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Last night, after having stolen home ice from the Bruins via a 2-1 2OT win on Saturday, the Capitals fell to the Bruins in Game 3 4-3.  Zdeno Chara gave the visitors the game winner with just under 2 minutes to go.  To make the sting all that much worst, Chara’s point shot found its way in via the blade of Roman Hamrlik’s stick as he attempted to clear some traffic in front.  The Caps may have finally found some of the offense that they were lacking in game one, but they have lost the discipline.

We all knew the Bruins would be coming into D.C. looking to get the Caps off their games.  What was a potent offense in the regular season had been choked out by Dale Hunter’s defense-first style in the first 2 games.  It was clearly not in their gameplan to be heading to D.C. with their only goals coming from Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot.  All that frustration finally went and flipped the switch on Milan Lucic, who made it his goal to disrupt the discipline of the Caps as much as he possibly could.  Oh, it worked, big time.  Lucic would end up making 3 trips to the box for extracurricular, but he made sure to take a Cap with him each time.

First, it was Nicklas Backstrom who would join him, having taken a retaliatory cross-check penalty (he would grab 3, total, on the night) after Lucic was in the middle of fracas at the end of the 1st.  Somehow, he managed to get Laich to join him after some pushing and shoving during a faceoff in the 2nd.  That was a personal favorite of mine as he first started tangling with Jason Chimera.  The linesman broke that up, sending Chimera to the faceoff dot to replace Laich.  As soon as Laich took Chimera’s spot, Lucic immediately started a shoving match that ended with Laich on the ice.  Yet both would spend 2 in the box.  His final word would come late in the 3rd as he became entangled with Hendricks, and eventually Alzner.  While he did manage to bring Hendricks with him, Lucic was nicked with an extra 2.

Most of the time, these roughing calls are no big deal.  It all evens out and we get some 4-on-4 hockey.  The problem lies in that the Caps are downright awful playing 4-on-4 hockey under Hunter.  Most of those shootout wins down the stretch only happened because the Caps were lucky enough to weather an onslaught in the 4-on-4 overtime.  In game 3, they were not as luck as the Bruins were able to cash in on the free ice.  They would tie the game, albeit briefly, when Backstrom and Lucic were sitting, thanks to a Rich Peverly snapshot that Holtby should have had.  And, to complete the night, the Caps would give up the game winner shortly after Hendricks and Lucic were escorted to the box.

It goes so much further than just being forced to play 4-on-4, as opposed to the power play if they could suppress the urge to retaliate.  The Caps repeatedly could not keep their tempers under control.  Aside from the 3 instances involving Lucic, the Caps were penalized on 3 separate incidents where their temper got the best of them, all in the 3rd period.  Jason Chimera would lose it first, as he drove his stick into Marchand’s nether-regions during a scrum in the Boston crease.  He was luck to only escape with a 2 minute slashing call and not a match penalty for spearing.  Chimera did apologize to Marchand in-person after the game.  Shortly after Laich has tied the game, Backstrom would pick-up his second cross-check of the game.  Again, Marchand would be on the receiving end.  Yes, I do think he went down easy on that play, but Backstrom has to no better than to push him with the stick.  All he has to do is keep his stick down and give him a little nudge with his hand, just to keep Marchand honest.  Backstorm would be at the fore front again as time expired in the game, with his 3rd cross check of the game.  Clearly frustrated at the score and that Peverly had swiped at Ovechkin’s skates, he unleashed the fury and it happened to land via a crosscheck to Peverly’s face.  This one could cost Backstrom a game.

The Caps really should be happy that the Bruins are resorting to this in order to win.  To me, teams only resort to being pests when they are desperate.  It is usually something you see a lower seed do to try to get a top seed off its game.  I firmly believe it is why Philadelphia has a 3-game lead on the heavily favored Penguins.  To beat it, just don’t give in.  I understand it is hard to let Lucic pound away at you and not push back, but it is that strength that leads to success.  Take the beating, get the power play and cash in.  Watch how much ice time Julien gives to Lucic after you burn him for 2 or 3 power play goals.  I think all Caps fans can probably remember Sean Avery’s antics in the 2009 playoff series.  If you think a player is diving, don’t go and start a scrum after a penalty.  Either hold up on your hits and let them fall (refs tend to remember diving players) or level them with a clean hit.  With guys like Perreault, Johansson, and Aucoin in the lineup, the Caps do not have the size to go toe-to-toe with the Bruins for 7 games.  They must keep their heads about them.

A sidenote, slightly related.  Dirty play in this series is not being used by one side more than the other.  Last night on twitter, I saw a good mix of Caps fans calling the Bruins dirty and vice versa.  Both teams are doing it.  The Caps have clearly gotten their sticks up high on some cross-checks after the whistle.  The Backstrom one is just the first to be caught.  An apology by Chimera does not take away that he pulled a Danny Briere.  However, let’s not also forget the repeated targeting of Backstrom’s head by Bruins players.  Lucic clearly was swatting at his head during the scrum at the end of the first period.  His helmet even got knocked off.  You also can’t forget Dennis Seideneberg nearly decapitating him in the 3rd period of this game.  Let’s not forget the antics of Thomas in the first 2 games.  Clips can be found here.  Meanwhile, Holtby was penalized for his attack on Chris Kelly in game 1.  Only the truly homeristic could see the dirty play as lopsided.

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goon's avatar

That was a one sided post there. If the Caps want to rough it up against the Bruins they are going to lose. I find it funny that one of the dirtiest players to ever play the game of hockey is whining about the big bad Bruins.

Posted by goon from Grand Forks, ND on 04/17/12 at 05:44 PM ET

Matthew Tate's avatar

The whole point of the post is that the Caps should NOT rough it up with Bruins.  If they do that, success will be all that much harder to come by.  Its that guys like Backstrom are getting frustrated by the style of play the Bruins are playing and getting away from playing their game.

Posted by Matthew Tate on 04/17/12 at 05:49 PM ET

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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.