Tie Game. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)

The Washington Capitals were leading the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-1 on Saturday night. They ended up winning 6-5 despite a pathetic third period collapse. Afterwards, the players were understandably upset, none moreso than Jason Chimera.

In response to an earnest question about how to mentally handle a late game blow up, Chimera got sassy.

“Sometimes you’re not your best at writing articles,” he said. “You gotta do better next game.”

After a quick back-and-forth, Chimera stormed off to the showers at Verizon Center. Ah, the joys of a winning locker room.

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

Chimera was not the only one pissed after Washington’s overtime victory. All the players were, as they should be. This is becoming a pattern. The Capitals have collapsed in the third period of their last two Saturday games. Playing in Sunrise, Washington went from 4-0 blowout to a narrow 4-3 victory. Most recently, the Caps let the Bolts score four unanswered goals before Mike Green put a stop to it with his power-play, overtime game-winning goal.

The Caps have lost three games when leading after two periods, second only to the Boston Bruins — and that doesn’t include their recent close calls against struggling teams.

“We kinda sit back,” Green said of the third period. “We have to keep playing the way we do, play for a full 60, and we’ll be successful.”

“It sucks,” he added. “We can’t play like that. I don’t know what to do. I’m not the guy to look for an answer.”

After last week’s late-game blowup, players in the locker room called it a learning experience: they would be sure not to take their metaphorical foot off the metaphorical gas again. But seven days later, the same thing happened again– the Caps sat back with a big lead and nearly lost. Washington is a better team than Tampa, and they dominated most of the game. From the 400 level at Verizon Center, it looked like the Caps took the game for granted — and the team admitted that.

“I guess there is no really easy explanation,” head coach Adam Oates told reporters. “You lose a little bit of momentum because it was a little too easy, you get a little flat, and all of a sudden here they come.”

“It’s human nature,” he added. “I don’t ever talk to them after a game, but I don’t want to say something you might regret later.”

Big leads are not a bad thing, but Oates is right, it can lull you to sleep. The Caps are still wildly better than they were at the start of the year (10-13-1 in the first half, 13-4-1 since), and they’ve won seven in a row. But I worry how this team will fare in the playoffs. They may get a favorable first-round match-up with the Leafs, Senators, or Islanders. Conventional wisdom may say the opening round would come easy for them — which is why I think it won’t. For all the changes over the past few seasons, the Capitals are still the Capitals; they can blow their opponents out of the water, but they can drown just as quickly.

“They used to call us the Cardiac Kids for a reason and we showed that tonight,” Green said. “We can’t let that happen.”

  • blondinwrx

    nothing wrong with that emotion. There would be a problem if it was all laughs and jokes, sloughing it off.

  • count0interrupt

    Something like this should have been left in the locker room. You have called out Chimera for showing minor irritation with your question after a tough game with a fortunate outcome. How do you think he’ll react the next time you want a quote from him? You might want to think ahead a little. Just sayin’.

  • We didn’t ask the question, first of all. Nor does it matter who did.

    Secondly, did we really call Chimmer out? We gave attention to his meltdown to point out how frustrated the players were about giving up big leads. I have no problem with him showing emotion or reacting this way.

  • yv

    It happened once, it happened twice, so maybe next time Caps will finally not repeat and play better till the end, just to avoid and not to be asked such reasonable questions later.

    Sudden tactical changes by opponents is quite powerful and efficient tool. Reckless or desperate hockey, especially at the end without GT, are part of this. Caps are notorious in not to be ready for such changes. like in games 5-7 with Habs in 2010 series, blowout series vs. Tampa next year, while Rangers quite successfully used surge tactics against Caps in their series last year. Similarly, Caps have been surprised by physical, provocative tactics used by Bruins in Boston this year, that was quite different how they played in VC just week before.
    Oates and Capitals want to play relentless hockey from start to finish, but they are not there yet. Hopefully, they would be more prepared this year to any possible tactical changes by opponents and will know what to do in those situations. Just saying that Caps are more concern about how they play, than what other teams do, as past shows would be not enough.

  • icompleteme

    Who even asked this question? I’m not defending anyone, just more curious? Was it RMNB? As someone who often speaks on the record I’m wondering what the rules of a locker room are.

  • What was the exact question posed to Jason? Chris reporting it as “an earnest question” doesn’t give us readers enough information to understand Chimera’s reaction.

  • Was a great game despite, Tampa is a good team with huge scoring capabilities and there record doesn’t show the talent on that team. Yep almost blew it but got 2 points regardless, that’s what matters.

