On Clichés and Redemption

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel

You win as a team, you lose as a team. That’s a cliché. Here’s another one: clichés don’t get to be clichés without containing a good deal more than a shred of truth. The Washington Capitals lost Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Monday night. The Blueshirts pulled victory out of the fires of defeat, tying the game on a power-play goal with 6.6 seconds left in regulation and winning it on another power-play strike 102 seconds later. With that win, the Rangers took a 3-2 lead in the series. Game 6 is in Washington on Wednesday night. Those looking for a convenient scapegoat will hang the goat horns on caps winger Joel Ward, whose double-minor for high-sticking at 19:38 of the third period gave the Rangers the power play opportunities they used to stun the Capitals late in the game. There were 18 other Capitals who could have had an effect on the outcome of Monday’s game before or after Ward’s penalty. Eighteen guys could have scored a goal, blocked a shot, made a play, made a save, cleared a puck or otherwise impacted the outcome of the contest in Washington’s favor. Ward took an ill-timed penalty, but he also drew two penalties on the night, including the one that led to the Capitals’ go-ahead goal. That was John Carlson’s power play goal at 4:20 of the third period. The Capitals had three odd-man rushes in the third period, each of them with their so-called skilled players carrying the puck into the zone. Had those players been able to execute to the point of a red light flashing behind New York netminder Henrik Lundqvist, Washington would almost certainly have ushered home a win and a 3-2 series lead. Even a small thing like a crucial face-off win would have altered the outcome of Monday’s game and had the Rangers – rather than the Capitals – on the verge of elimination from the playoffs. Washington did not win a face-off in the final 6:14 of the game – there were seven draws taken in that span – and just winning the one immediately following Ward’s penalty likely would have won the game for Washington. There are those who will vilify Ward, but none of his teammates are among them. Several of them had less of a positive impact on the game than Ward did. Only seven different Capitals even registered a shot on goal in Monday’s game. In several of the Caps’ postseason wins this spring, the skilled players have been instrumental in giving Washington a lead. In several of the Caps’ postseason wins this spring, the so-called foot soldiers have been instrumental in protecting those leads. Tonight, the skilled players missed out on chances to make Washington’s lead a more comfortable one. And the foot soldiers were unable to close the deal while guarding the thinnest of all margins, the one-goal advantage. That failure falls on the shoulders of many, not the shoulders of one. Washington has suffered many gut-wrenching playoff losses in its past, some of them in overtime and some of them on the power play. Prior to Monday, the last two times the Caps gave up overtime power-play goals in the playoffs, there was no chance for redemption. Those losses came in an elimination game. That wasn’t the case in Monday’s game. Game 6 is Wednesday in Washington. The Caps need to start a modest two-game winning streak to collectively atone for their Monday loss in a game that they were just seconds away from sealing. Win the next two games and Monday’s loss is reduced to a footnote. Players will tell you, “you take them one at a time.” Okay, another cliché. The Caps need two consecutive one-game winning streaks, then. Their fate is in their hands. Win, win again. The Capitals filed off the team bus that took them from MSG to the airport shortly before midnight on Monday. John Walton and I waited for the players to file off before we followed. Our bus driver had some parting words for us. “See you boys on Friday.”

next up:

Caps Need Their Best to be Better

January 14, 2013

There were more than a few Capitals who had a chance to impact Monday night’s Game 5 in a positive fashion during the third period. Among them was Caps’ captain Alex Ovechkin, who was held without a shot on goal for just the sixth time in his NHL career and the second time in Stanley Cup playoff

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