Another Postseason, Tons of Questions
The Washington Capitals, going into Game 7 against the New York Rangers, had a ton of momentum coming off of the 2-1 victory in Game 6. The momentum was simply not enough to motivate the Capitals, after Game 7 started with a little adversity. Within the first two minutes in the game, the one player that has been able to answer the call, time and time again for the Rangers, Brad Richards was able to put the puck past Braden Holtby off of a one-timer.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs came to an end for the Capitals Saturday night, after the Game 7 final score of 2-1. Are there specific Capitals to blame? The simple answer is no. The extended answer is the entire team should be blamed. The Capitals do not lose individually, but as a team. "We had a lot of opportunities but... it is what it is" said Caps forward Troy Brouwer following the game.
There were multiple errors on the Richard's goal by multiple Capitals, including John Carlson simply not moving Marian Gaborik from the screening Holtby, or Nick Backstrom successfully screened his own goaltender before the shot as well. Backstrom's play could have easily included a blocked shot, but perhaps the first two minutes is too early to dive in front of a shot.
Backstrom skating slowly toward Richards before the shot without hitting the ice or skating hard enough to get there before the shot came, not only successfully screens Holtby, but effectively Backstrom took himself out of the play. Certain plays like Backstrom's can be magnified, but the main issue which cost the Capitals the game had to do with the Capitals forwards and the power play.
The Capitals cannot expect to win any game, let alone a Game 7, when the only goal came in the third period off of a defenseman. The forwards like Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin, who get paid to score goals, came up entirely empty against Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers.
"The effort was there" said Ovechkin in the postgame interviews. However, it did seem quite the opposite in the first period. In the first period, although the shots were even at eight apiece, the Capitals were playing too much hockey in their own zone. Regardless of the successfully killed penalty kill in the first period, the Rangers simply looked much more energized to start the game.
Holtby still had a great game in net besides the two goals he let in, stopping 29 of the 31 shots faced. However, Lundqvist obviously had the better game, stopping 22 of 23 shots faced. The Rangers quality of shots were higher than the Capitals. The Rangers were able to fire off one-timers, control the puck behind the Capitals net, and position at least one player right in front of Holtby.
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The second period featured a great offensive push by the Capitals, but they were not able to capitalize on the offensive rush. 11 of the total 23 shots the Capitals got in this Game 7 came in the second period. One would think that if the Capitals are down going into the third period, they will be energized and ready to go in the third period.
Although the third period consisted of the only goal scored by a Capital in Game 7, the fact that the Capitals only had four shots is a serious issue. Not only did the Capitals almost stall in the third period, but the Rangers took a penalty right after the Capitals got back within one(2-1) off of a Roman Hamrlik goal. The power play that ensued was the worst power play of the postseason. An entire two minutes with the man advantage and the Capitals could not even connect two consecutive passes, let alone even get a shot on net.
Even though Game 7 was one of the worst type of games to get kicked out of the playoffs, the future of the Capitals does not seem so bleak. For instance, now that the Capitals have found a great starting goaltender in Holtby, the Capitals will more than likely drop Tomas Vokoun over the off-season, freeing up $1.5 million in cap room. Also, expect others to get dropped or traded so that more cap room is freed up for acquiring some free agents.
General Manager George McPhee definitely has his work cut out for him as he has had the last couple of seasons. It is all about finding the missing link to this already star-studded cast of players. The Capitals are just two to three players away from making some serious noise in the playoffs.
Now that the season is officially over, Ovechkin and Semin are going to join their countrymen in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships in Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden. Backstrom will also be joining his fellow Swedes in hopes to win a world championship.
This season is one to forget until the Capitals win a Stanley Cup. Once they get a cup in Washington D.C., the seasons leading up to that will then become treasured memories of the Capitals growing as a team. Hopefully for Capitals fans, that day will come soon.
By: Stephen London
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer