Photo credit: Patrick McDermott
The 2012-2013 Washington Capitals are no more. Felled in seven games by Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers, the Caps have done the thinkable: an early-round exit from the playoffs for the fifth straight year. Some will call that a pattern, some will call it a curse. Some will call it karmic justice or the inevitable victory of a superior team over a bunch of preening Eurotrash, but those guys are dicks. Screw them. This is our goodbye, and we’re doing it our way.
Goodnight, sweet Caps. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.
Maybe this game could have gone differently. If Arron Asham didn’t get that end-to-end slapshot past Holtby’s short side, we might’ve been in for a fun one. But he did, and we weren’t.
Some other goals followed, but my rage blackouts came in waves and I might have actually passed out for a short portion of the second period. I do have vague remembrances of John Erskine doing some amoebic version of defense at some point– perhaps deciding to solve a 2-on-1 rush by turning himself into a pylon or engaging the rare “here, you take the puck” technique against Zuccarello early in the third period. After overperforming for most the season, Erskine eventually did what I feared he’d do: crash back to earth. And then he opened up a freaking sinkhole in front of Braden Holtby, who after a number of lovely games this series looked significantly less studly in game seven.
Alex Ovechkin had a couple bad games in Madison Square Garden, but I reject the notion that he was the big problem in this series. Ovi generated a bunch of shots– even on the road in game six, and was clearly (at least, clearly to this writer) playing through an lower-body injury since game three. He’s the team’s all-time best playoff performer. Ovi rules, and I’m eager to see if he can keep it up next season. I don’t know if he can, but that’s hockey I want to see.
But sticking it to the Caps players isn’t what is called for here. The Rangers did some brilliant strategic stuff– choking the Caps in neutral (whose system under Oates should’ve been capable between the blues) and keeping shots far away of Lundqvist’s cage. Oates got out-coached. He’s new; he’ll improve.
Though it’s time to make an observation. For all of the manifest improvements to the Caps this year, particularly the phoenix-ish rise of Alex Ovechkin, they’re not much better than the Dale Hunter team. Is that roster, coaching, luck, or something else?
One excuse I don’t enjoy very much is personality-based. Starting with the fact that so few of the Caps players have been that first playoff disappointment in 2009, I have a hard time swallowing that there’s some kinda attitudinal cancer that waits until May to metastasize.
The New York Rangers win the privilege of playing the Boston Bruins in the second round. I don’t envy them that. The idea of the Capitals going another 4 (but probably 7) games with the Bruins is wearying. The last 21 Capitals playoff games have been buttoned-up affairs that have done much in the way of hypertension, but they’ve haven’t been fun in my opinion. The hockey the Caps were playing at the end of the season was fun, but it seems to me that the Caps let the Rangers dictate the pace of this series.
Whatever, I’m really proud of these Caps. Consider where we were in October: nowhere. Consider where we were in January: dead last. Then: .500 hockey. Then a division championship and a scoring title and bracing streak to finish the regular season.
And now here they are: going a full seven against a team that could make a Cup run. I didn’t even think they’d make the playoffs, but they kicked a fair bit of ass along the way.
The rollercoaster Caps are done. I don’t know what’s next, but it won’t be like this one again. Not sure if I’m grateful about that or not.
On a personal note, thanks for reading RMNB this year. It’s been our biggest year by a wide margin, and that’s due to you guys– a terrific and kind community of genuinely good people. We should probably party together sometime, right?
It’s been a privilege writing hockey for you. We’ll have a lot more coming soon, and the improvements and expansions we’ll be introducing next year will be. Uh. Huge.
Crash the net.