As DC sports fans, there might not be a more fear-inducing statement made during the springtime than “the Washington Capitals are in the playoffs.”
As the Capitals begin their quest to finally fulfill their preseason promise and not leave all DC sports fans devastatingly heartbroken (yet again), I turned to my esteemed hockey-head Ari, to discuss whether we should be worried about the Capitals, who basically spent four-to-six weeks of the regular season waiting for the playoffs to start, and lost 10 of their last 21 games (yet still wrapped up the President’s Trophy by a laughable margin):
“Because they really had nothing to play for over the last month of the season, the Capitals basically just stopped playing hard, or with the same attention to detail that’s needed to win. They were attempting plays that many would consider ‘fancy’ or ‘moves you try in practice’ in game situations, because there wasn’t really any downside. The playoffs and the division title were locked up with about a month left in the season, and the only other accomplishment to be had was the President’s Trophy, which they locked up not long after. The players, to a man, even admitted they lacked motivation, energy, or commitment over the last month.
So really, the big worry any Caps fan should have is if they can ‘turn it back on’ for the playoffs, after being on cruise control. There isn’t really one area where you can point to Philadelphia as being better than the Capitals, and in most categories, it’s not even close; with regards to goals for, goals against, special teams, goaltending, and Corsi FOR, the Caps are way ahead. In theory, this serious shouldn’t even be close. It’ll be a very physical and hard hitting series, and that could potentially be tough for Washington. The biggest X-factor is the fact that the Flyers have been playing games like they were in the playoffs for the last two months because they had so much ground to cover. They’ll be dialed in and focused, so we’ll find out right away in game one if the Caps are ready to match that intensity level.
That being said, even if the Caps do lose game one, they’ll likely realize by game two that they need to bring their performance back to the level of what it was in January and February. I’m confident enough to call this series being over in five games. Capitals win, 4-1.
Looking ahead, if there’s a team in the East that really poses a threat to the Capitals, it’s the hated Pittsburgh Penguins. Bad things happen for Washington when they play Pittsburgh in the postseason. The Penguins are the hottest team in the NHL right now, and they’re playing really well under head coach Mike Sullivan. It pisses me off, because this feels like the exact same circumstances when Pittsburgh last won the Stanley Cup. I’m hoping the Rangers beat the Penguins in round one, but it won’t happen.”