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Reflections on Monday’s Sens Contest November 24, 2009

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.

Reply to: Ted’s Take: We Got One Point…

A 2-goal lead has often been called the most dangerous lead in the game, and that was certainly the case. A flat start in the third against a team that’s among the best in the Northeast this season is, to be diplomatic, disappointing.

Injuries do take their toll. Several players had frighteningly low NHL GP’s, and it showed in places. Our best players, arguably, weren’t. There is, as always, room to improve.

As you point out, the Caps still lead the Southeast, and are in very good position league-wide. Every loss but one has been by one goal. Varlamov–is that, pray tell, Russian for “saving your bacon”?–is stealing points in November, and if he keeps improving, may be stealing entire games by April.

If this is the result of a team that’s banged up and underperforming, imagine what’s possible when the team is completely healthy and playing the full sixty.

I think the central quandary for Caps fans is this: we demand full sixty-minute efforts, every single night, from October to June, and some of us tend to take regular-season losses perhaps a bit harder than we should. Again, it’s because we care about the team, and wish nothing but success for it. So seeing a two-goal lead turn into an overtime loss is no fun.

As to the demand of a full sixty, every night, for nine consecutive months, I’m of two minds. It certainly sounds like it should be a reasonable expectation: after all, these men are professionals in the top league on the planet. By now, they know what is expected of them to compete at this level.

But I’m not so sure it’s as easy as it sounds in the cheap seats. By the time the players ring in the New Year, they’ll have racked up about 20,000 frequent flier miles or thereabouts, and will have spent a not inconsequential amount of time away from their families. Jose Theodore lost his son over the summer, and has recently been excused for further personal matters; David Steckel recently lost his grandmother; and there are no doubt other, lesser matters affecting the players which we fans will never hear about. They’re professionals, yes; the best in the business, yes; but angels they certainly aren’t, and we ignore that human dimension of the sport at the expense of our own happiness.

I do not submit that to excuse subpar performances, or lackluster efforts, or even very bad, game-losing mistakes. I submit it because most of us in the stands–I contend–are ignorant of the modo di vita of NHL players. Some of us may know details of the NHL life, but we don’t know the life. We fans do not have a clue how tough it is to play 13 NHL games in the space of four weeks, with ten thousand miles-plus of travel thrown in for good measure (which is what the Caps will do in December).

I understand a fan’s desire to see his team succeed. I get that. But I also understand that the players, though admittedly well-prepared for their lives, have limits. The players are not piles of polygons on a PlayStation 3; these are, lest we forget, human beings, all of whom have different concerns when they’re only wearing shoes.

Losses are no fun to watch. Blown leads are no fun to watch. Bad mistakes are no fun to watch. We want to see the players win as often as possible. And it should be a priori obvious that the players want to win as often as possible.

But some nights, for whatever reason, it might not be meant to be. And if that is indeed the case, then fretting over such a loss is wasted misery.

So, while Ottawa was a setback, I think we fans need to Lighten up (capitalization intentional). Expect winning efforts, yes; expect winning results, yes. But one overtime loss in November most likely won’t wreck our season.

Although I’m sure Panthers fans would be only too happy to gripe about last year’s season series with Montreal…but that’s another discussion.

See you all at the Phone Booth Wednesday night.



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