Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Like I Said, Really, Really, REALLY Hard - Game 12, A One (1) Point Night

Well last night at Verizon Center I, a Washington Capitals fan, watched a hockey game between the Capitals and the Flames from Calgary.  It was exciting, generally well played and exceptionally frustrating to watch, at least for me. I can only imagine how frustrating this must be for both the players on the team and even more-so the coaching staff.  To be fair unlike Sunday's game where by the end you could really say nothing positive about a regulation loss at the hands of what is, was and remains an inferior opposing team, last night's game had some positives, actually a lot of positives.  However, my theme today, even upon retrospective reflection is mediocrity is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted.  Last night what the Capitals organization both needed and wanted was a 2 point regulation win - what they got was one (1) point, a loser's point, at the end of overtime.  Say what you want, a one point night that puts your team as playing under 0.500 (11 points in 12 games) hockey is mediocrity.  Mediocrity is "life on the bubble."  Life on the bubble, now early in the season or in April is not what I imagine a team with the 4th highest payroll in the league the Ted Leonsis and the Monumental Group were going for this season.  I'm pretty sure, they like we - the Capitals fan base, did not think or want a team that has trouble finishing games, for whatever reason.

However, I will not discriminate, you can't fault only the players here.  Everyone in this organization seems bent on celebrating mediocrity.  Last night the Capitals organization went out of it's way to do so.  Making sure we as fans saw the passing of the torch from Peter Bondra to Alex Ovechkin.  Celebrating Ovechkin overtaking Bondra as the leading scorer in Capitals history.  That's a meaningless record, by the way and one anyone capable of simple extrapolation knew would fall, and fall hard early in Ovechkin's career, barring significant injuries just three years into Ovechkin's career.  "Smokin' Al Koken's" Intermission Interview with Nicklas Backtrom was the height of celebrating mediocrity, however of the participants, the only one who seemed to understand just how stupid it was - Backstrom - who pointed out what one would expect both he and Ovechkin no doubt feel - "really right now it's all about getting a W."  Maybe if the organization didn't take so much away from focusing on it last night, having Ovie come out and wave to the crowd after a jumbotron homage, etc. everyone would realize what they needed to do and make sure a W for the Capitals was what happened.  Maybe if the MSM who voted the games top three stars realized that another example of the definition celebrating mediocrity is having the home team for two of the three stars of the game while not giving one of them to the guy who sealed the deal for his tam - opposition goalie - Jonas Hiller with his 0.912 SV% and robbing the Capitals in the final seconds of regulation, as well as several times in OT who "stole two points" last night for Calgary.  Fine give Ovie the third star if you want, I'm not saying his achievement isn't worth mentioning, but in the middle of a losing streak it's not worth celebrating the way this organization did last night.  Look let's face it, if this team never ever looks inside and fixes itself so it can win these games, let alone a Stanley Cup, ten years from now Ovechkin will take Marcel Dionne's place on the NHLN special on the "greatest players to have never won the Stanley Cup."  I don't think that's what the son of a two time gold medalist is shooting for, do you? But hey let's further celebrate the mediocrity of this meaningless record with a splash screen rather that focusing on fixing the team...if you've gone to the Caps website today you know what I'm talking about: "Congrats Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals Franchise Points Leader 827 points #AllTimeGr8"  Dissect that for a minute folks - All time franchise points leader of a team that in forty years has been to the Stanley Cup finals once and has never won.  Why not start a "40th Anniversary Celebration that celebrates what the Caps are really about - frustration and futility? That's what we'll keep being as a fan base unless this entire organization stops celebrating and taking joy in mediocrity.

Enough of the rant.  As I said last night's game had a lot to like, it had two short periods, maybe 4:00 of play where the Caps throttled back just a little and on both occasions, the Flames sensed it and took advantage of it that resulted in two goals for them.  If that was will that happened they'd have won.  Then we have the Flame's third goal - watch the replay - tough luck for the Caps, yet again if that was all that happened the Caps would have still won.  Then we had the save with seconds left where young Tom Wilson failed to raise the puck over Hiller's outstretched pad, again tough luck but again, if that was all that happened they could have won.  No this game was lost by the Capitals with you pick it, either the first goal of the game or the overtime goal - on both those occasions the Capitals "team" defense failed to properly challenge the Flames on the blueline and that set up the Flames ability to score a goal rather than getting a Caps "takeaway."  Other than that hey it was great, well played game by the Caps  - see how easy it is to accept and even celebrate mediocrity, maybe that's why so many do it, so often.  Look bottom lines -

  • Caps forwards - all of them - need to forecheck and backcheck more aggressively and more effectively for every second of every game whether it's a 60:00 or 65:00 game.
  • Caps defense  - all of them need to be better, both defensively and offensively.  Niskanen in particular needs to get his game and numbers closer to what the Caps paid for - his last season numbers.  Green needed to challenge and end up with the puck last night at the 4:10 mark of OT - watch that play, it was an inauspicious end to an otherwise good game for him.  The rest of the defense needs to be better at both ends of the ice, and get pucks through and on net in the offensive zone and be more constantly effective physically in the defensive zone.  Simply put at the end of a game against the Capitals, the entire opposing team's forward lines, every one of the twelve of them should be very, very tired and sore.
  • Caps Goaltenders need to frankly not stink, mediocrity for an NHL goaltender is a less than 0.900 SV%, that's what this teams goaltenders are.  They need to do better, period.  The rest of this season and through the playoffs, they need to make all the saves they should and 70% of the rest required to win.  If they can't then management needs to move the players they need to move to get someone in here who can.  This isn't a personal assault on the goaltenders, they have in many, many cases the hardest job on the team and they have nowhere to hide.  That's the life they chose though.  They need to fix this and themselves so this happens pretty much now so in another eight games, when the season reaches the 25% mark (20.5 games played) the Caps are in a much better place as a team and with a much better record than they are now.  Make no mistake both #1 and #2 above need to happen for that to occur but number 3) is just as important as items 1) and 2) combined after watching last night's game.

Next up the Blackhawks in Chicago on Friday evening.  Look I'm still a loyal fan and I know this post will irritate some but Step One of any 12 Step program is admitting you have a problem, to me as I've ranted above right now the Caps real problem is accepting and indeed celebrating anything less than excellence.  However, anything can change and I hope for the Caps 2014-15 season that changes now - they played the game right last night and basically dominated the Flames they just did not however, "get it done" and celebrating anything about what leads to the results of "not getting it done" so far this season makes no sense to me.  So again I shout:


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