Crankypants. (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)

On a warm Tuesday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning were kind enough to host the Washington Capitals for an hour of playoff hockey. It’s not going to end well.

Sean Bergenheim opened up with an easy one– a five-holer made possible by Mike Green’s absentee defense. Early in the second, Mike Knuble pierced Roloson thanks to Ovechkin’s set up. A bomb from John Carlson and screened by Eric Fehr gave the Caps a 2-1 lead, but Vincent Lecavalier returned fire from the goal mouth to tie it up. After a powerplay pile-up in the paint, Alex Ovechkin found the open puck and inserted it in the twine. A turnover gave Steven Stamkos a beautiful netter from the slot. 24 seconds later, Ryan Malone kicked in the game winner. Bolts beat Caps 4-3.

The Caps are in a three-game hole. Dire.

  • Precisely (Photo credit: Scott Audette)

    Alex Semin‘s first and only shot of the night came with 58:13 into the game. There are no adjectives for this Sasha.
  • Nick Backstrom tragically missed this game due to a — oh? No way. He actually played? Well, he didn’t put a puck on net, so why did he bother suiting up?
  • On the other end of the spectrum: Alex Ovechkin. He made no shortage of mistakes, but he also showed up when it was needed: assisting Knuble’s goal and heroing his own tally, the would-be game-winner. Greasy goals are the greatest goals, and Ovi is covered in grease.
  • We expected so so so much more from the Semin-Arnott-Laich trio.
  • Mike Knuble, team neckbeard leader, scored an early powerplay goal, but like a Virginia Tech party, there were too many men. The crucial goal was waved off. Yeah, that burns.
  • It’s the small things. Hockey is a game of inches, angles, and fractions, but the Capitals keep playing it macro-style. Moving your legs on the man-advantage, tape-to-tape passes, controlled and patient breakouts, funneling the puck to the net: these things really do pay off. We know this because the Tampa Bay Lightning are doing it perfectly. The Bolts are playing the hockey that our boys should be playing.
  • The 24-second span in which Stamkos and Malone scored amputated this team’s soul. That third period should have been the Caps’ finest hour. Instead we got a squad of sourpusses playing crankypants-brand hockey. Five meager shots on Dwayne’s net.
  • No, but seriously. We’ve covered this before: hockey is fun. Even when your team is losing, you gotta enjoy it. A bummed-out team doesn’t just lose championships, they lose fans.
  • Remainders: Marcus Johansson was the VIP of the PK, closing in on pointmen with the quickness and creating turnovers. Sturm-Gordon-Bradley were terriers laying siege to the Tampa Bay zone with every shift.  Mike Green missed most of the third period; his 13:24 TOI is like his defensive play: way below par. Ovechkin clipped Dwayne Roloson’s neck with the stick early in the third, but there was no injury.

And then there was Michal Neuvirth.  The best Capitals player by a mile, Neuvy stopped 26 pucks, a handful of which were omega-level saves. Those saves were ultimately not enough, but they were more than his teammates deserved. Neuvirth’s play is streets ahead of the rest of the Caps, and despite his young age Michal looks like only player with his head always in the game.

Joe B suit of the night

Again: this is a game of inches. A few bad bounces have given Tampa Bay the space they need to earn wins. But those tiny distances could and should have been mitigated by responsible, cohesive team-play. Instead, we’re seeing symptoms of something else: a fumbled pass from Mojo to #AwfulSasha, a futile Brooks Laich shot from the point into an oncoming defender, and an ill-chosen cross pass in the defensive zone. That’s how entitled, cynical, and careless players do the hockey. It’s unbefitting the Washington uniform.

We’re pretty much at the end here. The sky is darkening over the Capitals’ season. Players’ wives are buying sunblock.

Wait, scratch that.

Maybe the Cup is beyond our reach. Maybe this series is too. But the Capitals have an opportunity on Wednesday night to show the world what kind of hockey team they are. We’re going to see gap-toothed smiles and detonating pucks. We’re gonna see Russian hugs on ice. We’re going to see the net behind Dwayne Roloson quiver like a rippling pond. We’re gonna see Caps hockey.

To paraphrase my favorite writer: if nothing the Caps do tomorrow matters, then all that matters is what the Caps do tomorrow.

Crash the net.

  • teresa

    I love you guys. Best way to end this post after 60 min of heartbreaking hockey.

