The Curse of Cute Hockey Strikes Again

It is a dangerous thing in playoff hockey, to be an expected winner and to be winning narrowly and to have golden opportunities to vanquish a weary underdog opponent but fail to do so. An underdog in hockey often gains game-altering vitality from a death row pardon. The Capitals were ahead of the Lightning 2-1 in the second period last night, the scoreboard failing to illustrate how well the Capitals were executing their coach’s gameplan, and how thoroughly in control of the game they were. Just one more goal by the hosts and you sensed that a fatigued Lightning team might just fold and hope for two nights’ sound sleep in a quality Washington hotel before trying to even things Sunday night.

“I thought they should have buried us,” Steve Downie said in the postgame, alluding to the effectiveness the Caps enjoyed over the game’s first 30 minutes.

What looked to be a Brooks Laich score in tight was overturned on review as a kicked in goal. Looked like the right call. Twice in the second stanza loose pucks danced around Dwayne Roloson’s crease with primary Capitals’ attackers perfectly positioned but swatting futilely at them. Neither a snakebit Nicklas Backstrom nor Jason Arnott could extend the Capitals’ lead, and that’s when the trouble started. That’s when game one’s momentum switched.

Capitals’ penalties suddenly piled up in the period, too, and that’s a disaster scenario against this Tampa team.

The Capitals got away from the disciplined and patient approach that had tired Tampa on its heels. They reverted to their old individualistic skill ways, and defeat followed.

Ovechkin crashes the net...“You can’t play river hockey,” a frustrated Bruce Boudreau observed afterward. “This was reverting back to an older day.”

River hockey it was over the evening’s final 30 minutes for the Caps, with Green to Semin drop passes creating turnovers instead of scoring chances, Alexander Ovechkin attempting to stickhandle through all five Tampa defenders, cohesion and puck support vanishing.

“I think we play too cute,” the captain acknowledged.

In a remarkable irony the team that looked the most fatigued, the most ineffective arriving at and successfully battling for loose pucks, was the team that enjoyed fully five days off this week. It was the Tampa Bay Lightning, arriving in Washington a little before sunrise Thursday morning from Pittsburgh, who on Friday night won races to pucks and emerged from scrums along the boards in possession of the biscuit. Shocking.

The Capitals really let one get away in game one. Against the Rangers the Capitals had rough patches but they never reverted to the failed stratagems of postseasons past. Maybe the extended layoff fostered less rust and more distrust — in the revamped system. Suddenly Sunday night has the look of must-win. And they may undertake it without the services of John Carlson, who appeared to suffer a lower back injury. The evening took a physical toll on the Lightning as well: Simon Gagne went off groggy from a hard but clean Scott Hannan check in the corner, and later shutdown defenseman Pavel Kubina left a lot worse for wear.

... but Roloson is up to the taskAfter a rough opening 5 minutes for the Caps during which Tampa swarmed Washingtons’ defenders and earned a deserved 1-0 lead little more than 2 minutes in on a Sean Bergenheim tally, Tampa very nearly made it 2-0 before Lightning tormentor Alex Semin snuck a 5-hole softie by Roloson to even the score. The Caps then took control, patiently cycle-circling  in breakout formations designed to build speed and angle advantage against the Tampa trap. It worked, wonderfully — forwards from the first three lines attacked the Tampa zone with speed and support. Both the sum and quality of shots the Caps directed at Roloson were impressive over the game’s first 30 minutes.Fourteen shots piled up on Roloson in the game’s first 20 minutes, and the observer began imagining a lot of fatigue quickly massing in this series for the 41-year-old netminder.

Then, perhaps frustrated at not extending their lead, the Caps went back to their old playoff defeated ways of the past, premised on misguided individualism, a conspicuous absence of cohesion, sloppy passing, bad line changes, and unnecessary and damaging penalties. They tallied 9 shots in the second period and just 5 in the third. Once Tampa secured a lead, they stifled, outworked and out-hustled, and the impatient and individualistic Caps played right into their strongsuit.

