Caps Can’t Find Footing on Big Stage

May 14, 2009 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns

The following is a guest article by Lori Russo.  You can catch up with Lori on Twitter at

When NHL Digest invited me to write a guest post with reaction to Game 7 between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins, I jumped at the chance to contribute.  I truly believed the Caps would pull off a win and I could write about the little team that could, after years of painful and controversial rebuilding, finally advance to the Stanley Cup Conference Finals in dramatic fashion.  Ovie the Hero.  Varly the Wonder Kid.  Boudreau the Unexpected Savior.  The storyline was just so good.

The Drama

Last night’s game certainly did unfold in dramatic fashion – just not the way anyone expected it to.   The spark that brought new life to the Caps last season with the arrival of Bruce Boudreau and propelled the team into Round 2 of this year’s playoffs on the shoulders of a rookie goaltender was notably absent.  With the exception of Ovechkin’s breakaway and bulldozing hit on Brooks Orpik, and early efforts by Simeon Varlamov, it became clear very quickly that the Caps were simply outmatched by their opponents.

The team could not create traffic in front of Mark Andre Fleury or clear congestion in front of Varlamov.  It couldn’t connect in the neutral zone, and despite tough lessons from the past, just couldn’t break the bad habit of drawing unnecessary penalties.  While held to only three for the entire game, the Caps infractions were glaring compared to the Pens’ display of discipline and composure.  The Caps simply allowed themselves to outplayed on every front.  Washington fans expecting a fairytale ending to this dramatic series left the arena – some before the end of the game – in stunned silence.

The Reason

There is, and will be, a great deal of discussion about fatigue, injuries and other circumstances that led the Caps to the end of the road last night, but the bottom line, in my opinion, is that the team just isn’t ready to take it to the next level.  Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins served as a clear reminder that the team’s lengthy rebuilding process still is not complete.  The lack of cohesion will undoubtedly be addressed in the off season and new faces surely will appear in the lineup in October.

The Future

Caps fans must continue to be patient as the team finds its footing.  They should be prepared to wait another season or two, and be ready to endure a few more heartbreaks, before expecting more than what they saw this year.

As always, comments are appreciated!


9 Comments on "Caps Can’t Find Footing on Big Stage"

  1. William Cassidy on Fri, 15th May 2009 6:53 am 

    I agree, Lori – a good article on the game and good analysis. I still think the Caps and Caps fans can be proud of all the team accomplished this year – and get ready for next year.

  2. Tyler on Fri, 15th May 2009 7:43 am 

    Lori & William,
    I don’t think the Caps fans will have to wait too long. They have great young talent and as long as they manage the salary cap and develop a stronger team system, they should be back in the mix very soon. They are in a similar situation as Pittsburgh was a couple of years ago and look where they are now!

  3. emily.n on Fri, 15th May 2009 8:10 am 

    @Lori: Great article! You’re right that they aren’t ready to step up to the next level. But, I believe they want to be bigger and better… they just the defensive depth right now is lacking compared to the offense.

    @Tyler: I think you’re right. They’ll be back in the hunt next year. Great talent, perhaps with getting rid of Nylander and a few others that are hurting the salary cap.

    I’m incredibly proud of the Caps this year. They are far more impressive than they were just 2 years ago! I’ll still rock the red, and cheer them on. Great season! Go Caps!!

  4. Lisa McGrath on Fri, 15th May 2009 8:19 am 

    Great article that I agree with. The boys are great, and we LOVE them, but still not ready. Their inconsistency and “bad game” that was game 7 absolutely showed that. But they WILL be back next year. And we will be in Final Four next year!

  5. Frank Ireton on Fri, 15th May 2009 9:12 am 

    Thanks Lori. Nice article in the Washington Post this am about the Caps failings and needs for next year. Kind of sums it up. Great season for the Caps. Looking forward to next year and to more tweet-ups.

    Oh, and for anyone going to look for the article on the Post website they have obnoxious pop-ups and ads to wade through after you sign up or sign in.

  6. Mitchell Derman on Fri, 15th May 2009 2:29 pm 

    Nice article Lori. As was referenced in your article and many others I’ve read in the last few days, finding a strong defenseman, as well as a forward who is willing to get dirty in front of the crease are the top two priorities for the Caps during the off-season. Not sure that they have a “lack of cohesion” necessarily, but are more in need of a few missing pieces to the puzzle. A second straight playoff appearance helps in the the team’s maturing process as well.

  7. Jamie Favreau on Sat, 16th May 2009 12:11 am 

    I agree with you on your assessment of the Caps. What I heard I was listening more to the game than watching it was that the Pens never got a single penalty. What the heck is that? That would be a great reason why the team would be fatigued. I mean give me a break. Since when are the Pens perfect? URGH!

    I really wanted the Caps to go far this year too. They are my second favorite team.

  8. SaÑdiHockeyMom on Sun, 17th May 2009 9:44 am 

    Really great analysis!

  9. Kyle on Tue, 19th May 2009 2:28 pm 

    Nice summary Lori. There are certainly brighter days ahead for your Caps.

    I had the impression that the Caps were waiting for Ovi to win the game for them by himself, and Ovi being the gamer that he is, was all too eager to try. 3 minutes in he was robbed on a clean break by Fleury, and I think the whole Caps team slumped after that.

    The secondary reason is that as good as Varlamov was against the Rangers, there’s too much elite offensive talent on Pittsburgh to be contained. Once they figured him out, it was game over.

    But I do think the Caps have found their goalie of the future!

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