Blog Entry

Caps facing monumental collapse

Posted on: April 26, 2010 11:49 pm
Edited on: April 27, 2010 11:03 am

The tag line for the NHL’s playoff promos this spring is “History will be made.”

Right now, the Montreal Canadiens will be happy to repeat it. And they just might after forcing a Game 7 against Washington with an impressive 4-1 win over the Caps.

Montreal has won more Stanley Cups than anyone, yet in their long and storied past, the Canadiens have managed to rebound from a 3-1 series deficit only once. That was back in 2004 when they sent higher-seeded Boston packing after the first round, a feat that could plausibly be duplicated against the Eastern Conference champion Capitals.

And if it does, you’ll have to look no further than Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak to understand why. The 24-year-old Slovak who started this season as the team’s backup has turned this series around with back-to-back superb performances, the latest one bordering on the remarkable.

“Sometimes goalies get in a zone where nothing is going to beat them, he was in that zone,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He was just out of his mind.”

Boudreau may have actually been understating things. Halak was that good, early in the game, late and at all points in between frustrating the Capitals in what was arguably their best outing of this series. And he had to be because Washington did a lot of things it wanted on the attack. The Capitals matched the Canadiens great speed by moving the puck well through the neutral zone and they spent a lot of time in Montreal’s zone while creating traffic in front of the net.

All in all it was a nice bounce back from a tepid effort at home two nights earlier, a high-energy effort that saw Washington fire 54 shots. But for all the pressure the NHL’s best offense was able to put on Halak, the Caps couldn’t find the back of the net until it didn’t really matter.

Montreal actually set the tone early despite the lopsided numbers  on the shot clock, in large part thanks to the work from their energy third and fourth lines, which forechecked aggressively and kept pounding the Washington defensemen deep in their own end. The effort contained the Caps to a certain extent, and Montreal’s shutdown defensemen Hal Gill and Josh Georges did some fine work whenever big guns Alex Ovechkin and  Nicklas Backstrom were on the ice. But keeping Washington in check indefinitely is next to impossible and the Canadiens didn’t.

The Capitals had plenty of chances, one of the best coming in the opening minutes when Halak robbed Alexander Semin from in close and gave the visitors an idea of what was in store. Halak made several other big stops before the period was over, a couple when Washington had 74 seconds with a two-man advantage.

Problem is Washington’s power play, the league’s best during the regular season, has been the bane of its existence during this series, and came up short in that pivotal situation. By that time though, the Canadiens had taken the lead on a pair of Mike Cammalleri goals within two minutes. And on this night, that was enough for Halak.

“Jaro stood on his head tonight,” Cammalleri said.

Actually he did more than that. Halak flopped. He dived. He kicked out his legs. He flashed his glove. He put up the kind of wall in goal that had to make the Caps think they were shooting at a Sumo wrestler.  And he sent this series back to Washington with the Capitals wondering what, if anything they can do to beat him.

“We have no choice have to wipe the slate clean,” Boudreau said. “If you start thinking and let him get inside your head, then you’re in trouble.”

Truth is Washington is already in trouble as it heads to its fourth seventh game in as many playoff series over the last three years. The Capitals have won one of those, but after running away from the pack during the regular season and coming into this series as heavy favorites, they’ll be facing the kind of pressure they didn’t before.

And they’ll have to prove they have the character to match their talent. After their last two efforts, you have to wonder if they do.


Category: NHL

Since: Mar 22, 2010
Posted on: April 28, 2010 9:47 pm

Caps facing monumental collapse

Montreal was more better than Washington.

Since: Apr 26, 2010
Posted on: April 28, 2010 5:49 pm

Caps facing monumental collapse

I really thought Boudreau was a really good fit for this team, the way he came up and made them instant winners.  Now, I'm not so sure.  He doesn't seem to be able to make up his mind on some things.  I thought I remembered reading (before game 1) that Theodore was his guy and he would not be on a short leash, and then, voila, he outta there.  He seems to throw at least one of his players under the bus after every loss.  Perhaps it really is the level of competition in the caps division that has inflated their points.  (Still have to admit, they can be one scary offensive team).

