Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


High-flying Capitals must adjust to win in NHL postseason

The Washington Capitals played some entertaining hockey this season.

It was creative, it was high-flying, it featured one of the game’s best players in Alexander Ovechkin and it produced a ton of goals. In the regular season that is.

Last night the Montreal Canadiens, the worst playoff team in the NHL (based on points), beat those same Capitals in game seven of their first round series. The same Capitals who scored more than any other team in the league. The same Capitals who had the best power play during the regular season.


Montreal 2, Washington 1. Welcome to playoff hockey everyone.

There is nothing quite like the NHL’s second season. The 16 teams play on the same size rink, they use the same rubber pucks and composite sticks as in the regular season, but the playoffs are an entirely different breed.

No one has an easy series in the NHL playoffs.

The league enjoys tremendous parity, and the No. 1 seeds are never safe. Ovechkin’s broken English can tell you all about it now.

When postseason play rolls around, the game becomes a defensive struggle. Goals are hardly flashy and often come from hard work in the corners or a fortunate rebound. Maybe even a lucky bounce or a scramble in the crease.

Defensemen tone back their offensive aggressiveness, limiting the odd-man rushes and open ice we are used to seeing in the regular season. Each player knows the importance of blocking shooting lanes, even if it means using their chest or their face.

But in the “new NHL” the top-seeded Capitals were supposed to tear through the East like they had done all season. New rules were put in place to amp up the offense, and for the uber-skilled Caps that should have played right into their hands.

Well, apparently the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Your stars have to show up, and if they don’t a hot goaltender will always win out, no matter how many rules you change and no matter how many goals you score during the regular season. That’s always been a winning formula and it always will be.

So what went wrong with Washington and the once-electrifying Capitals?

Critics will begin to pour the heat on Ovechkin, who was frustrated throughout the series, but it’s not all on him. The Canadiens prided themselves on shutting down the “Great 8,” and they executed that plan to near perfection. Ovechkin needed some help from the other elite players in the Caps’ lineup.

Aside from Nicklas Backstrom, he didn’t get it.

Where was sniper Alexander Semin? And where the hell was Mike Green?

Semin, the 40-goal scorer, was shut out in the playoffs. You need your stars to play big no matter the sport, and Semin let his team down.

But the most disappointing performance was turned in by Green, the Caps’ Norris Trophy candidate (award for top NHL defenseman), who proved he is officially worthless come playoff time.

Green is an offensive defenseman in every sense. The problem is he was held scoreless in the series (he scored one playoff goal in 14 games last year), and with Green as the quarterback of the power play the Caps went 1-for-33 with the man advantage.

This guy is supposed to be one of the best in the league?

Plus, he is a liability defensively, and in the playoffs you don’t need goals from your blueliners, you just want them to be sound in their own end. Green struggled in that area as well.

Green’s game revolves around his ability to take chances and look for offense, but that just doesn’t work in the playoffs. The space isn’t there, and the occasional turnover is intolerable in a tight series.

But at the end of the day, the best team in the NHL was beaten by a goaltender who carried his team on his back.

The Caps threw all they could at Montreal goaltender Jaraslov Halak, but he was just too good.

Again, change the rules all you want. Make it so forwards can’t be touched; it doesn’t matter. A hot goaltender has the ability to win a series on his own, and Halak, with the help of some timely goals from his teammates, did just that.

The guy stopped 94 pucks in two games. Washington created offense and had their chances, but that wasn’t enough to beat Halak. They couldn’t convert on the power play, while Montreal made the most of their opportunities.

Next season, Washington will come back with the same firepower, and they’ll probably finish near the top of the East.

But this team’s up and down offensive style needs to be reworked. Players like Green and Semin need to find a way to be productive in the playoffs, or this team will remain a fraud. Watch some tape of Detroit and Pittsburgh, and you’ll see the type of players who can play both ways and win playoff games.

The “new NHL” and its bandwagon fans want Washington and Ovechkin to rise to the top.

But the postseason game remains the same — play sound defensively, work for those grinder goals and capitalize on the power play.

If Washington doesn’t come to grips with that, they’ll remain postseason spectators in the month of May.

Max is a junior majoring in journalism. Disappointed by the performance of the Capitals in the postseason? Happy to see Ovechkin go? Let him know at [email protected].

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