Game and Series Winning Goal--Michael Del Zotto
Three Stars--Henrik Lundquist, Brad Richards, Michael Del Zotto
There is no shame in losing when you give it your absolute best effort and you leave it all on the ice. There is shame, however if you don't go into the most important game with the utmost intensity and effort.
I will give you three guesses which of those were how the Caps approached this Game 7 and the first two don't count.
If you haven't figured it out by now, they lost because they just plain didn't show up. Again.
To come so far only to have it end this way is the ultimate kick in the groin. Especially when one considers how many times this team had its collective back to the wall again and again and came out stronger every time. Or so we were led to believe.
So many factors that happened in this game and all the other losses in this series....
Dennis Wideman's overall sloppy play and minus 7 rating.
Alex Ovechkin getting knocked off the puck for the eventual series winning goal.
Alexander Semin disappearing once again in a second round playoff series.
Joel Ward's four minute minor in Game 5...you know the rest.
Braden Holtby's momentary loss of focus in Games 1 and 7.
The power play once again tanking when it was needed the most.
The whole team running out of gas in triple OT in Game 3.
Umpteen kerjillion shots that either hit posts, crossbars, and other such ridiculousness that for some cosmic reason resulted in their never reaching the back of the net.
All of the above were only parts of the reason they lost. But it wasn't for any one reason. Just like it wasn't because of any one player. While it's true they rode the hotness of Holtby's puckstopping and the exuberance of Ovechkin's leadership...for fourteen games they lived out the ultimate credo:
Win as a team, lose as a team.
Which brings us to the flip side--how this team got this far. They played better than the sum of their parts and became better than 23-plus individuals by the end of the ride. Just as Dale Hunter said, they figured out exactly how they needed to play in order to win in the playoffs. And they were one win away from the Conference Final. After that, anything could happen. You can't help but think this team is one final piece away from putting it all together.
Or are they? They may not be, but that's for a later discussion. Now is a time to reflect on what was accomplished. The Washington Capitals didn't get there going the usual way. They looked simply awful at times to be honest, but the point is that they did indeed finally get there. They can be proud of what they did--eliminated the defending Cup champs and put the regular season Conference champs on the brink. It was a hell of a playoff ride and fun to watch.
Yes they fell short once again, but as always, they made life very interesting for all of us who call ourselves Caps fans. Here's to next year, whatever it may bring...even if it's another heartbreak.