- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 29, 2010

ANALYSIS:

Underneath the stands of the Verizon Center, there was no doubt which team was moving on to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and which team was heading home for the summer.

Joyous yelling and screaming could be heard clearly from the Montreal Canadiens’ dressing room down the hall as reporters waited for the Capitals’ locker room to open to the media. Once it did, the Caps were clearly in a state of shock at its 121-point season coming unglued in the span of just seven days with three straight losses.

“When you have a 3-1 lead in a series, you think there’s no way you are going to drop three straight, especially [with] two of those games at home,” Mike Knuble said. “It’s the most disappointing for a team that is known for our goal scoring. The amount of offense that we can provide, to come up short and not get the goals in a timely manner when we have done it all year, it’s extremely disappointing for us.”

“I think we are all disappointed, but you know, I really have nothing to say right now,” captain Alexander Ovechkin said. “We all know we have a pretty good team, but we didn’t win when we have to win. I dont know.”

“There wasn’t much I could tell them,” coach Bruce Boudreau said when asked what he told his club after the loss. “I told them I felt exactly like they did.”

As bitter as last year’s 6-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of the second round was, this one likely will carry a bigger sting for the players over the summer. With two of the East’s top three seeds knocked out before Wednesday’s game began, the door was wide open for the Caps to make serious run for the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.

But a combination of a lackluster effort in Game 5, Jaroslav Halak’s good goaltending and a sudden disappearance of the team’s offensive prowess spelled perhaps the biggest playoff failure in the team’s star-crossed history.

Much of the failure has to be put at the feet of two of the team’s young stars.

Mike Green, who was nominated for the Norris Trophy this season, played a role in both of Montreal’s goals, being in the penalty box for the first one and then was beaten to the puck for the series-clinching goal with less than four minutes to go.

Alexander Semin, who scored his first 40-goal campaign this year, finished the season without scoring at all during the seven-game series. Although he put 44 shots on net, none of them lit the lamp, and he wound up with just a pair of assists.

“It’s a tough one,” Boudreau said when asked about his team’s young stars. “[Backstrom, Green, Ovechkin and Semin] were beyond remorse in the dressing room. What I am saying that for is because they cared and because they tried. No one tried as much as [Ovechkin] and [Backstrom]. Sometimes you just dont score goals — the other team takes it away. I give Montreal credit. They — the last two guys I mentioned — didnt have success in the last game scoring, but they tried.”

“It is hard to say right now after the game, but I think we have a great group of guys,” Backstrom said about the team’s leadership. “The only thing is when it comes to the playoffs, we stop doing all the things weve been doing in the regular season. I think thats our biggest key.”

So, after the team shattered the franchise record for most wins and points in a regular season, captured the Presidents’ Trophy for the league’s best regular season, and also locked up home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Caps only lasted one round of the postseason.

“I thought we had a good chance to win the Stanley Cup this year,” Boudreau said. “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. But I told them there was no sense in me saying anything right now because we all feel as low as we can possibly feel.”

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