(Title is lyrics from Paolo Nutini's "10/10")
First Round matchup: Montreal Canadiens
What makes the Washington Capitals so special? Why are so many people gunning for them to win Lord Stanley's Cup? What's got me and others doubting that possibility?
I hate to break it to ya, Caps fans, but I don't think this year is your year. But there is always a big chance of proving me wrong.
The Caps have got scoring from every which way you can turn your head to and even some places where you can't! Everyone knows of the talent Alex Ovechkin holds in that weirdly bent blade of his, but what people tend to forget about is people like Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, Brendan Morrison, and the other Russian Alex - Alex Semin.
Scoring is not a problem for them. Even without the Great 8, they can find scoring from everyone else; they proved that during the many games Ovie missed because of suspension and injury. Just because you shut down Ovechkin from hitting the scoresheet, there are the others that you have to look out for.
But every Goliath has its David, and Washington's David is in disguise as a goaltender. Jose Theodore is probably going to be the starter for the Caps, and that doesn't sound so good. Amongst current active goalies in the NHL, Theodore has the league's 31st best GAA (2.81), but he does have the 23rd best save percentage (.911).
If Washington is as good with the puck as people make them out to be, Theodore doesn't have a whole lot to worry about. If the Caps keep the puck in the offensive zone a good bit of the game, there will only be the occasional save Theodore will have to worry about.
But if y'all remember correctly, last year's playoffs Theodore was pulled and replaced by the Russian rookie, Semyon Varlamov. Varly has the NHL's 17th best GAA with 2.55 and is just one spot behind his veteran counterpart in save percentage with .909.
Yea, yeah, he's a boy wonder and impressed/shocked everyone withhis goaltending capabilities in last year's post-season. What still hasn't changed, though, is his glovehand.
Glove side = weak side. How many times has Varlamov been beat on the glovehand? More specifically, high glovehand. He doesn't get that glove up high enough! It's not that he's too slow, it's just his hand doesn't extend to where it should be to stop the puck. How many times have I yelled at the telly because of that. Not that I'm cheering for the Caps or anything, but a weak side needs to be fixed. That will be the Caps' Achilles heel and it will be their downfall. Unless they all step up their game by 7 steps and better their skills.
As a non-Ovechkin fan, I tend to bash on him quite a bit. For instance, a lot of the times he seems like he is more for the individual trophies (Art Ross, Rocket Richard) than the team prize. Hockey is a team game, not a solo show. Points are great, but if you can't get the wins, they mean nothing! Interestingly enough for him, he got robbed of both trophies mentioned today. The Boston Bruins kept him off the scoresheet, leaving him 3 points behind Henrik Sedin for the most points, and frozen at 50 goals whilst his competitors have games tonight to steal the Rocket Richard from Alex the Great. 20-year-old Steven Stamkos (who is the second youngest player to have 50 goals in a season behind the Great One), and current Stanley Cup champion and gold medalist, Sidney Crosby.
Back to the goods - during the regular season, the Caps have had the first ranked PP at 25.2%, but their PK is at 25th place at 78.8% Capitals cannot afford to take too many penalties if their PK is that low. Special teams are what make and break franchises in the playoffs. PP units have to be excellent and aim above 25%, and the PK has to look to be above 80% What passed in the regular season, ain't gonna fly with the elite 16.
Though they may not have the best goaltending, on paper the Caps look good to go. First ranked after trailing after 20%, letting the first goal in isn't the problem, but if they get stuck with a hot goalie, it's going to be hard to win after that.
There aren't many flaws in the Caps, except that they're all fire power and need to tighten up their 2-way game. Defensively, they need to able to come back after a rush and help their goalie out - no matter who's in net. It ain't all about goals, dudes. Sure goals help, but if you can't keep them out of your net, then someone needs a wake-up call.
One of the skaters to watch out for - Nicklas Backstrom
And you can't forget their captain and the 2nd most winningest skater