  • Gracie

    Thanks for making me smile, even in the most depressed of states.
    “but like a Virginia Tech party, there were too many men.”
    Because I’m a Hokie and have to deal with those over crowded parties all the time I couldnt help but laugh. Anytime any of you are in Blacksburg I would love to take you downtown for a beer.

  • http://Wordpress.threewireguy.com BigNed

    Last year when the Caps went out in round one, I wrote an impassioned comment on this blog about how much I loved this team and wanted to see them win a championship playing the kind of freewheeling fun hockey that took them to the best record in the league. I defended their style, in spite of the loss, because it was UNBELIEVABLY entertaining and showed the passion of the players.

    I want that team back.

    If the Caps are going to lose in the playoffs, I want it to be because a goalie made 40 plus saves against them every night, and the defense blocked 40 more. You know why? Because that means the Caps threw everything they had at their opponent for 60 minutes. That’s what I want to see.

    I’ve been saying to my friends this season that watching the Caps has been like watching Rocky start the fight in a right-handed stance, waiting for Mickey to tell him to switch to Southpaw. Dear BB, if you happen to read this please, please, please loose the hounds. Unleash the fury. Crash the net.

  • I Am The Mole

    I cried a little. Where are my Caps?

  • Greg

    Game over, I think.

    Any chance we can trade coaches for the next 3 games? Boucher is riding inferior talent and old age to a 3 – 0 lead. Caps have a couple of young studs on Offense and some veteran guys for the bang bang stuff, a solid D-corps with a combination of youth and experience, 3 young and really talented goalies, have had a lead in 2 of 3 games and the one they didn’t lead in went to OT, and have lead in shots in all 3. How in the hell can they manage to not win ONE of those games.

    HOLTBY FOR GAME 4! And the subsequent games. Tampa can’t win if they can’t score any goals. ;)

  • Greg

    P.s. I might agree on unleashing the hounds, but even with their attempt at being a D first team tonight, Tampa had 4 or 5 breakaways at the end that resulted in dazzling saves by Neuvy. If Neuvy can replicate that, by all means, let’s play some 6 – 5 type games. Otherwise, idk what to do.

  • Natasha

    That was brutal and no fun at all. They’re the better team on paper, but worse on the ice. Ovi was the one who started to build the momentum in the second but they managed to blow it up in the third. They seemed deflated after Tampa’s fourth goal and unable to fight back. WTF is wrong with Backstrom?! Very disappointed by his play. Rough night for Schultz and Green. Second line was no factor. I don’t blame anyone in particular, I blame everyone, including BB. It was poor team effort. Yet I hope they’re defiant enough to win the game tomorrow for US, their fans, who are doomed to be miserable year after year…

  • AshleyDC

    At the end of this, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bruce revealed at Backstrom has been dead for weeks and is puppeted by the first line wingers in an elaborate Weekend at Bernie’s scenario,

  • JJR

    You just lost another game, what happened? Sniff. Let’s discuss some more. No Stanley Cups ever? Whine. Whine. You lose then lose then lose and you maybe win and might lose. Whine wa wa boo hoo. Next thing you know you’ll lose again and run and embrace Dan Snyder. Can’t wait for that to happen.
    Personally, any team that celebrates the stupidest paintings I’ve ever seen of any team anywhere will lose. Why the hell display those anywhere? They’re fucking embarrassing you dumb asses. Shed those tears everyday Capitals fans, wipe you runny noses everyday here on out because its always been buried between you pompous ass cracks.

  • VeggieTart

    I heard that there was an optional practice tomorrow. I may not be a hockey expert. I confess I am a relatively renewed fan and am learning the ins and outs of this fantastic sport. But one think I do know is that you just don’t do “optional” practice after a loss in which the team played like crap and couldn’t show up for a full 60 minutes.

  • Pete

    I love our guys, but this is a disgrace. With all the talent on this team, for them to play like this is shameful. Love ya, coach, but you are gone. they gave you all the tools, and this result isn’t good enough.

  • deann

    Amen on Neuvirth. Can’t imagine what this kid could do in front of a team who cares.

  • 28ISGREAT

    I continue to wonder why Nick Backstrom’s amazing disappearing act in this year’s ENTIRE postseason continues to go relatively (though not totally) unnoticed among nearly every outlet. Sure, there have been some rumblings, even one or two pointed mainstream pieces. And to your credit, tonight’s recap point on #19 was probably the harshest I’ve seen – and its welcome.

