Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 3/28/12

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 23: Mike Green #52 of the Washington Capitals shoots and scores in the first period against the Buffalo Sabres at the Verizon Center on December 23, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Much has been said about why the Washington Capitals have had such an unexpectedly difficult season — most of the excuses focus around long-term injuries to all-star defenseman Mike Green and prolific center Nicklas Backstrom.  Some have also opined that the Capitals have had difficulty learning the new system necessitated by the replacement of head coach Bruce Boudreau by Dale Hunter two months into the season.  Last night, however, Caps fans learned the ‘final answer’ as to the reason for their difficulties:  the team doesn’t want to win badly enough to pay the price.  Sure, there are exceptions to that statement, but the 5-1 thrashing at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres provided every single fan proof of what we’d begrudgingly to come to realize over the past 77 games.

To a man, the Caps players and coaches all said the right things going into last night’s game.  It’s not worth listing a bunch of quotes to prove that — take it on faith that they knew how important the game was to their playoff chances.  So, if they knew it, why didn’t they play like they cared?

There’s no other way to describe their performance other than to say it was an embarrassment.  Buffalo showed up to play — Washington did not.  Buffalo scored twice in the first period, and although Braden Holtby’s inexperience between the pipes in critical situations played into both of the goals, he had little, if any, help from his blue liners.

The Sabres lit the lamp again early in the second period.  Alexander Semin’s goal about two minutes later brought Washington back to within two.  When Buffalo was called for hooking with three minutes remaining in the period, the Verizon Center crowd seemed to believe they had a chance if the Caps could score on the power play — they would head into the dressing room down by only one.  Instead, Alex Ovechkin at the blue line not only failed to keep the puck in the offensive zone, but was manhandled and beaten by a Sabre who was smaller and 45 pounds lighter.  The result was a shorthanded goal for the Sabres and the end of any hope that the Capitals could pull another rabbit out of the hat.

The Twitter comments on the Capitals mobile website were telling — although many shared the same sentiment, the one that said ‘the most important game of the season and the Caps don’t show up’ pretty much told the story.

Washington played like they really weren’t willing to do what it would take to beat Buffalo — and to make a big step toward making the playoffs.  If they couldn’t get up for this game, there’s not much hope that they will, and — in the end — that’s probably better than getting in and being swept (and embarrassed) by the number one seed in the East.

Let’s Go Caps!

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