By Adam Vingan
Game 5’s have not be friendly to the Washington Capitals. In 27 Game 5’s, the Caps are just 8-19 overall with a 5-12 record at home and 2-7 record when leading the series 3-1. Lest we forget about last year’s debacle at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, but that’s our job, right, Bruce?
“We have to have a short memory,” Boudreau said. “The only ones who don’t have short memories are media because they got to write about it during the days off.”
Anyways, the players themselves are doing their best not to remember how they were the first No. 1 seed in NHL playoff history to blow a 3-1 series lead. We have seen the metamorphosis of this team from an explosive, offense juggernaut (no pun intended to Jason Arnott) to a defensively-responsible unit and so have they:
“We are a different team and we have a different mindset this year. I think we learned a lot from last year and we got the players in here that have paid the price down the stretch and are willing to play the way we need to play to win games.” – Eric Fehr
“I don’t think anybody is thinking about what has happened in the previous years. This is a different team here. I think going into the game tomorrow, we have our home fans with us and we just got to come out hard. Usually, the fourth game is the hardest to win. We have to be ready.” – John Erskine
“We learned a lot from last year and we’re not going to let it happen again this year.” – Jeff Schultz
“We have learned a lot” seems to be the recurring theme. The question is: what exactly have they learned?
“Nothing’s over until it’s over,” Schultz said. “Anything can happen until the final buzzer goes. It’s just a matter of taking it period by period.”
In last year’s Game 5 against the Canadiens, Mike Cammalleri and Travis Moen scored within the first seven minutes of the game and the Habs didn’t need another goal to hold on for their eventual 2-1 victory that ultimately turned the tide in the series. In Game 4 Wednesday, the Rangers scored three goals in the second period (including two in seven seconds) to take control of the game for the time being. For Washington to clinch the game and the series, they must not let up and end up on their heels early.
“I think we need to be a little bit more careful about our changes,” Fehr said. “We got caught a few times and I think their team is trying to stretch us out to take advantage of that. It worked pretty well for them.”
As previously mentioned, the Caps see themselves as a different team and not just in style, but experience as well. This season’s acquisitions (Arnott, Scott Hannan, Marco Sturm and Dennis Wideman) bring veteran presence that was not as prevalent in years past. And more importantly, none of them, along with players like Marcus Johansson and Matt Hendricks, were on the team last year to experience the letdown.
“There are a couple of older guys that have gone through it in the past and now they’re on our team,” Schultz said. “They’ve been helping us game by game with staying positive and sticking to our game.”
What have these “older guys” been saying?
“A lot of teams do go through it, some teams don’t,” Arnott said. “It’s just the way the puck bounces. For this team, they can’t be worried about last year and the year before that. They got to think about this year and the team we have and try to win tomorrow night.”
All the loose ends could be tied up Saturday afternoon at Verizon Center. Much has been made about the past (present company included), but that doesn’t matter once the puck drops.
“I guarantee the New York Rangers have forgotten about it like we forgot about Game 3 and everything is brand new,” Boudreau said. “Everything is starting brand new, one-on-one, team versus team.”