Are changes coming for the Washington Capitals?
Caps Outsider Round 1 Roundtable
Because everyone needs to share their opinion on this, the Caps Outsider crew got together to make predictions on the Capitals-Bruins series. Just to show how seriously we take these predictions, the person who turns out to be most correct at the end of the series will get to be lead editor (for a day), while the rest of us must praise that person and do dirty intern work.
I’m going to preface this with my personal opinion on playoff predictions: I strongly dislike them. I understand why they’re published, but I find them an exercise in futility – the second season *is* a second season, and I’m a firm believer that anything can and will happen. That being said, they burn our contracts here at Caps Outsider if we don’t join the round table, so you’re getting a collection of ridiculous predictions for the Caps/Bruins series as a reflection of my perspective on the whole process. Please take them with a grain of salt.
Events & Altercations: Zdeno Chara will eat Matt Hendricks alive, and then stop off at Children’s National Medical Center before returning to Boston. Braden Holtby and Brad Marchand will get into the macho and very manly equivalent of a tickle-fight (Holtby will win, because he is a beast). Tuukka Rask will play in at least one game this playoffs. Keith Aucoin will score the game-winning goal in a game that keeps the Caps from being eliminated.
Odds & Outcomes: The sensible person’s odds say that the Bruins are going to win the series. The psyche major’s odds say that the Caps aren’t going down without a fight, especially after blowing out in 4 to Tampa last year. The Hockey Historian need only look back to the 2010 ECQF to see that occasionally the unexpected happens (someone could light Holtby on fire a la Halak. I’m sure Alex Ovechkin has high quality vodka to spare, should the need arise).
Caps in 7
As a life-long fan who has invested in season tickets for over ten years, I’m going to make predictions with my heart instead of my head: The Capitals will finally put it together and become a good playoff team under Dale Hunter. They’ll steal one game in Boston, and then sweep their home games to take the series in 6. The fans will be integral to the home-ice domination, rocking the red, loud and proud. Holtby will emerge and dominate for long stretches of play as several young goalies have done in recent seasons around the league. This is very much the same roster that began the season as one of the Cup favorites, so there is no reason they can’t pull their asses out of their heads, because I’m sick and tired of losing in the playoffs.
Caps in 6
For the first time in almost a decade, the Capitals open up the playoffs without having any type of home-ice advantage and being labeled as the underdog. The “me against the world” mentality can work for Washington if Dale Hunter drives that point home to the team, but I think Boston is going to be too much for the Caps to handle.
The goaltending situation is not exactly the most ideal for the Capitals as Braden Holtby will be getting his first taste of NHL playoff hockey on Thursday. The last time backup goalie Dany Sabourin saw the playoffs was five years ago as a member of the Vancouver Canucks where in two games played he saw 14 minutes of ice time. Defending Conn Smythe and Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas will be down at the other end and his playoff experience will be the difference in this series.
Sorry to say this Caps fans, but as much as I would like to sit here and say the Capitals will win this series the odds are stacked too high against them. Boston will take this series 4 games to 2.
Bruins in 6
I know it sounds old hat at this point, but I think this series comes down to centers. Boston can throw Peveley, Krejci, Seguin and Bergeron at the Caps, who can throw one and a half legit NHL centers back at them. That’s a big problem. The Bruins also have a ton of size and experience and legit tough guys, who are going to attempt to do what the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins did to the Capitals, namely, beat the holy living hell out of their defensemen. This is why the key to any success the Caps (at least defensively) might have has to be on Roman Hamrlik. He’s got to keep the B’s forecheck off Mike Green.
So it’s looking pretty dire for our heroes, I think. Too much size, too much skill the other way. But hell, maybe the B’s have the ol’ Cup hangover, or Tim Thomas completely goes nuts from being asked constantly about being slightly to the right of Barry Goldwater, or Braden Holtby turns into Jaroslav Hextall Dryden Roy III. That just seems to be too many “ifs” for me. I think Boston takes it in 6.
Bruins in 6
Good news: Compared to the past few years, this Caps team is better prepared for the playoffs. Not to say that I was, or am now a huge fan of the coaching change or of concussions, but as with the losing streak of last year, a team must go through certain trials to improve. A new voice seems to have helped Washington truly take on a more defensive style at a time when Nicklas Backstrom’s concussion forced the forwards to elevate their game (see Beagle, Jay and Perreault, Mathieu). The battle for the playoffs at the end of the season added a layer of mental fortitude that is crucial when losing a game or two could send you packing.
Bad news: The response to everything the Caps have encountered hasn’t been stellar. Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth have been left out to dry many a time and when the team wasn’t being outshot, it seemed they couldn’t score on with a million. After a special team resurrection, the Caps had a dip in their power play recently, marking a key flaw in playoff hockey (obviously no one told the Bruins last year). Not to mention the fact that it looks like Washington is going into the playoffs with Hershey’s goalies.
If Ovechkin can lead every night, the Caps can push it to six or seven games. Can they be clutch in Game 7? Not yet.
Bruins in 7
What’s been said that hasn’t already been said? Bruins are favored in the series for a variety of logical reasons. Caps have the potential to pull off an upset, which many have acknowledged. All the reasons make sense, but what we’ve seen in the past is that things happen that don’t make sense. Who can claim they predicted that the Lightning would sweep the Capitals last season? Other than the outcome, what specifically made sense about that in hindsight?
The Bruins have played more hockey than anyone the past year and that’s proven to wear teams down. The Caps, meanwhile, paced themselves this season to some degree, and if they to turn it on, they’ll devour the Bruins, because the Caps have something to prove and the Bruins do not. I’ll shoot for the moon here.
Caps in 4