Originally posted on Turner Sports Desk  |  Last updated 3/13/12

Myth #1 -- The Caps need a ton of talent to earn a Stanley Cup.

Truth -- Look at the Boston Bruins and their talent level. That team played smart, gritty hockey and they never quit. Yes they had injuries to key players but the next man stepped up and they were the last team standing with far less talent than the Washington Caps. If you require more proof just remember how the 8th seed Montreal Canadiens took the high flying Caps to the wood shed. They were not lucky as some clueless Caps homers suggest. They played smart team hockey and they never quit. If anything the Caps imploded when they faced a team that did not play afraid of the Caps overwhelming talent. Montreal knew that if you play hard, smart and tenacious team hockey you can beat anyone.

Myth #2 -- The Caps need a super goalie to earn a Stanley Cup.

Truth -- Vokoun and Neuvirth are more than enough to earn a Stanley Cup if the Caps play team hockey. An aggressive forecheck helps your goalie by keeping the puck at the other end of the ice. An aggressive back check helps your goalie by taking away time and space from your opponents thus limiting their scoring chances. The guys in front of the goalie have to be playing well as a team if you want your goalie to have any confidence.

No doubt that somewhere during your Stanley Cup run your goalie will have to steal a game or two. Team hockey allows your goalie to have the confidence he needs to do it when called upon. If you require proof look at Tim Thomas now with little confidence versus Tim Thomas at this time last year. The Boston defense was air tight allowing Thomas to play like a goalie who could steal games. He looks pretty ordinary now that Boston's team play has declined. Look at St. Louis now that they are playing good hockey in front of their goalies. Now they have two Stanley Cup capable goalies playing with confidence. If the Caps play better in front of their goalies then they can create their own super goalies by giving them confidence.

Myth #3 -- Alexander Ovechkin is a scorer so don't expect him to play defense.

Truth -- Ovechkin is a hockey player and the Captain of his team. If he truly wants to earn a Cup and be considered a great player/leader he needs to grow his game to include defense. Great leaders lead from the front and when Ovechkin's teammates see him putting forth the effort to get back on the back check they will follow. You cannot half-ass your way to a Stanley Cup. You gotta put in the work and your teammates are very aware of your abilities. Ovechkin needs to man-up and put the work in. Team hockey means sacrificing for the greater good. No one expects Ovechkin to become a Selke Candidate but he needs to set the level of expectation by leading from the front. FYI - If you are paying a guy $9.5 mil per season and he is not doing everything he can to become a better player and a leader you are paying $9.5 million for a sniper and you overpaid big-time. I would pay a guy like Mark Messier (in his prime)  $9.5 million because not only was I getting a great hockey player but I was getting an unquestioned leader. That is what you should expect from the “face of your franchise”

Some are going to read this and say you are being too hard on Ovechkin. To them I say absolutely. Leadership is a tough job and not everyone is cut out for it. The Caps don't have time to wait for him to grow up and get it once all of his talent is gone. He either needs to man-up or get out.

Myth #4 -- The Caps need to go back to the wide open style of hockey in order to get back to prominence and a Stanley Cup.

Truth -- One way teams don't earn Stanley Cups. Can you name the last one that did? Yeah, it's been that long. Stop fooling yourself because the recent history of Stanley Cup winners have ranged from balanced to defensively oriented. Detroit is a good example of balance while Boston is a good example of defensively oriented. The Caps are much closer to the Detroit mold than the Boston mold but make no mistake the Caps can earn a Stanley Cup if they start playing like a team.

Myth #5 – The Caps playoff fate rests with a few talented individuals.

Truth – If your team is built in a way that allows this mentality to fester within your locker room then you failed before your journey began. Hockey is a team sport and teams earn Stanley Cups. No team is perfect but on a good team the players work together to accentuate the strengths while minimizing the negatives. Would the Caps be better off with a healthy Nicky Backstrom in the lineup? Of course, but is the season over because he is not here? Heck no. One man goes down but the next man steps up. That is the way things go in real life and that is the way they go in sports. I did not see Apple shut down because Steve Jobs passed on. The next man up took over and they are moving on with a purpose. The Caps have good players and if they start playing team hockey they can overcome anything as long as they stick together. If they play like a bunch of individuals they will hit the links again early.

 

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