Thursday, April 17, 2008

Gameday Preview: Playoff Edition, Round 1 Game 4

Who: Caps-Flyers, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 4
Where: Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, PA
When: Thursday, April 17, 7:00 pm

Broadcast Info: CSN, Versus

Remember all those games at the end of the regular season? Remember saying that each game was "the biggest game of the year"?

Scratch that. Tonight's game has officially taken over that title.

In any series game 4 is a pivotal one, and this one is no exception. You're either trying to avoid the sweep or earn it, push the other team to the brink of elimination or hope that you won't be brought there. It is the point in the series where morale and momentum are drawn, the midway point of the series.

It's what separates the boys from the men; the playoff contenders from the playoff pretenders.

If the Caps want to emerge from the City of Brotherly Love with any sort of dignity and hope intact they need to put together a performance that we have yet to see from them for any extended period of time. And they need to do it now, in Game 4, before they fall into a hole that even this scrappy team can't emerge from. No more cutesy plays. No more long stretch passes ripe for pickoffs. No more letting the Flyers have their way, along the boards, in the neutral zone or in the crease.

They need to, in essence, play the exact type of road game that earned them a 5-1 record in their final six away from DC. They need to play desperate hockey - and maybe that's what it will take for them to wake up, a return to that back-against-the-wall type of play where every night was a must-win. Heading down the stretch the Caps didn't know they would need to basically win every game to get into the playoffs; but they knew they couldn't afford to lose more than one and they played like it. If no one else stepped in, the first line became the hero. If Ovechkin was shut down, others picked up the slack. They need to get back to that.

Because there's an urgency missing so far - and that's not the way to win a series.

Boudreau has done some tinkering with the lines and the special teams. Whether it's enough to push this team back to where they were just a few weeks ago, time will tell. Fedorov moves up to the top line to replace Backstrom (who has become virtually invisible); Semin is off the top power play unit, Eminger is in for an injured Schultz, and Laich moves up to the third line. All potentially good changes for sure, although I know I wasn't alone in hoping, to no avail apparently, that Olie might get the call to provide a little spark.

They all know what they have to do now. In post-practice interviews today every player to a man outlined exactly what problems we all saw and seemed adamant that they would fix them. Brooks Laich seemed downright angry, which is good. We want them angry. We want them hungry. We...want them singing Backstreet Boys songs in the locker room.

(Okay, maybe not. But check out the Sergei Fedorov interview for a good laugh, around the 2:25 mark.)

The Flyers' motto is 'Vengeance Now'...and that's great. Let them have their vengeance. We want 'Victory Now'. Go get 'em, Caps.

1 comment:

Dan, Jr. said...

They will find they're way and get it done. Never Surrender!