Joffrey Lupul sure looks excited, doesn't he? You would be too if you got to play Washington tonight.
It's kind of a secret, but the Capitals are kind of awful. Since the Flyers and Caps last tangled on February 24th, the Capitals have had only one regulation win in seven games, and that one win was against Atlanta. That's pretty sad.
So what has been their downfall? Two obvious things, and one thing that hasn't gotten talked about a whole lot.
The first is a complete lack of secondary scoring, which JP wrote about just yesterday over at Japer's Rink (which is probably the best team focused blog in the NHL blogosphere). The scoring they have comes almost entirely from four guys they were able to get with first round draft picks: Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Mike Green, and Nicklas Backstrom. Of the four, all but Green were obtained with picks that were so high because the Caps were so bad. Green was the 29th pick in the same year as Ovechkin (2004), a draft year where the Caps enjoyed three first round picks.
The second issue is goaltending. Some are in denial about the problem, but it's there. Jose Theodore is currently rocking a less than mediocre save percentage of .900. He has won all of zero second round playoff series in his career, in four attempts. The last three times, his team got swept. For a team with Stanley Cup aspirations, that's a disaster.
Martin Biron, on the other hand, has won 80% of his career second round games. Booya.
There was sort of a goalie controversy with Brent Johnson earlier in the year, which ended with a decent streak from Theodore and Johnson's injury. Simeon Varlamov showed a lot of potential, but they sent him back to Hershey for reasons I don't know.
But as I see it, the real problem the Caps are having stems from a lack of potent veteran leadership. They've been without a real captain all season with Chris Clark out so much. Ovechkin is a great energy guy and a good scorer, but he's not much of a leader, and his game revolves so much around how he dominates individually that he's not much of a captain-type. Sergei Fedorov is the only real veteran to speak of, but he's definitely not someone with any sort of leadership qualities, having been in the league so many years and never developing into a great locker room guy. The Caps don't have any players outside of Fedorov who know what it takes to win Cups, who know what it's like to go wire-to-wire as a favorite. And the wear of that seems to be proving to be their downfall.
Brooks Laich is a hell of a player and a real likeable, team guy, and he really should get the C before the playoffs start. That might help. But they're in trouble. A lot of trouble.
Can't say that I mind one bit.
As long as they don't completely roll over and gift the Penguins into the second round. That would suck.