The Caps have John Carlson and Karl Alzner, veterans of a Calder Cup team in Hershey that came back from 0-2 down in the Finals against Texas in 2010 to win going away in the next four games. And there is Michal Neuvirth, a goalie who won two straight Calder Cups and in doing so not only defeated the likes of Vancouver’s Cory Schneider (in the 2009 Calder Finals) and Los Angeles’ Jonathan Bernier (in the 2010 Calder semis), but improbably authored shutouts in Games 6 and 7 in the second round of the 2009 playoffs against perhaps Hershey’s most hated rival, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
And no doubt there are examples of winning among other players on this Capitals roster. Just not in Washington.
And as the Caps find themselves holding onto their own playoff destiny this season by the flimsiest of grips, it begs the question of “why?” Why does one read, after Game 80 of the regular season, such quotes as these from players after last night’s 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning?...
"We obviously let off the gas, and there was a lot of bad turnovers and sloppy play. That’s the sign of a team that, in my opinion, thinks they had it a little bit too good. It was a big-time error by us. We never should’ve had that game be where it was."
"Not being able to get a single point tied with three minutes left, it’s disappointing to say the least. We need to make sure that we’re closing out teams or finding ways to make sure that we’re getting points."
"We didn’t come out the way we needed to and took it for granted that it was a team that wasn’t in the playoffs and we had a chance to make [the postseason]. We got a little pressure off ourselves from being out of the playoffs to in the playoffs by just having Buffalo lose. With Florida only a few points [away], you start to think about all these things, ‘We win this tonight we’re in third place’ and you get ahead of yourself. We just didn’t come out and pound them like we should have."
"Missed assignments a bit and it ends up in your net. When you’ve got guys like Stamkos on the ice, you’ve got to be extra careful. We battled back, but it’s not good enough."
If there was a “Stanley Cup” for quotes, the Caps would have as storied a history as the Montreal Canadiens. How can a team that has any serious aspirations for a championship at this level be saying the same things in April that they were saying in November? Talk of bad turnovers, sloppy play, missed assignments. This isn’t the shakedown cruise for the team that early games in the season can be. This is the fight for their playoff lives.
How is it that the same players who have shown an ability to meet adversity and beat it at one level seem thoroughly unprepared or unable to do the same at this level? Put in starker terms, what is the difference between Hershey and Washington? Maybe it is the difference between an organization in which winning is not so much expected (it is) as demanded and one where… well, where it isn’t. There appear to be two entirely different cultures two hours apart, and one wonders if the traits inculcated in one appear, with time, to fade away in the other.
Some of these guys need to find their inner “Hershey” and right quick. Or it is going to be just another “Washington” sort of spring in these parts.