The individualism and lack of cohesion extended to all five Capitals’ power plays on the evening, which were a mess. Personally, I’ve seen enough of Ovechkin on the power play point. He will never possess the ingrained or innate instincts of an authentic offensive defenseman back there, and all too often there is, understandably, indecision in his orchestration of the extra man attack up high. He belongs on the half wall, where his one-timers from well-timed cross-ice passes are lethal, or where he can launch a wicked wrister with a quick burst into a narrow opening. In fact, when Ovi’s countryman Semin is flanked on the opposite half wall, Mike Green is deft at distributing the puck among them while drawing checking forwards up high on him to open shooting lanes.

That would be a welcomed reversion.

This entry was posted in Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Bruce Boudreau, John Carlson, Mike Green, Morning cup-a-joe, NHL playoffs, Shinny, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to The Curse of Cute Hockey Strikes Again

  1. Ted says:

    That was one of the stranger playoff games to watch altogether. I felt weird watching the entire game for some reason.

  2. mostholy2 says:

    Tale of two halves for the game. First half the Caps were dominant despite only being up 2-1. They had no trouble advancing the puck into the TB zone, were getting numerous good chances to score. Then the fluke goal off of Hannen’s stick and a poor call against Chimera giving a dangerous TB powerplay that extra chance to get the go-ahead goal.

    The team then exhibited something I didn’t see in the first round or the latter part of the season, where they lost their composure and got a bit desperate (and not the good kind of desperation). They stopped playing their system and tried to hard.

    I agree, I really dislike Bruce’s PP configuration with OV and Green at the points. The last 2 PP’s were brutal. Having Arnott try to move the puck into the zone. It would have been better to dump the puck in and chase it. We needed much more traffic in front of the next.

    Need to put together a full 60 mins boys. This ain’t the regular season. Let’s get focused for Sunday.

  3. MacCap says:

    Hope Carlson recovers quickly, his loss seemed to coincide with the drop in the level of play.

  4. cooley says:

    This was very frustrating to watch. The 3rd period power plays were just pathetic. Anything short of a Stanley Cup final appearance will be a failure. Caps need to wake up or it will be the same old early exit.

  5. sonja says:

    Power play? There was no power play last night. I did see a bunch of guys diddling the puck.

    Ovechkin forgot that he’s only the captain and not the savior. He cannot make a sacrifice of his body and win the game for the team. In fact, when he does this things actually get worse.

    I dunno what’s going on with the reffing in these games (across the league) but I’ve seen some of the most atrociously slanted officiating ever. It’s really unbelievable. At first I thought it was me being a fan and that the Caps were getting the short end of the stick. But watching all the other games (where I’m more of an unbiased observer), I’m seeing a freak show happening of refs who more or less attempt to decide the outcome of games based on calls they do or don’t make. Last night, there was a 2 or 3 minute stretch in the 3rd period (I think) where I saw 4 or 5 Capitols players get tripped on the boards with the puck and not one whistle was blown. Of course, the PP was such a mess it wouldn’t have done any good … but being on PK for TBL would have messed with their rhythm and perhaps created some synergy for the Caps. Who knows how more consistent officiating might have changed things? It shouldn’t mess with their heads, but sometimes I think it does.

  6. Ted says:

    Downie didn’t look too enthusiastic after tying the game either. Granted it was fluky and only a tie, but the look on his face after tying did look as if it was saying, “We should be buried.”

  7. Robert says:

    Ah the stink of defeat. Well, most of us in town are used to defeat on the Ice every spring. This team wanted to win the first round because of last year’s failure, and that’s all they really seemed to want, based on last night’s play.

  8. tracy says:

    the third period was like changing the channels and tuning into a completely different hockey team, playing a completely different-and lousy, uninspired – hockey game.

