Now’s the time for the Caps to show us what they can do

March 05, 2014 | Drew Forrester

It’s not do or die for the Capitals in Philadelphia tonight — not by a longshot — but this evening’s affair with the Flyers should continue to tell us what’s under the hood for our beloved lifetime losers in Washington DC.

They’re coming off a hideous 3rd period collapse on Sunday at the Verizon Center that saw the Flyers score twice in the game’s final ten minutes and then win it in overtime on a softee surrendered by Caps netminder Braden Holtby.

You just can’t lose games like that in March, particularly when the team you’re playing is the one resting a single point ahead of you in the standings.

And, of course, losing to the Flyers — in your building, no less — is worse than having Duke come in and beat you by 25.  At least those Duke kids go to class and are probably decent human beings. Nothing about the Flyers is “decent”.

The Caps made a little bit of noise on Tuesday as the trade deadline approaches (Wednesday), sending the stiff-of-all-stiffs, Martin Erat to the Phoenix Coyotes for a couple of guys you’ve never heard of…which still makes it a win-win for the Caps.  A year ago, they brought Erat in from Nashville.  Sixty two games later, he departs with two more goals (total) than you and I scored in that time.  Good riddance.

The Tuesday acquisition of Dustin Penner from Anaheim could help the Washington offense, although Penner’s best scoring days are long gone.  He is, however, having a decent campaign in ’13-14 and his style of play will fit in much better than Erat’s, who was closer to being an Olympic figure skater than a contributor in the lunch-pail-required Eastern Conference of the NHL.

The Caps have danced on the edge of chaos (tip of the cap to Jason Cole who authored that line at a Ravens press conference once) several times in recent years but used final month or final week surges to make post-season play.

I don’t see it happening this year.

This just isn’t a very good team.

They don’t have enough offense night-in-and-night-out and their overall team defense is severely lacking.  Goaltending isn’t a weakness, per-se, but do you see any of the three they’ve used this year standing on his head for a series or two and pulling a “Lundqvist” and single-handedly eliminating a team?  Right, me neither.

They’re in a tough spot in Washington, because they’ve essentially mortgaged their franchise on the back of a career All-Star who still hasn’t really won anything that’s mattered in the NHL. They can’t really trade Alexander Ovechkin, because no one will take his contract, for starters, and of the 18,000 who show up for home games in D.C., about 12,000 of them own #8 sweaters.  You just can’t dump the guy who has made the franchise what it is today.

Maybe this non-playoff year — if it happens — will be the catalyst for major changes in D.C.

A look a few hundred miles north to the team assembled in Pittsburgh should give the Caps a solid blueprint for how to do things and assemble a winner.  Then again, they have their own “franchise player” in the likes of a guy named Crosby, but he’s so much better than Ovechkin on a variety of levels the comparison is almost unfair.

I’m a Caps fan from the outset…literally ’74-75…but I’m as down on them right now as I’ve been in a long, long time.

They don’t have what it takes under the hood to rise to the next level.