1. Well, That Blows
The Caps kicked off the 2020 postseason yesterday with a bang... and not the good kind. After taking a 2-0 lead midway through the second period, Braden Holtby let in a howler of soft goal late in the middle stanza, giving the Islanders life and an opportunity they seized upon, tying the game up less than a minute into the third period. By the time the dust had settled, the Caps had allowed four-straight goals (including one shorthanded) in the span of 12:58 of game time and the collapse was complete.
Not fun fact: that was the second-consecutive playoff game the Caps lost when leading after two periods (they led 3-2 heading into the third in Game 7 against the ‘Canes last year). The Caps are now a very unimpressive 2-2 when leading after two periods in the playoffs under Todd Reirden... after posting a 24-2 mark under Barry Trotz (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?).
Alex Ovechkin on the collapse: “We stopped playing and you see the result.” https://t.co/DFD55TEXFo— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) August 12, 2020
T.J. may want to add one more “terrible.”
The Caps’ chances in this one certainly were hindered when Nicklas Backstrom was unable to come out for the second period after taking a big hit from Anders Lee away from the puck:
REPLAY— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 12, 2020
Here's why they dropped the gloves ... pic.twitter.com/CqaHE2D51P
If you can find the puck in any frame of that replay before the whistles, you win a prize.
The Caps were understandably unhappy with the hit at the time...
... and postgame:
Todd Reirden on Lee’s hit on Backstrom, which caused him to miss the final two periods: “It was a late hit on a player who wasn't expecting it. It was predatory."— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) August 12, 2020
Team will continue to evaluate Backstrom.
John Carlson’s reaction to Lee’s hit on Backstrom in the first period: “It looked real dirty to me.”— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) August 12, 2020
Backstrom, as you’ll recall, missed half of the 2011-12 season after taking a filthy elbow to the head from Calgary’s Rene Bourque, and while we won’t speculate here... yeah. Doctor Ovechkin, however, is optimistic about a quick return to the lineup:
Ovechkin aid he's pretty sure Backstrom will "be fine" for Game 2 on Friday after day off tomorrow.— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) August 12, 2020
And, of course, you remember how successfully the Caps rallied in Backstrom’s last playoff absence, finishing off the Pens and grabbing a 2-1 lead over the Bolts in 2018 en route to... you know. Paging Lars Eller (who is expected to be available Friday).
Oh, and if you were expecting any further (off-ice) punishment for Anders Lee, that’s adorable.
We would have heard from the league by now, but confirming there's no supplemental discipline coming for Anders Lee for his Game 1 hit on Nick Backstrom.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) August 13, 2020
No head contact, which is normally the @NHLPlayerSafety standard for a hearing on an interference penalty. #Isles
3. Power Surge
Let’s close on a high-note: John Carlson’s return to the lineup did, indeed, spark the power play (causation or correlation, we don’t care), which put 12 shots on goal, 24 shots at goal, and, most importantly, two shots in goal in seven opportunities:
Yes, they squandered some chances early (going 0-for-3 in the game’s first ten minutes), and did allow a shorty (another unpleasant Carolina Game 7 flashback), but it was good to see a unit that ended the regular season 1-for-16 with the extra man and started the reboot 1-for-10 pot a couple of PPGs from down low.
Hey, we’re trying here...