With the 2nd half of the Washington Capitals season kicking off, I thought it would be a good time to get a little DCLS survey of thoughts on the team. The Caps entered the break as the #5 seed in the East, aligned for a first round playoff matchup against the Penguins - yikes. Here are the initial thoughts of DCLS Editor Red Rover.
Watching this year's Caps is like being in bizarro netherworld. Last year, I watched games with comfort. I knew no matter what the score or time remaining, the offensive machine would produce more more more goals. I reacted to goals against like an elephant would to a fly hovering over its arse - I barely noticed. Goals came cheap both ways. Just like Crosby's mom.
Now, I watch games with the stress of a thousand game 7s. Every goal is CRITICAL. I jump to my feet in eager anticipation at even the crappiest of 25-foot Eric Fehr wristers. This way of watching games is an awful, horrible shock to the system that shouldn't be happening. I was given no warning and no transition period. I understand now why they have methadone clinics; if there were an equivalent for recovering "spoiled fans of historically dominant offensive juggernaut"-addicts, Caps fans would overflow such a place.
The optimist in me says: this is good preparation for the playoffs! They play defense consistently and reliably! They are getting more reps in close games! They are in the playoff race instead of their own spoiled pressure-free bubble!
The realist in me watches and says: these guys don't give a baker's fuck. Offense - defense isn't a zero sum game. The lack of offense is from lack of effort. They're the NHL's procrastinators: they don't get motivated until the last minute, then the adrenaline rush kicks in and they try - but alas, too little too late. So many games are a microcosm of this mentality.
And when I think about this, it's hard not to conclude that this is a fatal flaw. Though the goals came easy last year, it was the same. The more I watch Ovechkin and Backstrom float around, make predictable moves, circle back (NYLANDER'S CURSE REMAINS), get called offsides, awkwardly fumble the puck on the power play, glide slowly through the neutral zone, stay to the perimeter in the attacking zone, whiff on one-timers and rebounds, the more I worry that these are the guys that I'm staking my emotional well-being in. CARE. CARE LIKE I DO YOU FUCKS. SKATE HARDER. PASS CRISPER. SHOOT WITH A PURPOSE. STOP GOING OFFSIDES FOR CHRIST'S SAKE!
And it all comes back to Boudreau. Was anyone surprised that NHL players think Boudreau is the easiest to play for? You can't fault his hockey smarts, his (recent) willingness to adjust, etc. But it's clear that on a night to night basis, these Caps are as uninspired as the dog days of the Fall 2007 Glen Hanlon Caps.
Are there personnel holes and injury bugs? Of course. Are there positive signs of improvement in key areas? Yes. But when Matt Hendricks and Jay Beagle provide the most consistent efforts on your team, you are fucked, plain and simple. That, more than anything else, is what scares me, and what must change. Unless things turn around in a few weeks, I don't see how you keep Boudreau behind that bench.
(Image courtesy of espn.go.com)