Crapitals v. Rangers, Game 5: Now *That’s* More Like It

Posted: April 23, 2011 in Coaching, Fandom, Hockey
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

CapitalsRedLogo

This is one of those wonderful moments when I can proudly say, “I was wrong.” The Crapitals got out of the first round for the first time in three years. So how’d they do it? I’m not going to get into hockey strategy, only some of which I could intelligently discuss. Instead, I’m going to answer that question at a higher level, which is the same way I’ve been phrasing the problem for the past week. Let’s look at how Game 5 differed from the rest of the series.

The Differences

The Caps didn’t have a scoreless tie going into the second period

The Caps scored in the first period, and when you’re outplaying a team in all other areas of the game, even a one-goal lead can be insurmountable. They repeated the effort in the second and third periods, surrendering a goal only when the Rangers had an empty net, and thus an extra forward. When a team has to play catch up, it always changes their style of play, opening up chances for the team in the lead. The fact that the Rangers were also in desperation mode due to the threat of elimination helped the Caps. The fact that the Caps are better skaters, puck handlers, and hitters also helped the Caps.

The Caps “solved” Lundqvist

Any team that wins a game does so by scoring, but “solving” a goalie clearly has happened when you embarrass him. Ovechkin did exactly that, embarrassing Marc Staal along the way. In the second period, Ovi streaked down the ice, harassed the entire way by Staal, and despite the extra human baggage, faked out Lundqvist like he was . . . well, me. Lundqvist was truly beaten at that point. Semin’s goal was icing on the cake. Oh, and by the way . . .

Alexander Semin Scored

He didn’t get a hat trick, but for a guy who scores so much in the regular season, he has no business twiddling his thumbs while watching everyone else play hockey. (Remember last year?) Keep in mind that a player scoring even a single goal generally indicates that he’s spent the game working hard and getting into position. I watched this game in a bar, and the TVs weren’t huge, so I can’t be certain, but I get the impression Semin worked hard this game. In fact, one difference between this year and last year that I never really noticed is that Semin has been scoring. He scored in games 1 and 4 as well. He’s officially productive, and that looks dangerous to the rest of the league.

Boudreau

The Good Stuff

I’ve been tearing down the franchise during all of these posts, but did once point out that there are plenty of things that give us hope as Crapitals fans.

Coaching

First and foremost among them is our coaching. Bruce Boudreau is the model of an NHL coach. In my day, the superstar players ruled the roost. If the best player on the team didn’t like the head coach, he’d go on TV or radio, talk about how his coach sucked, and before he could hang up the phone, management would have fired that coach. Times have certainly changed, but old habits die hard, and the culture still has that feel to it.

Boudreau could easily have survived that era as a head coach. There’s no question he’s in charge of strategy and the team in general, an as the HBO documentary “24/7” showed, he’s more than willing to say “fuck,” but he’s a “players’ coach.” Players like him. Hell, I like him even though I’ve never met him. He comes across as a father figure without treating these grown men as children. The fact that he’s Pillsbury Dough Boy-ish helps, too. He just comes across as a good guy. This is the kind of person you need as your hockey coach, especially with a young team who’s failures in the past can be directly attributed to their inexperience and relative immaturity. Combine that with his actual competence as a head coach, and you have a one championship need completely filled.

Offensive Zone

A second thing worth mentioning is that it still amazes me how well the Crapitals control the offensive zone. We can all tell easily when a team has an extra man on the ice. They easily control the puck in the offensive zone, and the defensive players are always either a step or two behind or standing still waiting for something bad to happen. The Crapitals seem to be able to do that to teams even when both teams are at full strength. You’d think with all those players on the ice, and no team having a man advantage, that such control shouldn’t be possible, but the Caps do it. Consistently. The only time I’ve really seen that done consistently was in the 70’s and 80’s when teams would do that to the Crapitals. This is definitely something that differs from teams in the past. We really do have one of the best teams, if not the best team, in the NHL techincally-speaking.

However . . .

I wouldn’t get too excited, and I really hope the Crapitals don’t get too high on themselves. Arrogance is the enemy. Once you think you can’t lose, you can’t win. I hope they keep grounded. As I said, Bruce Boudreau is the model hockey coach, and I have faith he’ll keep them in check. The only question that remains is whether he’s finished molding these guys into champions. Eventually he’ll do it, at which point I’ll stop annoying my friend, Hal, with the “Crapitals” moniker, but has he done that already?

Ask me that question again in June. I might not know before then.

Follow me on Twitter @MMADork
Follow the Washington Crapitals on Twitter @washcaps
Follow the Hal Mangold on Twitter @AtomicOvermind

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