History Repeating: Caps Knocked Out of 2nd Round…Again

Was it a dream? Unfortunately it was not as the Washington Capitals, the NHL’s best team in the regular season, got ousted once again by the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 in a overtime 4-3. This makes them 1-8 all-time in series vs. Pittsburgh.

The Caps have not been very successful in the playoffs since 1998, the first and only time they made the Eastern Conference and Stanley Cup Finals. Let’s take a look at the playoff history since then.

1997-1998 : Washington mows through the playoffs past the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators to get to the Eastern Conference Finals against Dominik Hasek and the Buffalo Sabres. The Caps win the series 4-2 and get into the Stanley Cup Finals, where they are swept by the juggernaut Detroit Red Wings.

1999-2000; 2000-2001 : The Capitals made the playoffs by winning the Southeast Division two years in a row after missing out in 1998-1999. In the quarterfinals, they played the Pittsburgh Penguins, who won both series 4-1 and 4-2 respectively.

In the Summer of 2001, the Capitals went all in and traded three prospects to the Pittsburgh Penguins for five-time Art Ross trophy winner Jaromir Jagr. We all know how that went.

2002-2003 : After missing the playoffs the previous year, the Caps were in as a wildcard. Playing in the quarterfinals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, they lost the series 4-2 and then proceeded to not make the playoffs for the next four seasons (including the lockout).

In 2004, Jagr was sent to the New York Rangers. The Capitals ended this season 23–46–10–3, good for second to last in the NHL. With the NHL Draft Lottery, the Capitals won the overall number one spot over the worst team in the NHL, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and chose a legend: Alexander Ovechkin.

2004-2005 : NHL LOCKOUT – NO PLAYOFFS

2007-2008 : After four seasons of no playoff hockey, the Caps hired Bruce Boudreau as their head coach. They proceeded to win the Southeast division and take on the Philadelphia Flyers in the Quarterfinals. A hard fought series, the Caps went in with a new goaltender Cristobal Huet. After being down 3-1 in the series, the Caps made a valiant effort but lost the series 4-3.

2008-2009 : With Huet gone and Kolzig signing with Tampa Bay, the Caps signed free agent Jose Theodore as their goaltender. Trading off between Theodore and Semyon Varlamov, the Caps won the Southeast Division and were scheduled to play Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers. For the first time since 1998, the Caps won the opening round series 4-3 before falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in the semi-finals.

2009-2010 : The Caps had their best season yet, winning the President’s Trophy with 121 points as the leagues best team. Behind Theodore and Michal Neuvirth, the Caps drew a pesky Montral Canadiens team with Jaroslav Halak in net. Halak stonewalled the Caps and sent the best team home in round one 4-3.

2010-2011 : With Varly and Neuvy trading off, the Caps locked up best team in the Eastern Conference with 107 points. They proceeded to take out the New York Rangers 4-1 but came up against a buzz saw in round two as the Tampa Bay Lightning swept the Caps 4-0.

2011-2012 : Still unsure of the goaltender situation, the Caps signed Tomas Vokoun to a one year deal. After firing Bruce Boudreau part way into the season, the Caps hired former enforcer Dale Hunter to the job. They finished second in the Southeast and played the Boston Bruins, 2011’s Stanley Cup Champ. With Neuvirth and Vokoun both injured, Braden Holtby got his shot as starting goaltender for round one. The Caps had a hard fought series against goaltender Tim Thomas but Holtby and the Caps outlasted with 4-3. In round two, the Caps ran into the New York Rangers hot Henrik Lundqvist and lost the series 4-3. Hunter announced he was “stepping down” as coach.

2012-2013 : Another former Cap Adam Oates was named head coach before yet another NHL lockout occurred.

