It’s a familiar position to Capitals fans: a best of 7 turned best of 3 turned winner-take-all. Meanwhile, the San Jose Sharks have had a luxurious week off to prepare for… an almost equally well-rested Blackhawks squad, perhaps. So they’ll need all the rest they can get. Either way, it bodes ill for the East.
The real frustration here doesn’t just come from how often we’ve seen the Rangers, or how every series gets dragged out to 7, or how the Capitals can’t seem to do anything without instilling the maximum amount of artificial drama; the real frustration comes from how, despite having gone through 4 coaches, 2 captains, 5 (playoff) goalies, and endless rental players, line re-shuffles, and superstitious haircuts, the problem remains the same.
Is there something fundamentally wrong with this team?
I’m not sure that’s a question we can successfully unpack. You can trawl the archives of NHL.com, learn the wizardry of advanced stats from behindthenet.ca, or follow Neil Greenberg (@ngreenberg) on Twitter, but this isn’t the same team it was in 2008 — and yet it falls to the same hurdle.
Is it Ovechkin? Alexander Ovechkin has been synonymous with the Capitals since 2005, for better or worse, and he has been ice-cold this series: 1 goal and 1 assist. But it’s not fair to put the burden on him alone. The top three scorers have been Mike Green (fine), Joel Ward (always rises to the postseason), and Mathieu Perreault (how did that happen?!).
As captain, we expect him to shoulder the burden of a game 7’s stress and expectations, and as star player (and franchise icon) we hold him personally responsible for the successes and failures of the team. Perhaps we should look to someone else as the lynchpin of the team.