Caps post-season tank job shouldn’t be a shock…it’s what they do

May 04, 2011 | Drew Forrester

In the NHL playoffs, you win with grit and heart.

The Capitals don’t have much of that.

And that’s why they’re losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-games-to-none in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Last night’s third period effort, with the series effectively in the balance, was a shameful display of fortitude from a team that has displayed that kind of white-towel-waving on more than one occasion over the last few years in post-season play.

The last 12 minutes of Tuesday’s game 3 featured half-efforts from the likes of Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom, both of whom must contribute mightily to the Capitals offense in order for the team to win a game, let alone a series.  And while Alex Ovechkin did have a power play goal in the 2nd period and played the middle stanza with the bit between his teeth, his performance in the final 20 minutes – while filled with effort – wasn’t good enough from the player some think is the league’s best player.

Ovechkin and his legion of followers won’t want to read this, but it’s true.  The playoffs – in any sport – make winners.  Lots of people in sports have the ability to perform well in the regular season and help their team win games.  But the ones worth having are the athletes who make winners out of their team when the chips are down.  And this is the truth about Ovechkin: As of today, with his team’s playoff history littered with post-season collapses and Game 7 brain-farts, Ovechkin isn’t a winner.  And neither is Semin.  And neither is Backstrom.  And since those three make a lot of money, they get most of the heat.

Anyone who is surprised by this 3-game steamer the Caps have dropped against the Lightning hasn’t watched hockey in the nation’s capital over the last 35 years or so.  Post-season losing is in the franchise’s DNA.  I, like most people, assumed Ovechkin would give the team a transplant of sorts when it came to rising up and shedding the club’s post-season choker label…but it hasn’t happened.

You have to give Tampa Bay credit.  Their big guns have come through.  Lecavalier, St. Louis and Stamkos have all made major contributions in this series.  Their 41-year old goaltender has outplayed Neuvirth – not by much, but he has – and was a big factor in Tampa Bay’s 3-games-to-1 recovery in the series win over Pittsburgh.

This series with the Lightning has come down to one thing.  Tampa Bay wants it more.  Then again, so did the Canadiens last year when they came back from 3-1 down to win Game 7 in Washington.  The Penguins wanted it more a couple of years back when they squashed Ovie and the gang in Game 7 at the Verizon Center.

In the NHL playoffs, you win with heart and grit.

The Capitals just don’t have enough of it.