The great teams use a tough loss to get better. When you hear a lot of talk from guys who just lost big about how unfair it all was and how they couldn’t get a call from the refs, you can be certain they’ll lose the next one, too. You didn’t need to go to any videotape to analyze why the Washington Capitals can’t get it done in the playoffs year after year; all you had to do was listen to their captain and general manager.

It wasn’t so much the words that came from the mouth of Alex Ovechkin that were revealing; it was the tone, a plaintive, childlike, everyone-is-against-us attitude. The fact it was echoed by the higher-ups suggests the Caps need to do more in the offseason than tweak the roster. They need to tweak an entire mind-set. Ovechkin summed it up when he attributed their seven-game loss to the New York Rangers in the first round of the NHL playoffs to one-sided officiating, a contention George McPhee backed him up on. “I don’t think there’s a league conspiracy, but it sure didn’t feel right,” McPhee said. That indicated a broader organizational weakness, a lack of insight into the fundamental art of winning.

Hear that sound? It’s unmistakable. It’s the sound of a losing attitude. You know it when you hear it. It sounds like the opposite of what winners say. Which is what Rangers Coach John Tortorella really meant when he said, “We’ve got everybody and their brother whining up there in Washington about what happened in that series, and I think that’s a big reason why they lose that series.”

The headline on Tortorella’s remarks was that he took a shot at the Caps. But if you read the remark in context, you see that he was complimenting his own team’s superior attitude. Tortorella led his remarks off by saying this: “I like where our team is as far as how they handle themselves.” The main factor that allowed the Rangers to rally from a two-game deficit and win Game 7, 5-0, was not the whistles but an implacable toughness; they didn’t beat themselves like the Caps seem to do at the end of every season.