It has been the same old story in the Ovechkin era in Washington. For some unknown reason, the Washington Capitals have not been able to get past the 2nd round of the playoffs for a good number of years. Sure, the Caps have run into a couple of hot goalies in various playoff series. Sure, the Caps have not been good defensively in some of those years. One week later, Capitals fans and hockey fans outside of DC are still in shock with the Capitals Game 7 meltdown.
First, I would like to say that this article is not intended to pour salt in the wound. I am a Vancouver Canucks fan, so I am used to seeing the postseason disappointment and 0 Stanley Cup banners. I can understand what Capitals fans are going through right now with the disappointment and frustration.
At the end of the day, what we all have in common is that we are all hockey fans. We may have our differences in our favorite teams and favorite players, but we all appreciate and love what the sport of hockey brings to our lives.
I am someone that pays attention to the Capitals closely, so I feel I can provide you with the fair and balanced outsider perspective on the club. I can honestly say that this Game 7 was one of the most painful Game 7s to watch.
THE LACK OF FIGHT AND PUSHBACK
The Penguins and Capitals have both been two of the best clubs in the NHL the last couple of years. Both clubs have plenty of star power and both are evenly matched with each other on paper.
I did not see a Capitals team that looked overmatched against a powerful Penguins attack. I saw a Capitals team that dominated a series that they could have won. The Capitals won the territorial battle on the ice. The Capitals won the physical battle on the ice. In the end, they did not win the mental battle on the ice.
The Penguins did not play a special Game 7. They played a smart and patient road game. Overall, the Capitals probably carried the play, but the Penguins made the Capitals pay for their own mistakes. The Penguins did what they were supposed to do and made opportunistic plays. Other than those couple of moments, the Penguins kind of sat back and defended most of the game.
It was like the Capitals stepped into the ring and faced Floyd Mayweather, Jr. If you have seen him perform in a boxing ring, you will see that he is a patient boxer. He waits for his punches and his openings and he will land a body blow when he knows he can. There is nothing flashy with his defensive boxing style, but it is cool, calculated, and opportunistic. Some may even think it is boring to watch, but he is undefeated with his unique in-ring style.
The most disturbing part of the game for the Capitals was their last 30 minutes in the game. The Capitals became noticeably rattled after the Penguins scored their first goal halfway through the 2nd period. It was shocking to see an overall confident and composed Capitals group come unraveled in the blink of an eye.
THE LONGEST 3rd PERIOD OF ALL TIME
What lasted for just 20 minutes seemed like an eternity for the Capitals. The Capitals were down by only 1 goal after 40 minutes, but they did not enter the 3rd period with any life or emotion. The fans became restless. The vibe inside of the usually loud Verizon Center was tense.
A 1-goal lead in a hockey game is not a safe lead in today’s game. Games can change within seconds, which is why it was so puzzling to see the Capitals show no life and urgency in the 3rd period. I am shocked that the Capitals did not play “desperate” hockey in the final 20 minutes. Unfortunately, once the game became 2-0 Pittsburgh, everyone that was in the building gave up.
As a sports fan in general, I hope that every professional athlete will give 110% effort every game. What likely stings Capitals fans the most about this Game 7 loss is the lack of effort and pushback from the players in the late stages of the game. When a team loses and gives a collective effort the pill is a lot easier to swallow. When a team loses and the players do not give a collective team effort that pill is tougher to swallow. The Capitals fans that attended Game 7 and the Capitals fans watching from home did not deserve to see a gutless performance from their favorite team.
While losses in big games stink, they are worse for everyone when a team does not give a total team effort on the ice. When a player or coach does not give a total team effort, they hurt themselves, their peers, and the fans. When the effort is not there, everyone is being let down.
The Capitals had every opportunity in the world to take what was theirs. They were not “outplayed” on the ice in the series. They earned their chance at redemption in Game 7. Unfortunately, they did not seize the opportunity given to them.
While the Capitals roster will likely look a bit different next year, all the players and coaches that were on this team will need to take some time to self-reflect over the next few months. If the mental side of the game is something that needs to be worked on, then the players and coaches need to find ways to fix it. I hope players and coaches all have the right mind sets and I hope they can all find ways to be successful. While things like skating and shooting are important things on the ice, there is always a mental side to the game that constantly needs attention.
By: George Foussekis