It’s no secret, when it comes to holding a lead the Washington Capitals aren’t exactly the model team to look up too as of late.
Throughout the regular season the Capitals never seemed to “park the bus” consistently when jumping ahead and it’s carried over into the playoffs.
In their playoff series with the Boston Bruins, the Caps have been seen as the aggressors pushing the pace of play and testing the defending Stanley Cup champions, but all too often Washington is back pedaling instead of putting the game away (a credit to the Bruins’ tenacious game plan and fight).
In Game 3 the Caps blew a one goal lead en route to a 4-3 loss. On Saturday afternoon in Game 5, a hard-fought two goal lead evaporated in just 28 seconds. The Caps battled back to another one goal lead, saw that disappear, but were able to close out the game on a clutch Troy Brouwer power play goal with less than two minutes in regulation.
It’s made for an exciting hockey series filled with actual hockey (unlike many of the other playoff match-ups that are going on), but with an elimination game on the horizon, the Caps and Coach Dale Hunter are in for their biggest test.
Holding a two goal lead in a game is one thing – and it’s something that’s not exactly the team’s forte – but can the Capitals close out a series at home with momentum behind them?
So far this series we’ve seen the Capitals be exceptional on defense in spurts (Game 1 and Game 2 were by far the best defensive games of the season), we’ve seen a rookie goalie rise up to the challenge and we’ve seen Hunter do what Bruce Boudreau never dared to do – make on the fly adjustments and bench his stars during critical periods of a playoff game.
You could almost argue aside from their penchant for giving up leads, this is a completely different Capitals team than what we saw in the regular season.
Now it’s time to prove it on the grandest stage possible – an elimination game.
The entire season’s trials and tribulations could be justified with a win on Sunday afternoon.
For a Caps team that’s wrestled with its critics since the end of a seven game winning streak in October, it’s a chance to prove they’re not the playoff pushovers they’ve been for the past four years.
Lose and it’s back to Game 7, where the Caps have routinely fallen flat. A loss on Sunday isn’t the end of the world, but a great opportunity is at hand.
It’s time to find out what this group of players wants to be. Will they the team that overcomes adversity and finds ways to win, or the postseason failures we’ve known all too well?