Since: Mar 7, 2009
Posted on: April 28, 2010 1:15 am

Caps facing monumental collapse

I agree with you completely. I was concerned about it going into the postseason and that first game only reinforced the reality. Could Washington have had such a points bonanza during the season because it simply had no real competition within its own division? It would appear so since Montreal has made the Caps look like a 4th or 5th seed by controlling time and space. Something they indeed were used to vying for that final and hard fought for 8th seed. Both teams earned their way in but Montreal appears to have seasoned where Washington may have shown up just plain spoiled.

Since: Sep 8, 2006
Posted on: April 27, 2010 5:41 pm

Caps facing monumental collapse

The hard decision for Washington is who to start in net. Varlamov is a great young goalie but is just not ready yet. Theodore has played poorly but he was clearly the better of the two this year and does have some playoff success behind him from a while ago. The Caps are a team that doesn't play defense very well and make even more mistakes when they open up. Give them a lead and they'll run away with the game, get behind and they give up too many opportunities for a shaky goalie. So they have to start the least shaky goalie and hope they score first.
Myself, I'm hoping Halak has something left in the tank after that last game 

Since: Apr 27, 2010
Posted on: April 27, 2010 3:25 pm

Caps facing monumental collapse

At the game last night....Halak is in their heads....both Ovie and Green had facial expressions of disbelief on some the shots.  They started missing the net as they kept trying to pick the top corner as the game wore on.  Unless they shake it off and get a couple of quick goals early tomorrow they are going down.

Since: Sep 7, 2006
Posted on: April 27, 2010 3:04 pm

Caps facing monumental collapse

I think the lack of stregnth in the division the Caps play in is starting to show itself.  now they are playing a team who was playing playoff hockey (so to speak) the last few weeks of the regular season, and the Caps are having trouble trying to find their game.

Since: Apr 2, 2010
Posted on: April 27, 2010 2:20 pm

Caps facing monumental collapse

"That's called playoff hockey." nice post, isatool. i'm looking at boudreau, too. he doesn't seem to be doing much to help his guys. and the thing about never getting out of a series in less than seven games doesn't reflect too well on him. in fairness, they had every right to expect to win that game. when you put 54 on net and only one goes in, it is not ALL the coach's fault. and the odds are that pouring on the more of the same in game 7 will lead to a winning result. but boudreau's coaching idea seems to be to tell the guys to score and win. he's got some ideas on mixing up the line combinations, but doesn't seem committed to anything. and they are not good enough on the back end. even if they advance out of this round, it is hard to see them winning the cup if they have to score 5 goals every night.
great game to watch! halak is the man!

Since: Feb 12, 2008
Posted on: April 27, 2010 12:16 pm

Caps facing monumental collapse

I don't see how having to many weapons could be a bad thing.  Look the Caps problem is not personnel it's the fact that they are a team that's only good at playing one style of hockey and that is score score score and score some more...  to MOntreal's credit they have perfectly executed a well crafted game plan that has one purpose which is too take away the Caps scorers by blocking shots, clogging the passing lanes, and control the boards.   That plus an all world performance by their net minder the last 2 games... this has proved problematic for the Caps because the Caps are a one dimensional team and have failed miserably at adapting its style of play to overcome Montreal's 1-2-2 modified trap system. It has nothing to do with choking or players being in a funk, it's just that Boudreau's run and gun style just isn't working against Montreal and he's done a poor job of overcoming the obstacles that Montreal is imposing.  If the Caps collapse I think you have to take a strong look at Boudreau and his team was not able to make the necessary adjustments. In tight defensive games you have to match it with physical play and get guys in front of the net when the oppositions goalie is as hot as Halak has been. That's called playoff hockey.

Since: Sep 8, 2006
Posted on: April 27, 2010 12:00 pm

Caps facing monumental collapse

If the shot clock were all that mattered then you'd be right. The Habs only lost game two because Halak stank that night, Montreal did score 5 goals and lead for pretty much the whole game. So if Halak hadn't played very badly in game 2 and 3 or if they had pulled Halak in favour of Price in game 2, the series would be over now.

Since: Feb 7, 2008
Posted on: April 27, 2010 10:04 am

Caps facing monumental collapse

Umm...they just put 53 shots on net in a non-overtime game.  They have outshot Montreal in every single game (I believe, not certain.  Been watching my B's upset Buffalo).  To say they have been dominated by Montreal is clearly assinine on your part and shows you don't have much knowledge of hockey. 

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