The Washington Capitals are doing it again. After years of early playoff exits, the Stanley Cup favorites are down 2-1 in their first-round playoff series.
Washington lost, 4-3, in overtime in Toronto on Monday. All three games in this series have gone to overtime, with the Maple Leafs winning each of the last two.
“The Leafs carried the play,” Yahoo! Puck Daddy analyst Greg Wyshynski said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “You look at the shot attempts tonight. I think they were up over 70 and the Caps were under 50 as far as shot attempts. In the third period, the Leafs looked like they were skating at a different speed and tempo than the Capitals were. What you wanted to see tonight was a stout defensive effort after a Game 2 loss in double overtime on home ice, establish yourself as the better team, establish yourselves as the veteran team against a bunch of kids, and instead, it was a track meet – and if it’s a track meet, the Leafs are going to win every single time. This is disastrous for the Capitals.”
Suddenly, the Capitals are two losses away from elimination.
How is this possible? How is it possible for the Capitals to have so much regular-season success and yet struggle so mightily in the playoffs?
“They’re almost the perfect pick to make if you’re got to pretend to be a pundit like I do,” said Wyshynski, who picked the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup. “If they win, then you’re a genius. You picked them to win the Cup. You get to raise a glass at the end of the playoffs and say, ‘I was a smarty pants, and I picked the right winner.’ If they lose, well, it’s not your fault. It’s the Capitals. They just found a way to screw themselves again. So it’s almost like a perfect pick. If they win, you’re a genius; if they lose, it’s all their fault anyway, and who’s to say that any of us could see this coming?”
Either way, the Capitals will need better play from Braden Holtby, who has allowed 10 goals in three games, including eight in his last two.
“It wasn’t his fault tonight necessary. His defense led him down a bunch of times, and keep in mind they didn’t have Karl Alzner tonight who’s a pretty big part of that defense,” Wyshynski said. “But it’s on Holtby for Game 4. The difference between this team and previous teams that have crapped out in the playoffs is Braden Holtby is there. He’s one of the best goalies in the world, and it’s on him in Game 4 to turn this thing around and be a slump-buster.”
And if he doesn’t and Washington loses the series?
“If things don’t work out, if they go out in the first round, it will be wholesale changes,” Wyshynski said. “And it’s going to be wholesale changes because they’ve got about three different guys – (T.J.) Oshie, (Justin) Williams and Alzner – who are all free agents. They’ll probably jettison all three if they lose, and I think the thing you’ll hear from this Capitals team if they lose to this team – (after losing) to the Penguins in the previous season – is we’ve got to get younger, and we’ve got to get faster. They’re just getting skated out of the building by a younger, faster Leafs team. So I think that’s going to be the mantra going forward if they lose this series.”
Game 4 is Wednesday in Toronto at 7 p.m. ET.