When the Washington Capitals faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins for Game 4 of their second-round playoff series, there was an expectation that the Caps would have a huge advantage given the absence of Sidney Crosby, who suffered a concussion in Game 3.
It was supposed to be an easier game, and Washington was supposed to take the victory. Instead, the team fell 3–2 at PPG Paints Arena and Washington is now on the brink of elimination.
“They’re not desperate,” said Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports, who joined The Jeff Blair Show on Thursday to talk about the Capitals’ playoff frustrations.
“They’re not ready to give what it takes to win a playoff game,” he added.
The biggest concern, in his view, was the performance of team captain Alex Ovechkin, who was more or less invisible in Game 4.
Following Washington’s loss on Wednesday, Ovechkin shouldered the blame for his team’s failure.
“Obviously, I didn’t play my game at all tonight,” he said. “So I think me personally I have to play much better, get more involved in the game. It’s the time for us.”
Lavoie argued that it’s a huge problem if the team’s best player is coming up short in such a big game and promising to give more of himself next time.
Given the Capitals’ playoff failures, Lavoie wondered whether it might be time, soon, for the team to consider trading their captain, as “unthinkable” as that might be.
“I know he’s got a strong relationship with the owner Ted Leonsis, I understand that,” Lavoie said. “But at one point for that franchise, I wonder if they’ll think about the unthinkable, which is trying to find a dancing partner to see if there’s a good trade.”
While it’s a controversial idea, Lavoie added that the Capitals need to think about the future of the franchise.
“I’m not talking trading Joe Thornton to San Jose for, you know what, not a lot,” he said. “I’m thinking about a big trade that’s going to be help two franchises. Is it possible, is it feasible in the cap era? I don’t know. But they need to think about that, because they have so many good things. They have unbelievable players.”
The organization, Lavoie said, has done everything in its power to bring about playoff success.
“They’re building around him, and they’re trying to obviously make sure that he’s not going to have all the pressure in the world to score the big goals. But at the same time now we’re not talking about scoring or not scoring, we’re talking about an effort, in the game, in the playoffs. It’s totally different.”
In Lavoie’s view, there’s a difference between all-stars and real “superstars.” Ovechkin, he said, can’t be considered a superstar until he goes further in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and until he plays in the Stanley Cup Final.
“He’s not there and he needs to go there,” Lavoie said.
Of course, it’s unfair to pin all the blame on a single player, something Lavoie acknowledged. But if it isn’t working in Washington, he said, perhaps a change is needed.
“Hopefully it’s not over for them,” he said. “Hopefully it’s not over for Alexander Ovechkin. But I wonder what’s going to happen next. I think we’re there.”