The Washington Capitals have a bad habit: they ease into games, to borrow a phrase from the greatest television show of all time, “like an old man into a warm bath.”
It seems like just about every game this series, and last series, and last postseason, and the postseason before (get it?), the opening puck drop sets off the Capitals’ opponents like hornets in a maraca. Furious urgency, thy name is everyone else. The kill-or-be-killed, win-or-go-home, hockey-platitude-du-jour nature of the playoffs seems routinely lost on the Capitals until their asses are already halfway into the hand basket.
There is a statistic that I hate, because it is stupid, but that I am still going to go ahead and quote here: “Hockey teams that score first usually win.”
This is a dumb statistic, primarily because hockey is a sport where teams routinely fail to score at all. They’re called “shutouts,” and they happen. But the crux of this cretinous quote is still true: every goal a team allows early in a game is one more they have to score by the end of the game to win. Every early deficit conceded is a monkey wrench in the coach’s game plan, potentially requiring adjustment, and straying from the team’s strengths.
The Capitals got down 4-1 in Game 6. They came roaring sharply back in the later periods, like the MGM lion in high-def. They often do, and sometimes, it’s enough to make up for the slow start.
Except that in addition to the nasty little habit of allowing really early goals, they have one other one: allowing last-second goals.
Aw Come On, Do We Have To?
Like a well-engineered valve or a jaded porn star, the Capitals can only perform under pressure, it seems.
Sure, Washington left Game 4 in DC up 3-1 in the series, with an opportunity to end things early, rest up for the next round, demonstrate their legitimacy to themselves and their fans, and save the good people of the greater Washington metropolitan area the astronomical bills from Kaiser-Permanente for all those cardiac episodes.
But, like, nah.
Washington’s favorite move, like a mortgage company with paranoia, is to ratchet up the nervous interest. Why eliminate a team without the chance of yourself being eliminated? Where’s the fun in that? Why perform unless you’re looking death in the eye? The Washington Capitals, operating under these mantras that make for either a bad hockey team or an excellent circus, are 3-5 in their last eight Game 7s, and of the eleven playoff series the Caps have been in since Ovechkin was drafted, nine of those went to Game 7.
The Capitals are either masochists, sadists, or exhibitionists. I can stand their kinks so long as when the night’s over, they end up on top.
Let’s hope that the Caps can get it figured out before Game 7 on Wednesday.