Mike Wise on the Washington Capitals' Playoff Struggles
When I heard a befuddled Alex Ovechkin talk of another surprising playoff loss -- "I didn't expect it, but what can I say?" -- a sudden clarity began to take shape.
The behavior of his Russian teammates the past week almost sealed it.
Viktor Kozlov, the veteran, making rookie mistakes. Alexander Semin, playing as uninspired in Game 2 as Sergei Fedorov in Game 1. Why Washington's greatly skilled hockey team has not won a first-round Stanley Cup playoff game against the inferior New York Dump-the-Puckers continued to conjure up eerie coincidences.
Think about it. Ovie and his countrymen (the Capitals employ five Russians, more than any other NHL team) wear customary red on the ice. They have blank stares afterward and are unable to explain their stunning demise against a bunch of chippy guys, many of whom, like Colton Orr, would be playing in the Eastern Professional Hockey League if they couldn't fight.
The heavy underdogs wear white uniforms with blue and red trim, with no discernible star to speak of on their roster. They raise their sticks and joyously surround their goalie afterward.
Did we mention John Tortorella, the Rangers' angry coach who often chastises his players like the late Herb Brooks, is also the U.S. national team coach?
Can't you see?
Said Slava Malamud, my colleague from the Russian newspaper Sport-Ekspress, "Wow, how ironic is it that they show the clips from the movie 'Miracle' during the game up above on the scoreboard?"
"I think you might have something there," Slava said, adding, "Well, not really. But you can try."