Balls. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)
It’s been awhile since you’ve added a tally to your wins list, eh?
The Washington Capitals hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning to another night of hockey in the old Verizon Center barn. And it pretty much went just like the first one.
During a late first-period powerplay, Vincent Lecavalier deflated the crowd with a high dart to the back of the net. Brooks Laich crashed the net to tie it up, but Martin St. Louis’s deflection off Mike Green’s skate gave Tampa a 2-1 lead. With Neuvirth pulled, the Capitals fought the Battle of Roloson’s Crease to victory– with Captain Alex Ovechkin pitching in the puck from zero distance. In the biggest overtime of the season, the Caps started strong. But Teddy Purcell fed Vinny Lecavalier a puck right in front of Michal Neuvirth. Game over. Bolts beat Caps 3-2 (OT), but here’s the real kick in the teeth:
Bolts lead the series 2-0.
- The Capitals have their backs against the wall. They have lost both games at home, squandering whatever advantage the regular season created. These back-to-back games in Florida could not come with higher stakes.
- Regulation scoring chances tell the story: tied at 4 in the first, 8-0 Caps in the second, 2-5 in the third.
- You can’t win a hockey game if you miss on six power play opportunities. You can’t win a Stanley Cup if you miss on eleven. But that’s the count through two games in this series. Ovechkin is still on the point, still fetching pucks. Is that really how you want to use the best offensive weapon in the NHL?
- Shots? 37-23. The Lightning have been outshot in every game of the playoffs, but they keep on winning. A testament to Dwayne Roloson?
- Humbly, I submit no. Just like they did with Jaroslav Halak, the Capitals are sending the pucks right to where the goalie is. Rolo is not that fast laterally and not that strong up high. If a handful of shots went a few inches higher or wider, these games would be blowouts. Instead, the 86-year old looks like Mecha-Roy.
- Brooks Laich was the player most able to counter the Lightning’s defense. He generated 4 scoring chances, including his own goal.
- Meanwhile, Alex Ovechkin had one measly chance until that almost-pivotal tying goal.
- Tampa’s dwarven thunder, Martin St. Louis, had a two-point night (goal and assist). He also took a nasty high sticking (no call) that loosened the same teeth first sundered in the Pittsburgh series. Also, I wrote a song about him during the second intermission.
- Jeff Schultz was on-ice for every Tampa goal. He’s outmatched, out of position, and gangly beyond reason. How’s Dennis Wideman feeling?
- The second-period Capitals are composed and forceful. They suffocated the Bolts’ offense. But when they went a goal down midway through the third, they played like decapitated chickens.
- Was the OTGWG offsides? Put on your tin foil hats, rules lawyers, and get ready to make your appeal to the dungeon master.
There’s a bunch of dire stats about how often teams with 2-0 leads win series. You’ve probably seen them; we’re not gonna repeat them. Here’s the truth: the Caps need to take both games in Tampa or else they’re just prolonging the inevitable.
It looks grim. The Lightning’s victories have been thanks to strategic superiority, or at least a superior effort in sticking to the coach’s strategy. The Capitals stars disappear for long stretches.
But they’ve still got heroes on the ice. Check out those wizardly shifts by Boyd Gordon, Matt Bradley, and Marco Sturm. No players rendered Roloson dyspeptic better than the “energy” line. If the rest of the squad can play with the same offensive fervor that this trio has, there is still hope.
So here’s the party line: just come back to us, boys. Steal one or two games on the road, and come back to Washington in style. No one said the road to the Cup was gonna be easy, and now they need to prove their mettle. In Florida. Which is America’s dong.
Still believe. Go Caps. Eff terrorists.
Additional reporting by Ian Oland and Neil Greenberg.