25 April, 2014


The Excuse That Won’t Hold Water; a Silver Lining; Breaking Down the Broken-Down Defense; And a Lesson in Execution

Sitting, waiting, and waiting at Metro Center for an Orange line train to come and take me home after Monday’s game concluded, I was reminded there are still a few things in Washington less effective than the Capitals offense was that evening. (I also cover politics.)

Some of the best analysis and reflections of what happened in the blowout Game 7, and what went so right and so wrong in the season, will come after the players and coaches talk more extensively to the media on exit day later this week.

Right now, the result produced a cocktail of shock and awe and bitter disappointment in the postgame pressers, which effectively shut down any public in-depth analysis from Adam Oates and company Monday.

But when you lose an elimination game 5-0, there’s a lot of analyzing to do.

There was, indeed, an exquisite performance by the Rangers’ goaltender to consider.  He gave the Capitals nothing on 35 shots.

But, frankly, I don’t buy Lundqvist-stopped-the-kitchen-sink a good enough excuse for the Capitals losing. It’s not like Henrik Lundqvist being good is a huge shock. You know that going into the series. Your gameplan needs to be equipped to beat Lundqvist on his best day.  Yes, accomplishing that may be akin to trying to get Kate Moss to eat, but, as Joel Ward pointed out recently, Lundqvist is a human, just like everyone else. So it’s possible to succeed against him.

In fact, Mike Green said after Monday’s game that when the Capitals stuck to their strategy, that’s when they found that success, and that “at times, we kind of got away from that [our discussions of how to beat him].”

So where Lundqvist really won was his execution was better than the entire Washington roster. Whether that’s because of will, or mental fortitude, or his experience, or coaching or training or that “x” factor that makes him Henrik Lundqvist, that’s something for a longer discussion this summer.

I don’t think this execution drum  is a nuanced difference, though, and it’s helpful when considering what the Capitals need to get themselves over this playoff stonewall.  You may have the perfect gameplan and all the answers, but if you can’t execute it, you’ll always be sitting at home far earlier than you planned.

“We knew what we were supposed to do. We couldn’t just quite do it. And that’s a tough thing, tough pill to swallow, when you know how to beat a team, you just can’t quite get it,” Alzner said in general of the Capitals’ execution.

Of course, all this doesn’t explain the 5 goals at the other end that the Capitals gave up.

Gone was the tight defense that the Capitals displayed in games 1, 2 and 5.  The second line, meanwhile, was on the ice for three goals against.  Two of those were with the defensive pairing of Erskine and Carlson. Mike Green was on the ice for three goals against (though the first one, to be fair, was kind of a bad slate of luck as some Capitals players took untimely tumbles to the ice outside of their zone, which meant Washington was woefully out of position). Mike Ribeiro was on the ice for four goals against.

The silver lining? Steve Oleksy was not on the ice for a single goal against in the elimination game.  And he was the only defenseman to achieve that Monday.  That is the definition of keeper.

Perhaps he should have received more ice time—as it was, he was second-to-last in ice time among defensmen. Compare that to Jack Hillen, who played 44 fewer seconds than Oleksy yet was on the ice for two goals against.

In Washington’s net, meanwhile, Braden Holtby did not look anywhere close to his normal self. He got absolutely no help from his defense. But he also didn’t really help them out much, either, compared to what he’s capable of.  Don’t tell that to the locker room, though. Karl Alzner and Troy Brouwer were having none of it.

“We gave up 2-on-1s, we gave up breakaways, we gave up odd-man rushes. We can’t expect him to save ‘em all,” Brouwer said. “He’s been unbelievable all season long.”

“We had the goaltending to go far,” Alzner said.

That’s so positive, sooo back to the offense.

I know the Capitals’ top players are going to receive a lot of heat for not getting on the scoreboard in Game 7. I get that. At the same time, I’d point out that the Rangers’ biggest offensive stars (Brad Richards, Rick Nash and Derek Stepan) didn’t score goals either Monday, and the team managed to net 5. Nash got an assist on the third goal, and that was it. So there are still ways to win sans top scorer domination, though Nicklas Backstrom called his own [presumably offensive] effort “embarrassing” in the series.

