First, kudos to the Caps fans that gave their team a standing ovation, even after the egg they laid last night. Unfortunately, Varly picked a bad night to have his worst game as a professional, but he’s 21 and this playoff season was just a glimpse at the future. We fans wouldn’t have been in a position to have our hearts ripped out last night if it wasn’t for his play.
I hope the Caps spend the off-season studying this series. First of all, the Pens (as much as it hurts to say this) really get playoff hockey. They stand-up at the blue line, their forwards back check as well as anyone, they clog the neutral zone and no matter who has the puck, there are three guys around him. I think these Capitals can learn a lot about how to win in the playoffs by watching what the Pens did to them in this series.
Secondly, the Caps need a big, tough defensman. I love Mike Green, but everytime he was in, Sidney Crosby spent his entire shift with his butt in Varly’s face. They need someone that will get those guys out of there. Did you see Crosby’s scoring chart? He had 9 goals in this series. All but one was within a foot of the net. That is unacceptable.
That being said, I stated before this season that we were two years away from being real contenders. Our defense is 10-times better than it was two years ago, but they’re not quite elite the way our offense can be. With Karl Alzner and maybe a guy like John Carlson in the wings, and the continued improvement of the guys on the team, and maybe (hopefully?) a front line defensive defenseman in the off-season, I think next year could be the year that the Penguins had last year, and once you get to the finals, anything can happen.