stanley Cup, But the Caps have alot to loose when the Habs show up since the Habs have taken this to 7 Games when it was supposed to go in 5 Games in favour of the Caps.

    Maybe there is some truth which was mentioned,The Final Chapter from the author Stephen King.

  17. ValleyCapsFan says:

    At the risk of adding to the omens of doom being discussed here, let me just say that my repressed memories from the 1980s have been resurfacing since the end of the 1st period last night. Premature flameouts against inferior opponents in ’86 (Rangers), ’87 (Islanders), and ’88 (Devils) were traumas that took years of intensive therapy to overcome. Will my PTSD be back in full force Thursday morning? God, I hope not. Watching a talented Caps team get ousted by a middling team with a unproven goalie suddenly made “hot” by shots into his chest is a script us greybeards (47) are all too familiar with.

    I know, I know. To quote Oddball in “Kelly’s Heroes,” “Why always with the negative waves, Moriarty?” I’ll try to resume thinking happy thoughts for the time being.

  18. Letz Go Caps says:

    “Actually, beyond the appalling stats there may be an overarching reason for the present predicament the Caps find themselves in — last Friday night’s opening 10 minutes. By not showing up for them the Caps took the proverbial skate blade off of their opponents’ throats.”

    BINGO!!!! Exact same thing against the Pens last season. Jim Schoenfeld the only Capitals coach to consummate victory heretofore (and probably ever) against the Pens put it best “Never lift your foot off of a snake.”

  19. Steve says:

    It all started in Game 2 when he took out Theodore. Big mistake Boudreau. Second year in a row you pulled this stunt and it may come back to haunt you again. Theo should have been back in net in Game 3. Now the descion is who to put in net for Game 7. Hope he makes the right call or he will be going for a ride in his E-Class and getting another garden salad early this year.

  20. OvieTracker says:

    Nice work again on this article pucksandbooks. No need to apologize for “forgetting” the holes the Caps dug for themselves in playoffs past. You are definitely not alone in assuming this time would be different. Hope springs eternal, and that often leads to collective amnesia regarding this team.

    Yes a team effort is definitely needed, and that means getting back to doing the things that worked for them before. A strong start would go a long way to making victory possible, getting on the Habs early and not letting up the pressure.

    Of course now the troops have been depleted, as Tom Poti is out with an eye injury after being struck by a puck in game 6. That’s going to add even more pressure to the defensive corps, so scoring goals in bunches would seem to be a given. It’s really very simple. It means solving Halak early to take away the confidence he has instilled in his teammates. The Caps have to make the Habs doubt themselves, doubt their goalie, by scoring. Do the Caps have the will and the willpower and the manpower to make it happen? We should have some answers very early by this time tomorrow. I can’t take much more of this suspense and tension, and so I too want game 7 to be played and ended no matter what the outcome just to be put out of my misery.

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