The playoffs are different from the regular season for a multitude of reasons. One being that you get four to seven game series’, as opposed to the individual game nature of the regular season. For the first 82 games, by the time you begin thinking about one team you’re already preparing to face the next. Arrive to the arena, do what you have to do for 60 minutes, and then move on. Now that it’s playoff time, there’s no looking forward. For at least the next week the Rangers are focused on one team exclusively, and that’s the Washington Capitals. Because of the magnitude and length of the series, we’ll want to concentrate even more on our opponent and dig deeper into what makes them who they are. Who is a better source of that information than our friends at Capitals Outsider, the Capitals blog on Fansided? I talked for a bit and exchanged four questions with Ben Sumner:
1. What would you say is the biggest difference between this version of the Capitals and the one we faced two years ago?
Easy. Back then, the Caps didn’t have Matt Hendricks, Jason Arnott, Dennis Wideman, Marco Sturm, Michal Neuvirth, and D.J. King. Maybe some others but it’s too much trouble to go back and compare rosters.
2. 32 goals and 85 points for most players is an excellent season, but for Ovechkin those are career lows. What went “wrong” for him this season, and do you think he’ll pick up his play in the playoffs?
There are several theories about Alex Ovechkin’s numbers dipped this season, but his shot total was the same as last season, his assist total was on par, and he’s been credited with far more hits this season than last. However, as of late, he’s clearly shown he’s just as capable of scoring lots of goals, and he will bring this momentum into the playoffs. Here’s what I believe his problem was earlier in the season: A woman.
3. The Rangers have won the last three games against the Capitals and outscored them a combined 14-1 over that stretch. What do the Capitals have to do differently against the Rangers that they failed to do in the regular season?
Remove their heads from their rear ends and remember that these games actually count.
4. Is Bruce Boudreau fighting for his job this series, or did the 1st place finish buy him some more time? If it didn’t, then how far will the Capitals have to go in the playoffs for him to remain head coach?
The Capitals are expected to go to the Conference Championship series, and nothing less. Losing to the Rangers in Round 1 will put Boudreau in the hot seat, particularly if the Caps get spanked by the Rangers like they did twice already this season. But Boudreau is well loved here in Washington and someone downright awful will have to happen in the playoffs for him to get the boot. In other words, last year can’t happen again.
So there you go. Thanks once again to Ben and make sure to head over to Capitals Outsider and read my responses to his questions. In fact, don’t stop there. Read all of their material, especially during our first round matchup. They come up with some pretty unorthodox stuff, but it’s well worth viewing. I know deep down that Ben has a hidden man-crush on Sean Avery, despite how much he refuses to admit it.