This absolutely kills me, but ever since last season's unspeakable ending, I have had an awful feeling about this year's Caps. I've tried to convince myself that this team is better primed for a Stanley Cup run, but I can't shake that doubt....
But this Caps team just doesn't look right.
You can make that case that we're coasting and still 1st in the division, and would have the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference if the playoffs started today. That sounds great, but there are waaaay too many chinks in the armor for me to feel good. The Caps are:
-7th in the conference in goal differential
-19th in the league in 5v5
-The formerly amazing powerplay is 8th in the NHL
-The PK is up to 11th in the league, but is certainly not driving a ton of success
But the bigger issue for me is beyond the stats. The team is likely the most talented in the league, and their focus seems to waver. This was a bit of an issue last year, and I think plagued the team in the Canadians series - the Caps brought a B- intensity and thought they could slide through and rev it up for the later rounds. In the regular season, the Caps are comeback kings, mostly it seems because the team comes out flat and then pushes the intensity in later periods. The Rangers debacle is a good example, as Eric Fehr said after the game, "It seems like we lost focus for about two minutes and they got two goals on us and it made the game a lot tougher. We had a great first period and didn't come out ready in the second and it cost us."
Whose fault is this? I have to think Bruce Boudreau is not taking enough heat. He inherited an incredibly talented team that was significantly underperfoming and immediately made them excellent, and deserves a ton of credit for that. However, maybe this team needs more of a Ken Hitchcock hardass to get them over the hump.
Ovie's leadership and lifestyle also are finally getting to me. I love him for partying and not being a robot like Crosby. I couldn't be happier about rooting for a guy with Ovie's personality and passion. Now Crosby's name alone makes me irrationally angry, but he worked hard on his game and is now the best player in the world, hands down. I understand Ovie can work hard and play hard, but hearing about him partying at Lounge One while the Caps are slumping is tough to swallow.
I am not saying Ovie cannot win a cup, far from it, but I think there's need to be more hard line discipline with this group from somebody.
The sheer talent on this team is often enough to overcome lapses in focus, but the inability to be consistent this season does not give me any confidence that the Caps can put together a Stanley Cup run.
(Image courtesy of www.kansascity.com)