  • It wasn’t me. I chose not to name the reporter because I didn’t want to make it about him/her. It’s just an example to show how frustrated they were.

  • “How do you deal with it psychologically — any team’s gonna do that, any team’s gonna let up.”

  • count0interrupt

    I agree it doesn’t matter who asked the question, but YOU reported it and the reaction of a single player by name, in a way that may embarrass him. This may affect your ability to get candid responses from him or other players that know about this incident going forward. That was my point.

    The tone of the post was about how pissy Jason was to the reporter after the game, and the headline says the question made him “storm off”. In what way did that further the discussion about the team dealing with giving up a big lead? It seems calculated to reflect poorly on Jason Chimera for his reaction to a reporter in an emotional moment, where he was feeling partially responsible, along with teammates, for almost losing an important game.

    I love RMNB, and enjoy reading the blog. I’m commenting as someone who knows a few people inside this game, and as someone who thinks of the players and coaches as real people. If you treat them poorly or unfairly in your blog, you may expect them to respond in kind.

  • “tone of the post was about how pissy Jason was ”

    I don’t agree.

    “a reporter in an emotional moment”

    I don’t know if that’s what you meant, but that’s how I read it, and it’s 100% false.

    “[I am] someone who thinks of the players and coaches as real people. If you treat them poorly or unfairly in your blog, you may expect them to respond in kind.”

    Of course, they are real people. Talented ones at that. That’s why we’re unfailingly honest in what we write on RMNB. And I hope we are treated the same way. We have no agenda here. We’re not associated with the team, we’re not out to get anyone. We’re a couple of dudes writing about our favorite team and doing it as honest and as fair as we can.

    One last thing. For you to assume that players treat others differently by what’s written, that makes them sound petty. Not only is that an unfair characterization of them, in my opinion, it’s completely false.

  • count0interrupt

    I’m sure if you read the comment again, it will become clear to you that it was Jason Chimera’s emotional moment, not the reporter’s, to which I referred.

    You don’t think the players and coaches pay attention to what you write about them, and connect it back to you as an individual? You are wrong, and I know it for a fact.

  • Sorry I couldn’t figure that part out!

    “You don’t think the players and coaches pay attention to what you write about them, and connect it back to you as an individual? You are wrong, and I know it for a fact.”

    I know some of them read the site. We’ve been RT’d by Ovechkin, Halpern, Leonsis. But what does that change? Our writing is for you, not the players and coaches. Our writing is for you, not the organization. If you’re honest, you have nothing to hide from.

  • count0interrupt

    Of course, you write for your readers. But your continued success depends on candor from, and access to the players and coaches. It is my contention that you degrade those factors if you don’t filter what you report sufficiently to be sensitive to the human feelings of your protagonists. Ask yourself whether Bob McKenzie would ever have done this, or Tarik, or Katie. I know blogging is different and has a grassroots ethic, but these considerations are part of the long-term view and the professionalism of journalism.

    I’m done. Thanks for listening and having a good discussion with me about this.

  • [insert Peter’s rant about access journalism here]

    Just point of order– most of our content does not rely on access to players. Our most successful content does not rely on access to players.

  • Thank you. That does help put Chimera’s response in context. The question seems very reasonable (I was not questioning your description of “earnest”, just helps to read it) Definitely shows a player reacting with great personal frustration. Thanks for responding.

  • Hockeynightincanada

    Bob McKenzie is an analyst. He doesn’t really interview players, he just calls things as they are. Tarik was as good a reporter as he was because he asked the questions that needed to be asked, and you know what, he didn’t always get a response, but he was one of the best reporters the Caps had aside from Dave Fay.

  • Hockeynightincanada

    Can whoever asked this question please interview McPhee at his next press conference?

  • stevem

    Just to chime in (this my first RMNB comment!) — my take on the article was that Jason Chimera was passionate about trying to play better and frustrated by their 3rd period performances with leads. That makes me appreciate how much the players, like Chimera, take the process of improving seriously (He could have simply responded something such as “Well we pulled out the win in the end so…”)

    Been reading RMNB + tweets for a while. Great content and great writing. Enhances the experience for me as a Caps fan. And I’m a big fan of Chimera (glad he wasn’t traded) and RMNB. Thanks!

  • KareeLyn

    Sidebar… can we get a game preview for tonight? I’m feeling liable to libel…

  • Honkhonkhonkcapscapscaps

    This doesn’t really seem worthy of a blog post, not sure if we were supposed to sound off about a disappointing season for Chimera or not, but like someone else said Chimera’s job is to play hockey I’m not worried about his performance with the media. Also, nothing today about Erat’s first goal as a Cap?