Friday, May 6, 2011

Season Ending Thoughts

Once again the Washington Capitals season came to an unexpected screeching halt on Wednesday night. The Caps became the first #1 seed in NHL history to be swept in the second round when they fell to Tampa Bay two nights ago. Alex Ovechkin and his teammates were speechless and shocked as they were shaking hands with their divisional foes after losing game four 5-3. Washington barely had control in this series, only leading in 26 minutes of the four games. If you watched all of the games of this series you could sense the result after game two because Tampa Bay kept getting the breaks and bounces they needed to be successful.
Not to take away from the Lightning, but I feel the Caps lost this one for themselves once again. The defense struggled and in the end we couldn’t light the lamp enough to move on. This makes it four straight years the Capitals have made an early exit in the playoffs. The Caps had another successful regular season and another disappointing exit in the playoffs. However this regular season was different because Bruce Boudreau and his boys faced defeat and diversity throughout the year. Yes they finished first place in the Eastern Conference for the second straight year, but perhaps this year was a learning experience for Alex Ovechkin especially. I do not put one ounce of blame on Ovi for this turmoil in the post season. He never let down in this series despite his frustration. In fact he and Mike Knuble were of the few that didn’t lose that sense of urgency in the series.
Yesterday being the first day of the offseason, many injuries came out in the open that the Caps players were experiencing during the playoffs. These announcements are not meant to be excuses, but just to inform the people of the player’s well-being. Let’s go over some of the injuries. Knuble was supposed to be sidelined for a week or two, but he missed a few games and fought through his broken thumb injury. Jason Arnott had knee surgery that was kept under wraps from the public in the regular season. John Carlson and Mike Green both attempted to play through injuries throughout the post season. Add Dennis Wideman to that list and you don’t have a defenseman on the team who can move the puck well offensively. The Capitals could’ve definitely used that! Nicklas Backstrom who would like to forget these playoffs with his scoring issues was still nursing a thumb injury from earlier in the season. Finally Eric Fehr has to undergo offseason shoulder surgery. Yes we can bitch and complain all we want, but ultimately the Caps weren’t as hungry as the Lightning.
The time of year that 29 teams dread is sadly upon us for the fourth straight year. Some Caps’ players skated in a Washington jersey for the last time in the game four loss. There will be changes made in the offseason that is undeniable. George McPhee, GM of the Caps, made it pretty clear yesterday that Bruce would be returning to coach in Washington again next year. There is also a list of unrestricted free agents which include: Brooks Laich, Jason Arnott, Boyd Gordon, Matt Bradley, Scott Hannan, Marco Sturm and Sean Collins. It is scary thinking about losing some of those guys because like Ovi said, “We have unbelievable team, great locker room and great atmosphere.” Surely some of the UFA’s will be resigned, but not all of them.
Let’s talk about Ovi. The playoffs ended early again for The Great 8, so as usual people start to talk. I keep hearing that Alex Ovechkin can’t win the big game and he may never. Hockey analysts who say this cannot actually believe it. People also say that he is not captain worthy because of his selfish and reckless play. Selfish? Reckless? You obviously don’t watch the same team I watch for 82 games a year. Ovi gets more excited when his teammates score than when he does. He also has logged more assists than goals in each of the last two seasons. This was his first full season as a captain of the Washington Capitals, and he will have plenty more chances to make his mark in history. Steve Yzerman, who played for the Detroit Red Wings, didn’t win a Stanley Cup for ten years after being named captain at an early age. Yzerman is one of the best players of all time and is now the GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He went on to win three Stanley Cups in the following years. My point is to not be so quick to criticize the best player in the world. After all he is only 25 years old and has passion for the game is unlike any player I have ever seen.
As a fan, of course I was furious at the Capitals after the sweep. You have to stay positive. We have most of the pieces to the puzzle; we just have to execute. Each year every player grows with experience which can only benefit in the long run. I will love the Washington Capitals forever and will never lose hope or thought of a Stanley Cup gracing our presence in the future. It has been my pleasure to blog about this hockey team for the last couple months and I will continue to in the offseason. Let’s try and keep the team together George! ROCK THE RED! Please leave comments on anything pertaining to the loss or the offseason.
In Ovi We Trust

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Do we have it in us?

The Washington Capitals are “one loss away from elimination,” as Gordon Bombay once said. This is the second straight season where this terrible feeling of being eliminated from the playoffs has arisen. Last year it came true, but this year maybe not. I refuse to give up my team and how far they have come this season. Do the Caps really want to throw this golden opportunity away?
The Capitals have nothing to lose tonight heading into game four because in my opinion most fans have given up. Don’t the Caps want to prove the haters wrong in this situation because if not I feel this offseason will be even more painful than the last. The mentality for the next four games is win or go home. None of the Capitals seem like they’d be good golfers, so let’s stick around and make some noise in these playoffs. Last night we had game three in the bag at the end of the second period with a 3-2 lead. Unfortunately a hockey game last three periods and Washington only came ready to play two. In my opinion Alex Ovechkin stepped up last night scoring a goal and having an assist on the Mike Knuble goal, but the rest of the team seemed sluggish in following The Great 8. Ovi was beating defenders to the outside instead of trying to deke through them which I liked to see. Alex Semin and Nicklas Backstrom were invisible last night and did not show any intensity or will to win. I am begging you Nicky B; please find your game in the next ten hours.
Michal Neuvirth played an average game if you ask me. Yes he made some ten bell saves to keep us in the game in third period, but he let in some softies. It wouldn’t surprise me if Bruce gave Semyon Varlamov the start tonight, just to give him a shot. Varly also has a respectable resume against the Lightning and is no stranger to the playoff atmosphere. The defense needs to clear the puck more consistently and Jeff Schultz needs to get the f*** off the ice. He and Mike Green have played carelessly the past three games. Now let’s talk about Dwayne Roloson. It seemed like we finally got in his head a little bit last night, but we couldn’t put the nail in the coffin because of our lack of pressure in the closing period. The man is 41 years old and doesn’t have a very respectable in the second game of back to backs. The Caps must pressure him and the defense because they are going to be tired. We will also be tired, but there is not tomorrow for us, so we have a little edge.
I do not want this to be my last recap or preview for Caps Daily this season. Like I said yesterday the Capitals have to take it one game at a time and we can make history along with the other three teams who have come back from a 3-0 deficit. The Philadelphia Flyers, being the most recent, did it last year to the Boston Bruins and made a run to the Stanley Cup. The Washington Capitals are a better team in my opinion than last year’s Flyers. If USA could beat the Russians in the 1980 Winter Olympic Games and defy all odds than nothing is impossible. I am putting my faith in the captain for tonight and the rest of the playoffs. Ovi stated last night, ‎"It is not over. We won't give up. We're going to win." Enough said if you ask me! Hopefully this isn’t the last time, so Rock the Red!
In Ovi We Trust

