For the Caps, Nothing Has Changed
April 17, 2012 in Playoffs
The Washington Capitals made a big deal about change this season — from the firing of Coach Bruce Boudreau to the hiring of Coach Dale Hunter to the systems, goalies, etc. But, after losing two of three playoff games against the Boston Bruins, it's clear that nothing really is different. In the first two games in Boston, the Caps allowed two goals (a 1-0 OT loss in game one and a 2-1 double-OT win in game two) while blocking lots of shots and playing solid defense. Their offense was practically non-existent and goalie Braden Holtby (who was with the AHL's Hershey Bears until mid-March) kept the Caps in both games with amazing performances.
Finally given the chance to take the series lead, before a home crowd no less, what did the Caps do? They stopped playing solid defense, trying to out-gun the Bruins (who finished third in the NHL in the regular season at 3.17 goals per game, compared to the Caps' 2.66) and looked sloppy all night. That led to a 4-3 loss where everybody on the roster was unnerved by the veteran Bruins, who successfully got under the Caps' skin with borderline hits and lots of chippy play after the whistle. Even the normally mild-mannered Nicklas Backstrom got a match penalty for a cross check as the game expired.
What happened to Hunter teaching the boys how to play in the postseason? What happened to the group finally uniting as one and doing things the right way? On the biggest stage of the season, the Caps flopped. And they've done this before — in fact, every season under Boudreau ended with a dud. Remember the sweep by Tampa Bay last year? Or how about blowing a 3-1 series lead to Montreal the season before that? And let's not forget the 6-2 game-seven home loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on May 13, 2009.
These Caps haven't changed. They've added some players, subtracted others, changed coaches and systems (twice) and goalies, but they're still the same Caps — long on attitude, short on dedication. And, once again, this goes back to the players: it's time to get rid of Alex Semin and other players who care more about style than substance. Yes, it's possible — but doubtful — the Caps might win this series. But they're still not built to win a Stanley Cup.
And the Bruins would know. They won it last year with much the same roster as is facing the Caps and exactly the same formula. They get solid — if not great — goaltending from Tim Thomas, can roll four lines every game (nobody on the team has scored more than one goal so far this series) and their defense is stellar. Yes, not everybody can roll out somebody like Zdeno Chara every night — but there are plenty of teams who always play great defense and don't have Chara on their roster.
It's the system, culture, management, and dedication that winning teams possess — and the Caps don't. So enjoy the rest of the series against the Bruins — and hope owner Ted Leonsis realizes that this off-season isn't about tinkering, it's about getting rid of the elephant that's been renting space in Washington for many years.
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