Photo: Justin K. Aller
The Capitals just had their best regular season in franchise history. We thought things might be different in this year’s playoffs, yet here we are again, feeling like we just got run over by a 16 wheeler (that then put itself in reverse, backed over our still twitching bodies, put itself back in drive, and ran us over again).
Let me just spew out a few painful facts that are real, actual things. Alex Ovechkin, this generation’s greatest goal scorer, has never made it past the second round of the postseason. Barry Trotz, this season’s slam dunk Jack Adams Trophy winner, has never gotten past the second round of the postseason. The whole dang Caps franchise has not made it past the second round since 1998. On top of that, this series loss to the Penguins marks the eighth time the organization has lost to the Penguins out of nine tries, which is the worst winning percentage in the NHL among any teams that have faced off 8 times or more. These stats can straight up go to hell.
— Ismail (@imadni) May 11, 2016
So can this chart.
I have no grand conclusions on why this season ended early for the Caps — other than they were really unlucky and not failures in any way. What I do have is a lot of random thoughts and questions, some of which are fun and some of which are miserable. Let’s review.
Photo: Justin Aller
The rock rolled down the hill. With Nick Bonino’s overtime goal, the Washington Capitals season ended in a blink. Now we look ahead at a rainy summer and the prospect of starting over to try again next fall.
This is a free space for you to talk about whatever you want.
Photo: Justin K. Aller
Wednesday night, the Capitals lost Game Four to the Penguins in sudden death overtime. According to the NHL’s PR, the Penguins improved to 8-3 in 11 all-time OT playoff games against the Capitals. The victory gave the Penguins a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Yesterday, we felt depressed. But there is reason to have hope. In fact, I have five reasons why the Caps could come back in this series.
First overall draft pick Auston Matthews (Photo via John Buccigross)
I don’t actually know who John Buccigross is. I know he does hockey coverage for ESPN, which sounds like a silly thing, but your boy Rob Vollman does it and he’s great. Maybe Bucci is great too, that’s what I thought when I clicked on today’s article about Maple Leafs prize prospect Auston Matthews.
Monday morning, Barry Trotz put on a figurative tinfoil hat and said one of the most wacky things he’s ever said as Caps coach. Frustrated by the length of Brooks Orpik’s three-game suspension, Trotz suggested the NHL favors the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I’m disappointed, but I’m not surprised based on who we’re playing and all that,” Trotz said.
Later when asked to clarify, Trotz replied, “Take it for whatever you want.”
I, a rational human being, do not believe the NHL favors one team over another. But the problem is the optics. And the main provider of said optics is NBC, the NHL’s American TV partner.
Over the years, NBC’s analysis during intermission can basically be summed up like this: yell first, think later. Whether it’s Jeremy Roenick calling Alex Ovechkin a bad defensive player due to plus-minus or Keith Jones pushing tired narratives, NBC’s hockey analysis can seem more about settling scores than communicating constructive information. (It’s basically the opposite of CSN Mid-Atlantic’s coverage of Caps games.)
Mike Milbury, whose personality wavers from patient to cranky night to night, is the kingpin. During the first intermission of Game Two, Grumpy Milbury launched into an angry screed about Brooks Orpik’s headshot on Olli Maatta. The Orpik hit was bad, don’t get me wrong, but Milbury’s analysis still somehow managed to be over-the-top.
The Capitals lost Game Two to the Penguins 2-1. Late in the second period, the Capitals tied the game… or so we thought. The Caps and Pens scrummed in front of the net, then the puck bounced out to Nate Schmidt, who roofed it. Washington’s players on the ice celebrated, Verizon Center lost its collective mind, and the official waved it off.
Instead of a goal, the Caps got a penalty: Evgeny Kuznetsov for goalie interference. Barry Trotz was furious, demanding an explanation as the Verizon Center crowd erupted in a “Ref, you suck!” chant.
Let’s take a closer look at this pivotal moment.
Photo: Amanda Bowen
The Caps somehow lost to the Flyers on Friday night in a game they dominated. Quickly, the doom and gloom takes and narratives were out in full force: Are the Caps about to “choke” again?
The fact is that the Caps dominated the hockey game. Yes, they lost. Yes, this has happened before in franchise history. But any analysis that tries to explain the primary reason of why a team lost with a 44-11 shot advantage as something other than poor luck or a hot goalie is simply post hoc and lazy.
Sure, the Caps did lose 2-0. But there does not have to be a fall guy or blame placed as to why this happened. Analysis that does that isn’t analysis of the actual hockey game; it’s analysis that starts by looking at the 2-0 final score and tries to work backwards to place blame as to why the Caps lost.
The Caps have a 3-2 series lead and just dominated the Flyers. Let’s take a deep breath and look at some visualizations of this domination.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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