    But lets think back to last postseason, where Green and Semin “disappeared” – and they were brutally assailed by nearly every outlet, blogger and commenter for months upon months – even up to the trade deadline in #28’s case.

    So I guess I can’t help but wonder why #28 getting just one shot gets the top billing (or is it bulleting?). The fact it even gets a mention considering how tremendously AWFUL Nick Backstrom has become…well…thats not the “lowlight” I expected to get a mention from you guys tonight.

    Maybe Im overly sensitive to it since Im an unabashed Sasha Minor fan – but it seems like Nick Backstrom constantly evades scrutiny, even on nights like tonight where his performance – and his alone – singularly epitomizes the epic sh*t pile this entire series against TB has been.

  • SBT

    As a Chicagoan, I’ve already taking a bit of a verbal beating from my friends and family and other random people on the street when I wear my Caps jersey in public. And then I would gush and brag about how amazing this team is and how just watching them playing just resonated with me to turn me into a mid-level hawks fan to a pretty high level Caps fan in less than one season.

    And now I can hardly defend them when they see that the #1 seed is falling 3-0 in this playoff series after playing SUCH a great series against NYR. They’re not just losing puck races and games, they’re losing heart and it even seems like they are giving up. It hurts me.

    As a new fan myself, I can talk and talk all I want and pretend I know what the answer to their problem is, but at the end of the day all I can really do is hope they show everyone exactly how the article describes it. A team with toothy grins and russian hugs. That’s the team I know and love.

  • SBT

    (As an addendum, I do this it’s possible to come back from 3-0. The hawks did it last round. Caps are a better team. There’s some hope yet.)

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  • San Fran Caps Fan

    I’m 43 years old. I have a great marriage, a baby boy (named Alexander, hmm) I’m crazy over, a meaningful job I like that actually pays well, and have great health. I should be thrilled today. Why does a team of athletes half my age bring me down again and again? I’ve been a fan since 1987 after following the Islanders in my childhood. This is my longest relationship to date. I won’t break up with them, but damn, the heartache is too much sometimes. At least there is the warm California sun out here. But you won’t see me pulling for the Sharks anytime soon.

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  • Avtopilot

    It looked like “the Last Samurai” doomed chivalry attack. Well, if you can’t win, just die with honor.

  • SMedsker

    Great stuff. Thanks for letting me end my night on a slightly less defeatist note.

  • Em

    I love this team, but I didn’t watch the game and won’t tonight, either, because my heart can’t stand it. Kudos to you guys who can do it, who can watch in agony and then actually muster the courage to write about it, to talk about it. You are far better fans than I.

    Oh, and AshleyDC–L.M.F.A.O.

  • http://www.calacirian.org sonja

    After watching the goal get called back for too many men on the ice, I decided that if the Caps weren’t gonna show up for the game, I wasn’t either. So I went into my sewing studio to work on a project and listened from there.

    Then I got sucked back in. And dear god in heaven it was embarrassing to watch BB beg for seconds at the end of that game when he’d so badly mismanaged the team for the previous 58-59 minutes.

  • Jessica

    Grumpy weather, grumpy mood after last night’s debacle. This post was right on, and I loved the hopeful note at the end. And, to top it off, the posts from others were dead spot on — DC Ashley articulated what we’ve been saying in our house for weeks. Let’s hope the Caps play tonight the way we fans deserve — LET’S GO CAPS!!!!

  • http://singingfromthecrease.wordpress.com Mia

    As usual, a nicely written piece about our Washington Capitals from RMNB. I’ve been keeping my own blog quiet these days, mostly because, well, I’m poor and barely functioning most days. Having a hockey addiction is keeping me awake for lon stretches of time as well. I was one of the “twitter” crowd out there sending every sort of positive vibe to the virtual CAPS nation.

    I could feel the team falling into bad habits, but this time, I did what I could to simply believe they would win. I’ve not much to say right now, since there is another game tonight. I am focused on their win tonight. One thing I’ll mention to those who swear that the run-n-gun, hair on fire, let the leash off of the Sashas kind of play that many still truly believe will get wins in the playoffs is that a good defensive mentality shouldn’t preclude a great offensive showing. Both the Sashas have scored dirty goals this year and both have been better two-way players. There are ways to have team unity and solid team play, while still allowing our star power to do what they do. It is a “coaching” thing, but Boucher hasn’t had the same issues getting his team to be ALL IN (something that’s written on the front of the St. Pete Times Forum in very large letters), so my thoughts today are these two: I am a mental attitide coach and I’m unemployed (most of us agree there’s a “metal attitude issue with our CAPS right?) and it would seem from recent BB history that our Capitals just don’t have an answer for French Canadian coaches. There are ALWAYS going to be French Canadian coaches on the road to the Stanley Cup.

