Okay...down to brass tacks here. Yes the win was exciting. Yes it was one of the greatest games to watch in Caps history....to the point where it echoed the 1988 Game 7 comeback win against the Flyers. But let's not kid ourselves here. Serious and even not-so-serious hockey fans know that the job is only one-quarter of the way done. Bigger issue here is that, like I said in my first post, THEY STILL HAVEN'T LEARNED FROM THEIR MISTAKES!!!!!
Specifics. I singled out Mike Green for praise in Game One. Apparently, that's all he figured he had to do, because he was simply horrible Saturday night. Game One he was diving for rebounds, poke-checking like crazy and throwing himself at anything near the Caps' net. Game Two he did the exact opposite. One less mistake by him and the game turns out differently. It boggles the mind how awful the defense is and yet they are so unwilling to even tweak their tactics.
It's not even as though they can't win the tight, close ones. They were in it in Game One. Before that there was April 1 vs. Atlanta, a 2-1 win. Varlamov stopped 19 of 20 in that one. I'm no hockey genius, but it seems to me that if you can do it once, you can do it over a seven game series. Granted it was against Atlanta, but....
Seriously though, it seems to be a simple matter of good puck control, sustained scoring chances, and getting back on defense once that chance is over. It's a cliche, but it has stood the test of time--they need to finish their checks...both ways. Yes AO, that means you and the other forwards need to rush back like a bat out of hell whenever the puck is turned over in the offensive zone.
I'm making it sound so simple, but obviously it's not. This can only mean it runs counter to their overall strategy. And, gee, guess who's responsible for that? Same guy I've been complaining about for over a year now. First name rhymes with 'goose' last name rhymes with 'Food-throw.'
While I'm complaining about the coaching can I just point out one other thing that Joe B, Locker, and Smokin' Al have picked up on? It seems that this series is a continuation of what went on in the regular season: tight games, close games...games that went into extra time. So, figuring that, wouldn't it behoove the bench bosses to limit everybody's shifts so they're not nearly comatose by the third period??? Or is that how the players get into gear? Because in both games so far it has looked like the Capitals were skating in mud for the first two periods.
I'll make this next argument short and sweet..I'll have to or we'll be here all day. The obvious discussion point now, besides "When will the Caps start playing defense?" is who will start in goal--Theo or Varley? You could make the case for either goalie, to be perfectly honest. Both have their merits, and, equally, their liabilities. It's all been discussed on other sites by other observers, so I won't rehash it here. It comes to this---who can win this series on their own if they have to? I hate to say it, but I have to give the nod to Varley on this one. Strange though it may seem, the kid is a proven playoff commodity after last year. While I do think Theo deserves another chance, if anything because you dance with the one that brought ya, Varlamov has the "hot" hand as it were. It's looking as though it will happen:
Now that's not to say the old double-reverse shouldn't be practiced as well. If the Caps falter early (again) with Varley in goal, Boudreau is certainly within his rights to pull another switch. The question is, will he?
I'll close with some positives. Here they are in no particular order with the possible exception of the last being the most important:
The Caps DID come back from a deep hole--something they're going to need to draw on in the future assuming they continue on past this round. And they did it twice, once with barely two minutes left in the game.
Which brings me to my next positive---John Carlson. Mrs. Blueliner is my witness---I wasn't too high on this kid when he first came up and I was scratching my head when he got the nod over Erskine in this series. But he's been arguably the Caps' most consistent player and certainly one of the breakout young stars of this playoff season.
Nicklas Backstrom continues to make his case for his share of the limelight next to his more boisterous linemate. Already has a hat-trick and a game-winner and shows no signs of slowing down...would be an absolute perfect 10 if he could improve on the backcheck. (And not take dumb penalties!)
Capitals forwards have dominated in the faceoff circle, with both Eric Belanger and Brendan Morrison leading the way, and Backstrom holding his own. This can only lead to bigger and better things if this trend continues, puck possession being key.
For all the talk about how Jaroslav Halak might be unsolvable simply because he was a unknown quantity he sure looked pretty easy to figure out Saturday. Not to mention human. Six goals getting pumped past you will do that. Whether it's him or Carey Price in goal (don't bet on it), the good thing here is that the top line has its swagger back---and you know what that can mean. Backstrom is at the top of his game, he's waiting for his linemates to join him. Somehow I can't see both Knuble and AO being quiet for long. Nor Semin, for that matter, thought his inconvenient disappearing acts are starting to get old. Note within a note--it's also hard to imagine the Power Play continuing its drought, if for any reason other than no penalty kill is perfect. Boudreau has vowed this will improve and there's no reason for doubt here.
Finally, the team got a much needed shot in the arm when a member stood up for his mates. And when Matt Br...no...John Ersk...no...Tom Poti.....Tom Poti??? Not exactly known for his fists, Poti nonetheless sparked his team at a critical moment. His bout with an even lesser likely candidate, Scott Gomez, game that team that boot in the ass that they so desperately needed. Let's face it folks; the team looked like a bunch of sad-sacks by that point. Defining moments like that are generally what championship teams draw on as the turning point on the way to greatness. Let's hope this holds true and proves to be a harbinger of a long playoffs.
I'm nervous as hell for this one, but let's drop the puck. My prediction? Going to be another close one, but I can't see a third straight OT game. Unfortunately I think the Caps will be slightly discombobulated by the travel and come out flat again. This time it will cost them, but they will have a better-rounded game in a close loss:
GWG Brian Gionta
Yes, of course I hope I'm dead wrong. We'll see.