- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 25, 2009

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CRACKS IN THE ICE

All season, the big question for the Washington Capitals was, “Can they win their first Stanley Cup?”

Now, the question has mutated to “What happened?”

Since the Caps cruised through the season in first place, it was easy to overlook cracks in the foundation.

The most damaging was Jose Theodore. After Cristobal Huet left via free agency, the Caps thought Theodore would be the one to put them over the top… even though he has never taken a team past the second round of the playoffs (for God’s sake, the guy’s nickname is “Threeormore”). Among playoff starters, only Chris Osgood’s 3.09 goals-against average for Detroit was higher than Theodore’s 2.87 this season.

It took only one — one! — playoff game for Bruce Boudreau to realize Theodore was not his guy. But if that’s how little confidence the coach had in Theodore, he should’ve given Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth more time this year.

Another underlying problem lay in the Caps’ schedule. Washington had only one regulation win against a playoff team from Feb. 23 to the end of the regular season. It was mostly due to the NHL’s policy of having teams play mostly division foes to close the year — and the Caps happen to be in the weakest division. Sure, you have to play with the hand you’re dealt, but half of Washington’s final 12 games were against doormats Atlanta and Tampa Bay. That’s like getting ready for a marathon by eating a quart of ice cream.

TWT Five ” Top-seeded flops in NHL

The San Jose Sharks are a loss away from joining a select group of teams to earn the most points in the regular season yet fall in the first round of the playoffs.

1. 2005-06 Red Wings — Detroit piled up 124 points, but Edmonton was on its way to the Finals.

2. 1999-2000 Blues — St. Louis forced Game 7 at home after trailing three games to one — then lost to San Jose.

3. 1990-91 Blackhawks — Jeremy Roenick (now with San Jose) and Chicago fell in six to the Minnesota North Stars.

4. 1970-71 Bruins — Boston’s Bobby Orr won the Hart and Norris trophies, but Montreal went on to win the Cup.

5. 1966-67 Black Hawks — Hey, there were only six teams back then.

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