The Washington Capitals lost, 2-0, to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of their second-round playoff series Wednesday. The Caps have lost in the second round of the playoffs in three straight seasons and are now 3-7 in Game 7s in the Alex Ovechkin era.
Grant Paulsen, however, isn’t blaming Ovechkin for Wednesday – or any of those Game 7 losses.
“I don’t think it’s fair in hockey, to be honest with you,” the 106.7 The Fan host told Paul Nanos, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Most people will tell you that watch a lot of hockey that you’re on the ice – if you play a lot as a non-defenseman – for maybe 18-21 minutes if they’re extra busy in a game, but essentially less than a third of the time. He’s not out there on the penalty-kill. He’s only out there even strength or on the power play, and so there’s two-thirds of the game he’s not involved in. This is not even football where you’re a quarterback and you’re touching the ball on every play. Basketball, I think, you can (praise or blame) when someone loses a Game 7 – LeBron’s got this many rings and Jordan has this many – because you’re involved in everything. Everything that you do, every possession, has to do with you.
“Hockey is not that way,” Paulsen continued. “The whole ‘What are his numbers in Game 7? Is this guy good or bad in a clutch situation?’ – I don’t really do that in hockey. I don’t think it works. I don’t think it’s fair to Ovechkin. You can say tonight that he was more quiet that you would have liked. You can say that you need more out of him in a game like this. But he’s not the reason they won or lost tonight – or in any of these Game 7s, frankly. They got bigger problems than Ovechkin as far as I’m concerned.”
One of those problems? Lack of consistency.
“I think for them it’s been different coaches, it’s been different casts of characters, they’ve had different cores – one after another – and it’s never worked,” Paulsen said. “So they go back to the drawing board now, but rest assured: This was the end of a closing window. This group is going to look very different next year.”
Whether that includes Barry Trotz remains to be seen. But just as Paulsen doesn’t blame Ovechkin for the Caps’ annual postseason disappointments, he doesn’t blame Trotz either.
“They were the best team in hockey in the regular year the last two years,” Paulsen said. “A-Rod didn’t hit in October until he did. Marty Schottenheimer can’t win the big game in January. So the calendar changes, it’s colder, and he forgets how to coach? I don’t think anyone who watched the Toronto series – where they came back from down two games to one and win three straight to win in six – would say Barry Trotz didn’t coach well. In fact, it’s the opposite of that. In this series, they’re down 2-0 and 3-1 (and he makes changes that forced a Game 7). So I’m not sure that it’s Barry Trotz. I know that in sports we’ve got to find reasons – and I’m an analytic guy who likes numbers. I get it. But I just think it’s hard to pin it on someone.”