Good Caps, Bad Caps

May 8, 2012 in Playoffs

In 12 postseason games — and most likely throughout the entire 2011-12 season — the Washington Capitals have swayed between playing brilliantly and being mistake-prone. These emotional and physical swings can happen from one period to the next, or even in the bat of an eyelash.

Last night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers brought the Caps’ postseason record to 6-6. They’ve scored 26 goals and allowed 27. They eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in seven games and were this close to being up three games to two on the top-seeded Rangers. In a flash, New York received a four-minute power play (on a double-minor to Joel Ward), scored two goals in less than two minutes of elapsed game time (over the end of regulation and the start of overtime) and snatched a victory away from the Caps.

Even so, many would argue that the Caps had no business even being that close. The Rangers out shot them, 38-18 overall and 17-4 in the first period. New York dominated play for most of the game and, even though they failed to unleash a shot on three power plays, the Rangers still converted when it mattered most. The Caps’ offense seems to be improving, but they still couldn’t get a shot on goal during several odd-man rushes last night.

But that’s been the Caps’ M.O. all along. They’re 6-1 when they score first, 0-5 when they don’t. (Their lone defeat when they notched the initial tally was game three against Boston.) For the record, the Rangers scored first last night.

The Caps’ 2.17 goals scored per game is last among teams still playing — tied with the Rangers — and their power play is converting at 17.1 percent, tied for seventh. They’ve allowed 2.25 goals per game — sixth-best in the league — while their penalty kill is at 85 percent, seventh in the league.

They have only held two leads of more than one goal in all 12 playoff games combined. (They’ve only trailed by two goals once, however.) According to Mike Wise’s latest column in The Washington Post, the Caps have now been tied or been up or down a goal for 792 minutes of 806 total minutes played in the postseason.

This team gives you hope one moment (winning game five against Boston for a chance to eliminate the Bruins on home ice) and then takes it away (losing game six at home to the Bruins). A similar pattern could have unfurled itself last night — until the Rangers won the game in overtime.

Every game has been decided by one goal (except game one against the Rangers) and six have gone into overtime — including two that have ventured past the first extra session. They’re 2-4 in those overtime games, but undefeated in games following those overtime losses. Overall, they haven’t lost consecutive games throughout the 2012 playoffs.

So now the season comes down to one game — again. In their only elimination game of the postseason, the Caps defeated the Bruins in overtime in game seven at TD Bank Garden. They’re now facing elimination at home, needing a win on Wednesday and another on Saturday back at Madison Square Garden to earn the franchise’s third berth in the conference finals (and first since 1998, when Coach Dale Hunter was the team captain). And, yet again, tomorrow’s game follows an overtime loss.

Like the entire season, the upcoming one or two games against the Rangers surely will have ebbs and flows and will be decided by the closest of margins. The team will make one brilliant play that will be followed by a head-scratching mistake.

But that’s why it’s hard to stop watching.

Read more about Washington teams in Fanspeak’s DC Sports section.

5 responses to Good Caps, Bad Caps

  1. Interesting stats about coming back from OT losses, overtime record and consectutive losses.

    Hope those stats work in our favor and we can get two key wins this week to bounce back from that bad overtime loss!

  2. I'm pretty much convinced after last night's game, that Washington teams are just snake bitten. Their fans have to develop the mindset that the rug gets pulled out from under them at some point. It has been predetermined that our teams are not destined to win a Championship! But one thing I do believe about the Caps is they are resilient. I never thought they would bounce back from the marathon OT loss – but they did. And I wouldn't be surprised if they bounced back from last night's loss as well. But then again, that would just be part of the overall grand plan. Tease us a little while longer – but at some point you gotta know that the rug thing will put an end to all hope!

    • Well put WilyPops! Last night was may have been the most heartbreaking Caps playoff loss in the history of the franchise! The sad thing is we've had so may stunning playoff losses over the years you could probably do a top 10 and rank them.

      Washington area teams may be the most creative in terms of finding bizarre ways to lose games. But I'm convinced they will be putting us into another game 7 only to break our hearts once again! I hope I'm wrong but I have to agree with you WillyPops.

      I thought it was going to happen in the Boston series to be honest with you. I was actually more stunned they pulled it off than I'd have been if they had lost.

  3. What a great job of mapping out a plan for losing a series. Add in virtually no offense, poor passing and allowing your opponent to spend more time in front of your goal than your goaltender, your asking for disastrous results.
    Then when you throw in really stupid penalties with the win in site, you have to ask yourself how the heck did they get here in the first place.
    I do believe the team has dug a hole this time that they won't be able to escape from. Especially if they play like they did at the start of game six and with no cohesiveness,no offensive game plan and continue to let Holtby be bombarded by shots.
    The one bright spot has really been the net minding of Holtby. He has remained calm and steady through out the play-offs, Despite being left on a deserted island at times. At some point the Caps need to start taking the game to the Rangers and stop having the Rangers dictate how the game will be played.

  4. Great Post Rob!