Not again! With the way this is going, you might as well give every tooth of mine a root canal.
Tonight’s Capitals game against the Islanders is going to be another chance for Washington to get rid of too many proverbial demons or have Mike Milbury, Barry Melrose and the rest find more ignorance to keep them spitting their same words over and over. Just remember that Jalen Rose is always right when you want to criticize traditional hockey TV analysts.
It’s not even the fact that Washington has had such a terrible game seven win-loss record (especially at home). It’s the fact that they keep finding ways to put themselves in these game seven situations and you always leave wondering why they couldn’t finish a playoff series earlier in the first place. Sadly, it looks like Nassau Colisseum is just too much for any Capitals team to put an end to a franchise history’s worth of playoff nightmares as they were out-shot at even strength every game. At the Phone Booth, things at least have looked a bit rosier, sans game one.
Only in hockey can being the better team not result in a win and the playoffs are a perfect example of that. Take game seven in the Montreal series back in 2010. Out-shooting the Canadiens wasn’t even enough to describe the carnage Washington was throwing at Jaroslav Halak that night. Yet, Halak stopped all but one (really two because the referees never should have disallowed that Mike Knuble goal), Dominic Moore can’t help but be himself and the rest is history. Throughout analytics and the populous community, more shots means more goals means more wins, right? Not on Mike Milbury’s watch and he knows more about hockey than you ever will because you’re not allowed to know more hockey than him. He demanded the Washington Capitals to change their team so they can perform non-hockey moves like “being tough” and “develop a nasty edge”. Just forget that “character” and “heart” should be saved for Disney Channel movies and not in a quest to win the Stanley Cup.
That’s what Mr. Yes-Man George McPhee did and that’s why he’ll never be an NHL general manager ever again. Gone were skilled puck movers and proverbial ice-tilters in Alexander Semin, Mathieu Perreault and Boyd Gordon and in were overvalued miseries like Roman Hamrlik, Jason Chimera and Troy Brouwer. Also in were coaches that never showed signs to know the x’s and o’s at an NHL level in Dale Hunter and Adam Oates. Having Mike Green and Brooks Laich constantly injured in too many spurts the next four to five years doesn’t help either, but that’s beside the point. Barry Trotz has begun the healing process and his reputation should not be ruined thanks to this series. Mike Milbury fawns over him too much for that to ever happen. Just keep ignoring that Andre Burakovsky should be getting top line minutes and Chimera should never play for the Capitals ever again, let alone be on the second line. Also keep ignoring that it is John Carlson that is making Brooks Orpik look good and NEVER the other way around.
The Misconceptions of Legacies
The one non-Capitals series that I wanted to watch the most was the St. Louis-Minnesota series. Both teams were fantastic puck possession teams at even strength and have survived the bloodbath that is the Central Division. I’m sorry, how is Dallas not in the playoffs again?!?! With all that in mind, Minnesota’s talent shined the brightest and St. Louis’ didn’t despite the Blues out-shooting them like nobody’s business in five of the six games. Yet, everyone will remember Jake Allen for having a poor series and St. Louis’ best players not step up when it matters. However, Alex Pietrangelo was shredding it all series long and Vladimir Tarasenko is just a beautiful hockey player.
Yes, Jori Lehtera turned into a pumpkin after looking like Cinderella in November and the shutdown line of T.J. Oshie and David Backes were a bit too meh, but this is still a talented team. I worry about their fate as their cap space is beginning to run out and barring Robbie Fabbri and Ty Rattie, there doesn’t seem to be enough prospects that can immediately replenish the team if too many players age terribly. Still, this is too much of a talented roster to make whole sale changes and they have one of the best coaches of his generation in Ken Hitchcock.
With the lack of NBA-like improvement on the salary cap every year, the exponential decrease of quality unrestricted free agents at the primes of their careers and restrictive free agency rules so bad that another cancelled season has to happen to ever correct it, there is just no way teams can do what Milbury and co. wishes “failing teams” to do. That’s hockey for you. Too often we only celebrate the champions and fail to embrace some of the other 29 teams that gave us great joy yet couldn’t be able to deliver in such a small amount of games. We also forget that matchups and luck of the draw and how the playoff bracket sets up matter just as much as talent. In St. Louis’ case, it is their inability to beat two teams that have won the Stanley Cup and the most underrated team in the NHL within the span of three years. For Washington, lack of puck luck, injuries and perfect front office management have put them five years behind the eight ball and they are still recovering from it.
As usual, hockey is the best and the worst sport at the same time.
Ben covers the Washington Capitals at the hockey writers. He has been blogging about the NHL since March 2013. Follow him @DCSportsDork