2014-2015 : After a dismal 2013-2014 season, the Caps fired Adam Oates and General Manager George McPhee. They introduced new head coach Barry Trotz, formerly of the Nashville Predators. Getting the team to buy in to his philosophy, Trotz and the Caps gave Braden Holtby the reigns to the starting job and finished second in the newly crowned Metropolitan Division. They played the New York Islanders in round one and won that series 4-3. In the second round, the Caps played familiar foe the New York Rangers. Behind Lundqvist, the Caps lost the series 4-3.

2015-2016 : The Caps have a record-breaking season, finishing with 120 points, the most wins by a Caps team in history (56) and the President’s Trophy. They come up against a pesky Philadelphia Flyers team that came back in the series after the Caps jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the series. But the Caps put them away 4-2 and went to the next round. Playing their nemesis from Pittsburgh, the Caps faltered and went down 3-1 in the series before forcing a Game 6 and losing the series to the Pens.

It has now been 18 years since the Capitals have gotten past round two.

So what next for the Capitals? First you have to decide what you want to do to the team: a total rebuild or address your needs in certain areas, like a scoring forward and better defensemen on the backend. Whatever the decision, the team has nearly four months to think about it and get ready for pre-season in September.

(Stats Courtesy of NHL.com)
Written by Christopher Johnson, Photos by Brittney Marcum

Caps lost = It’s over.

This is the one we didn’t want to have to write. At least if we were going to have to write it, we hoped it would be in the final round for the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, it was not to be for the Caps. Despite the amazing regular season, the end came in Pittsburgh in overtime.

It started as another do or die game for the guys from Washington. The team remained positive and pumped to bring the series back to Verizon Center for a Game 7. We believed they could do it after their win in Game
Early in the first period, a terrible turnover by Kris Letang provided a scoring chance for Mike Richards–just a chance. Matt Niskanen did he best at defense, making sure that the Penguins did not great a scoring chance on Holtby.

The Capitals played well for the first five minutes but it was Phil Kessel who opened the scoring. Daniel Winnik took a puck to the mouth but he returned to the game a few minutes later. Karl Alzner did not play the end of the first period after he got slashed from Sidney Crosby. Yea – no penalty…

The period ended 1-0. Although the score was not what Caps fans wanted after one period, the Capitals actually played a decent round and were fairly well matched against the Pens.

Going into the second, the Capitals really  needed to stop passing so much and just constantly shoot the puck at Matt Murray. In the sorta good news category, Karl Alzner returned for the start of the second but only played a little over five minutes for the night. 

Brooks Orpik, who was playing his first game back from a three-game suspension, took a four-minute hi-sticking penalty. Not what the Caps needed and boy did the Pens take advantage of it. They scored on both of the minors, 3-0 lead in the second.

It was not looking good for the road guys. The Capitals would get their first chance on the man advantage but could not get anything together. On their second power play, T.J. Oshie finally got the Capitals on the board. The Capitals went into the second intermission down two goals but they were not done yet.

The third started with a wonderful partial breakaway chance for Burakovsky but Murray stopped him. The Capitals showed more desperation in the beginning of the third. With 12:37 left, Justin Williams went high corner on Matt Murray and turned it into a one-goal game.

John Carlson, on the 5-on-3, tied up the game for the Caps with still have over a minute of power play time. And then something truly amazing happened: the Penguins took three consecutive delay of game penalties.

Then with less than three minutes left, Kris Letang put T.J. Oshie into the boards. Unfortunately, the Capitals did not score on the following power play. The teams were tied after 60 minutes of regulation.

Heading into OT, the Capitals had the urgency they had to get the game tied in the third period. But maybe not as much as they needed for overtime. After a few near misses for the Penguins it looked like the luck was on Washington’s side. But 6:32 into the extra session, Nick Bonino scored to eliminate the Washington Capitals from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Another second round exit and it is hard to come to terms with. The Capitals deserved better than this but here we are. We will always remember the 2015-16 season as a great one; it just did not end with the boys hoisting the silver cup we all believed was ours this year. 

We are grabbing our tissues and heading to bed now. We’ll have more analysis about the playoffs and the regular season. Thanks to all of you who joined us on this journey.

GO CAPS!!!