And Now, They Are Indeed… Dead Again….

I said “I would bury them when they’re dead” and sure enough, that day has come. The Caps have gone and Cap’d yet again. For the 25th time in 27 playoff appearances, this team has failed to advance past the 2nd round.

The Capitals are now 1-9 in Best-of-7’s vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Hello, El Guapo!)
Pittsburgh is now 6-0 in road Game 7’s.
Pittsburgh is 4-0 vs. the Caps in Game 7’s (with two shutouts).

The Caps are now 4-11 in playoff Game 7’s, 3-8 at home in Game 7.
The Caps are 3-7 in Game 7 in the Ovetchkin era.

The Capitals have won the President’s Trophy 3 times since 1993. They have never advanced to the Conference championship while flying that banner.

The Red Wings are the only other team to have won more President’s trophies since 1993 (6). In those 6 seasons, the Wings won the Stanley Cup (2 times) went to the Cup and lost (1 time) went to the Conference finals and lost (1 time).

I said before last night, that if the Caps were to lose Game 7, I would deliver a somber, tear-filled funeral. I would not declare it a “choke” or “same ol’ Caps” with venom and bitterness. I was still planning on doing just that.

Until the 3rd period happened. That changed everything.

With a 1-0 game heading to what should have been a rock-’em-sock’em white-knuckle 20 minute thrill ride, the Caps quit on their skates. I was embarrassed FOR them.

The first few shifts were telling. Lethargic, sloppy… shockingly disorganized. The last gasp of a dying team was T.J. Oshie melee hitting Sid the Kid off his skates in the corner.

It was straight downhill from there.

Ovetchkin helped surrender the first goal, with a weak clearing attempt followed by a flatfooted moment (watch the play, he actually STOPS in place for a moment) and then is late to backcheck his man Rust who buried the first goal right in front of him.

In the 3rd period, Ovie’s weak one-handed clearing attempt at the half-boards, let the Penguins pounce. All of a sudden, it’s 2-0.

Still.. still… LOTS of time left. I have watched in these playoffs teams like Anaheim erase a 3-goal lead with 3:16 left vs. Edmonton. I watched the Penguins erase the Caps 2-0 lead with two 6-on-5 empty net goals in this series alone.

Okay boys… I foolishly thought… show me YOUR own monster finish. Show me desperation and rage. As they say around these parts…. “UNLEASH THE FURY.”

What the Caps delivered instead was a farce. The final 10 minutes was the most space and time I’ve seen on playoff ice this spring in any series. It was surreal. The final 5 minutes the Caps just randomly knocked the rock around the ice, banked lead passes through center ice that were picked off by Pens players at full skate for 2-on-1’s.

This was quitting. Plain and simple.

Said Holtby: “Tonight, I don’t think we gave ourselves a chance.. and we’re going to have to live with that.”

So what now? Blow it up? Hell… this team is set to blow ITSELF up. 

Oshie, Williams, Shattenkirk, and Alzner are all UFA’s.

Kuznetsov, Burakovsky, and Orlov are RFA’s.

And then there’s Ovie.

Can you move him? Should you try? Barry Melrose said they should, if for no other reason than to give Ovie a fresh start too. I’m way out of my depth considering how likely/un-likely it would be to move a superstar contract like that in the NHL.

I know this: it WILL be talked about by the Caps brass. My gut says, Ted would never allow it. It would signal surrender. It wouldn’t bring much in return. And they’d have to start marketing hockey in this town, without a billboard superstar.

As a last add… here was an 18-tweet rant by hockey writer/blogger Slava Malamud. He’s local, and Russian. I won’t. I’ll just present his argument.

Caps problems extend beyond a bad def pair, an underperforming goalie. The failure is endemic and systematic. It’s the result of choices fanboy owner Leonsis made in 2004 when he decided his business model would be not building a winner but servicing a marketable megastar.

There’s nothing wrong with building a team around a star, but it has to be the right kind of star. Ovi just isn’t the “win first” type.

I’ve known Ovi since he was 17. Kid was born with a silverware set in his mouth. Always told he is the greatest, teammates must be worthy. But his demands on himself stay the same. He’s not the bloodied inspirational leader. He is the tousled-hair sexy charismatic ruffian.

Yes, he’s the NHL’s favorite stripper who’s been giving the hockey world a lap dance for 13 years. Sorry, but the length of your erection Hockey world, is unhealthy by now. You need to face the truth: the Caps personality-cult culture is counterproductive to winning the cup.

Fueled by innumerable fanboy blogs and media whipped into terrified subservience by CapsPR, the culture feeds on self, kills all dissent and spurns all criticism. You know, Caps fans, that despite all the issues Oates and Hunter had, your main problem w/ them was trying to turn Ovi into a man of the system. You hate that. You want your boy toy wild and free. Everyone wants this of Ovi, even RUS coaches.

