Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Blame Game

Capitals 2, Maple Leafs 3

It's nice to beat the best team in the Conference in their own building, but it's hard to feel too good or build too much momentum when you come back and lose to the 12th ranked ream in your own building.

Capitals fans are of course keenly aware of this and the wake has led to a lot of scapegoating. Here's who's being blamed:

Olaf Kolzig. Who knew Capitals fans were of such a "what have you done for me lately" variety? Kolzig has become the number one scapegoat for the team this season and while I think that he certainly has not played all that well he deserves better than what some fans want, including one who wanted him sent to the AHL in order to "make a statement" (note: for Kolzig to be sent to the AHL he would have to clear waivers, which is unlikely to happen. Kolzig, a class act for many, many years would likely be lost on waivers to essentially punish him for being human and having his skills decline with age and would simply be a classless act, and a P.R. disaster, for the organization). The numbers suggest Kolzig can't play every night at his age - he put up save percentages of .860 or so in December and January when Bruce Boudreau was riding him heavily but had a .922 save percentage in February once Brent Johnson started to see more playing time. Kolzig is fine as a backup. As for last night - he wasn't exactly a sieve but the Mats Sundin goal should have been stopped - a shot with no traffic and from that angle always should be.

Bruce Boudreau. I've seen more than one person suggest Boudreau should have started Cristobal Huet last night rather than Kolzig. That criticism has some merit, but given how Olie had been playing of late and the fact that the Caps were playing on back-to-back days, in different cities, it was not unreasonable to play Kolzig last night.

George McPhee. Huh? Yeah, doesn't make enough sense, but I've seen people doing it, faulting McPhee for letting Kolzig play (not his decision), picking up Fedorov (who was fine) and failing to pick up a better defenseman at the trade deadline. I have to this: anyone who thinks McPhee is doing a poor job either (1) is taking their cues on the difficult of being a GM from a video game (2) is looking for reasons to be grumpy and be upset at McPhee because they've been scapegoating him for so long and/or (3) has no appreciation for how difficult it is to be a general manager in the NHL. I'm sure there are constructive arguments that can be made criticism McPhee's ability as a GM...but I haven't heard any yet.

Ted Leonsis. Another head-scratcher to me, but there are people faulting him for the fact that Olie got the start...because we all know it'd be better to have an over-involved Dan Snyder or Peter Angelos type owner, right?

Tomas Fleischmann and Alexander Semin both missed good chances last night.

Team Effort. This seem to be the go-to excuse any time a team loses a hockey game, but the fact that it's the once Boudreau cited makes it carry a little more weight in my mind. Still, although I think the Capitals effort could have been better for portions of the second period, yet I don't think it cost them the game.

The Powerplay. The Caps were 0-5 with the man advantage and it seemed like the Leafs actually gained momentum by taking penalties and killing them off.

That there are many suggested causes (scapegoats?) for this loss leads me to think it was a case of "just not enough". The Capitals offense just couldn't quite convert on their chances, the defense just couldn't quite bottle the Leafs attack and Olaf Kolzig wasn't quite good enough to pick up his teammates. No one was terrible, but a lot of guys were mediocre and when no one steps up and carries the team on their shoulders, that's just not enough to win.

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