Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Caps Ready to Puck For Real?

As we all know, I've been a little more heavily involved with the Washington Caps in light of the Winter Classic coming up (next week) and the HBO 24/7 series. So all NHL news from me will return in a couple of weeks, but for now, I'll be a little monogamous in my pucking.

Recently though, all anyone wanted to pay attention to anyway was the recent losing streak by the Capitals. Further brought to the light by the HBO special, juxtaposed with the Penguins' success led by Sidney Crosby, talk of Bruce Boudreau being fired and trades dominated hockey news. I can't remember one hockey show last week that didn't highlight their struggles.

The Caps then responded Sunday night by finally breaking that eight-game losing stretch with a 3-2 comeback-win in Ottawa against the Senators. That win gave all DC-area sports teams a 3-12 record for December (Yeah Cowboys!).

Following that victory, Washington then showed that they can win by more than one goal by defeating the New Jersey Devils 5-1 in front a loud home crowd. Even though the expected scorers didn't do much, they received much help from players brought up from Hershey and other players who stepped up significantly. All those notes can be found from my post-game piece from The Hockey Writers.

With all the hoopla from the HBO cameras around Verizon Center, the team seemed to be in an obviously better mood than previous games with folks running around, laughing, and someone singing "Hallelujah" in the hallway. Not to mention that I guess it's okay for Alex Semin and Alex Ovechkin to be hanging out in front of the media lounge in just towels (I'm sure it's camera worthy).

Anywho, while I encourage letting the masses know of this improvement by the Caps and signs of confidence returning (hell I did it last night), this should all be taken with a literal grain of salt. This is considering the last three teams the Caps improved against were either struggling mightly (Boston), or just plain old aren't good (Ottawa, New Jersey). Thursday night, the Capitals play the Penguins, who have been 8-2-0 in their last 10 games and have two more points (46) than the Caps (44) in the standings. While the Penguins don't lead anything in terms of standings, they're definitely playing better than the teams Washington has played lately.

As a result, the Caps can't afford a pooper in front of the home crowd, cameras, and NHL Network watchers against the Pens if they don't want to make things more difficult for themselves and to be turned into a sideshow. Of course, you and I, the rational observers, know there are teams doing worse than the Caps, and that the Caps will most likely still make the playoffs. There are other things the NHL and its people can focus on (like the Dallas Stars, or anything Leafs-related that has nothing to do with breakfast food).

However, the reality is that because Washington is receiving so much attention as is, once again, their failure will be showcased. If the Caps win though, I'm pretty sure no one will care and it will be spun as just having won one game out of four with Pittsburgh (I'm strictly going by what a smug fan told me last night).

I will say that the Caps were 3-0-1 the year they lost to Pittsburgh in the second round. While it may seem like the Caps are eternally cursed in the playoffs in general, much less the Penguins in the playoffs, bad things happen to good teams. Just throwing that out there for the sake of saying that it actually isn't the end of the world if the Caps lose tomorrow, but they, and all watchers, shall be prepared for questions. It's just the reality of pucking in the NHL.

Regardless of what happens tomorrow night in Washington against Pittsburgh, I'm sure I'll be declaring shenanigans somewhere.

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