KK Members Blog
Last year at this time, the Washington Capitals were contemplating what went wrong after the Tampa Bay Lightning swept them right out of the conference semifinals. They vowed to get better, be more responsible, and play a better two-way system.
Here we are a year later, and the Caps lost (again) in the conference semifinals. They played better defense, but their offense was clearly weakened. Last year, they averaged 2.56 goals per game over nine playoff games, slightly better than the 2.07 goals per game they averaged in 14 games this postseason. Additionally, they gave up 2.67 goals per game in the playoffs last year, and that number dropped to 2.14 goals per game this time around. (This, of course, was a huge drop from the 3.14 goals per game they averaged during the 2010 playoffs, but then again, they lost in the first round that year.)
What an up-and-down season for the Washington Capitals. After changing coaches, not making moves at the trading deadline, pretty much (unofficially) putting a freeze on contract extensions and barely making the playoffs, the Caps eliminated the defending champion Boston Bruins in the first round before bowing out to the New York Rangers in last night’s game seven of the conference semifinals.
After undergoing an identity transplant this season, the team managed to right the ship for the playoffs. — sorta. Their biggest find was Braden Holtby, who entered the playoffs with no postseason experience and only 21 regular-season games played, but ended with a 1.95 goals against average (sixth-best in the league), a .935 save percentage (also sixth) and all seven of the Caps’ wins, not to mention constant lauding by myriad members of the national media.
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.
The Caps-Rangers series begins tomorrow and the Flyers-Devils match-up starts on Sunday.
I take a look at both series… No. 1 New York Rangers vs. No. 7 Washington Capitals — In the closing days of the regular season, many thought these teams would be meeting in the first round. Now, just about two weeks later, they’re facing off in the second round—the third time in the last four years that the Caps and Rangers have played each other in the postseason. In order for the Caps to earn a third consecutive series victory against the Rangers—and reach the conference finals for the first time since 1998 and only the third time in franchise history—they need to stick to the game plan: keeping the scores closer to 2-1 than 4-3 and milking Coach Dale Hunter’s system for all it’s worth.
No. 5 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 6 New Jersey Devils – The Flyers have been sitting around for almost a week wondering who they’re going to play next, while the Devils are coming off a double-overtime, game seven thriller last night. The Flyers spent six games beating up the Pittsburgh Penguins on the scoreboard, in the penalty box and pretty much everywhere else. That won’t be the case against the Devils, who are far better defensively than the Pens and won’t fall into the Flyers’ traps.
There is more on both series if you are interested, continue reading at fanspeak.com.
Leafs (5-5-1) vs Capitals (7-4-1)
The Leafs will play their first game ever without Captain Dion Phaneuf tonight and as luck would have it, they play Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. Playing their second game in as many nights will not help their cause either, after losing 3-2 to the Ottawa Senators yesterday. The Leafs were on their way to being shutout for a third straight game until 5 minutes into the 3rd Period when Nikolai Kulemin scored. That ended the Leafs’ franchise-record goal-less streak at 167 minutes and 39 seconds. The Leafs’ secondary scoring has to show up for them to post a W against the Caps.
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