Yes, the annual spring season soul searching has begun as the Washington Capitals have exited the post season without drinking from Lord Stanley’s cup again. Amid the griping about the annual choke is some hard feelings about the officiating and how that ultimately impacted the series. In any series, calls will go against you and for you, and they usually even out. Caps fans need to take a deep breath and not blame the refs for this one. A close analytical look at this 7-game failure shows:
The best team was the Rangers and they deserved to win. New York did the only two things they needed to do very well. One, they kept Alex Ovechkin off the score sheet for the last five games, and two, they stayed out of the penalty box. As the least penalized team in the regular season, logic dictated that the Rangers needed to play to that trend, especially since the Caps had the number one power play in the NHL. If you were the Rangers, you had to focus your top defensemen on Ovechkin and effectively take him out of the game and let the other Caps try to beat you. So presto, the formula for defending our Caps was quite simple and the Rangers exploited.
I was pleased with the effort put forth night in and night out, as the Caps played hard but not necessarily smart. Their forecheck was persistent and often very disruptive, but they never seemed to know what to do with the puck as they kept possession in the offensive end. In addition, their defenders were way too careless in their own end, turning the puck over on numerous occasions and yielding an inordinate amount of odd-man rushes and that’s an artifact of looking to join the offensive rush and getting caught up ice. John Erskine had a horrible series, as did Karl Alzner. But this was not a repeat of the second round sweep to Tampa Bay a couple years ago, or the prior season first round choke against Montreal because they never quit.
So I applaud the Caps for their strong finish. Let’s see what Adam Oates can do about distributing the scoring load a little wider and perhaps GMG can line up a stay-at-home defender which is badly needed. I’d love to see the Caps retain Mike Ribeiro who is a free agent now, but that may be a long shot.
So good luck to us and happy golfing! Let’s Go Caps!