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.
Flyers forward Brayden Schenn had already delivered a series full of questionable hits. During Game Four, Schenn stepped his troll game up another notch, using his stick as a weapon.
The hubbub occurred late in the second period. Second line forward Justin Williams centered a pass to Evgeny Kuznetsov in front of the net. Kuznetsov took a few whacks at the puck in the crease before Michal Neuvirth froze the puck. That’s when Schenn arrived on the scene to deliver a cross-check after the whistle.
It was a dangerous play.
Being responsible for an aesthetically pleasing Instagram account can be a difficult task, so we’ve got to commend Mike Richards for trying. Unfortunately, trying is not the same as succeeding.
Recently, the Caps forward set his profile to public, allowing fans to take a closer look at his glamorous life. Wait… I’m getting confused with Alex Ovechkin’s Instagram. Richards’ is just filled with pictures of fish and dogs. Oh, and two championship rings,
with a third to add to the collection after this postseason. So, only a little glamorous.
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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