1. Henrik Lundqvist — We all know that a hot goalie can steal a game, or even a series (See: Halak, Jaroslav). Lundqvist has that kind of ability. In the 2009 series against NYR the Caps had games of four, four and give goals scored. In the past 13 playoff games against Lundqvist, Washington has scored more than three goals only once. If King Henrik is on his game another early exit may be in the offing.
2. Michael Wilbon — The man made his fame and fortune in D.C., yet he’s transformed into perhaps the greatest Washington sports troll of all time. He alternates effortlessly between slobbering over teams and athletes from his beloved Chicago, and bashing anything that has ever been associated with the nation’s capital. He has consistently slammed Ovi and the Caps and yet now he’s picking Washington to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Of course he’s then picking them to lose to the Blackhawks.
3. Special Teams — The Caps’ April surge was powered by the power play. Washington led the NHL at 26.8% on the PP, the highest success rate in more than two decades (granted it was a short season). Those extra goals were a huge part of Ovi’s rebirth and the worst-to-first run. But power plays are harder to come by in the postseason and even worse, the Rangers tied with Chicago for fewest PIMs per game. It’s very likely this series will be decided five-on-five. That doesn’t make it impossible for the Caps to win, but it doesn’t make it any easier.
4. Disappearing Acts — In the ’11 playoffs Nick Backstrom had only two points in nine games. Mike Green has had defensive lapses and scoring droughts in the playoffs. Alex Semin has been Alex Semin. (Alex Ovechkin has been the team’s leader scorer each time he’s been in the playoffs). It seems that every year a player we’re counting on disappears. We know we’ll get nothing out of Alex Semin this spring, but will there be another guy that seems like he’s no longer on the roster over the next two weeks?
5. We Can’t Have Nice Things — It’s true for D.C. sports in general. Here’s a brief look at the crew of young stars to come to DC in the past few seasons:
— Strasburg (Tommy John surgery and now the forearm issue)
— Wall (only played 49 games this season, has never played 70 in a season)
— RGIII (blew every ligament in every body part, won’t miss a single game)
— Harper (this better just be a bruise)
All of these things have happened to the Caps:
— 4OT loss to Pittsburgh in ’96
— Esa Tikkanen missed the net
— 3-game-to-1 lead blown against the Pens
— 3-game-to-1 lead blown against the Pens again
— The Easter Epic (painfully retold here)
— 6.6 seconds!
I’m not saying, I’m just saying.