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The Caps Beat Themselves
Would an extra practice, or Eric Fehr’s rollerblades, the day before Game 3 have helped the Caps maintain momentum in New York? (Caps Outsider)
A lot has been said about why the Caps lost to the Rangers. So many fingers are being pointed in a multitude of directions. All over town Caps fans can be heard saying things like, “It was the refs!” “It was the power play!” “It was a lack of shots on goal!” “It was Holtby!” “Ovi let us down!” “Oates must go!” Shut up, already. The pure and simple truth is that someone had to win, and someone had to lose, but the Rangers didn’t beat them – the Caps beat themselves.
On April 29, Capitals Outsider published Playoffs Roundtable: Caps vs. Rangers. Here was my prediction: On paper it looks the Caps should win, hands down. They have the “Rocket” Richard winner (Alex Ovechkin), the highest goal-scoring defenseman (Mike Green), a center 3rd in the league in assists (Nick Backstrom), a goalie with 23 wins on the season (Braden Holtby) and a league leading 26.83 power play percentage. Quite impressive– on paper. But if the Caps want it, they will have to fight for it on the ice. The playoffs are a different story and impressive stats mean nothing. It’s a different pace and intensity, and the Rangers are in it to win it, too. After all, they eliminated the Caps in seven games last year. If the Caps can erase that bad memory, maintain their current level of play, stay out of the penalty box (3rd worst PK in the league), and Holtby stays smart and solid between the pipes, they’ll win in six games.
Of course, they didn’t win in six, but my point is that they did not maintain their regular season level of play. They forgot all about the new system that got them to the playoffs. They did not stay out of the penalty box. Was it really necessary for Mike Green to blatantly cross check an opponent in the throat? That wasn’t the refs’ fault. And, except for the last game, Holtby played well. But solid means solid, game after game — Lundqvist was solid even in the losses.
One piece of advice for Adam Oates. If your team has the lead in a series and are full of confidence and momentum, don’t give them the day off. After Game 3, Oates gave the Caps the day off in New York. He was quoted as saying, “Rest will be our weapon.” Wrong. They didn’t need rest, they needed momentum.
In a television interview that day, Eric Fehr said, “I wish I had my rollerblades.” And Troy Brouwer told reporters that the team needed to keep their legs moving so he was going for a long walk. The Caps needed to keep moving and stay on the ice. There would have been plenty of time to rest when they won the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, I think Oates was thinking like a player, not a coach. Lesson learned.
Anyway, I love the Caps – I really do. I’m as disappointed as the next fan, but I’ll watch every game and cheer for them next year. There will be changes, and there’s a lot of work to do, but the Southeast Division Champions will be back. And their fans will be back more than ready to Rock the Red again.