We certainly didn’t mean to lay all the blame of the Capitals’ loss in New York on the inexplicable-double-penalty-calling officials, but we may have given off that impression. With last night’s loss against the Flyers seemingly un-blamable on the refs, we must of course fall back on the usual (though in this case completely legitimate) scapegoat of injuries. Two words: Clark, Semin. Perhaps a third as well: Poti. Not many teams could well-endure the absence of a pair of 30-goal scorers (not to mention the absence of a valuable PP-point-playing defenseman).
I do truly hate to keep bringing up the name of this team, but the Rangers have only one more standings point than the Capitals right now (and 12 fewer goals; why isn’t Henrik Lundquvist getting Scott Gomez/Chris Drury money. Maybe he is; I don’t care). The lauded Rangers are supposed to be dominating the East with their ridiculous offense. They’re not. But critics continue to cling to hope that this is a Cup-worthy team. The Caps haven’t earned such benefit of the doubt yet, but that’s to be expected. A 3-0 start garnered no respect, so a 2-8 record since then will bury them in many people’s minds.
A pessimist might point out that the Capitals are 14th in the East with 10 points, only two ahead of those knee-jerk-coach-firing Atlanta Thrashers. A more optimistic look at the early-season standings, however, would reveal that the Caps are merely four points out of fifth place; not really a bad place to be with months to go in the season.
Going back to those ESPN power rankings for a moment: New Jersey at #30, the absolute bottom of everything? Wow. Check out the Thrashers above the Devils. New Jersey has been christened by the Chris Berman/Stuart Scott network as “The Worst Team in the NHL.” I never thought I’d live so long. Is Dainius Zubrus not the dynamic difference maker so many thought he was?
Yahoo!’s teaser for the Caps-Flyers game recap read “The Flyers finally broke the Capitals’ dominance…” Now, this dominance could really only refer to last season’s four-game sweep of the Flyers, but still it’s an indication that, even last year, the Caps were not, and currently are not, quite the pushovers many see them as.
Watching the game on TV, it seemed that the crowd was not quite as overrun with Flyers’ fans as it has been in years past. And by years past I mean prior to last year, when personal experience at MCI/Verizon Center revealed a much smaller (or at least much quieter, possibly because of the last-place nature of their team) Flyers’ fans contingent than I was used to. Maybe that’s an encouraging sign (if my perceptions were accurate), that there is at least one less visiting team this year to potentially overwhelm the Caps’ faithful with their own legion of unwashed.
It was a one-goal loss, a loss that the aforementioned 30-goal-scorers and PP-quarterbacking defenseman could have made a significant difference in. It’s these types of games that those three will make a significant difference in as the season goes on. While we look forward to the day when one-goal losses such as this one will turn into one-goal wins (or at least overtime games), we nevertheless take heart in the fact that the Caps (again) turned a 2-goal deficit into a 1-goal hole to make for an interesting finish. Such finishes will ultimately result in lots of victories; we are sure of that.
So yeah, it’s not the best start to what we’d hoped would be Rebound Weekend, with the Caps and Wizards going down. There still are, of course, the 1-7 Jets on the horizon, so that at least could be some measure for joy before Monday comes. Mike Wise thinks so. Seriously, this guy has gone from out-and-out optimism-hating to virtual optimism-marrying. Dmitri Young is jealous of his comeback. Pushing local-sports-‘tism even a little farther, maybe we’ll even be able to rejoice in the first Navy victory over Notre Dame in 43 years. Yes, perhaps that does not strike quite the emotional note that victories by the Caps, Wizards or Skins would strike, but it’s at least one other potential positive to look forward to.
We can salvage this weekend. We will not use such a word (salvage) for the Caps’ and Wizards’ seasons, however. There is too much hockey and basketball left for such surrender-ific words. Things will get better.
Relax. Everything’s going to be fine.