Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, April 29, 2010 | , | 4 comments »

WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin was despondant in the few moments he spoke to a circle of media that was five and six deep, with another group at least that deep not capable to get their recorders close enough to record what words were coming out of his mouth.

When asked how it felt to lose a series the Captials were so heavily favored in, he replied, “I think we are all disappointed, but you know I really have nothing to say right now.”

He pretty much repeated that phrase, 'I have nothing to say right now," several times.  It wasn't that the captain was avoiding answering the questions, but that he couldn't find words to aptly describe what he felt.

That was a common theme throughout the room.  "We had high expectations this year and I really don’t have much to say about it," Matt Bradley said.  "We didn’t get the job done and it’s very disappointing."
There are a lot of people in D.C. right now that feel much the same way.

The Montreal Canadiens played a perfect game and defeated the Washington Capitals 2-1 in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, ending the season of the President's Trophy winners.

Much will be said, incorrectly, about how Ovechkin couldn't will his team to victory.

Much will be said about how an "offense-first" team couldn't finish off the eighth seed in the conference after they got out to a three games to one lead in the series.

Much will be said about the poor play from Mike Green, the inability of Alexander Semin to score despite so many shots, and the invisibility of Tomas Fleischmann.

Much will be said about a goaltender interference call against Mike Knuble that washed out what should have been the Caps' first goal of the night.

Much will be, and should be, said about the Capitals inability to score with a man-advantage in the series.

And much will be said about Jaroslav Halak, a goaltender that simply isn't as good as how he played the last three games.

But for one game, what should be said is that the Montreal Canadiens had a game plan and executed perfectly.

Montreal knew that they could not let the Caps stretch their legs, use their speed, get into a track meet.

They packed their zone with all five skaters, dedicated to doing anything they could to keep the puck from reaching their goaltender.

Yes, the Capitals got 42 shots on goal.  But the Canadiens also blocked an ungodly 41 shots.  The shots that did get through were either turned away of gobbled up by Halak, who played outside of his ability in the last three games of this series.

Montreal Coach Jacques Martin commented on his team's "buying in" to his philosophy.  "I think it's a commitment by the players.  I think they know at this time of year you've got to do everything in your power to win games."

Jason Chimera probably said it best in the room after the game. "Look at the last two games; were they out of their end? I don’t think so. They just scored on their opportunities, but they never got out of their own zone. They played in their own zone the whole time."

Pack the defense in tight.  Muck up the neutral zone.  Counter-punch.  Take advantage on the power play.  It's a script that hockey teams have been using since they organized the game.

Montreal played it perfectly.

The Caps, unfortunately, did not.  Or could not.

Defense didn't do this team in in this series.  Neither did goaltending.  The Caps gave up seven goals in the last three games.  You hold a team to 2.33 goals per game, you should win one of them.

But the Caps did not.  The strength of this team is scoring goals.  And in Game Seven, like the two that preceeded it, Washington could not solve what the Canadiens threw at them.

"Maybe we didn’t work hard enough," Nicklas Backstrom said quietly. "We were scoring a thousand goals in the regular season and we can’t even score in the playoffs. That’s kind of not acceptable for our team and for us."

When asked if the lack of scoring from the power play was what ultimately did the Caps in against Montreal, Backstrom responded with one word:  "Yes."

The post-mortem for Game Seven belongs to Coach Bruce Boudreau.

"There wasn’t much I could tell them,” Boudreau said. “I thought we had a good chance to win the Stanley Cup this year.  I would have bet my house that they wouldn't have beaten us three games in a row, and that we would  have only scored three goals in almost 140 shots."

"I told them there was no sense in me saying anything right now because we all feel as low as we can possibly feel."


  1. GO // April 29, 2010 at 8:18 AM  

    Simply a stunning and shocking outcome. If the Caps lost I thought it wouldve been because of bad defense and goaltending, instead they ran headfirst into a hot goalie (on a very mediocre team) and seemingly did not have the overall tools to overcome it.

    On NHL Network one of the commentators plainly said "the sole identity of this team is scoring goals and offense," when you took that away, there was nothing else." This very simple stmt makes a ton of sense, and I think is correct.

    This team needs a tune-up, not an overhaul. They need to ship out some players that simply dont have the ruggedness, passion and commitment required to win championships in this league. They need some two-way forwards that will leave it all on the ice, and defensemen that actually play defense and punish people in front of their own net. To use the word above, they need to change the identity of this team, even if it means shipping out a star or two.

    Not much more can be said right now, and out of respect for the blogger I will refrain from blasting specific players (I can do a whole post on Green alone). One positive thing for hockey fans in general: the East is completely wide open now.

  2. Harani // April 29, 2010 at 9:40 PM  

    "And much will be said about Jaroslav Halak, a goaltender that simply isn't as good as how he played the last three games."

    Isn't as good? Are you insane? Did you watch the Olympics, did you follow the Habs? He's been nothing short of impressive. Totally disrespectful towards Jaro and his performance for you to say that. Ridiculous!

  3. Dave Nichols // April 30, 2010 at 10:13 AM  

    Harani, I'd beg to differ. For the last three games he put up stats, a 97.8% save percentage, that is unsustainable for ANY goaltender. he's simply not THAT good. no one is.

    it wasn't meant as a slight.

  4. Jim Acker // May 24, 2010 at 1:48 AM  

    I did a lot of screen captures and did a detailed analysis of the "no goal" call:

    Were Ovechkin and the Capitals robbed?