I was asked how I like the Caps chances in round 2 against the Rangers. At first blush, I like them. Maybe it's the bravado of winning a close first round. Maybe it's the euphoria of being in round 2. Maybe it's stupid ignorance. Either way, I like our chances.
The new "heavy" way the Caps play is something new to fans that Rock the Red. Something we have wanted for a long time. A style we begged GMGM to provide so we could survive past the daffodils and cherry blossoms. There's a new GM in town. There's a bench boss that actually HAS been here before. There are new faces that have experience, and won't shy away from contact. There's a new air in the Caps sails. We no longer have a guy that leads the team in goals AND hits. We no longer have all of our hopes resting on either the shoulders of Ovie to score every single goal in the series AND hope that the goalie doesn't give up that one goal. We no longer have to absolutely rely on superstitions to give our team just that little bit of extra to push them over the edge. (Only to fail. Again.)
Now, onto the nuts and bolts. I said it after Ovie's reaction to the win in the Winter Classic, there's a different look to him now. He's failed in the Olympics. Twice. Once in his homeland. He's failed in 5 game 7's in 7 years. He's not gotten ANY glory in hockey outside of scoring amazing goals here and there. And even that has been fizzling in recent years. He finally won something with HIS Winter Classic. In his town, on his pond, with his C on the line. He got the glory. Happy Ovie.
Let's look back at the Isles series. There were 14 fewer power plays than there has ever been in a 7 games series in the history of the NHL playoffs. That's 1 per team, per game. Maybe it's the playoff "policy" of letting them play. Maybe it's the fact that there were a LOT of coinciding minors that put the ice at 4v4 instead of a PP. Maybe it's, gasp, a conspiracy theory against the Caps since we had the top PP in the league. (Nah, that's not it, so stop thinking it!) Even with the abysmal PP performance by the Caps at 15%, another 7 PPs would have given us 1 more goal at that rate. That could have made it a 6 game series. That could have given us momentum in a game earlier. That could have given us the the upper hand to pop the top on the PP and raise the percentage. But it didn't. And you know what? We still won! We won with even strength goals. Woo Hoo. Alright, that's enough celebrating, time to get to work on round 2 now.
As far as looking, back, I'm going to ignore the recent past of the Caps-Rangers playoff series. This is not the team that has played them 4 of the last 6 post seasons. This is not our regularly-scheduled-typically-already-playing-golf Caps. This is not the win-one-for-Hunter-because-he-was-an-awesome-player Caps. This is not the Ovie-has-his-head-down-because-he-didn't-win-a-medal-at-the-Olympics Caps. This is the 2015 Caps. This is Holtby playing 273 regular season games this seaosn Caps. This is Ovie scoring 5 power play goals EVERY game Caps. This is Trotz controlling the game from the bench and poking Wilson at the right times Caps. This is Kuzy's coming out party Caps. This is a new fresh season.
Looking at the series with Rangers, they won't be hitting us like the Isles did. There will still be the chippiness after the whistle, but we won't have to endure hit after hit just trying to get the darn puck out of our own zone. This won't be a "heavy" series like the last one. But that's no reason to just take a deap breath and rest on our laurels. The skaters need to continue, and rise above. If we have ice, we can use it. The Kuzy/Mojo/Chimer line needs to be healthy and make their ice time continue to count. Ovie needs to find his spots so Backy can either feed him or snap his own past Henry's ear hole. Holtby needs to be stay healthy (no puking this round buddy!) We need to get the Rangers out of their game and get some more PP's on our end. The PP unit needs to step it up to regular season levels. If they want to play a heavy game, we are definitely set up to take care of that also. In other words, I think we can actually control a game for the first time in a long time. There's hope that the Caps can hit with the best but still skate past anyone that tries to stop them. There's hope that the Caps can close a series. There's hope the Caps can control their own destiny. There's hope in Caps land today. As we embark on round 2, I will rock the red for the Caps, as I believe this team actually can.