Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images
After last night’s Penguins-Capitals game, most Caps fans would likely want to talk about anything else, and it’s hard not to see why. It was a bad game, for many, many reasons. There was awful defense, bad goaltending and atrocious officiating.
If you didn’t know what game I’m talking about, you would think the team I’m going to talk about lost 8-1. Well they didn’t; the fact is the Washington Capitals had every chance of walking out of this 8-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins with the full two points.
Fans will have trouble looking at this game with any other emotion than frustration. It was a game in which the Caps had a 3-0 lead in the early parts of the second period. It was a game that, for the first twenty-plus minutes, looked like the rest of the nine-game winning streak the Capitals were on. Dominating the play, scoring goals, and not giving up many chances.
If you’re reading this, then I most likely don’t have to tell you what happened for the final 45 minutes of the game. Honestly, if I had to give you a word to describe it, it would be disastrous. You might look at the score and think it was a fun game with lots of scoring, but anyone who loves the game knows that it was an ugly, ugly game.
As Capitals fans, you can blame whoever you want for the loss. You can blame the officials, the defense, the coaches, or the league as a whole. However, there are plenty of things to blame and if you put the blame on one thing in a 8-7 overtime loss, you may have to open your mind to other possibilities. Let’s go over the things to take from this game.
The officials cost the Capitals the game.
The referees were awful in this game. There were three calls that seemed very obvious and simple that were not called on Pittsburgh. Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist delivered a nasty forearm shiver to the dace of Caps forward TJ Oshie.
Later, Hornqvist “appeared” to interfere with Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer’s attempt to make a save on Pittsburgh star Evgeni Malkin’s shot and after review, the goal stood. Finally, in OT, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby blatantly tripped Caps captain Alex Ovechkin, and just seconds later, the Penguins scored on a goal by Conor Sheary, and despite reviewing a “possible” goalie interference from Crosby (it WAS goalie interference), the goal stood. No sane person can sit back and say that the game was officiated well, no matter what side you were on. The counter argument?
You have to find a way around it.
Championship teams find ways to win. No matter the situation. Bad refs, a star getting injured, or just simply playing badly and finding yourself down a couple of goals. Look at teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings. The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2015 when, in the last two rounds, they were basically playing with just four defensemen. The Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2014, after being down 3-0 in the first round. Whether it’s a stretch of games or just one game, you have to find a way around the problem.
The Capitals almost did this.
The Capitals scored seven goals. They were up 3-0 early in the second period. The issues then began to start, calls didn’t go their way, and they soon found themselves down 5-3. That’s when some teams will fold and give up. The Caps, however, stuck with it, and eventually tied it 5-5. After seemingly swinging the momentum back in their favor, however, the Pens responded with a goal of their own to take a 6-5 lead into the second intermission. All the Capitals had to do was score the equalizer to take back their momentum, but Crosby scored to pull the Penguins ahead 7-5. That is when the Capitals could have given up, but stuck to their game plan, coming all the way back to tie it and send the game to overtime. It might not look like it, but in many ways, that was a championship-like attitude from the Capitals.
The Capitals allowed 8 goals.
The best defensive team in the entire National Hockey League. During their nine-game winning streak they had allowed just twelve goals. They hadn’t allowed an even strength goal in nearly two weeks. The goalies and defensemen were responsible for four shutouts in their previous six games. Yes, the Penguins are arguably, one of the scariest offensive teams in the NHL, but the Caps cannot allow EIGHT goals. They must avoid turning the puck over and focus more on getting blocks and most importantly, big saves. Once the game got out of control, neither team could get that one big save. While the refs may have allowed momentum to swing and turn into a high-scoring game but the Caps are still the best team in the NHL and best defensively, scored seven goals, a total that should easily be enough for this team. They allowed eight. Allow one less, and the Caps get out of this game with a win.
Crosby Tripping Ovechkin did NOT lead to the overtime winner.
This is one that may cause controversy. Was the missed call bad? I’ll finish this sentence with a DUH! But you have to move on. Ovechkin was reportedly a little ticked that it wasn’t called. You can blame the refs if you want, but why are both Ovechkin AND Kuznetsov chasing the puck below the goal-line on a 3-on-3? The Penguins defenseman has clear control of the puck and it gives him an easy pass up the boards to create a 2-on-1 scoring chance. Give Kuznetsov credit because he did get back pretty well, but the Capitals still couldn’t keep the puck out of the net. You can blame the blown goalie interference call if you want, but you can’t fix the referees’ mistake by making one of your own. To me, Ovechkin can’t chase that puck behind the net.
Fans will always try to blame one thing. A lot of the time, it is the referees or even the league as a whole. When you lose a game 8-7, you cannot blame it solely on one thing. As bad as the game did look, you can take certain positives out of this game.
The Caps played outstandingly for the first period, dominating Pittsburgh once again and this time, on their home ice. When things got tough, they fought back, on the road, in hostile territory. They scored seven goals. The Penguins are bad defensively. IF the Capitals play Pittsburgh in the playoffs, they may look back at the season series and feel really confident. A shootout loss in the season opener, two dominating games in Washington, and an 8-7 loss as a game that could have gone either way.
The NHL shouldn’t show this game and say how great the sport or league is. That was a hideous game. For the Washington Capitals and their fans, you can’t blame one certain thing for an 8-7 loss, but you can surely look at the game and take positives out of it.
By CJ Witt