As hard as winning the Stanley Cup is, defending it seems to be an even more daunting task. Everyone is out to get you plus you’re coming off of a season where you played more than almost every other team and had less time to rest over the summer.
This year it might be even tougher as the Stanley Cup Final ended later due to the lockout and the top players on teams will be playing in the 2014 Winter Olympics in addition to the 82-game grind.
As it is, no team has successfully defended the Cup since the Detroit Red Wings earned back-to-back championships in 1997-98. That being said, the Blackhawks have a rare advantage: They know what to expect.
Many of the Blackhawks’ best players were also around when they won it all in 2010, so they know exactly what it’s like to try and defend the Cup, even if they weren’t successful in their first attempt.
“Winning the first time, you learn a lot about what to do in the offseason the next year,” Defenseman Duncan Keith told CSN Chicago. “Obviously we’ll see. There can only be one winner at the end of the day. But I still think we have to make sure we’re prepared and make sure we know it’s important to get off to a good start and use the experiences of last time.”
Patrick Sharp added that going into the 2013-14 campaign with mostly the same team will help. They were in a terrible cap situation in the summer of 2010 and had to sacrifice many of their complimentary players in addition to starting goaltender Antti Niemi as a result. By comparison, this summer’s turnover was far less severe.
“Easier’s the wrong word, but it might be more comfortable with the number of returning players and Joel (Quenneville’s status) being locked up,” Sharp said. “There’s going to be that familiarity.
“Hopefully we pick up where we left off last season.”
People love star athletes because they can do amazing things. Even so, people also often love to see the occasional moment of weakness.
Aside from the occasional injury hiccup, Sidney Crosby‘s been as advertised after being a super-hyped No. 1 overall pick. He has that “Golden Goal,” two Olympic gold medals, a Stanley Cup ring and plenty of individual accolades.
Not many people expected the Capitals-Penguins series to be over in five games, but there’s a chance that could happen before the end of the week. After their 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, the Capitals are one loss away from being bounced from the 2016 playoffs.
The Capitals failed to take advantage of the fact that Kris Letang was suspended for Game 4 because of his hit on Marcus Johansson in Game 3. Letang is now set to return for Game 5 which makes Washington’s task even more difficult.
“We didn’t take advantage of it,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said, per NHL.com. “One thing I said to the guys coming into this, and we talked it about it yesterday, was when Kris got his suspension, is that they’re going to rally. Their whole team, their forwards are going to come back. They talked about they didn’t play their best game (in Game 3) and now they have Letang out and everybody had to step up on their side, and I thought they did.”
If you look back at the regular season, the Capitals were head and shoulders above the rest of the Eastern Conference and the league for a good portion of the season. Washington finished 11 points ahead of second place Dallas in the league standings and it looked like they had the team that would finally take them over the hump.
Although things look gloomy, it’s important to realize that the series is far from over. Many NHLers would tell you that the fourth win is always the hardest to come by in a best-of-seven series, and by no means is anyone expecting the Capitals to wave the white flag.
“Whenever you lose a game, it’s obviously an opportunity missed, but it had nothing to do with them missing some of their players,” said Caps forward Jay Beagle, per NHL.com. “We’re looking forward. Our back’s against the wall and the most important game of our lives is coming up.”
Game 5 goes Saturday night in Washington.
PHT Morning Skate: Shane Doan takes a (friendly) shot at the Miracle on Ice
The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.
Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.
With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.
Trevor Daley, traded to Blackhawks for Sharp & Johns and to #Pens for Scuderi (who was flipped to LA for Ehrhoff) played 28:41 in G4 W.