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Just as it seemed that the Washington Capitals were about to shut the door on the Buffalo Sabres, they let them right back in via a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning last night.  Despite a late tying goal from Jason Chimera, his 20th of the season, the Caps were unable to hold off the Lightning as Steven Stamkos scored his 57th of the year with just over 2:00 remaining in the 3rd period.  Stamkos would later pot his 58th in a vacated net.  While it may not have been giving up a 2-goal lead, this game continued to show the lack of confidence the Washington Capitals have in themselves.

Late last week, after losing a crucial game to Buffalo, the Capitals found themselves up 2 goals on the Boston Bruins late in the 3rd period.  The Bruins would strike twice within the last 4 minutes to send the game into OT, eventually to the shootout.  Two days later, the Caps struck quickly to give themselves a 2-goal lead over the woeful Montreal Canadiens.  Again, they would see that lead squandered over the course of the game and need to take it to the shootout.  While they may have walked away from those games with the much needed 2 points, it clearly took about 15 minutes longer than it should have.

Had we seen a stretch like this 2 or 3 years ago, we would have just racked it up to an offensive juggernaut unable to cope with another team’s last minute desperation.  That cannot be the case anymore, as they are supposed to be a retooled defense-first team.  Yet time and time again, we have seen the Caps give up late goals and watch a sure 2 points fade away.  This team does not know how to stop the late goals, despite the fact that every team is beating them the same way.  They park a couple of bodies in the crease and just fire bombs from the points.  Both late goals in Boston were the result of the defense unable to move bodies out of Neuvirth’s line of sight.  It was the same story last night.  Here is the video of Stamkos’ goal for reference.

The play starts with St. Louis moving the puck up the near boards to Lee, who quickly moves it cross-ice to Clark.  At this point, 4 of the 5 Caps are below the circles.  Laich tries to cover Clark, but he is just too far collapsed.  At the point of the Clark shot, both Stamkos and Purcell are on the edge of the crease.  More importantly, Alzner and Wideman, the supposed “top pairing”, are standing in front of them.  They have essentially given Stamkos (leads the league in goals) and Purcell (already scored earlier in game) the crease.  Should a Neuvirth fail to eat up the rebound, both Stamkos and Purcell will already have position.  Sure enough, the puck lays in the crease and Wideman is unable to stop Stamkos from simply pushing it.  That goal was 10 times easier that the empty netter he would tally a minute later.

This just baffles me.  How many times do you have to get beaten the same way before you change something?  It’s like watching a bee try to get out a closed window.  Under Hunter, they have made it clear they are willing to try to lock it down inside of 5 minutes.  It is identical to what Redskins fans watched under Joe Gibbs the second time around.  This team is simply trying not to lose, as opposed to trying to win.  After Chimera’s goal, they should have had all of the momentum.  That should have been the moment to put the accelerator to the floor, forcing the Lightning to hold on for OT.  Instead, they played for 1 point. 

I understand that Hunter is a defense-first coach.  I respect, somewhat, his desire to take this team and force them to mind their own end first.  But even defensive teams have to understand the game enough to know when to take the momentum.  The most important thing a coach needs to do during a game is to keep a pulse on his team and the game.  We’ve seen Hunter make line changes in game or double shift certain lines when he feels they are playing well.  Now, we need to see him understand when to go for the kill.  Quit worrying about losing and start trying to win.


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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.