What, you thought this would be easy? Is anything ever easy with this team? You thought the Caps were just going to ride off into the sunset with the sultry sounds of Three Times A Lady by The Commodores playing them off in Boston? On a night in which you already lost Tomas Vokoun due to injury, and Jason Chimera due to ejection, even late in the 3rd, you really thought a two-goal lead meant victory was assured?
Not on that night, not with this team, not in this season.
And yet, on March 29, 2012, the music did not stop.
Despite losing the momentum to the Bruins heading into the extra frame, and despite facing considerable odds against a Stanley Cup champion that no longer was slumping, the Caps collectively played like there was no tomorrow.
Was it a game that enkindled your very soul and made your heart yearn for more?
Most assuredly, it was not
However you could see the collective will of the Capitals after a Brad Marchand slap shot went off Michal Neuvirth’s pads and lead to a massive scramble for the puck in the crease with under a minute left in overtime.
Every, and I mean every Washington Capital in the general vicinity of the crease went down to their stomach to try to cover up the puck from going loose. Only when Michal Neuvirth emerged from the pile with 46 seconds left in OT with the puck, could one finally begin to exhale. The Capitals weren’t dominating, but they weren’t dying either.
With a first line center in Brooks Laich,- who had little experience at the position till this season and three guys in Keith Aucoin, Mathieu Perreault and Cody Eakin who have spent the majority of their careers in Hershey, don’t underestimate the guile of the Washington Capitals, in just being able to survive a Thursday night match-up that could have been a near knockout blow.
It wasn’t pretty, the shot total was laughable for much of the game, but you know what? That’s perfectly alright. On the road against the Stanley Cup Champions, you simply aren’t blowing anyone out.
Guess what? This isn’t 2008. The Capitals don’t have the type of roster to blow anyone out anyways, even if the opponent wasn’t the Boston Bruins.
We have to face facts here. In looking at the centers on this roster, please let me know how it is conceivable the Capitals could go back to playing a wide-open style as some today are advocating for?
Sometimes you have to just know what you are, not what you want to be. There is a reason Betty White still has a career and it isn’t because she tried appearing in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Outside of Alexander Ovechkin, and occasionally (But not occasionally enough) Alexander Semin, this isn’t exactly a scary Capitals team on offense. That means that there will be games such as the one we witnessed Thursday night where the Capitals will have to grind it out and hold on.
That’s exactly what they did. You might not like how it looked, but this was a team that cared. This was not a team that gave up on the season.
There were inexcusable mental breakdowns in Tuesday’s 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, there were inexcusable mental breakdowns in the Capitals zone late in Thursday’s game. On one occasion it all fell apart, on the other occasion the Capitals somehow patched it together. That two-game stretch is perfectly emblematic for what the Capitals have done all season, and where they are right now.
The hockey gods have it right: This is a team that deserves to be right on the cusp of either making, or missing the playoffs with four games left.
What team will we see Saturday? It’s almost impossible to even guess.
Caps notes: On a less serious note, we enjoyed the slapstick stylings of Tim Thomas on Thursday night. It’s too bad they have already finalized the cast for the new Three Stogies Movie, because this guy already has the whole ‘falling over inanimate objects’ thing down.