Habs Fever - It's talent vs. system in this series
Published Sunday, April 18, 2010 11:23AM EDT
I think the success or failure of the Capitals in these playoffs will say a lot about where hockey is right now.
Is it a sport where offence wins titles or is it a sport where defence is still the key?
The Capitals are without shades of grey. They are as black and white as a championship-calibre team can be.
They are an offensive juggernaut, as powerful as any scoring force the NHL has seen in the last decade at least.
However, they are a defensive train wreck. This Caps club in game two was on the wrong side of the puck all night. Their best defencemen were their worst - and their best is only 20 years old, just out of winning World Junior gold for the U.S. Good for him, but John Carlson can't be your best defenceman - and Mike Green and Nick Schultz can't be rendering a parting of the Red Sea to make Cecil B. Demille proud.
Steve Yzerman was right. Green is high risk, but you take that liability for the outstanding offence you get, but this expected Norris Trophy winner is not providing that either.
I hope for the good of the game that the Caps win the Cup. They are so exciting to watch. What talent they have! Nicklas Backstrom is so underrated. What fun to watch the Caps win 16 games this spring it would be.
Sadly though, I think hockey is a defence-first sport and the Caps won't win against a tight team with more talent than the Habs.
Bruce Boudreau admitted as much after the game in saying the Caps have to tighten up.
So how does that change the dynamic of the series? The offensive machine needs to tighten up. The defence first team needs to tighten up.
Bottom line, game three should be tighter, fewer goals, more dedicated defence.
The series took two games to develop its identity, and it is this: It's talent vs. system. A well-coached tactical team doing its best at X's and O's to make up for what God didn't give them, vs. about five guys God blessed and another fifteen God showed favour to doing what they do naturally and letting the chalkboard gather dust in the corner.
In the long run, the Caps are gonna need that chalkboard to win the Cup. Short term, they can beat the Habs with their talent.
On balance, the Caps are good enough in the offensive zone to compensate for how bad they are in the defensive zone. And Caps' fans take heart: You can teach defence, but you can't teach talent.
I'm sticking to my original prediction of Caps in six with the Habs continuing to compete at a higher level than most wannabe experts would expect.
I would doubt that's unintentionally laughable to anyone.