Pens defeat Caps in Game 6
Here comes the narrative… call out your name…
As I talked about yesterday, the Caps loss to the Penguins last night is going to kickstart yet another batch of soul-searching within DC and a bunch of piling on from outside of it. And I’m not sure any of it is necessary, but I’m also not sure some of it isn’t either. I wrote this in my editorial when the Caps were here in late February that I hate when we define a team by some mythical narrative which usually boils down to simply, “They can’t get it done.” For me there always has to be a tangible explanation, or we should work harder to find it. But when it’s the Caps or some team like them, one that constantly is losing in a certain fashion (blowing 3-1 leads in a series as an example) then maybe there has to be something unquantifiable there. Some gremlins playing in their minds when things turn. It’s not the end-all be-all explanation, but it has to be a factor.
I don’t think last night or this series fits into that though. One, the Penguins have been playing the best hockey anywhere for a solid three months now. This isn’t the Caps simply tossing it to a team that they should reasonably beat most of the time. Two, the Caps actually were the better team for long periods in this series. Maybe not last night with the return of Maatta and needing an never-before-seen streak of penalties from the Penguins to tie the game. But really it boils down to Matt Murray playing better than Holtby most of the series, and Holtby wasn’t even bad. Who would have predicted that?
You could roll out these two teams again as is for another series and the Caps very well may win in five. Or seven. Or lose again. There just isn’t that much to split these teams. The Caps could make no other additions to their team next year and still walk to the division title again. This is why teams like the Hawks and Kings skew things for others. There must be something structurally wrong with them if they can’t continually punch through like those two teams can. And maybe there are differences, but maybe the Hawks and Kings have just gotten a bounce here or there in one spring that the other guys didn’t. It may be that simple.
A word about the delay of game rule here. While some rush to call it the dumbest in the game, I think it’s always important to remind everyone what the rule used to be. It used to be that only goalies were punished for sending the puck straight into the crowd. That’s right, the player who handles the puck by far the least was held to the highest standard. Now that’s a dumb rule. Sure, maybe this should be reduced to just an icing where you can’t change, because you don’t want to encourage teams in their own zone to be able to just fire the puck at the paying customers to relieve pressure. And I don’t know that simply not being able to change is enough of a deterrent. We see a lot of icings, don’t we?
Blues-Stars Game 7
Everything that the Caps are going through now and will awaits the Blues if they don’t win this one tonight. While they may have thought beating a flawed and tired Hawks team was catharsis for all that came before, if they lose the last two to a Dallas team that doesn’t have its #1 center and doesn’t really have a goalie I’m fairly sure the stench of Blues returns to the entire organization again. That’s if it ever left.
It’s all right there in front of them. There’s little chance Kari Lehtonen is going to back up a great performance with another one. Brian Elliot has recovered from wonky performances this spring with really good ones. They should have the advantage in goal.
It doesn’t feel like any lead is safe in this series. The Stars simply can’t protect one, and the Blues seemingly want the Stars to come back when they have one and just back up. I suppose that’ll be another test for Hitch tonight. They seemed to get it in Game 5, though it took a while, and trapped the Stars before the red line in the last 10 minutes with a lead. Can he send them out to do it again in a Game 7 on the road? I wonder.
While it’s easy to say this is the beginning for the Stars, they’ll have some things to figure out on defense if it ends tonight. Goligoski is a free agent and 30. Oduya is old. Klingberg needs a safety net and it’s not Stephen Johns and the other prospects they’ve tried haven’t worked. They have too much money tied up in two crap goalies. They may need this one tonight more than they know.