Starkey's Mailbag: Are the Washington Capitals choking again?
April 18, 2017 2:31 PM
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
While the Penguins are cruising through their first-round series, the Washington Capitals are struggling.
By Joe Starkey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Welcome to Joe Starkey’s weekly mailbag, where the Post-Gazette columnist and 93.7 The Fan radio host answers your questions about sports, life, Buffalo, Bob Dylan and everything in between. If you want to ask Joe a question, tweet him @JoeStarkey1 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. On to the questions:
Peter F., @petefrompitt: Pens over Caps in the 2nd round in how many games? 5? 6? Or is it going to be Pens over leafs? Or is this simply Yinzer Hubris?
Starkey: There’s nothing wrong with a little Yinzer Hubris, Mr. petefrompitt, but the real questions at the moment are these:
Will the Penguins finish off the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday night?
Are the Capitals choking like dogs again?
As for Pens-Jackets, the story of the series is Sergei Bobrovsky melting down so badly you’d think he played for the Capitals. Is this really the guy who put up Hasek numbers in the regular season?
The Penguins are bouncing pucks off Bobrovsky and into the net from all angles, like he's a racquetball wall. It’s ridiculous. I think if I got a penalty shot against Bobrovsky, I’d skate to the corner and try to fire a puck off the back of his leg.
The Jackets’ best hope to win a game is for Bobrovsky to steal one.
I wouldn’t bet on it.
Now to the Capitals and them blowing a two-goal lead in Toronto and trailing that series, 2-1. Is this is unbelievable, or what? Maybe it’s very believable. Let me take you back to a Tony Kornheiser column from the Washington Post, after a long-ago Penguins-Capitals series:
“Let's be honest. Both of us know what I have to do here.
You've come to this page to see me write that the Capitals are — well, you know what they are.
And I have to write it, because I write it every year.
Because they do it every year.
Same old story: What's red, white and blue, and plays golf in April?
Excuse me, what's bronze, white and blue, and plays golf in April?
The Washington Capitals.
That was written in 1996! Do you know many choke jobs ago that was? It was a full decade before Alex Ovechkin perfected the art of losing before the conference final every … single … year.
You’d think the Capitals would have learned from how they lost to the Penguins last year. They were overwhelmed by the Penguins’ speed. But as USA Today hockey writer Kevin Allen has maintained all year, the Capitals really aren’t much faster than they were last season. And in the modern-day NHL, speed kills.
Now, am I convinced the Maple Leafs are going to finish the job?
I’m not. I still believe the Capitals extricate themselves from this mess and play the Penguins in the second round.
I just wouldn’t bet on it.
Jacob Hayostek, @Kinka1997: Who would you rather have the Penguins play, the Leafs or the Capitals?
Starkey: Either would be wildly entertaining, Mr. Kinka1997, and I’m keeping an eye on the Oilers in the West — can you imagine a Penguins-Oilers Stanley Cup final? — but if I’m the Penguins, I’d rather play the Maple Leafs in the Phil Kessel Bowl. I still believe that is a vulnerable defense.
That being said, the Maple Leafs remind me of the 2007-08 Penguins — talented and precocious and very, very dangerous. They are a classic be-careful-what-you-wish-for proposition.
By the way, remember when there was so much consternation over who the Penguins’ first-round opponent would be and how they had to win the division in order to avoid the Blue Jackets and maybe get to play a team like … the Maple Leafs?
How unfair it all seemed.
Robert Egan, @Robdogg039: Would you go to an NBA finals game with me?
Zach, @zbb5006: How amazing is it being a part of Pittsburgh sports media? I know you are Buffalo at heart, but this isn't too bad, eh?
Starkey: Oh, it’s amazing, all right, especially when it comes to hockey media, Mr. @zbb5006, but I’ll leave those stories for another day.
And you know what? I am Pittsburgh at heart. I’ve been here for nearly 30 years. I met my wife in Pittsburgh. We had our daughter here. And yes, I’ve had the great fortune of covering some amazing sporting events — including championships (as opposed to, oh I don’t know, four straight Super Bowl losses, a soul-crushing Stanley Cup defeat and decades of hideous losses of every kind).
May I list the top five sporting events I’ve covered? Please note that I was on paternity leave for Steelers-Cardinals Super Bowl.
5. Bettis fumble game. Probably the loudest building I’ve ever been in.
4. Pitt 13, West Virginia 9. Still can’t believe it went down like that. I was in the same building the week before and watched WVU put 66 points on UConn.
3. Penguins Game 7 win over Red Wings. Tyler Kennedy finally admitted it to me the other day: Penguins took great pleasure in sticking it to Hossa.
2. Pirates-Reds wild card game. Felt lucky to be there.
1. Super Bowl XL. Maybe this stands out on this particular day because we are celebrating the life of Dan Rooney. I stood next to him before the game, in the press box in Detroit, and wondered: “Do you still get nervous for these things?”
His reply: “No, not really. Whatever happens, happens.”
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