Washington Capitals: The Blame Game Continues

The great “what do with do with this team” debate continues this week following the fall of the Caps, again. There is plenty of blame to go around. Every blogger, every media person, and every fan has an opinion. Everyone is searching for an answer. In the end, the only opinion that will matter is that of the management and the owners. And they aren’t talking, yet.

So lets take a look at what’s been going on during the Ovechkin Era since he is the one person who consistently receives the blame for the Capitals Cup failure. He was drafted just before the 2004/05 lockout so we’ll start with the 2005/06 season.

The longest tenured players on the team are Alexander Ovechkin (drafted 2004 and played first game in 2005) and Nicklas Backstrom (acquired in 2006 although he didn’t play his first game until 2007). Shortly after the Caps would raid the Hershey Bears and bring up John Carlson, Karl Alzner, and Jay Beagle. Soon, the Caps and coach Dale Hunter would call up goaltender Braden Holtby for the 2011 for Playoffs . Under coach Adam Oates they would finally give him a permanent spot on the Caps roster in 2012/13 season. When we talk about the old guard, these are those players. These are the players whom many say are holding the Caps back since they are the ones, other than Holtby, who have been in the thick of all the playoff losses, especially Ovi and Backie.  Continue reading “Washington Capitals: The Blame Game Continues”

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

Playoff Preview? Caps Start Three-Game Road Trip in Philly

Washington Capitals (54-16-5, 113 points, 1st in NHL, Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division)

Philadelphia Flyers (37-25-13, 87 points, 5th in Metropolitan Division, 8th in Eastern Conference)

Puck Drop 8 p.m. on NBC-Sports Network’s Rivalry Wednesday

In case you missed it, the Capitals checked off another season goal on their list Monday night versus Columbus: win the President’s Trophy. After securing the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference, the Caps Justin Williams scored his 22nd in the first en route to a 4-1 victory to lock up the best record in the NHL and total home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.

But this means little in the grand scheme of things as the 2009-10 Capitals did the same thing, racking up 121 points. They were upset early in round one by a hot goaltender in Montreal named Jaroslav Halak (who would be a Capital for half of the 2013-14 season). Capitals Coach Barry Trotz should use this as a prime example. Sure, they have accomplished some great team goals but not the ultimate one: win the Stanley Cup.

Keep on Truckin’ to the Playoffs

The Capitals have accomplished all their regular season goals but that doesn’t mean they’ll stop playing. Trotz has made it perfectly clear that unless you’re injured, you are playing and not getting time off. However, I think we will see Holtby and Ovechkin, who seems to have a nagging injury, get some much needed rest over the next seven games.

  • Holtby is three wins shy of breaking New Jersey goaltending legend Martin Brodeur’s single-season win record. Once he’s accomplished that, Grubauer will look to get a lot more playing time.
  • Ovechkin leads the NHL with 43 goals. Will he accomplish 50 with seven games to go? Time will tell but he’ll get really close if he doesn’t.
  • The Caps have a three-game road trip that will take them to Philly, Colorado and Arizona. Their road record is an NHL-best 25-9-3.


Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!

Fighting like their fictional Philly hero Rocky Balboa, the Flyers are entrenched in a battle with the Detroit Red Wings to see who will play the Washington Capitals in round one of the NHL playoffs. With 87 points a piece, the Flyers hold the edge on the Red Wings if they remain tied in points. With the Flyers having a game in hand (seven remaining to the Red Wings six) and a huge head-to-head matchup April 6, all they have to do is keep pace with Detroit and they’re in.

  • Over the last six games since Neuvirth went down to injury, Steve Mason has gone 3-3 with a 2.33 GAA. That’s solid enough to keep them in the playoff hunt.
  • Right Winger Wayne Simmonds leads the team with 26 goals while Center Claude Giroux leads the team with 42 assists.
  • The Flyers have a 20-10-7 home record, good for 7th in the league.

Your goaltenders for this game will be Braden Holtby (46-9-4, 2.19 GAA, .923 save percentage) for the Capitals and Steve Mason (20-17-9, 2.52 GAA, .918 save percentage) for the Flyers.

This could be a preview of the NHL playoffs and the Caps will definitely have their hands full as this team is fighting for their playoff lives. Should be a great rivalry game.

Rock the Red! Go Caps!