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Pre-game Thoughts

It is the day of game three and the Caps trail Tampa Bay 2-0. As hockey analysts and fair-weather fans doubt the feeling of a comeback, I am positive that the Capitals are ready for the task at hand. If Washington is going to be successful they have to tale it one game at a time. They beat the Lightning four games out of six in the regular season, so why not in the playoffs.

The veterans need to step up tonight because they've been in these situations in the playoffs. Jason Arnott logged three points in the first round (1 goal, 2 assists) but has yet to score vs. Tampa. Him and other veteran Mike Knuble are due for a big impact game tonight. Alex Ovechkin must also have an impact in game three. Ovi is the best player on the planet and his team needs their captain more than ever. He has four goals in the playoffs an I would expect some points tonight.

There's really not much else to say about tonight because we have to win. Playing in Tampa Bay isn't that big of an advantage because it doesn't come close to the Verizon Center. The Capitals must win the PP and PK battle tonight. Keep the faith Caps fans and as always Rock the Red!

In Ovi We Trust

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Weekend Recap

The Washington Capitals went into the weekend with high hopes and optimism after cakewalking through the Rangers. Little did we know Caps fans that we’d be in a 2-0 hole this sad Monday morning. I’m not even close to panicking because even Vincent Lecavalier said last night that Tampa Bay has gotten lucky on both wins.
Let’s start by reviewing Friday night’s depressing let down. Washington fell 4-2 after leading 2-1 in the second period.  The Caps gave up two quick goals in the final three minutes of the period to Steve Downie and Steven Stamkos. Stamkos’ goal was perhaps the nail in the coffin when he scored on the power play in the final minute. The penalty kill looked much disorganized and was caught sleeping on the goal. After Alex Semin and Eric Fehr lit the lamp for the red sweaters, we looked sluggish and did not show much intensity in the third period. Michal Neuvirth did not play poorly with one of the goals coming from Scott Hannan’s stick. Neuvy saved 20 of the 23 shots with some unlucky bounces.
Last night’s game was a chance to come out in front of our home crowd and recapture that winning feeling heading to Tampa, but we could not finish the job. Whenever you go 0 for 6 on the power play you aren’t going to win games. The Capitals just looked careless and at times failed to even enter the zone on the extra man. Not only did the PP look bad but the PK as well for the second straight game. The Lightning have scored power play goals in back to back games which was one of the keys to the series.
Things to improve on after Game 1&2
·         PP and PK. The Caps will have to make some changes on these two aspects of their game because it is vital to them coming back in the series. If Washington scores one PP goal last night they win that game. As for the defense on the kill, stupid mistakes need to be cleaned up around the goal mouth. Finally, stop taking stupid penalties!
·         Where is Nicklas Backstrom? I have never seen Nicky be this invisible in any stretch of games in his career. He has only logged two assists in seven games and has a -1 ice rating. Nick is one of the most elusive players in the game and he is very capable of turning a game or even a series around for that matter. Please find the net soon!
·         Jeff Schultz and Mike Green. Let me be honest I wouldn’t trade a ham sandwich for Jeff Schultz! He is the biggest player on the team, yet he shies away from physical contact. Schultz is also slow and was a -2 in last night’s loss. Greener had a great first round but now he has back to his old antics. We need this defensive tandem to find their game fast!
·          Lucky Bounces. This cannot be controlled, but it would be nice if things started going our way. Tampa Bay has scored two goals on bounces off Caps players. Their luck will run out!
·         12th forward. I think this is one of the reasons why we fell short last night. I did not like seeing Matt Hendricks getting the healthy scratch and honestly I feel Marco Sturm should get it the next game. He hasn’t proved anything in the post season and Hendricks always gives 110%. Figure it out Bruce!
Washington has to win four out of five games and they are out of this hole and in to the next round. The next two games in Tampa are on back to back nights which I think is a positive thing. It means less time sitting around thinking about being down in the series. We have to stop feeling sorry for ourselves because it is the NHL playoffs. Two years ago we were down 2-0 and 3-1 in the first round series to the Rangers and we defied the odds and won. We cannot let this time pass; this is our year and Alex Ovechkin and the boys won’t fall short like last year. Finally keep the faith and do not be a hater on the Capitals right now. They need our support; Rock the Red!
In Ovi We Trust