Really??? After the Caps game 2 6-2 loss I don’t know what else to say. I could possibly understand going down 2-0 on home ice. I could maybe see a one-goal loss in both games. A four-goal difference is a statement and not a good one by the Caps. The really bad part is, we have of course seen this movie before. Last year, round two, against these same Pittsburgh Penguins. Yes, I know the series isn’t over. Yes, these are not the same Caps. Yes, they can still win. No, this is not supposed to be easy. It just looks to familiar and its not supposed to happen this year.
This game started off right. The Caps came out aggressive. They were shooting, they were hitting and they were minimizing the Penguins time in the Caps zone. I saw two problems one really obvious and one not immediately obvious. First, the puck wasn’t going in the net. Great chances but not great finishes. Second, the frenzied start pushed the Penguins back on their heels but still wasn’t a counter for their speed. For every little mistake the Caps made, the insanely fast counterattack of the Penguins was a match and usually resulted in a point on the board. It also doesn’t help when Holtby is letting in softies. The five-hole goal. The short side goal. I know he wants those back. I’m not letting the Caps D or the rest of the team off the hook either. They have to stop the fast breaks and minimize the breakaways. Holtby though, has to make the saves. I get pulling Holtby after four goals. However, Grubauer was absolutely not a match for the Penguins. He let in two goals on four shots.
At first I thought the Caps weren’t ratcheting it up and taking it to a higher playoff level. I saw them take it to a whole other gear against the Leafs with good results. The Leafs are a young team who could be rattled and didn’t have the composure to regroup. Problem solved. These Penguins won the Stanley Cup last year and their not gonna scare because the Caps make a frenzied push. They know the Caps will make a mistake. They know they are faster. Most importantly when the Penguins get quality scoring chances they score. The Caps have the skill they have to make it count.
Game three is in Pittsburgh and the Caps need to make a different statement. The offensive push needs to stay but it needs to be used with a healthy respect for the counterattack. The heavy hitting needs to also stay. It seems to be the Caps best counter to the Penguin’s speed. The Caps can’t lay off but they can’t be reckless either. Holtby needs to be the impenetrable wall we’re used to. These Caps have shown they can learn and adjust to the series. Its time for an evolution. If the Caps can shake this off and win game three, I think the biggest win will be for their psyche. If not I’m not sure where they go from here. If you built your team for this series and knew you were going to be here you need to win it.