I pride myself on being the eternal optimist, the lone voice preaching "they still have a chance!" or "it's not over yet". But I think it's time to admit it to myself. It doesn't look like the postseason will be in the cards for the Caps this year.
All teams go through slumps, a fact we know all too well - what makes me suddenly pessimistic is the length of this one. At what point does a slump simply become the norm, the reality? The Caps are missing whatever spark they had at the beginning of the season. We've seen flashes of it...a couple of wins over Carolina, a solid game against Ottawa, even the occasional flurry in last night's fiasco. But flashes of brilliance are not a sign of a team ready to contend for a playoff spot.
There's still a part of me that's hoping for a late push by the Caps to at least finish strong. After all, they haven't been mathematically eliminated just yet - weren't they out of it sometime around November last season? Teams in front of them are prone to mistakes and slip-ups, losing streaks and injuries. They could put together a winning streak, all of the teams in front of them could fall on hard times and...okay, no. Even I'm not that naive.
I could let this all bother me, let it fester until I start to hate the game of hockey. Or I could choose to be zen about it all...and start drinking heavily. I choose the latter. It's hard when the Caps defied all expectations at the start of the season only to eventually live down to them. It's hard to be in the fight for so long only to see teams you hate fly past you in the standings. But it's the reality of a young, rebuilding team.
People are still calling for higher payroll (ahem, Tarik), bigger trades (ahem, entire population of CapsNation), management changes (ahem, select individuals on the message boards)...I, however, am sticking to my guns. Look, they're probably not making the playoffs this year anyways. Why not let the young D grow together and learn, let the young forwards find a chemistry and a consistency. Give it one more year before diverting from the original plan. We're so into instant gratification, but come on - did people really think we were going to win the cup in 2007?
I told you, 2009...sheesh, people. Really.
Just a few thoughts on last night's game before I go sit in a dark room with a bottle of vod-...er, apple juice:
- The newly formed CBS line (Clymer, Brashear and Sutherby) looked like the best line out of the four last night. Good news for those three...bad news for the other 9 guys who appeared to be skating in mud for most of the game.
- Alex Ovechkin's 33rd goal kept him atop the leaderboard and insured the continuation of his league-leading 13 game point streak. A small consolation compared with a loss, but still a positive.
- Too many dumb and ill-timed penalties from everyone - even Olie got into the game, taking a stupid yet understandable frustration penalty after he shot the puck away from the linesman...I'll admit, though, it made me laugh.
- The Caps were only outshot by 2, managing 30 shots against the Panthers for the first time in two years. Doesn't change the outcome, but a nice change of pace nonetheless.
- Zednik looked good, at least for the first period when the Caps were still in the game. After that they all became one big, messy blur.
- Turnovers...my god, the turnovers. Did they forget what color jersey they wore or were they just confused? I know, kitty cats on a dark blue background look so similar to an eagle on a white background. I have trouble telling them apart myself.
Happy Friday, everyone. Secondary assist Sidney and the flightless fowl, tomorrow, 1:00 in Mulletville...bring your ulcer medication.