The Joy and Agony of Watching The Washington Capitals

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The joy is watching a sublime 4 goal performance by Alex Ovechkin against the Tampa Bay Lighting.

He started scoring when the Capitals were down by 3 goals and finished by tying the game at 19:27 in the 3rd period after Ondrej Palat scored the go ahead goal for the Lightning at 8:36 in the 3rd.

Ovie forced the game to overtime and the Capitals won in the shootout. There are games when Ovie carries the Caps on his back and this was one of them, supported by his center, Nicklas Backstrom, who netted 5-points of his own.

Ovie overcame Mike Green’s 18-minutes of penalties in the 1st period, ending with his 10-minute misconduct. I was happy to see Green leave the ice. He looked lazy and inept during that period and has been playing poorly most of the season, as noted in my post a couple of weeks ago. Why Coach Adam Oates doesn’t cut his playing time is beyond me.

Ovie also overcame Braden Holtby’s leaving the net after letting in 3 goals. Philip Grubauer played fabulously in relief.  One save started with a puck bouncing off Grubauer’s shoulder that he batted out of the net for a goal line stop versus Martin St Louis. I don’t think Holtby makes that save.

The Capitals survived the Lightning, thanks to Ovie, and then went to Florida.

Before the game started against the Florida Panthers, I turned to the other Caps fan in my household, Jeff, and said, “the Caps will play down to the level of their competition and lose this game. ” Unfortunately, the Caps are so predictable that they lost 3-2 in another shootout. They looked awful the whole game and didn’t deserve the standings point they won. This is the agony of watching the Caps.

During the Florida game, the Caps spent way too much time in their own end, unable to clear the puck.  The Panther’s Dylan Thomas scored first early in the 2nd period.  Backstrom tied the game with a goal at 16:34 in the 2nd period, followed by Florida taking the lead again, less than 90-seconds later.  This theme of giving up a goal when the opponent is pressing, after the Caps score, is another constant with this team.

The Caps need to take standing points when they get the opportunity to play the 7th ranked team in the Atlantic. They blew it in Florida by having too many mental lapses and not paying attention to detail. No one, not even Ovie, showed up for that game. Coach Oates may be a smart hockey player, but his team lacks hockey IQ.

Were the Caps saving themselves for the Sunday rematch against the Philadelphia Flyers? It started out looking that way when the Caps took the ice. They were missing key center, Mikhail Grabovski, to flu-like symptoms, but seemed to be holding their own even with Jay Beagle playing 2nd line center.  I like Beagle, but if he’s the Caps second line center, they need more depth. Regardless, they had a jump in their step and the defense looked decent. Coach Oates went with the hot hand in net, Grubauer, as he felt the Caps were playing better in front of him.

Ovie started the scoring on a power play at 11:17 in the 1st period and it went downhill after that. Philly scored at 19:06 in the 1st period on a Claude Giroux wrist shot, netted another goal at 7:37 in the 2nd period from defenseman Mark Streit, scored again from Sean Courturier at 2:18 in the 3rd period and, then again, at 3:32 in the 3rd from Jakub Voracek. It was now 4-1 Philly. I debated turning off the game, but was curious to see the Cap’s response.

The Caps rallied. Mike Green scored at 11:20 in the 3rd, then Dmitri Orlov lobbed a bomb past Philly’s net minder, Steve Mason, to make it 4-2. Then, Joel Ward, a beast this year, fought to get the puck to Ovie who nailed the tying goal at 19:12 in the 3rd period. Oh, the joy.

The Caps won in their 3rd shootout in a row.

The agony is also knowing that a team that can’t win in regulation – the Caps have 8 of 11 shootout wins – won’t get very far in the playoffs. Unless things change, I see the Caps either being eliminated from the playoffs or bowing out in the first round, as usual. There is little joy in that.

The home and home series versus the Flyers continues in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Let’s go Caps!

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