Any horrible adjective you could think of would suffice right now for Washington Capitals fan. A team that seemed destined for a long run to the Stanley Cup was again outmatched, outplayed and outclassed by their arch nemesis the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round again, this time in the most excruciating of fashions, a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 6.
This series had all of the makings of a classic, and we got just that. Three overtime games, great goal-tending, extremely physical play, bonehead penalties and lucky bounces and they all seemed to go Pittsburgh’s way, as it normally does. I have never been one to say someone or some team is just “lucky”, in sports, you create your own luck. You create it by being the more physical, forceful team and for five of the six games, the Pens were that.
You can’t win games making dumb penalties as Brooks Orpik did in Game 2 (which he was inevitably suspended for 3 games for an illegal hit) and the awful double-minor penalty for high sticking which put the Capitals penalty kill unit in a most precarious position. That penalty resulted in two goals for the Pens, which basically ended the game the eyes of mostly everyone. Yet, the Capitals rallied as I’ve never seen them before with three unanswered goals to send the game into overtime but in said overtime, Pittsburgh’s pure team speed and overall talent just overwhelmed the Caps as Nick Bonino scored the series clinching goal right on the doorstep of Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.
Now, it’s hard right now to quantify what went wrong THIS time, but it isn’t difficult to take the pulse of Capitals Nation. The apathy is warranted. The fans have been through this time and time again. It’s disheartening to say the least. Fans are really pissed off and they have every right to be, not just at this particular season’s conclusion but as a totality of missed opportunities from seasons past to today.
Last season, we lost to a favored and better New York Rangers team in seven games. This season was supposed to be different. The best record in the sport. A team record for victories. Yet laying in the wake it seemed was the Pens, who happened to be the best team in hockey from March until the playoffs. It was fitting huh? The one year the Caps seemed destined and the team that holds all of the mental and physical advantages would so happen be playing their best hockey at the same time. To beat the Pens, the Caps were going to have to play their best hockey of the season and they just did not.
You cannot have your leading scorer of the season in the regular season, Evgeny Kutznetsov, have only two points in the entire playoffs. A virtual no-show in the grandest stage. You cannot have mental errors from defensemen like making blind passes into your own zone like Mike Weber that costs us a game, or two defensemen rush a Pittsburgh player all the way to the Red Line and flat out miss, leaving Hotlby alone to try to stop Phil Kessel at point blank range. Those type of plays coincided with Pittsburgh’s physicality was just too much for the disjointed Caps and that is the most devastating thing about this loss.
How could a team that played so well this season look so average when it was time to boogie? Demons are real. Ghosts are real. The Capitals played as if the pressure was just too much. Years of disappointment will do that to the best of us.
Rock the Red.