NHLN Playoff Notebook: Lazy Narratives Galore as Washington can’t get by Pittsburgh

Updated: May 11, 2016 at 12:25 pm by Cam Lewis

This series, from beginning to end, was insane. And Game 6 was the perfect way to wrap it up. 

Unless, of course, you’re a Washington Capitals fan, then this ending was far from perfect. It was close, though. The Capitals rallied back from a 3-0 deficit early in the game with a scratch-and-claw third period, loaded with delay of game power play opportunities and last-minute drama. But even after forcing overtime, they couldn’t get over the hump, and here we are again. 

The Washington Capitals have been eliminated from the playoffs, and the Pittsburgh Penguins will move on to the Eastern Conference Finals. 

I won’t go too much into detail about the game, because everybody should know what happened by now. The Penguins scored five minutes into the game to give themselves a quick 1-0 lead, then they added to it in the second with two goals that came within 30 seconds of each other to make it 3-0. Phil Kessel scored two of the goals, which is odd, because I had been told that you could’t win with him on your team.

At this point, it seemed like the Capitals were pretty much dead, but T.J. Oshie grabbed a last-minute power play goal before the end of the period to make it a game. 

In the third, the Penguins forgot how to clear the puck properly, and took not one, not two, but three delay of game penalties for shooting the puck over the glass. The Capitals capitalized on their chances, as Justin Williams brought them to within one, then six minutes later, John Carlson tied the game with a rocket from the point. 

It really looked here like Washington was on some kind of destiny mission, where they were going to come back in the game, first and the series after being knocked down. It would have been perfect, too, because the Capitals have become accustomed to blowing these kinds of leads in the playoffs. In 2010 they held a 3-1 series lead over the No. 8 seeded Montreal Canadiens, but ended up losing in seven games. Then last year, in the second round, they blew a 3-1 series lead against the New York Rangers that featured some last-minute rallies. I mean, when Jay Beagle makes a play like this, your fortunes are certainly turning, right?

This just had to be their time. Like, after so many heartbreaks, blown leads, and premature exits from the playoffs, the Capitals were going to be on the other side of it for once. But no, that didn’t happen. The Penguins really hammered down in the overtime period, generating 10 shot attempts in comparison to Washington’s three, and Nick Bonino scored the winner just six minutes in. This call from Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi is amazing. 

Comeback killed. 

Dream over.

Here we go again. 

Of course, the theme here is that Alex Ovechkin couldn’t will his team past Sidney Crosby, good Canadian kid and true heart-and-soul winner, but that narrative does this whole series a disservice. 

Like I said at the beginning, this was a damn good series, beginning to end, top to bottom. It was tightly contested, exciting, and heroes were found up and down the rosters. In no way was this Sidney Crosby beating Alex Ovechkin. And it wasn’t Alex Ovechkin losing to Sidney Crosby, either. Not at all. This was the Pittsburgh Penguins edging out the Washington Capitals. 

Five of the six games were decided by just one goal. Three of them went to overtime. Five different players scored game-winning goals. The underlying numbers are virtually identical, in shot attempts, high danger chances, anything. 

This series came down to the fact that hockey, as much as we don’t like to tell ourselves this, is very much so a game of luck and opportunism. Tight games, and in turn, tight series, will go to the teams who can best capitalize on the chances the other team gives them, and sometimes, those chances are the result of good/bad luck, depending on how you look at it. 

Also, Ovechkin is going to take heat for the Capitals losing this series, but should he? I think it’s pretty clear that he played pretty damn well, he led the team in scoring, drove the offence when he was on the ice, as made evident by his 56.7 Corsi For percentage, and logged 22 minutes of ice time per game. It’s a team sport, remember?