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Just Like That

I’ve been planning this entry out for just about a month.  With the struggles that this team had down the stretch, I just didn’t have a lot of confidence in this team.  Now that it has finally come, due to a Game 7 loss to the Rangers, it wasn’t what I expected.  The drive that the team showed through the first 13 games actually made me believe that they just might be able to prove that their style could lead get them somewhere.  Instead, when all the pressure was on, they crumbled.

Going into the 3rd period tonight, the Capitals should have kicked it into that that top gear.  They should have come out looking to pepper Lundvist with shots, looking for rebounds.  When all was said and done, they mustered only 4 shots on the King of Broadway, 2 of which were 40+ feet from the net.  As the clocked clicked closer to the end, the Caps struggled to even get the puck out of their zone to give Holtby a chance to get to the bench for the extra attacker.  Lundqvist might have been at his best tonight, but it certainly only helps him when you aren’t putting pucks his way.  Under Hunter, the Caps have repeatedly struggled to get shots on the opposing goaltender.  That is going to be a big point when they decide if they invite Hunter back next year.  When you get outshot and win, nobody is going to care, but when you lose getting outshot, it will be the only thing people talk about.

The truth is that tonight the Caps found themselves in a position unfamiliar to them in this postseason: the favorite. Yes, they still were the 7 seed playing on the road, but now they had non-fans believing that the Caps were the better team in the series.  After spending the first 13 games trying with the world expecting them to lose, they now were supposed to win.  And, like it was in the last few years, they could not handle that pressure.  All of a sudden it was the Rangers who seemed to be relaxed and having fun, while the Capitals were over-gripping their stick.  The fact still remains that this team cannot come through when it is all on the line.

That really is what makes this all the worse.  It is so much harder for management to fix a team when it simply their drive that seems to be their weak point.  Ovechkin had only 2 shots on net, and none in the third period.  In fact, only the first of his shot was from the offensive zone.  Marcus Johansson seemed lost at times and had the lowlight of the game when he nearly put the puck in his own net while on the power play, which was by far the worst man-up time of the year.  The defensive corps relapsed into their old ways of trying to clear the puck by blindly throwing it up the board.  All the things that caused this team to struggle seemed to make a big return at the worst time.

Tomorrow, the long offseason begins.  Despite upsetting a #2 seed, a lot of questions remain.  Was that success enough to keep McPhee?  I’d like to think so, though his moves last offseason did not come through like we thought.  Mike Green finds himself in a weird spot.  After the injuries, he really struggled and will be a UFA.  I still do not think the Caps can justify giving him a multi-year deal or the money he is currently making.  Alexander Semin also finds himself a UFA, where he made $6.7 million this season.  He consistently played well this playoffs, but he still has a history of disappearing for extended times.  If he doesn’t get the money he wants, he very well might jet back to Russia.  That, plus guys like Wideman, Ward, and Knuble are going to make this one of the more interesting offseasons the Caps have had.

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Matthew Tate's avatar

Edit: Mike Green is actually an RFA this year, not a UFA.

Posted by Matthew Tate on 05/13/12 at 04:01 AM ET

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About F Street Faithful

Welcome to the home of the F Street Faithful, run by Matthew Tate.  This is a go-to blog for all things related to the Washington Capitals.  The F Street Faithful is 5% news and 95% breaking down the news.

In the past I have written for several other sports blogs as well as the college newspaper while at  York College of Pennsylvania.  I am a graduate of York College of Pennsylvania but am based out of Southern Maryland. 

You can follow me on twitter @FStreetTate but I must warn that I do tweet about more than hockey. You can also e-mail me at any time at overtheboard@gmail.com.