SNIDER: Can Caps rebound off whipping in Carolina?

Rick Snider
April 16, 2019 - 12:03 pm

So you thought it would be easy, or at least not ugly. A quick dance to 16 victories, a stroll down Constitution Ave., three days of keg stands and another banner raising.

And then the Hurricanes delivered a big-time blow to those Stanley Cup dreams. Oh, nobody thought the Capitals would sweep their first-round series, but the Canes dispensed a jarring wakeup call with a 5-0 win on Monday.

Caps 2, Canes 1, and suddenly the best-of-seven series is interesting.

Alexander Ovechkin's jarring knockout win over Carolina's Andrei Svechnikov was the highlight of the night for Washington, though even Ovechkin regretted such a brutal series of punches.

The champs are going to have rough nights. Carolina was desperate for a win to avoid trailing 3-0. Teams often come back from 2-0 deficits, but rallying from 3-0 is nearly impossible. From the very start, Carolina flew past Washington before a thunderous home crowd. Either the Canes were winning this game or they were soon heading into the offseason, so they put a hurting on the Caps.

Now what? It's still anyone's series, even if Washington has a 2-1 lead and home-ice edge. Don't be surprised to see Carolina win game 4 on Thursday for a 2-2 series returning to Capital One Arena on Saturday.

But, the Caps excelled in the grind of a long series last year. Washington beat Columbus and Pittsburgh in six games, before outlasting Tampa Bay in seven. Indeed, a five-game victory over Vegas in the Stanley Cup Finals seemed over much too quickly.

The Caps are built to last long series through depth. Who cares if the New York Islanders might have plenty of rest before meeting Washington in the second round, given New York's current 3-0 lead over Pittsburgh. The Caps are grinders despite having plenty of marquee players. They're not a team that sweeps opponents, but one that wins series 4-2.

Take a breath, figure game 4 might be rough and then prepare for the rest of the playoffs, where the Caps get the better of the Canes at the end. After all, where's the fun in easy wins?

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks