I'm risking ruining my reputation as a (somewhat) level-headed, (kinda) even-keeled, unbiased (...ish) fan to make the following statement - but it needs to be said.
I hate the Flyers.
It's official. My unmitigated hatred for the orange and black is quickly returning to the level of contempt which at one time was only reserved for their Pennsylvania neighbors. I hate everything about them. I hate their retina-burning uniforms and their goonish history and their need to see blood spilled, from either team, every minute of every day.
Briere, Richards, Hartnell? No one here thinks you're cute, talented or tough. Biron? No one here thinks you're quirky. 'Vengeance Now'? More like 'Goons Forever'.
Yes, I'm mad. All Caps fans should be mad. This is not the series we were promised, not after the run this Caps team put together to get into the playoffs in the first place. You can make the claim that the Flyers got into the playoffs the same way, scrapping for points...but it wasn't the same way. The Flyers did not claw their way up from the league basement. In fact, at one point Philly was on top of the Atlantic Division and only fell after prolonged stretches of ineptitude throughout the season.
After the season we've had, after all the ups and downs, the coaching changes and goaltender changes and new faces and trades and signings and adjustments and standings climbing...we deserve something amazing, whether it's as a parting gift to cap off the season or just the beginning of a long postseason run.
If the Caps lose, they lose - this series was never supposed to be a home run. Give Philly credit, they've played a heck of a series so far, and no one expected a sweep by the Caps, an easy four games and a long rest. We're not playing Ottawa, after all (and a big ol' thanks to Pittsburgh again for that one). This series should be epic and tough.
If the Caps lose, though, they'd better go down swinging.
Tonight was better than Sunday. Of course it was better. But saying that tonight's performance was better than Sunday's is like saying Briere is taller on skates. True, but relative. Tonight the Caps should have come out flying; everything they've said in the last two days made us think they would. They were angry, they said. They were frustrated, they told us. They made mistakes and paid for it and that had to change, they swore. No one worked hard enough; everyone would have to work harder. That's what they said, and what we believed.
But it was the Flyers who took control early and even as the Caps mustered little flurries of energy and closed the gap the Flyers pulled further ahead. The Flyers ran over Huet time and time again without retribution, and then were pushed into him time and time again by hapless defenders who didn't know what else to do. The Caps continued to make ill-advised long passes resulting in turnovers, continued to sputter on the power play (despite finally getting one with the extra man), continued to look star-struck and stunned - as if they'd completely forgotten how to play hockey just because they were doing it after April 5.
It wasn't pretty. In fact, backdropped by the sea of happy orange it was downright ugly. And because of that they have to go back to the drawing board.
You want an easy scapegoat, take Erskine (please). Take Jurcina with his boneheaded turnover. Take Ovechkin, who has yet to show up with the presence we've become used to. But barring any of those, chalk this up to a good old-fashioned, all hands on deck team loss from start to finish.
If I'm the coach it may be time to think about putting in Olie for at least a game - not because Huet was bad, because once again he was one of the better performers out there (although I haven't seen a goal by goal breakdown so I could be wrong). It should be done because the guys need a wakeup call and Huet needs a rest. Poor Cristobal has had to take care of himself for three games now and has played 11 straight and the frustration is showing; rest him and put Zilla in to throw some punches, whack some ankles and yell at the boys. They need it. It's time.
And if I'm the coach it's DEFINITELY time to sit Erskine and put Eminger back in. Of course if Schultz reinjured himself that may be tricky but hell, no one said the playoffs were easy. Call up Lepisto or Boumedienne if that's what it takes. It's just mind-boggling that big #4 is still in there after taking dumb penalties and continuing to be on the ice staring blankly at Huet as the puck goes into the net. If he's in there to add toughness, great, but I haven't seen him do all that much to prove that he deserves a spot in the lineup just for that. Yank him. Free Steve Eminger. It's time.
And if I'm the coach...it's time to find a way to ignite this team, light a spark under their collective rear ends. This isn't playtime anymore and the team that once believed they couldn't lose has not only lost twice in a row but been outplayed for 8 of their first 9 playoff periods.
Being down 2-1 is doable; the series is far from over and the Caps can still salvage home ice advantage. Being down 3-1? You might as well call it a night, even with memories of 1988 fresh in our minds.
It's time for the average joes to become heroes...and the superstars to become superheroes. It's time for this team to show up.