There's an old aphorism that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
By that definition, the Capitals are certifiably crazy.
Mere days ago, they preached the virtues of discipline after committing six minor penalties -- their most in nearly two months -- and giving the Rangers too many chances to take advantage.
Sunday, with an opportunity to eliminate their postseason rival, the Capitals failed to heed their own advice, losing their heads and the game as a result, With New York's 1-0 victory, Washington's seventh Game 7 in nine postseason series since 2008 looms Monday at Verizon Center.
"[The penalties] killed our momentum," forward Troy Brouwer said. "I thought we were really good in the first until we started taking penalties and spent half the first period killing them off, letting them get momentum, letting their building get excited. And then they came out, scored the goal in the second period and we took more penalties.”
The Capitals are incredibly fortunate that the Rangers' power play -- despite having a league-high 26 opportunities through six games -- has been inept (2-of-26, 7.7 percent) and that their penalty kill has been efficient or this series might very well be over by now.
Just as concerning as New York's potentially fatal flaw, however, is Washington's: a lack of composure.
Two of the Capitals' seven penalties Sunday -- the final two were roughing penalties earned in a postgame melee that also landed the Rangers their only two penalties of the game -- were of the retaliatory variety; defensemen Jack Hillen and Mike Green's respective cross checks on forwards Ryan Callahan and Derek Dorsett (who the Capitals accused of slew-footing prior to the infraction) were, like any penalty, unnecessary. They only served to stunt the Capitals' momentum and derail any sort of push they attempted to make,
"We had two undisciplined ones, retaliatory penalties," forward Matt Hendricks said. "That's four minutes in the box. The other ones are iffy calls. They can go either way. We killed them off, but at the same time they were able to keep momentum because of it.
“We’re not that hockey team. We’re not that type of team. We’re a disciplined hockey team. We need to stay disciplined.”
To paraphrase Hendricks, discipline is one of the aspects of the game that always needs to be reiterated, "like a bird that sits on your shoulder that's always chirping in your ear." Yet that bird has seemingly been swalllowed by the devil inside of them who has been whispering in their ears instead.
It goes without saying that the Capitals must quickly regain their self-discipline, though they really have no other choice.
They are 3-8 all-time in Game 7s, 2-4 overall (1-3 at home) since 2008, and 4-5 in series in which they've held a 2-0 lead, all unsettling statistics that could become even more unsettling if they can't settle down.
Now that would be insane.
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