25 April, 2014


Time For The Stars To Shine

Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkinin Moscow 2007These two men are the key to tonight’s game.

I took this photo in Moscow almost exactly six years ago; Russia had just defeated Sweden for the Bronze at the IIHF World Championships. More excitingly for Capitals fans, news had just broken that Backstrom would be joining the Capitals in the upcoming season, so we asked the pair to pose as “new” teammates for the first time.

Backstrom’s immediate contributions the following Fall delighted Caps fans almost as much as Ovechkin’s debut did. The Capitals had found their best center since the days when Coach Oates wore a jersey. The future of this center-winger combination seemed limitless.

Of course, that has not translated to post-season success—at least, not on the level one expects from such talent. Now, six years after they first became teammates, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have a chance to shine, in another Game 7 against a familiar opponent.

And shine they must, if the Capitals are to move on.

Obviously no two players can do it alone. The rest of the team must find that sweet spot: being aggressive, but not reckless, while patiently executing Coach Oates’ game plan. Braden Holtby must continue his stellar play. The team needs the discipline to commit fewer penalties (and hope for a balanced game from the men in stripes). They must do those little things, like crashing the net, that make all the difference.

But the team’s captain and his pivot can, and must, put so much pressure on the Rangers that the blueshirts are gasping their way to the locker room between periods.

Even if King Henrik manages to keep Ovechkin and Backstrom off the score sheet again, the pair needs to be so dominant that the exhausted Rangers start making mental mistakes… mistakes of the two-minute penalty variety. Mistakes that create openings for the rest of the Capitals.

Mistakes that lose hockey games.

So there can be no coasting around the edges; no putting the difficult pretty plays ahead of the high-percentage ugly ones. Tonight’s game is an opportunity for this uber-skilled pair to show their mettle and flat-out dominate on the ice.

Then, if the Capitals succeed, it starts all over again… but for now, for tonight, all those “one game at a time” and “it’s a one-game series” cliches ring true. And Ovechkin and Backstrom must lead the way.



12 Comments

  1. VanZabDan wrote:

    Agreed all around and happy to read another well written if too infrequent article from Mr. Chaos.

    13 May, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Permalink
  2. DOC wrote:

    HMM…. Why did Oates Leave Holtby in after 3
    Goals???

    The Caps after all: Need a Captain to show
    them the way.

    Ovie is “OVER”. Oates gave them Hope.

    So another year of Pain & Suffering has
    come and gone.

    Back To Back Shutouts..

    13 May, 2013 at 10:40 pm | Permalink
  3. SKINSCAPSTERPS wrote:

    Yet another failure. heartless gutless perfromance. Boston scored four unanswered to win their game. The incompetence of Mike Green on full display, once again responsible for the series winning goal by the opponent, just like against Montreal a couple of years ago. How many coaches are we gonna have to burn thru before Green is off this roster ? The Caps will not win a Cup until Green is gone.

    Too many pretty passes, they stopped crashign the net.

    Time to switch to ABP mode (Anybody But Pittisburgh).

    And I hope the Cup final is Sharks vs Senators, just to cheese off the suits at NBC and Bettman.

    13 May, 2013 at 11:13 pm | Permalink
  4. Mike Rucki wrote:

    Painful. Not as painful as the evening was for Leafs fans, but still pretty terrible.

    13 May, 2013 at 11:35 pm | Permalink
  5. Mike Rucki wrote:

    Mike Green, Mathieu Perreault and Joel Ward finished the postseason as Washington’s leading scorers with four points each.

    Note the lack of Ovie and Nicky. *sigh*

    13 May, 2013 at 11:56 pm | Permalink
  6. morgan wrote:

    Well, what is GMGM and Ted going to do now? They don’t have the weak Southeast division to utilize in getting into the playoffs. Now they must play a tougher schedule and it doesn’t appear the current roster can pull it off. I’m a pessimist by nature and until Ted sees his attendence drop to pre-Ovi days, I doubt if he will do much–except raise ticket prices and keep GMGM on the payroll.

    14 May, 2013 at 12:10 am | Permalink
  7. Mike Rucki wrote:

    I’m actually VERY excited by the new divisions next season. It will force the Capitals to build a team that can succeed in the playoffs — no more easy Southeast Division wins to get the three-seed.

    If the Caps suck with the current roster against the real competition in the new division, one would hope that Ted et al finally make the changes needed.

    14 May, 2013 at 12:17 am | Permalink
  8. SKINSCAPSTERPS wrote:

    Green is a defensive liability who costs the team as many goals as he scores. I dont see him as a viable NHL defenseman, the Sharks converted one of their D to forward maybe thats the answer. He needs to be off the blueline.

    Green always seemed to be a favorite of Boudreaus, shim to Anaheim for a bag of pucks whatever gets him off roster.

    14 May, 2013 at 5:40 am | Permalink
  9. morgan wrote:

    Mike, being the pessimist I am, I hope you are right but I’m not sure GMGM is up to the task although I must admit drafting Tom Wilson could be a start. Time will tell, won’t it?

    14 May, 2013 at 8:11 am | Permalink
  10. David Wolf wrote:

    Mike, that was a hard loss and tough to watch (great picture from Russia!). Ovechkin did not have a point in games 3-7. I do not give as much credit to Lundqvist as everyone seems to be doing. Ovechkin led the NHL with 32 goals but he strolls into another offseason early with the longest playoff point drought. He had a goal and an assist and that was it. In the new division, they are going to need to get him some help. They have to find a way to win in the post season. The Pens getting Vokoun was huge or they would be out. Caps need to find another leader to get those goals when they need them.

    14 May, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink
  11. Earlysumr wrote:

    The entire round I heard the analysts say it over and over. Even the water cooler talk at work, people got it. Why can’t the coaching staff figure it out. The Caps are not structured and don’t seem to have the drive to adjust to a high-pressure, defensive, shot-blocking team. It was said over and over; they need to get bodies in the paint, get the puck down low, and score those dirty ugly goals. You can shoot 50 shots from the perimeter and goalies liek Henrik are going to gobble them up (game one notwithstanding).

    14 May, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink
  12. morgan wrote:

    Earlysumr, the coaches have to work with the material they have–and who selects the material/players? Why GMGM. When Beaudreau was here he told a friend of mine that he had absolutely no say in personnel selection. I doubt if Oates has any more than Bruce did. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, as the old saying goes. It seems obvious to me that if your current crop of players don’t want to go to the net and fight for the dirty, hard goals, you should replace them with folks that will do those chores. Do you think GMGM will heed that? Being a pessimist, I’m not holding my breath. Mike above seems optimistic. I hope he’s right.

    14 May, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink