Friday, April 18, 2008

Growing Pains: Flyers 4, Capitals 3 (2 OT)

The Caps and Flyers played a great game last night. Unfortunately the Caps lost and are now trailing the best of seven series, 3 games to 1 with game five here in Washington tomorrow afternoon.

Before this playoff series started, this young Caps team has twelve players and their head coach who've never been in the NHL playoffs before. The Flyers are playing dirty, tough playoff hockey much like the old '70's version of the Broad Street Bullies as the Flyers were known then. It's been very effective so far and a great introduction to playoff hockey for this Caps team. Nothing like a rough and tumble series with an old rival from the old Patrick Division.

It's good Alex Ovechkin and the Caps get exposed to this this early on. It would be much harder to adjust if they faced a finesse team early, got accustomed to it as standard playoff hockey, then get hammered by a physical, dirty team.

If this is their education hopefully us fans can expect a similarly fiery response in any future series. Win or lose, I'm glad this is the type of series the Caps are learning from. Sometimes the best lessons are the most painful.

That said, I thought the Caps played a whole lot better in game four tonight. They didn't let the Flyers intimidate them, they skated hard and played with the same intensity that they did when they were fighting for a post season berth. It was a classic, edge of your seat playoff game. I loved every minute of it.

For the record, I know I called this a new era in Caps hockey in an earlier post. After the game ended I couldn't stop thinking about how this franchise seems to be cursed when it comes to multiple overtime playoff games. The following is a list of the games they have been involved in with multiple overtimes. Home team in bold.

4/11/85 Capitals 2, Islanders 1 (Game two: 2 OT)
4/18/87 Islanders 3, Capitals 2 (Game seven: 4 OT)
4/20/93 Islanders 5, Capitals 4 (Game two: 2 OT)
4/24/93 Islanders 4, Capitals 3 (Game four: 2 OT)
4/24/96 Penguins 3, Capitals 2 (Game four: 4 OT)
4/24/98 Bruins 4, Capitals 3 (Game two: 2 OT)
4/26/98 Capitals 3, Bruins 2 (Game three: 2 OT)
4/20/03 Lightning 2, Capitals 1 (Game six: 2 OT)
4/17/08 Flyers 4, Capitals 3 (Game four, 2 OT)

This current series with the Flyers isn't over just yet but each year with the exception of 1998, the Caps lost the series. Each series was best of seven except 1985, which the Caps lost 3 games to 2 after being up 2 games to 0.

One of the Caps announcers pointed out in discussing Alex Ovechkin and his first playoff series, that in learning to win in the post season, you need to experience the losing. I scratched my head and thought about it and remembered it took Michael Jordan awhile before they got past the Pistons in the NBA playoffs in the early '90's and post season success in the NHL didn't come easy for Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers. Jordan and the Bulls would go on to win six NBA titles and Gretzky and the Oilers won four Stanley Cups together. A part of me that still thinks the Caps can come back though and I won't stop believing in them until the Flyers win that fourth game.

So in closing, the majority of the Caps roster as well as head coach Bruce Boudreau are getting a great education during their first series in the NHL playoffs. If the season should end against the Flyers, hopefully they can review what went wrong and build on it. For Caps owner Ted Leonsis and his General Manager George McPhee, this series will give them an idea on what they need to do to upgrade to roster to go further next year. As much as this 2 OT playoff loss stings me, it doesn't really bother me the way both 4 OT losses did years ago because this is a very young team with a bright future and I'm confident they will learn and improve.

1 comment:

Bill-DC said...

Update: Caps played great, solid hockey today and beat the Flyers 3-2. They still trail the series 3 games to 2 with game 6 on Monday night.

Game 7 is here Tuesday night and I got a ticket to that. I hope it gets to 7 so I am in the house then!