Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/2/11

Several weeks ago, after his team beat Georgia, South Carolina’s football coach Steve Spurrier said that sometimes the team that plays the best game doesn’t win.  That was clearly the case last evening at the Verizon Center.  The Anaheim Ducks, in the middle of a seven game road swing, clearly outplayed the Capitals for at least 45 of the 60 minutes of regulation, yet ended up on the short end of the score when all was said and done.  The final had Washington on top 5-4 after Nicklas Backstrom scored the game winner midway through the overtime period.

No doubt there are die-hard Caps fans — by the way, in the interest of full disclosure, this correspondent considers himself a die-hard fan as well — who would argue that the Capitals never gave up and fought until the end, showing that they played the better game.  Having watched every one of the 62 plus minutes of the contest, there’s no doubt they are wrong.

The only category in which the Capitals had the edge was shots on goal.  Anaheim’s goalie had Washington’s number for most of the contest, and the Capitals were down 3-0 before lighting the lamp the first time.  In every other category, the Ducks had the edge:

  • Takeaways: 4-2 Ducks
  • Giveaways: 3-8 Ducks
  • Faceoffs won: 30-26 Ducks
  • Power Pay Goals: Anaheim 1 for 1; Capitals 0 for 3
  • Save Percentage: 0.875 Ducks vs. 0.733 Caps

For at least the first thirty minutes of play, the puck was in Washington’s defensive zone, and the Capitals appeared unable to get it out.  The sold out crowd in the “Phone Booth” was clearly unhappy with the level of effort and quality of play for much of the first two periods — it was as quiet as I’ve ever seen a Washington crowd.

There were some bright spots, however:

  • Nicklas Backstrom’s two goals less than three minutes apart to tie and then win the game
  • Three assists for Brook Laich
  • The hard play by the third and fourth lines of the Capitals that kept them in the game in the third period

Much has been made by the media of Coach Bruce Boudreau’s decision to leave Alex Ovechkin on the bench after calling a time out with just over a minute to go in the third when down by a single goal and ready to pull the goalie.  Having watch #8’s performance for the first 58 plus minutes, it was the right call.  Coach Boudreau put the guys on the ice that he felt had the best chance to tie the score, regardless of big egos and hurt feelings.  It was the right call, and it was the kind of tough call he’ll have to make again in the future in order for the Capitals to keep winning.

At the end of the evening, despite the roars of the raucous crowd, it was obvious that the Capitals learned — or perhaps re-learned” the old lesson that:  “… it is better to be lucky than good”.  The Caps would be wise to take luck whenever they can find it, but not count on it to beat a team that outskates and outworks them.  They learned that lesson the hard way against Tampa Bay in the second round of the playoffs last May.  They shouldn’t need to relearn it.

Let’s Go Caps!

 

 

 

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