By Reed S. Albers
On Friday, Kings of Leonsis founder Adam Vingan wrote a short piece about whether or not the Washington Capitals had finally grasped the killer instinct mentality that’s eluded the team in past seasons.
“The Caps never seen to put their opponents away when they can and let them hang around longer than necessary,” he wrote following the Caps 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. “If the Caps do happen to build a lead, they tend to blow it en route to a disappointing loss or nerve-wracking win.”
Vingan’s not the only writer to question the Caps ability to finish the job against a team.
The apparent lack of a killer instinct has been a theme of sorts dating back to the Caps’ doomed seven game playoff series with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 (the Caps held a 2-0 lead in that series, before dropping three straight).
On Saturday night against the undefeated Detroit Red Wings, the Caps indirectly responded to those criticisms with a 7-1 bruising of one of the league’s premiere franchises.
Cradling a 3-0 lead in the second period following two power play goals by Mike Green and an even strength tally from center Marcus Johansson, the Caps seemed destined to fall into their old ways.
Detroit’s Nicklas Kronwall converted on a 5-on-3 power play to pull the Wings within two. Moments later, Alexander Semin’s high sticking penalty and Johansson’s tripping call created another 5-on-3 for the Red Wings.
This is where the old Caps would fold under the pressure and a possible blowout would turn into a fight to hold onto a one goal lead.
But that didn’t happen.
The Capitals killed the penalty thanks to stout play by the penalty killing units and goaltender Tomas Vokoun (33 saves).
Before the Red Wings could build any momentum following the failed power play, Mathieu Perreault scored an even strength goal to put the Caps up 4-1.
In the third the Caps settled the game down before Joel Ward put in his second goal of the season to increase the lead to 5-1. As if a four goal lead wasn’t enough, Perreault picked up a second goal and Nicklas Backstrom added extra insurance with the game’s final score.
As fans filed out of the Verizon Center cheering a 7-1 victory over the Red Wings, you can infer they were raving over the resurgence of Green (2 goals, 2 assists, plus 2), the undefeated record or how nearly every line was involved in the team’s offense (every forward and defenseman finished with at least a plus-one).
Maybe they’re more enamored with the idea of free Buffalo wings, but for some, they might take notice that for the second game in a row, the Caps put a team to bed before a comeback could develop.
The only legitimate complaint is that the effort came in October, but it’s progress from a team that seemingly needs to re-prove themselves to the hockey world.