Luck Can Only Take You So Far: Washington Capitals Round Two

Scott ZweibelContributor IMay 7, 2009

PITTSBURGH - MAY 06:  Goaltender Simeon Varlamov #40 of the Washington Capitals attempts to make a save as Tyler Kennedy #48 of the Pittsburgh Penguins moves in for the rebound during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinal Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Mellon Arena on May 6, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Hey Washington Capitals...WAKE UP!

That should be the message Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau is conveying to his team today, as they try to rebound from a 3-2 overtime defeat in Pittsburgh last night.

So far, in this Eastern Conference semi-final series, the Penguins have out-worked the Capitals. They (Pittsburgh) have had many more scoring chances, power plays, and momentum changing opportunities.The Capitals are extremely lucky to be leading the series at this point.

Had it not been for the outstanding play of MVP candidate Alexander Ovechkin, and the meteoric rise of rookie netminder Simeon Varlamov; the Capitals would be golfing right about now.

Here are my observations on the problems so far in this series:


  • All of the Capitals defenders have been slow, sloppy, and have lacked grit.
  • Mike Green has been terrible. He is obviously hampered by an upper body injury of some variety, and should either take a seat, or find his game again quickly. This is not the Norris Trophy candidate we had during the regular season.
  • Tom Poti is also playing through pain, with his lingering groin injury and has not been able to engage attacking forwards.
  • All Capitals defensemen have been losing battles in their own zone and allowing Pittsburgh to dictate play and press for long periods of zone time.


  • Lack of anything from Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich, and Viktor Kozlov. Semin's shooting and stick-handling skills are too important to the possession game, Laich needs to drive to the crease more often, and Kozlov has to use his size to take defenders off of Alex Ovechkin.
  • Too many over-passing sequences, followed up with turnovers and lack of engaged backchecking. Sloppy play, leads to fatigue, scrambling, and lack of puck possession.
  • Relying on Alexander Ovechkin to do everything. The Russian Machine is incredible, but expecting him to win one-on-four battles every shift is a bit silly.
  • Inserting Michael Nylander in the line up was a huge mistake. Nylander too a stupid penalty, which could have cost the Capitals early on in the game. He was ineffective as a checker, and did not create on the offensive rushes.


  • Nothing wrong here. Simeon Varlamov has been simply brilliant, and is the only reason that Washington is still in this series.

Hopefully, the Washington Capitals will wake up. Regardless of what the referees see and don't see, call and do not call, the Capitals need to stop taking penalties. As much as I would like to comment on the NHL conspiracy and inconsistencies, it really comes down to execution on the part of the teams.

The Capitals need to play disciplined hockey, attack Marc-Andre Fleury, reduce giveaways, and win one-on-one battles.

Washington cannot let the Penguins back in the series, by going back to Washington tied at two games apiece. That is a recipe for disaster, especially with game five of the series coming on no rest (due to scheduling).

Game four will be a crucial test for the banged up Capitals defense, the less than engaged offense, and especially the coaching staff. Bruce Boudreau needs to put some desperation and drive in the hearts of the entire team.

I look for some slightly tweaked lines, return of checking forward Eric Fehr (instead of Nylander), possibly the return of John Erskine on defense (though Tyler Sloan filled in well), and finally, a little more from Alexander Semin.

Those are the keys to staying ahead of Pittsburgh and splitting the games in the Iron City.

As always, enjoy the game!


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