Reading all of these morning-linked articles about the Failure with a Capital F, plus others, and a lot of the comments under each, it seems really sexy to mention big player names, the need to change systems, and weigh the possibility of firing the coach. Maybe the answer to future success is in there somewhere, maybe not.
It's been mentioned more than once by various people, certainly here, but obviously the word hasn't gotten around so I'll say it again:
- Our D didn't suck. Whether a shutdown D would help the Caps or not, the lack of one did not cost the team this series.
- Our goaltending was more than adequate. In fact was exceptional at times - largely the reason the Caps got the 3-1 series lead in the first place. Goaltending did not cost us the series.
What does remain surprising to me though is that the blocked shot count and PP performance widely cited as problems are largely being used as buckshot for a wide variety of recommendations for the systems, coaching, or personnel changes instead of really dissecting these areas directly for answers. Really, look at those particular items' numbers, they are outrageous. Outrageous: 3% PP effectiveness and..where are those numbers on blocked shots(?) - we all know them. If either of those numbers is anywhere near reasonable we most likely are moving on.
I spent a lot of time thinking about what specifically these numbers mean, having watched the games and reading various perspectives. I watched Game 7 next to a snarky Pens fan chick on one side and a guy from Montreal on the other. The Pens chick was useless other than for cheering at all the wrong times, but the guy from Montreal was good for bouncing thoughts against.
Talking with Montreal Guy, I mentioned it had occurred to somewhere around game 5 or 6 that in all of the other games and series I've seen various parts of this year, I've noticed when a set play on a PP goes awry: Oh, I see what they tried to do there, it just didn't work. I couldn't recall ever making that mental observation on a Caps PP this series. Montreal Guy agreed with this observation.
I also didn't see much fundamental playmaking in the offensive zone, beyond working the boards -sometimes pretty effectively yes - and "traditional" traffic (applied less and less effectively as the series progressed). But I don't have much recollection of simple fundamental things like give-and-goes, or dropping the puck low then immediately kicking it back out high.
Almost by definition the term "Fundamentals" is not sexy. But without fundamentals what are we left with for offense? People shooting whenever a lane to the goal appears open, and an over-reliance on Creativity.
With a little more fundamental playmaking there would have been less one-timers where if "I've got a clear look at the goal the goalie's got a clear look at me", less blocked shots, more opportunities to put the goalie out of position, most likely more zone time... basically more quality scoring chances with probably less shots.
It is the coaching staff that makes this happen.
Sergei Fedorov on a post linked from The Rink on whether Bruce deserves blame for the series outcome:
I can only say that Bruce is a terrific person, a great human being. And as a coach he takes great care of all the guys. And at times it seemed to me that he was a bit soft with the guys. Maybe in some situations he should have been tougher [on them].
We have O power, reasonably effective D, and sufficient goaltending. I do not think we need a new coach, just a better appreciation for working on fundamentals with all players, and not just the guys who show up to optional practice on a given day.