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INEXCUSABLE March 13, 2013

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.

Caps Nation, I don’t know what to tell you.

Coming out of Thursday night’s 7-1 dismantling of the Florida Panthers, the Caps suddenly looked like they had a genuine shot at turning their season around.  (Note well the use of past tense.)  Up ahead, a visit to the Island, where the Islanders had struggled; a home game against the Rangers, who hadn’t exactly been tearing up the pea patch away from MSG; and a home game against the Hurricanes, which everyone knew would go a long way in determining the Caps’ chances of winning the Southeast Division.  The games against the New York teams were “should win”; tonight’s Carolina game was effectively “must win.”

So what happened?  The Caps proceeded to lose all three games by an aggregate score of 13 to 3.

9 of the Capitals’ next 11 games are on the road.  The Caps’ current road record is an abysmal 3-7-1.  I might still have held out hope for a sudden reversal of fortune; but the Caps’ “efforts” tonight–and even using quote marks here seems an insufficient negation–have more or less disabused me of any hope I might have had left for this season.

The third goal was the final straw:  Carolina iced the puck, but Jeff Schultz did not get back to touch up in time; the puck was in the Washington net within a matter of seconds.

I’ll be blunt:  Jeff Schultz owes Braden Holtby a steak dinner and a public written apology for such a half-hearted, piss-poor play.  There is NO excuse for that.  None.

Regarding Holtby–he did absolutely everything he could to keep the Caps in this game.  A bank shot from behind the net, a deflection, Schultz’s brain-fart, and an empty-netter is a horrible way to watch a sailboat go up on the scoreboard.  Holtby deserved much, much better than this.

So where, exactly, was the urgency from the rest of the team?  And where do I begin?  To start, I have to say, I haven’t seen that much swing-and-a-miss since the last time I took batting practice in Little League.  And the rest?  The passing was atrocious, the Caps couldn’t seem to get past the neutral zone, they weren’t working hard enough to draw penalties, only three of them (Ward, Chimera, and Beagle) won the majority of their faceoffs, and the cycle game looked about as suspicious as Lance Armstrong’s.

All this, in a game the Caps knew they had to win, and on the day after they were given a day off to boot.

And so I have to start re-thinking what’s come so far this season.

The assumption was, that the Caps’ 2-8-1 start could be explained away by a lot of new players playing for a brand new coach, who was teaching a brand new system, and that by the time the Caps finally “got it”, they were already in a 2-8-1 hole.  After the Caps won 8 of their next 11, the assumption was that this was the new normal, and they were going to start making their way back into contention.

In light of the most recent three games, all of that needs to be re-thought.

Now, to be fair, the Capitals have been facing more extenuating circumstances than most teams ever see in one season.  Short season, new blood, less than a week to learn a new system, injuries to key players, weird schedule, and the list probably goes on.

But true champions do not give in to circumstance:  they OVERCOME circumstance.  Not these Capitals:  tonight, they played a must-win divisional game like it was some meaningless preseason game up in Baltimore.

The Stanley Cup isn’t coming to Washington this year.  Period.  If the past three games have shown me anything, it is that this team, as constituted, simply does not have what it takes.

Now, I’d love to be wrong.  I’d love to see the Capitals take to the road, break hearts at a lot of Eastern Conference barns, and go into April with a legitimate shot at a playoff spot, and a roster full of players with a champion’s heart.  I’d love to be able to anticipate hockey in June in DC, and I’d love to look forward to breaking a serious sweat in my cloak.

But after watching the Capitals stink up the joint in a must-win game, I must admit, I’m already looking around for the mothballs.

Do not misunderstand:  I still love this team, and I will continue to intend the best for each and every one of the players for as long as they’re with the Capitals.  I’ll still be at every game I am physically able to attend, cheering the Caps on to whatever victories they choose to pursue this year.  The players may very well have given up on this season, but I’m not giving up on them.

But I cannot, and will not, defend the indefensible.  I cannot, and will not, accept the unacceptable.  And I cannot, and will not, excuse the inexcusable.  The Capitals have much, much to be called to account for in these most recent three games.  The level of play has been inexcusable.

But, as I said, I’m not leaving.  I thoroughly expect to have my heart broken many, many times in the next month and a half.  I expect there will be nights when I’m one of the last few fans in their seats at the final horn.  I expect that some of the men on the current roster will be playing elsewhere by this time next month.  And I expect that for most, if not all of them, I’ll be genuinely sad to see them go.

This season has been a very, very difficult one.  And I know there will be many more difficulties to come.

But o, how I wish that this team, and these players, could have done something special this year.  And while the possibility of that is yet still there, it is distant, and fast receding.  O, how I wish that this could have been the year I at last got to hear, “Alexander Ovechkin, come get the Stanley Cup.”   And while that may yet happen, the impediments to be overcome are now nigh on insurmountable.  O, how I wish that this could have been the year when I got to experience firsthand the drama, the passion, the pageantry of the Stanley Cup Finals here in Washington, DC.  And while that may yet happen, I cannot believe right now that this team, the team that I watched perform so horridly at Verizon Center tonight, has within it the makings of a champion.  And o, how I wish to be wrong!

If tonight was the first game of the rest of the Capitals’ season, then o, what a long and lamentable season it will be!

Tonight, I mourn, for hope for this season is far removed from me.  This season is scarcely halfway run, and already, I weep for all that might have been.



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