We're just about an hour away from the puck drop, and judging from some of the fans' attitudes toward the New York Rangers you'd think that rose-colored glasses were the fan giveaway.
I'm a fan myself. I want to win as much as you do, but for a moment let's be realistic. Fans are at their best when they are being critical of their own team, and it's for that reason I've decided to list the five reasons the Capitals will exit the playoffs.
If you're like me, then you're getting sick of offensive zone stick penalties. The Capitals have earned the second highest amount of PIMs this year, and they're not doing it through fighting majors. Skill players can often get caught being desperate when they blow an assignment or get caught off-guard. Considering the Capitals' penalty kill is not in the top half of the league, if the Caps are on the penalty kill consistently, the Caps will lose consistently.
#4: Falling off the system
The Capitals don't necessarily lose to bad teams -- it's more or less that they beat themselves in those games. The Capitals' offensive system is a flashy, exciting brand of hockey, but when the Caps find the offensive wheels spinning in mud, they resort to selfish plays and high-risk passes. If the Capitals fall out of their system, their offense falls apart, and then it's up to Jose Theodore to save the day. Whoopie.
#3: Run Run Theo
The Philadelphia Flyers absolutely had their way with Cristobal Huet. They ran him left and right, they got in his face, they never gave him a chance to settle down and play. Did Erskine dish out any punishment? Did Brashear get in the Flyers' faces? No. When the Caps finally began to stick up for Huet, it was Game Seven. So does it surprise you that if Theodore gets the Huet treatment, they'll have one shaky goalie between their pipes who's not focused on stopping the puck?
#2: One Liners
Not only can the Capitals not fall into a one-track-mind offensive system, but they also need to rely on secondary scorers if they want to advance. Let's face it, when Mike Green, Alex Semin, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are on the same line, it's usually because a) it's a power play or b) we are desperately looking for a goal. If Eric Fehr, Brooks Laich, Sergei Fedorov and Tomas Fleischmann don't step up and put goals in the net, it's going to be tough to advance. It's possible, the Ottawa Senators advanced years ago with one line, but they didn't win a Cup. Just marinate on that.
#1: Don't put it all on Theo
Here's my favorite prognostication that EVERYONE is making. "Theodore has to be great if the Caps wan't to win." Um, no, how about the defense needs to give Theodore a chance? I'm not saying Theodore is the greatest goalie ever, and I'm not excusing soft goals and poor play, but I will say this: Theodore's play is almost always connected to the defense's play. If the defense is poor, how can you expect Theodore to be great? Great goaltenders usually have great defenses in front of them; do you think Marty Brodeur wins every game by himself? Theodore needs to be good, he could be average and the Caps could still win, but if the Caps defense doesn't give Theo the support he needs, we're not going anywhere this postseason.
If we can avoid those pitfalls, who knows what we can achieve? This team has the talent to do great things, that is, if they can focus and play smart hockey.
T-minus one hour til puck drop.
LET'S GO CAPS