That’a a lot of frustration to build up, but that’s how many combined years the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs will take to the ice tonight without having sipped from the Stanley Cup.
And you thought you had a bad day?
It’s one thing for the Caps to have realized 33 consecutive years of failure, but the Leafs? For whose fans winning the Cup is a birthright? In their 40th season of futility? It makes one almost weep blue and white tears. Almost.
The Caps’ playoff hopes evaporated with the last of the egg nog long about the end of December. But the Leafs are seeing their chances peeling away like a fresh scab off of an old wound.
Special teams have been brutal for the Leafs. In the past dozen they are 5-for-53 on the power play (9.4 percent) while killing off only 45 of 59 shorthanded situations (76.3 percent). They’ve given up a power play goal in nine of their last 12 games and two or more in four of those. It isn’t helping that they’ve been shorthanded at least five times in seven of the 12 games. Not even home cooking helps. They are 1-3-2 at Air Canada Centre in this stretch.
The Leafs have been led, if that is the right word, by Mats Sundin (5-7-12, +2) and Nik Antropov (4-3-7, -1) over the last 12. Compounding the problem for the Leafs is that they are suffering a bit of an injury bug, with Pavel Kubina, Tomas Kaberle, Michael Peca, and Kyle Wellwood. The quartet has missed a combined 30 man-games of the 48 available to them over the last 12.
Andrew Raycroft has taken the bulk of the goaltending duty over the past 12, but it hasn’t been a joy ride for him, either . . . 4-4-3, 3.44, .867.
For the Leafs, things are not looking good.
For the Caps, the object is to get youngsters playing time and to evaluate their progress. This is the silver lining in the thunder clouds that have rained on the last half of the season. The club should be getting a clearer picture of just what they need in the coming off season. You have to look for such things when you are 1-5-4 in the last ten (all four extra time losses coming by shootout).
The Caps defense and goaltending has been lacking in this latest stretch of problems. Four times in ten games the Caps have given up at least five goals. Penalty killing has been a disaster – only 31 kills in 44 shorthanded situations (70.5 percent). Three times the Caps have yielded three power play goals in a game (they lost each one, to no surprise). Only twice have they held an opponent without a power play goal (both shootout losses).
This has the earmarks of a penalty-filled, special-teams goal-fest. The Caps have been struggled for going on three months, and the Leafs are finally settling into what for them has been familiar territory for four decades. It wont be pretty, but it might be entertaining.Caps 5 - Leafs 4