    Thanks for all the fun and hockey-love RMNB!

  • Peter Hassett

    @Mia

    Thanks! You’re the best.

  • OKLA_CapsFan

    I went to this game. I was expecting the team to make an effort, and was disappointed. The warm-ups was the first time I’ve seen the Caps look dazed and confused. There was no joking around or talking, there was no serious practice shots either.The players kept to themselves and many looked up in the stands.

    As a fan, I’m upset. Fans dedicate themselves to a team. I spent money on the tickets, gas, food, and lodging to go to the game with my husband. With the economic times, going to see my team is a big investment. This was the only game I could manage to see this season due to my location, job, and funds. I wouldn’t be as upset from a loss where the Caps were passionate and actually trying. I’m upset that I had to spend it for THAT display of nothing. I can’t imagine what its like for Caps season ticket holds who make big investments and this is the note that our season will most likely end on. Last year, the Caps were knocked out, but they were playing passionately. No one was trying last night but Neuvy. Tampa is playing like they want it, and I hate to say it, but if this is all we’re getting then Tampa rightfully deserves to advance.

    I think my only complaint for this game review is the absence of any criticism towards Jeff Schultz. Seriously. He was by far the worst player last night.

  • Spoon

    AshleyDC absolutely destroyed my soul

    hahahahahahahahahahahahaha

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  • Bolts Fan

    I’m a Lightning fan…and I want to preface this by saying that I NEVER thought we’d be up 3-0 in this series. I fully expected that we’d be looking at 6 games, if not another seven game series. I believe that the Caps are a good team….one of the best in the league actually.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining that the Bolts have taken a commanding lead in this series….I’m just a wee bit surprised.

    However, Greg’s comment above that: “Boucher is riding inferior talent and old age to a 3 – 0 lead” is ridiculous! Please tell me who’s inferior….St. Louis? Stamkos? Really? Because both of them had more points this regular season than anyone on the Caps. And may I remind you that Stamkos shared the Richard trophy in 2010 with Crosby…not Ovechkin. And Lecavalier, a former 50 goal scorer, has matured into one of the most well rounded players (and leaders) in the game today.

    My point is….don’t talk down to the Bolts like they are beneath the Caps. They too have earned their place in this series. And with a 3-0 lead, they are about to jump into the Eastern Conference Finals with both feet.

  • Neil – RMNB

    @BoltsFan Agree. TBL forwards are among the league’s deepest. I said going in this was one of the more even matchups the second round had to offer.

    TBL is being outshot, but not outchanced. TBL is capitalizing (pun intended) on their chances, Caps are not.

  • http://twitter.com/CapsRock Dave C.

    +1 to Bolts Fan. Can’t hate on a team who has played better than the other. Bottom line in any series is: the better team will win. Period.

  • Quinn M.

    Dave I agree with you man. Regardless of how much of the game you control or how many “lucky bounces” the other team gets the team that deserves to win each hockey game will win it. And that is the glorious thing about a sport all of us love. And to the bolts fan, I agree with you man. Your coach and your team or more than getting it done and although my beloved teams play has a lot to do with us being down, part of it is the killer instinct on your bench because man you guys hound us until we make mistakes and then you make no mistake on just slamming it into our net. It must be fun to be a bolts fan right now.

  • BobbyG

    @Bolts Fan: No hate from me for your team. On the contrary, I have enormous respect for your team and in no way look down on them. They absolutely deserve to be where they are because, as painful as it is for me to admit this, they have played better as a TEAM. I sense their will to win is stronger, which is remarkable since your team came off an exhausting 7 game series against the Caps and the Caps were the more rested team.

    I know some Caps fans might gripe that the Bolts got all the lucky breaks, IMO good teams make their own luck. The Bolts have a superb system for the playoffs and haven’t strayed away from it. And even though this series isn’t officially over, I’ll tell you I’m very impressed with the Bolts performance so far. Bravo!