In the end, a lot of things had to go wrong simultaneous for such a drastic dip in performance by the Capitals. And there will be plenty of time to discuss it in the coming days. Right now, if you’re a Capital, it just feels like Cinderella had her glass shoe run over by the pumpkin carriage.



12 Comments

  1. Buzzkill Bob wrote:

    Players did not execute, coaches did not appear to make adjustments – or even lose their cool with the players when down 3-0. joe b and locker started providing cover before the last whistle, the fans in Verizon center did not vent ANY frustration with the Caps. Ah, and another 2 game series lead in round one choked on. EPIC. See you next year to keep building the nations NHL Laughing stock joke.

    14 May, 2013 at 6:08 am | Permalink
  2. Dez wrote:

    I got the same sense reading the recaps regarding Lundquist. Yes, we all know he’s a great goalie, but to blame the series loss on him is what worries me more than anything else. The Caps lost because they got caught up in something, expectations, excitement, whatever, and didn’t execute. They made a grinding team like the Rangers look great, and tried to pin point perfect shots instead of just getting things on net and seeing where it went from there. As a Caps fan for almost 30 years, I hate to say it but I can almost see where Kornheiser is coming from with his old Choking Dogs comment. Another painful end to a promising season.

    14 May, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink
  3. Buzzkill Bob wrote:

    DEZ, 30 years of all this self inflicted abuse and your just now getting around to the realization about the Choking Dogs comment? I’ll tell ya, I am so sick of hearing about the players/commentators/coaches/etc. whining about them not being part of the franchises’ past post seasons collapses, when they are the ones that somehow are allowing something to keep returning to their heads, their play, their execution in the post season, which results in this annual ritual of everyone getting their hopes up for a respectable post season showing (not necessarily winning the cup – but at least maybe showing some improvement in the post season), shortly followed by an implosion or running into that concrete wall for this franchise known as the second round of the NHL playoffs.

    The Caps are THE team that everyone else in the NHL Eastern conference wants to play in the first round of the playoffs. They know it doesn’t really matter if you are the 8th seed playing against the Caps, or down by two games in a series to the Caps, you can still win a playoff series against this Caps team.

    And you can probably embarrass them in a game 7; they’ll shrug their shoulders and do it again the following year.

    14 May, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink
  4. David Wolf wrote:

    Great point Dez on getting pucks on net. The Pens won their series on Brooks Orpik’s goal. He has not scored in 77 previous playoff games and in 106 previous regular season games. His last goal was against the Islanders (oddly enough) in 2011. Get Ovi some help especially moving to the new division. It is going to get harder. Maybe they will rise to the occasion. ESPN.com did a poll today. Will Will Alex Ovechkin ever win a Stanley Cup? As of now, 66% say NO and only four states say yes (New Mexico, Alabama, Indiana, and Vermont). DC/MD/VA say he will not. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

    14 May, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink
  5. Mark wrote:

    I watched six compelling games in this series, but I feel that I and the other 18,000 people who attended last night deserve a refund for lack of effort and heart. Unlike the Bruins last night, they simply stopped trying when they were down by three goals at home. And that’s inexcusable.

    I have been following the Capitals since the late 1970s, before the playoffs were even a consideration. The bottom line is that this team is not a winner. They are 3-9 in Game 7s, and a woeful 2-7 in Game 7s AT HOME. They’ve lost 9 series after leading by 2 games (an NHL record). They’ve lost 11 series as the highest seed (an NHL record).

    Also, it pains me to admit it, but there is no more Crosby vs. Ovechkin debate. Crosby came back from a broken jaw and helped lead his team to a playoff win (with 3 goals and 6 assists in 5 games). He’s won a Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold medal. Winning the big games matters. Ovechkin has scored a lot of goals and has led his team to a bunch of banners for winning the league’s worst division.

