Jeff Halpern, Martin Erat and Mike Ribeiro play their former teammates.
Should the Caps Lose, They Have Nobody To Blame But Themselves
As the Caps head home to the Verizon Center to play in the most important game of their season on Wednesday, it’s hard not to reflect on what we’ve seen this series, and then think about past postseason experiences. The season has been a roller coaster ride for players, coaches, and fans as well while most people (including me) didn’t peg this team as a playoff contender. After knocking off the defending Stanley Cup champions Boston Bruins, there was a sense of nothing being able to stop the Caps from winning the Cup. But alas, here we all are, in all too familiar territory. The Caps are in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and one game away from having their offseason starter earlier than anticipated.
Where did it all go wrong?
If the Caps should lose one of the next two remaining games in this series, there’s nobody to blame but themselves. As our own Ben Sumner said to me earlier via Twitter:
And that, my friends, is what this boils down to. This isn’t a case of the Rangers being the better team, because even though there were times they outworked and outhustled the Caps, let’s be realistic. The Caps should’ve taken this series already, and on Tuesday, the fans and the players should be watching the Devils-Flyers game to figure out who they are playing in the next round.
Hockey, and all sports really, are a matter of millimeters and who the Gods are bestowing their grace upon that particular day. But facts are facts: Joel Ward should’ve never raised his stick off the ice Monday night and there’s no reason why Troy Brouwer couldn’t put that puck behind Henrik Lundqvist with a wide open net (and yes, I know Alex Ovechkin hit a post too a few minutes later, but Brouwer had a WIDE open net.) In the playoffs of any sport, it’s the team who can capitalize on those little chances and limit the mistakes who will advance. The Capitals have not been that team this series, and they will need to dig deeper than they have at any point this season and find the will to win.
However, I’m not going to sit here and make this column all “doom and gloom” for you, because there’s a chance the Caps can still win this series and shock the hockey world again. As a diehard Mets fan, I remember the 1986 World Series when the Mets were down 3 games to 2 against the Red Sox and they came back to win game six in the bottom of the 10th inning when they were down 5-3. Gary Carter reached base with two outs and Mookie Wilson hit his famous ground ball with two strikes. So, until that scoreboard reads all zeros in the third period with the Rangers having the edge in goals, anything can happen. So keep your heads up, have faith, and don’t give up on the Capitals just yet.
Like famous Mets pitcher Tug McGraw once said- “Ya gotta believe.”