Compare this to Crosby who will take any role on CAN w/o complaint. You call 87 a whiner, but who whined the loudest during the lockout, threatening to stay in the KHL? Who whines now, threatening to leave the league to get an Olympic trinket? While Leonsis bends over backwards to satisfy all his ridiculous demands.

This is a guy who looks out for himself and his public image (Wild and Sexy Rebel, Patriot of Motherland). His only interest in the Cup is how his reflection will look in it. Problem is, Leonsis has the same priorities. He has dissolved himself and the team in Ovechkin’s 13-year-long marketing campaign. It worked out great financially. The price to pay is being humiliated every year by real winners. Congrats, Caps, you’ve sold lots of t-shirts. Congrats, Caps fans, you’ve been had.

Oh, and that sound you’ve just heard is your window of opportunity slamming shut. I hope this wild ride on the Charisma Train was fun.

Rant out. Enjoy your Redskins mini camp.

He’s not entirely wrong. But then again, I don’t believe the premise that you simply can’t win with Ovie. I can’t. I won’t. He’s not a cancer, he does a lot of good things. He’s great. Lowercase “g.” He’s flawed. He’s complicated.

If I may make one suggestion: let’s not hang any more President’s Trophy banners. In fact, let’s burn the one’s we’ve got. If nothing else, it’ll be cathartic, and a reminder of what really matters.

I’ll be there next year as a Caps fan. I’ve suffered too damn long to quit now.

/drops rose on casket
/walks away

-30-

 >>>>>>>>>>

For reference sake, I picked through the wikipedia garbage bin of every Game 7 in NHL history to assemble the Caps record/history here. If I missed one, please let me know.

3-8 at Home in Game 7’s
4-11 overall in Game 7’s

2-5 in Ovetchkin Era

Verizon Center
2-0 Penguins – 2017 – L
2-1 Islanders – 2015 – W
5-0 Rangers – 2013 – L
2-1 Canadiens – 2010 – L
6-2 Penguins – 2009 – L
2-1 Rangers – 2009 – W
3-2 Flyers – 2008 – L*

Capital Centre
3-1 Penguins – 1992 – L
3-2 Devils – 1988 – L
5-4 Flyers – 1988 – W*
3-2 Islanders – 1987 – L* (4)
*= OT
ROAD GAME 7’s
2-1 Rangers – 2015 – L*
2-1 Rangers – 2012 – L
2-1 Bruins – 2012 – W*
3-0 Penguins – 1995 – L

About the Author

Steve Czaban is a 25 year sports radio veteran, who hosts an afternoon drive show in Washington D.C. He also appears on “Bob and Brian” in Milwaukee. “Czabe” also writes and edits his own commentaries for www.czabe.com and other on-line and print publications. He can be reached at czabe@yahoo.com.

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6 Comments

  1. Czabe,

    I am a transplanted Philadelphia sports fan in the Balt/DC corridor. With the Flyers all but out any chance for deep playoff runs in recent years, I rooted for Ovie to get his name on the Cup. When Oshie came to town, and with Trotz behind the bench, I thought for sure all of the pieces were in place.

    WRONG!

    Obviously, I don’t have the same passion for the Caps as I do the Flyers, but damn! WTF? How does a team with a seemingly good track record of improvement from being one of the NHL’s best, to being elite still look like a 4 or 5 seed in the playoffs season after season?

    Can’t be Ovie. I don’t buy into the notion that professional athletes need their “captain” to show them the way. Ovie is not a finisher like Crosby. Ovie isn’t as dimensional as Crosby or as some other players in the league. He is a sniper, pure and simple. The team already knows this. I don’t think they expect Ovie to carry them on his back to the promised land.

    Can’t be Trotz. Previous coaches have had the same results with this team. Trotz is a damn good coach!

    Has to be the embedded culture in the organization. Failure is in the blood. It is in the air, the concrete and the seats of the Verizon Center. Since you can’t fire the owner, fire the GM and let a new GM shake up the front office and change or blow up the team.

    You know what’s scary? I see the same thing with The Nats. Their window is beginning to close as well. At least the Caps are a much more likeable team than the Nats.

    -Richard F.

  2. Ovie isn’t a cancer and can be a very important part of a Stanley Cup champion. BUT he’s Scottie Pippin… not Michael Jorden. He needs to be the second best player on the team. And like Scottie, that’s hard to do.

  3. Czabe, heard Slava Malamud interviewed not on 980. He is great on hockey, especially with that Russian accent. You should get him on.

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