    14 May, 2013 at 11:53 am | Permalink
  6. Greg wrote:

    I’ll say it again and again…. Your best scorer and leader in the regular season has to be your best scorer and leader in the playoffs. Ovechkin has repeatedly proven to disappear when it matters most in the playoffs. Big hits are nice, but ZERO points in the final 5 games of the series is inexcusable. No team… NO TEAM in any sport can go through 5 games in the playoffs without their best offensive threat being a no show and expect to win. You can replace a player that is injured, but when that player is taking regular shifts and doing nothing, you will not win.

    14 May, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  7. DOC wrote:

    Well by reading all above comments from all “Long Time Caps Fans”. Never heard any suggestions of replacing Ovechkin as Captain???? All these years have gone by with no Leadership!!!!!!!

    One might say there is Major changes in store, If Washington will ever produce a TEAM that can get by the First Round!!!

    Where was the Stars???? Ovechkin/Backstrom they were not noticeable Game 6&7 ???

    Oh yes Holtby what happened to him.

    I totally agree 100% with BUZZKILL BOB same OLE story the past Decade, Same OLE Song.

    The Kid with Broken Jaw that MaRK mentioned, That my friends shows Leadership.

    Oh By The Way Green has to GO!!! Replace Ovechkin.
    Good Luck Finding A Coach.

    Boston showed what it takes when the chips are down.Hard Work/Guts and to terminate the Maple Leafs,Which the Leafs a young team had lots of Energy but let the lead slip away.

    Go Pens Go!!!!!!!!!

    14 May, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Permalink
  8. kab wrote:

    all I’ve heard all day was the caps collapsed.. no they didn’t they were just never that good. playoffs are a different season. a whole different style of play. some teams are built around playoff hockey , the kings for one buy their blue liners by the pound along with an mvp goalie. they struggle to make the cut, but once in they are built for the low scoring defensive games. my beloved caps are not one of those teams right now. they can be but will they make the change , not my call. we all know where the weaknesses are no point in rehashing them today. holts,if he stays healthy, will be an mvp goalie. but dear god he’s a kid. in a position where a players prime doesn’t even start until 28, he’s years away. caps showed us this year that they can win those 1-0 overtime games. so the spark is there if only we can build on it. in the meantime i’m off to the links until ff draft day. and thanks ofb for letting me run my piehole here this year..GO CAPS

    14 May, 2013 at 9:16 pm | Permalink
  9. Dejavualloveragain wrote:

    Game three was the elimination game for Caps with respect to ghosts and should have been played with all the urgency and cutthroat determination of a game seven. The history has officially become too stacked to expect to overcome; apparently the players and fans remain too stupid to realize that.

    15 May, 2013 at 1:43 am | Permalink
  10. gs12 wrote:

    I agree with KAB – The Caps are not a playoff type team, they were MORE like a playoff team last year under Dale Hunter, but somehow they slipped back into their old tendencies in Game 7. The fact is, when you’re up 2-0 in a series, and you’re supposed to be a good team, and lose – something is wrong. OV had one shot on goal in game 7, and not 1 goal in the last 5 playoff games – abysmal.

    We need answers, but the real answer maybe, they’re not good enough.

    15 May, 2013 at 8:22 am | Permalink
  11. On Frozen Blog › The Excuse That Won’t Hold Water; a Silver Lining; Breaking Down the Broken-Down Defense; And a Lesson in Execution Wedding ceremony operation was successful but media beats headphones reports http://nelly515.blogto.ir/1392/02/25/wedding-ceremony-operation-was-successful-but-media-beats-headphones-reports/

    16 May, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink
  12. Earlysumr wrote:

    The
    1) Failed to get bodies to the net, Henkrik saw nearly everything thrown at him
    2) failed to get pucks past shot blockers, an dwhen they did Henrik saw it all
    3) Completely gave up in game 7, much like they did in the second round against the Pens a few years ago.

    17 May, 2013 at 2:56 pm | Permalink