RED ALERT: Caps must begin comeback tonight
And indeed it is RED ALERT status!
This will be a bit different of a Red Alert. The DC Pro Sports Wire will be up soon and you can hit all your Washington Capitals links there. This Red Alert will focus more on the game tonight, the series, etc . . .
So what's the status: Caps are down 2 games to 0 and heading to Madison Square Garden in New York. They were swept at home. Stunning? Yes. Surprising? No. Why? Just look at the way the Caps have played the last two to three weeks of the season. Lackluster performances, emotionless outings, and 'hard to get into games' because of the looming playoffs. That stuff carries over. That's not what good teams do.
Is this thing over . . . No. Let's face a bit of reality though, the Caps are in a hard place, a real hard place. Down 2 games to 0 and traveling to New York, not an easy task. BUT, is the burden on the Ranger now as well. Let's face it, something also weird happened toward the end of the regular season. The Caps actually played better away from home, away from trying to impress a home town crowd. The Caps can take a substantial step of deflating the Rangers by beating New York tonight, in New York, putting a skid on this series.
So what's wrong? . . . The Capitals are the second highest goal scoring team in the NHL regular season, yet, they have put up 3 measley goals against the Rangers. Is this all about King Henry in goal? Some, but not all. The Caps are taking way too many shots deep outside with absolutely no net presence. The shot selection has not been great at all.
Speaking of net presence, has this not been an argument all year about these Caps. Why do they refuse when they get onto the ice to get in front of the net and generate traffic? I don't get it. Outside Brooks Laich, there is very little traffic in front of Lundqvist. No traffic, no deflection, no quality screens, no goals. Lundqvist is hot right now. If the Caps want to beat him, they need net presence, period. It's a must.
What about the net? . . . Whether you agreed or disagreed with Bruce Boudreau's decision to go with rookie Simeon Varlamov in net over Jose Theodore in Game 2, the fact is, it worked. Varly stopped 23 of 24 shots, allowing just one goal. Most NHL teams would die for that net performance. Yet, the Caps could not give one single goal support to the rookie net minder, making easily his most important NHL start in his very young career.
Boudreau made a gut instinct call, and it appears to have been the right one. Now, Boudreau should stick with it. Varly is not only the future net minder, but likely proved, he is also the present net minder. Varly responded in every aspect the way the Caps would have dreamed he would have. He put the Washington Capitals roster in position to win Game 2 with superb net minding. It is not his fault the Caps failed to respond. After a one goal performance, going back to Theodore today really would make no sense for tonight or the future.
So what would I do? . . .
1. Come on Coach, it is time for Chris Clark. Clark, like Laich, is not afraid or shy about going to the front of the net. If no one else, will, then let Clark. The Caps are in desperate need for net presence and Clark will help that.
2. Get Donald Brashear back in the game. The Caps need some brashness, some toughness, some meanness. Brash will provide that.
3. Shake up the Lines. How about an all Russian front assault. My line 1: Alexander Ovechkin, Sergei Fedorov, and Alexander Semin. Or keep Nicklas Backstrom on Line 1. The Caps need scoring. Get Ovie and Semin on the same line.
4. Keep Varlamov in goal.
What MUST the caps do? . . .
1. Get net presence. Start with Laich, but others must as well. Good bet, how about Clark?
2. Stay out of the penalty box. Caps are still committing way too many penalties.
3. Ignore Sean Avery.
4. Stop firing from afar and work the puck in, get closer, more methodical shots against King Henry.