Well, I’m a tad disappointed. After a strong start gave them no goals, the Washington Capitals self-immolated, losing Game Two in disastrous fashion.
In the first, Washington had all the offense but no goals to show for it. That momentum carried into in the second, but Matt Cullen’s shorthanded goal suddenly put the Caps on their heels. They responded immediately with Matt Niskanen’s one-timer off Alex Ovechkin’s pass, but the Pens surged after that. Sidney Crosby carved up three Caps D to serve Phil Kessel. Jake Guentzel beat Braden Holtby short-side on a breakaway.
Holtby was pulled at the second intermission, with Philipp Grubauer taking his spot. He was instantly tested and found wanting on an early power play converted by Phil Kessel. Nick Backstrom gave fans some spirit by finishing Alex Ovechkin’s chance, but Evgeni Malkin crushed those spirits with a helpful bounce. Jake Guentzel’s empty-netter made it 6-2.
Caps lose 6-2. Penguins lead the series 2-0.
James Baldwin face of the night
So, let’s talk about goaltending, but also really about life.
Jake Guentzel got an odd-man break in the final five minutes of the second period and beat Braden Holtby on the near side. It was an uncharacteristically bad read by Holtby and the reason he was pulled.
All fake due respect to the slavering morons who grunt empty platitudes like “he’s gotta have that,” but righteously and absolutely placing blame solely on the goalie is stupid, even though it feels good.
The Penguins were three-for-three on odd-man rushes allowed by the Caps skaters in the second period. The first was a fast, one-on-zero, shorthanded goal; the second was the world’s best playmaker undressing three Capitals before handing a grade-A chance to one of the world’s best shooters. The third was a total beach ball, and Holtby blew it.
He hasn’t been his usual self — his usual self being the single best playoff goalie in NHL history, without hyperbole — this postseason. Even in the Leafs series, Holtby didn’t give have the quiet, sterling confidence that characterizes his game.
But if you think he’s the sole reason why the Caps lost, then you’re imagining a game simpler than the one actually being played. Holtby has had three goals supporting his effort through one and two-thirds games, and he’s watched as his skaters punctuate their overall good play with blatant failures in neutral that make the opponent’s chances way too dangerous.
It’s not a simple game. When things go wrong, as they clearly effing have here, a simplistic response is rarely helpful. The Caps have tried scapegoating before: it cost them their offense and their coach, and it halted their progress for three miserable seasons. Scratching the itch feels good in the moment, but it’s not a real solution among grownups, which I suppose is why it flourishes on the internet.
Busy, busy, busy.
So, down two games to none and heading on the road, here’s what the Caps need to do: Stay the goddamned course. It’s not an accident that they’ve won two straight regular-season titles. They’ve figured this stuff out already. Don’t all of a sudden start doubting everything because bad bounces bred big mistakes.
It’s a question of character as much as a question of strategy. Let’s see what the Caps are made of.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.