  9. The Capitals lost focus in the second half of the game. One hopes that’s attributable to the week-long break. We shall see if that’s the case tomorrow night.

  10. Patrick says:

    “Personally, I’ve seen enough of Ovechkin on the power play point. He will never possess the ingrained or innate instincts of an authentic offensive defenseman back there, and all too often there is, understandably, indecision in his orchestration of the extra man attack up high. He belongs on the half wall, where his one-timers from well-timed cross-ice passes are lethal, or where he can launch a wicked wrister with a quick burst into a narrow opening. In fact, when Ovi’s countryman Semin is flanked on the opposite half wall, Mike Green is deft at distributing the puck among them while drawing checking forwards up high on him to open shooting lanes.”

    FINALLY, someone hears me! Keep the channel open!

    Please make the adjustments, coach, and get on with crushing these guys!!
    Let’s GO Caps!!

  11. cooley says:

    I hate to think one game will decide a season. But Sunday is the season. Gotta win. If we do we will rebound and take the series.

  12. Colin says:

    I agree with all of your points and would add one more. BB also got away from his system and stopped rolling four good lines. Not only does this kill our advantage of being deeper, it gasses the top two lines. I several times when Ovi was bent over tired and STILL stayed on the ice. Not only does leaving him out there hurt his ability to do his thing, but it also sends a message to the rest of the team that “when we trail by only one goal, I don’t trust any of you”.

    Roll four lines, stick with the system, bang the smaller bodies of the Bolts and move Ovi off the PP point. Hopefully we’ll see that Sunday.

  13. Patrick says:

    * Carlson or Green or Wideman(please hockey gods?) on either side on the point,

    * I really liked when Brooksie was on the point, if we can’t find a d-man for that spot! He’s got a cannon, and defensively, he’ll do ANYTHING, except be beat!

    * Arnott/Fehr/Hendricks/Sturm in the blue paint

    * Semin and Ovechkin on the flanks, inserting Backstrom/Mojo/Perrault/Chimera as needed

    Seems easy enough!

  14. Patrick says:

    If Brooks is not on the point, he looks great in the blue paint also.

  15. OvieTracker says:

    The Caps were Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. When they were Dr. Jekyll they looked very very good and should have only been a matter of time before they buried the Lightning and didn’t look back. However, Mr. Hyde reared his ugly head and the Caps forgot how to play to win. They startd to play not to lose and that’s all it took to re-ignite the Lightning and give them more energy.

    The Caps had the Lightning on their heels when they took a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately, they didn’t go for the jugular and it cost them. The confident forceful team of the first half of the game gave way to the confused lost team of the second half. It didn’t help that they went 0/5 on the power play, and playing Ovie on the point??? Why did they go back to doing what didn’t work when the Caps were struggling in the regular season?

    Some adjustmenst have to be made and very quickly if the Caps hope to go to Tampa Bay with the series tied 1-1.

  16. Robert says:

    These guys (e.g. the Caps) suck. I hope all you fellow Caps fans out there are ready for another Caps let down this spring. Green and his teenage-skill-level temper-tantrums have resulted in a power play that was key in game 7 last year, and just another whack at the caps tonight. Way to go Caps, thanks for returning to the standard Caps of every spring time – crummy. Ya take too many penalties in the spring(cause you stink in the spring), and have to try and make up for it with dumb crap like bad hits, and cross checks. The spring time in DC: Where the media gets their hopes up, few of us remember the sh!tty play of years; others don’t learn that past performance is an indicator of future performance; while those of us that remember – watch as the annual let down unfolds.

    Man, I hope after the Caps drop this series that this team is ripped apart, including the farm teams, down to the water boy, and either a new start at all levels begins all over again, and the franchise gets away away from the Eurotrash style of hockey and more towards the North-American NHL style of hard hitting hard playing ice hockey.

    It was another fun exhibition season to watch, and so far its another painful post season to behold.

    Thanks Caps!

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