It’s becoming an all-too-familiar pattern in Washington. Another great regular season, followed by another playoff catastrophe for the Capitals.
Let the finger pointing begin.
The easiest and most obvious target seemingly is captain Alex Ovechkin. After taking a week off near the end of March, Ovechkin vowed to be ready to lead Washington deep into the postseason. Instead, the Caps and their captain have capsized again. Despite leading his team in playoff scoring, Ovie’s inability to come through in the clutch or win the big game in the postseason is becoming as glaring as the gap between his teeth.
And what has happened to Nicklas Backstrom? After watching his regular season point totals tumble to a substandard 65 this year (down from 101 Pts. in 2009-10), he has been practically invisible for the Caps this postseason, registering a mere 2 assists in 8 playoff games (thru Tuesday night). Not nearly good enough.
While there are certainly other players who’ve under-performed in Round 2 vs. Tampa Bay, the person who has to bear the brunt of the responsibility is Head Coach Bruce Boudreau. And following this latest playoff flop, he may even find himself on his way out of Washington after it’s all said and done.
Despite leading his team to four Southeast Division titles, two regular season Conference titles and a President’s Trophy in his four seasons behind the Capitals’ bench, Boudreau has yet to prove he can get his team over the hump when it counts. Their pivotal Game 3 vs. the Lightning provided the most recent proof of his team’s lack of discipline and inability to elevate. With their backs against the wall down 2-0 in the series, this game will best be remembered for an inexcusable Too Many Men penalty early in the first period that took the opening goal off the board for the Caps and a lacklustre final frame that saw Washington outshot 15-5 while allowing two goals in 0:24 seconds, costing the Capitals the game and ultimately the series.
Washington came out flat in the 3rd period of their all-important Game 3, and much of that responsibility has to fall on Boudreau’s inability to properly prepare and lead this team. “I think we as a group lost our composure and had giveaways,” conceded Boudreau, in referring to his team’s final 20 minutes.
On the flipside, first-year Lightning Head Coach Guy Boucher portrayed a completely different attitude when describing his team’s third period rally to take a stranglehold on the series. “We just got back and reloaded and came out the way we’re supposed to play,” proclaimed Boucher postgame. “We had a lot of enthusiasm and not being scared to lose, but being hungry to win.”
It’s hard to say if Boucher was taking an indirect shot at the Capitals when inferring to his team as “not being scared to lose”. But his comments manage to astutely point out the difference between winning and losing in the playoffs, a concept the Capitals have been unable to grasp under Boudreau’s tenure.
Boudreau certainly wouldn’t be the first Head Coach with regular season success canned for not living up to playoff expectations. Despite four straight winning seasons in San Jose, Ron Wilson was unceremoniously fired by the Sharks following the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs after losing in the second round for a third year in a row.
With only two playoff series wins to his name in four seasons, Boudreau is undoubtedly treading on thin ice in Washington. After their latest playoff collapse, don’t be surprised to see Caps’ GM George McPhee finally pull the trigger on their bald bench boss, in an attempt to get more out of his talented squad and make a serious run at the Stanley Cup.