It has been a long season. This team was on the brink for a couple of years, and was predicted by some as preseason Stanley Cup favorites again this year. Then came Ovie's slump (decline?), transformation into malcontent quitters on BB, and the move to bring Caps' hero, DH32, to the helm. Many of us called for patience as the team would need to adjust. Surely, Hunter would bring with him a deep desire to win, leading our group with the sandpaper toughness that defined him as a player.
As time went on, our disappointment sank in, leading to the debate as to whether or not we should be sellers at the trade deadline. Then, hooray, we made the playoffs and showed a little spark down the stretch. Still, there was much chatter along the lines of: "Let's be real here. These Caps can't win". Turns out they can. Maybe they won't. The odds will be against them, but at the outset of this series, we accepted the terms of the coin flip.
What has transcribed has been difficult, and classic Caps. Looking surprisingly effective, a rookie goalie playing great, dropping two OT games, another last minute GWG (GLG?) off our own stick, and a blown chance to close out a series at home. Some people on these boards are declaring Game 7 will be a blowout. Let's call it Caps fan PTSD.
DH has been praised for his effective system and reviled for his questionable personnel management. More disconcerting to me is that he has looked generally soft and overwhelmed as the coach of this team since the outset. Quiet to the refs while the other coach is yelling, never seeming agitated or irritated. Doing his best Aw Shucks performance in front of the cameras. I keep waiting for him to get settled, loosen up, and lead this team. Maybe my expectations were just off, but what people will think of him depends on this Game 7.
Also, I have been wondering the last few days about VC and the Caps. Most fans and broadcasters now acknowledge that VC is a hell of a place to come in and play, yet we are 1-3 in Game 7s in DC in the Rock the Red era. This was done with Boudreau's coaching and GMGM's players. DH has cut back on Ovie's time and Green's time--GMGM's picks and BB's TOI darlings. And the team won without Backstrom in Boston in Game 5. IMO, with the exception of 2009-10 (a team which shouldn't have lost to anyone), the other recent Caps squads lose this series. So what does this mean? Who is showing up on Wednesday? And what does it mean for DH and GMGM depending on the circumstances?
Out of curiosity, I looked up a few stats from the RtR era, which I consider since BB was hired. I'm not sure how to calculate win % with the OTL and SO point, so win % here is calculated as wins over wins+regulation losses.
Home 130-41-24 (.760)
Away 101-70-23 (.590)
Home 11-13 (.458)
Away 9-10 (.474)
So much for home ice when it matters. IMO, yesterday was the best offensive game they've played in awhile (except for finishing...). It was there and they didn't take it. Now they go back to Boston and show us who they are as a team. Vegas has BOS listed at -190 favorites. Not much of a coin flip, but I'll take the .474, and the 2-1 @BOS this playoffs, and 3-1 regular season (2-0 @BOS).
And Dale Hunter (and GMGM) should bring a suitcase. After this next game of hockey (finally a true "must win"), on the road...against the defending Stanley Cup Champs...the Caps will either come out embattled, led by Caps icon Dale Hunter, and ready for a deep run. Or they will be same Caps as ever: golfing in April after choking a series lead, looking for something different. Something more.