1. The Washington Capitals had better grab themselves some shovels and start digging, because they’re in deep shit.
No one wants to hear about the great-but-fruitless start they had in Game 2, out-shooting (attempts) the Pens by a 35-8 count in the first period. At some, point when that game was still a game, “It’s only a matter of time before they break through” gave way to “They sure are going to regret coming up empty despite this early dominance.”
And they sure did.
But let’s not tiptoe around the story from Game 2: while Caps skaters peppered Marc-Andre Fleury (and the shin pads of Pittsburgh defenders) with shot after shot, they were let down by their goalie.
Through two periods, Holtby had faced 14 shots on goal and allowed three to get behind him. And that was the end of his night.
There’s a lot to talk about here, but let’s start with a look at the three goals-against:
So, what to make of these?
Braden Holtby: "Playoffs are made of big moments. That 3rd goal, that’s a big moment. That's where your goalie needs to come up with a save"— Brian McNally (@bmcnally14) April 30, 2017
At the risk of stating the obvious, they could’ve also used one after Kevin Shattenkirk’s power-play shot was blocked and then he was unable to keep up with Matt Cullen (?), and when Phil Kessel was shooting from an angle which Holtby seemed to miscalculate ever-so-slightly.
Shattenkirk’s shot showed impatience and perhaps frustration with still being tied 0-0 early in the second period. The coverage on Kessel wasn’t ideal (that was, after all, essentially a 2-on-4 for Pittsburgh). And Jake Guentzel’s goal (from almost the same spot as Kessel’s) was a clean 2-on-1 break. There’s plenty of blame to be placed outside the Washington crease for the 3-1 hole in which the Caps found themselves after 40 minutes.
But Holtby needed to hold down the fort. And he didn’t. And that was it for him:
Trotz on Holtby: "He wasn't as sharp as he can be for us."— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) April 30, 2017
More Trotz on Holtby: "He's a game-changer for us and so when he didn't change the game, I just looked to change the mojo there."— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) April 30, 2017
Was it the right play or a panic move?
Either you believe the last two years were real, or you don't. Me, I'd rather go down with my best players on the ice. But whatever.— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) April 30, 2017
Regardless, Philipp Grubauer came in to start the third and was as bad as, if not worse than, Holtby (hopefully George McPhee wasn’t watching), and that was that.
Pulling Braden Holtby last night reeked of panic. That's no bueno for the Caps https://t.co/fcXwy4koOy— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) April 30, 2017
2. So that was a stinker, and Holtby wasn’t terrific in Game 1. But he’s the team’s backbone, their reigning Vezina winner and current Vezina finalist, dance with who brung ya, etc., so we can expect him to be between the pipes to start Game 3, right, Coach? Here’s your chance to give your guy a vote of confidence...
Trotz was asked if Grubauer would get consideration to start Game 3. Said it's too early to know that.— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) April 30, 2017
3. Make no mistake, however: Game 2 wasn’t just about the saves that weren’t made. It was about a team that displayed impatience and frustration and it cost them. It was about a team that fired nearly as many shots into defenders (33) as on net (36). It was about a team that lamented not having a power-play chance in Game 1, only to surrender Game 2’s opening tally while playing a man up. It was about a team that hadn’t lost back-to-back games at home all season doing just that. And, to that end, the team took it upon themselves:
Trotz said the team leaders told him they wanted to handle the postgame conversation.— Chris Gordon (@Chris_Gordon) April 30, 2017
Justin Williams said it was Nick Backstrom who spoke up in the room. Obviously didn't want to talk about what was discussed.— Katie Brown (@katiebhockey) April 30, 2017
Oshie on meeting: "It was things that people needed to say + things that some people needed to hear. We were very together w/ what we said."— Tarik El-Bashir (@TarikCSN) April 30, 2017
Justin Williams: “You’re not going to get me to say, ‘Woe is me’ and ‘Oh, I can’t believe it.’ Hey, you make your own breaks."— Brian McNally (@bmcnally14) April 30, 2017
Alex Ovechkin wanted no part in shedding light on post-game team meeting: "It stays between us."— Brian McNally (@bmcnally14) April 30, 2017
Niskanen on what the message was after the game: "None of your business."— Chris Gordon (@Chris_Gordon) April 30, 2017
If the Caps can find a way to win Game 3 (and the formula would seem to be pretty simple: play a similar game, maybe a bit more patiently, and get some stops in net), this will be a series once more. And the task of winning four-out-of-five against this Pens team is certainly daunting. But it all starts with one win, and that’s something these Caps have done 59 times this season. Let’s see if they can make that 60 and go from there.
T.J. Oshie: "No one in this room needs a lesson on how to go home early, we've done that."— Missy Khamvongsa (@MissyKhamvongsa) April 30, 2017
So much truth for the Caps