Apr 7 2012; New York, NY, USA; Washington Capitals celebrate their win against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Washington won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE
Will low expectations for the Caps lead to bigger rewards this postseason and will RGIII ever be able to live up to the out of control hype?
We are two weeks away from the start of the NFL Draft, which usually means an extensive breakdown of the Redskins' options in rounds 1-7. (Is there a D-II field goal kicker they could grab in the 7th round that could beat out Graham Gano?)
Well, those days are gone, so we will get to that next week. However, for the here and now we have more pressing matters to deal with on the D.C. sports scene. The hockey club gets ready to for the second season and the first-place Nats are finally home. I love that phrase, "first-place Nats." So full of Natitude.
This week's "Chain Reactions" deals with the Caps' chances of flipping the script in the postseason against the Boston Bruins and is the RGIII overload healthy?
New Season for Caps
The Capitals will remind you they have been in the playoffs for several weeks now, and that's why this year will be different. For the new Caps fans out there, you will have to look up the franchise's history in the postseason on your own. It is way too heartbreaking for me to recap for you. When you get to a certain Easter Sunday Eve, grab the tissue.
This year the Caps are the underdogs with low to no expectations outside of D.C. In order to make a run, they must first take out the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in the first round. So perhaps the psychology of the series is in the Caps favor. Make no mistake, though, Boston is a big, physical team that has a world class goaltender in Tim Thomas. They are built for this time of year. That being said, this is the kind of Caps team GMGM had in mind when he retooled the roster in the off-season.
This year's team, in addition to dealing with two big injuries to Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom,has also dealt with some disappointing seasons from guys that were paid a lot of money to make them better. None of that matters now. It is a new season for first year Caps like Joel Ward, who was a playoff hero for Nashville last year, scoring 13 pts in 12 games; and Troy Brouwer, who was on the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks two years ago.
It usually comes down to the Alexs. Ovechkin, who has brought it in his post season career for the most part. He will have his hands full facing Zdeno Chara the big, physical Bruins defender who sometimes has been confused for Big Foot especially with a playoff beard. In three games v. Chara this year, Ovechkin did not score a goal. CSN Caps Analyst Alan May, who appeared on ESPN 980 the other day, has said that Ovi needs to bring the physical play to Chara.
Meanwhile, Alexander Semin has not had a great playoff past. He needs to keep playing like he wants to be in D.C. beyond this season, which he has been doing of late. Players like Ovi, Semin, and Nicklas Backstrom could change the fortunes for the Caps significantly. If all three are on, so is this series. If not, then it might be a quick exit in the off-season.
The Caps might be able to do everything right and still get stoned by Tim Thomas. How do you solve Thomas? My ESPN 980 colleague Thom Loverro had a great idea: how about President Obama on the glass for the games here in DC? OK, maybe he has a full schedule. Then how about some Obama masks?
Then there is the matter of inexperienced Braden Holtby, who is the guy between the pipes whether he's ready or not, because no one else is healthy. History is littered with no-name goalies making postseason runs like Michael Leighton did with the Flyers two seasons ago. And, of course, there's the amazing story of Cam Ward in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Thomas, before last season, was very human in the postseason and the Bruins were very Caps-like themselves. I saw them lose up close in the 2009 playoffs to the Carolina Hurricanes, who on paper were much less imposing than these Capitals. A key for the 'Canes was getting dirty goals and not backing down to the Big Bad Bruins. If the Caps can do that, then they can be the team pulling the upset for once this time of year. Give me the guys in red in 6.
RG III Overload
For full disclosure: during the last weeks of the Redskins season, I wrote it was time to "start Whiffin' for Griffin" because I really liked the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Baylor. So needless to say, I was ecstatic that the 'Skins moved up to grab what will presumably be Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick.
What has blown me away is how quickly RGIII-mania has grown among 'Skins fans. Many fans do not want to even think about Andrew Luck playing for the 'Skins. Some were not even happy that the franchise did their due diligence and met with Luck, which is comical considering he has been the best quarterback in college football for two years. Both have passed every test in front of them with flying colors so far.
My fear for RGIII is that he can't live up to the hype, because the hype is off the charts now. There are RGIII license plates already! There are posters of him that say "Hope," Obama-style. There are the comparisons and expectations that he can put up Cam Newton numbers in year one, while some fans could settle for Andy Dalton's season: just make the playoffs. I get it, 'Skins fans have suffered through mediocrity for too long at the most important position on the field.
But there are so many factors that determine the success of young quarterbacks and until we see RGIII in uniform and on the field, we have no idea how quickly it will come together for him in his rookie season. Like everyone else, I hope it happens ASAP, but if it doesn't, fans need to be patient and let him play through the growing pains.
Listen to Scott Jackson, Brian Mitchell, and Doc Walker on "Inside the Locker Room," weekdays from 2-4 p.m. on ESPN 980.