How about accountability instead of excuses
I'm tired of rationalizations about the Caps ongoing debacles in the playoffs and about good regular season performances from Ted Leonsis, George McPhee and Coach Bruce Boudreau. I got pissed off about the Caps all over again after seeing the Tampa Bay Lightning smack down the Boston Bruins 5-2 in the Eastern Conference finals series opening game. Boston won the series, but I'm still angry.
As a long suffering fan, each season gets worse and worse. Instead of excuses, I'd like to see someone take accountability for the glaring problems with this hockey team as that would give me a little hope. I'd like to see the players take accountability, too, but when the coach doesn't hold them accountable, who will? The veteran leaders that are brought in at the trade deadline? Talk about too little, too late. Hint number one....the lack of veteran leadership has been a problem for years. I wish the organization would review the Detroit Red Wings leadership strategy as it's been quite effective. I realize I'm not "in the game", but people with more credentials than I have say the same thing.
So, let's review:
The Tampa Bay debacle:
"I don't think anything's missing," McPhee said. "We played a team that played better than us in the second round. It happens sometimes. I think we have a good team and we'll just keep trying to make it better." The Caps didn't just get beat by a team that played better, they got destroyed. Hint number two...this hockey team, collectively, needs hockey smarts instilled by a coach who knows how to get the best out of his players and how to teach them to be smart hockey players. Again, Caps should look at Detroit.
We won the East again. from Ted's Take. I know that's a reference to the regular season, but that is even more irrelevant than the President's trophy. In my viewpoint, when you win the East you get to hang an "Eastern Conference Finals Champion" banner in your barn. The Boston Bruins won the East and the Prince of Wales trophy that comes with it. The Caps won nothing this season, except another Southeast Division champion banner. Whippee. Too bad that doesn't lessen the pain that the Caps are playoff chokers.
“I thought we had sort of an imbalance on the blue line,” McPhee said. “What you really want to have are puck movers. They keep you out of trouble in your own end. They get the puck to your forwards to create more offense, to get more pucks on net, and the only two we had in the lineup were Carlson and Green that generate that offense, and the first three games, both of them didn’t finish one game.” I get that the Caps had injuries, but so does every team in the playoffs, so again, it's an excuse. The Sydney Crosby/Evengi Malkin-less Pittsburgh Penguins took Tampa Bay to 7 games and Tampa Bay lost Pavel Kubina, on their blue line, and Simon Gagne on offense when playing the Caps. And, the Caps flat out laid down and let Tampa steamroll them. That's not about injuries. That's about heart. The Caps don't have it.
The Montreal Canadien debacle:
"We didn't win the series because the goal tender shut us down three games in a row," McPhee said. "He was really good and that's the way it goes sometimes." GMGM on Jarslav Halak after the number one seed collapsed against the number eight Montreal Canadiens. The Washington Capital perimeters, as they're called by long-time fans, didn't challenge Halak with high quality scoring chances. They also didn't crash the net. How many times does that message need to be said to get through to the Caps. I've heard that in post game interviews so often that it makes me want to scream. But, the Caps players don't care enough to leave it all out on the ice night in and night out. Just look at any team that has won the Stanley Cup. That's what they do. "No guts, no glory" is the theme here.
"If that goalie can play the same way as he played the last three games," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said, "anything can happen." Again, the Caps with their perimeter shots and lack of crashing the net weren't going to get anything on Halak. They had far fewer quality scoring chances than they should have had. Championship teams figure out how to get past hot goalies. Besides, the Caps woes on the power play started that series as they converted on 1 out of 33 opportunities for a whopping 3% effectiveness. There were far more problems than a hot goalie last year.
The prior season they made it to the second round only because future hall of famer, Sergei Fedorov, showed the determination needed to win the Stanley Cup with his game winning goal with five minutes left in game seven against the New York Rangers. In the second round, they went up 2-0 on the Pittsburgh Penguins and eventually collapsed in awful fashion in game seven to lose the series.
The first season the Caps made the playoffs on the last day of the season, in the post lockout era, and they lost to the Philadelphia Flyers. At least they took them to seven games in that series. Considering the Caps would not have made the playoffs if Coach Bruce Boudreau hadn't come in to replace Glen Hanlon in November, they get a pass for that season.
Boudreau gets kudos for his Jack Adam award winning season, but, four seasons later, he hasn't learned to be an effective playoff coach. GMGM doesn't think there's a difference in coaching playoff hockey versus the regular season as here's his quote in the Washington Capital Insider blog post. “I expect him to be back, yeah. He’s a good coach,” McPhee said. “Someone said he’s not a good playoff coach. There’s no difference between a playoff coach and regular season coach. Either you’re a good coach or you’re not. He’s a good coach.” I respectfully disagree. Playoff hockey is a grittier, grind it out, play good defense, don't make stupid mistakes and match lines and strategies against your opponent in a seven game series. The Caps coaching staff made no noticeable adjustments to either Montreal last season or Tampa Bay this season. But, see Tampa Bay and first year coach Guy Boucher. He coached masterfully against the Capitals.
If the Caps organization fails to admit there is a problem and starts fixing this team and their country club atmosphere, this team will continue to fail in the playoffs. Caps fans, particularly long-time Caps fans, care deeply about playoff success. The regular season means nothing in hockey. Hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup is the only thing that matters. I had high hopes for this team when Alex Ovechkin came to D.C. I thought, maybe, they will finally win a Stanley Cup in my lifetime. Until I hear more about accountability and less about excuses as to why they continue to fail, I don't think things will ever change. I'll continue to be a Capsdreamer and a frustrated fan since 1974. As always, I can only hope the Caps prove me wrong. I'd desperately love to be proven wrong.