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Shea-ved Ice: ‘Capital’ Punishment

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(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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I hope everyone has fully recovered from your annual Capitals Elimination Day parties.

It came a little later this year, but the joyous day came nonetheless.

Honestly though, who saw a sweep coming?

I figured Washington would get by Tampa Bay based on being rested up from their quick series against the New York Rangers. If Washington were to lose, I would have put money on it being in seven games.

Tampa Bay was coming off a hard-fought seven-game series against the Penguins, so there’s no real explanation for a four-game sweep is there?

Or maybe there is.

Perhaps the last few years will have taught General Manager George McPhee that having defense and goaltending in the playoffs is a good idea.

The composition of the roster is just not conducive to playoff hockey. You don’t win in the playoffs by racking up six goals a game. There’s a couple guys in the defense corps that will round into form over the next couple years. Howver, Karl Alzner and John Carlson aren’t there yet. Outside of the Vespa-riding Mike Green, the rest of their defensemen come across as a Band-Aid approach by McPhee.

You need to be able to play tight-checking games and have your goaltender be a rock for playoff success.

It’s likely that Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov could evolve into great playoff goaltenders, but there’s no calming veteran presence there to help guide them.

Even their goaltending coach, Arturs Irbe, didn’t win a Stanley Cup. I’m not saying that’s a necessity, but the Capitals’ goaltending duo is very young and hasn’t had great success in the playoffs.

While Irbe won some big playoff series in his career, he doesn’t have his name on the Stanley Cup. Sound familiar? That’s because most of the players on the Washington Capitals’ roster don’t either.

The Capitals have secured the Eastern Conference’s top seed in each of the last two seasons.

Last year, they blew a 3-1 series lead to the No. 8 seed Montreal Canadiens.

That makes me feel even better about blowing a 3-1 lead against the Lightning this year without two of the best players in the world.

Maybe it has nothing to do with the roster. Perhaps it has everything to do with the high expectations for the team.

Everyone expected them to march on to the Eastern Conference Finals and challenge for the Stanley Cup.

Yet, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom practically disappeared in the series…again.

Maybe the pressure from Ted Leonsis is just too great. Are the players trying so hard to win that they get away from the things that made them successful in the regular season?

The only guy who remained dangerous in the playoffs was Alex Ovechkin. However, once again his teammates failed him and sent him to the golf course. Perhaps his “Great 8″ nickname stems from his prowess on the golf course?

At least they can hang their heads high knowing they’ll be raising another Southeast Division Champions banner to the rafters. Oh, and they can still celebrate beating the Penguins in the Stanley Cup…err…Winter Classic.

The only good thing to come out of the first-round loss to the Lightning is that it’s given Penguins fans the right to say, “At least Pittsburgh went the distance with Tampa and didn’t get swept. Oh, and the Penguins did it without Crosby and Malkin.”

One other positive note about bowing out in the first round. I haven’t had time to dwell on it because my wife and I are working on fixing up our house. We’re getting help from family and friends so it’s served as a good distraction.

Anyway, where did I leave that hammer?

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