What went wrong in Washington

After accumulating 121 points and steamrolling to the President’s Trophy in the regular season, most hockey fans wondered if any team had what it took to bring down Alexander Ovechkin and the almighty Washington Capitals. Certainly nobody believed that Washington could be ousted by the lowly Montreal Canadiens, a team that came into the playoffs as the eighth seed with inconsistent goaltending and a season full of up-and-down play. But the only thing that matters is that you pull it together for the playoffs, and evidently the Capitals got more than they bargained for with the Canadiens. It took seven games, but the Candiens became that team that brought Washington to their knees as they came back from a 3-1 series deficit to beat Washington 2-1 in Game 7 to win the series on the road.

2548034.binSo what went wrong with the storied season full of high expectations for the Washington Capitals? Certainly it won’t take long for the players to begin asking those questions of themselves. A team that had all the talent in the world failed to make it out of the first round. Where did it all go wrong for the Caps?

For starters, any hockey pundit will tell you that your best players have to step up and be your best players in the playoffs. In that regard, Ovechkin and Center Nicklas Backstrom did their part. Ovechkin tallied ten points (five goals, five assist) throughout the series while center Nicklas Backstrom chipped in another five goals and four assists for nine points. But where was Alexander Semin during the first round? Semin all but disappeared as soon as the playoffs started. Throughout the seven game series, Semin managed to only nab two assists and finish with an even plus/minus rating.

But for as much as your best players need to be the best, your secondary scorers need to come through and play at a top level as well. In this regard, Washington failed miserably. In addition to Semin, players like Brooks Laich, Brendan Morrison and Tomas Fleischmann were all notably absent from the scoresheet. Defenseman Mike Green contributed zero goals and three assists and was only plus-1 in the series. For a player that had 76 points¬† and was plus-39 in the regular season, that’s a big drop off in production. Washington also struggled in the power play throughout the entire series. In fact, the team only¬† scored one goal on 32 power play attempts. The team failed to take advantage of key situations and make Montreal pay for their mistakes.

At times, the Caps also looked like a team that lacked hunger and focus. Perhaps it’s a lack of leadership, but the team sometimes played like they expected to coast through the first round on their good looks and skill alone. That’s not how it works in the playoffs. Playoff games are won with effort and hard work at both ends of the rink and on all areas of the ice.

The fact is that the Montreal Canadiens out worked and out played the Washington Capitals in the final three games of the series. Hard work wins hockey games in the NHL, and the Canadiens had the veteran leadership and the work ethic to bring down the almighty Washington Capitals. You also have to give credit to Montreal goaltender Jaroslav Halak who came through and claimed his position as the man between the pipes in Montreal. He had a few shaky performances, but he regrouped and is a huge reason why the Canadiens are advancing to the next round.

The Washington Capitals came into these playoffs with high hopes and high expectations. That all came crashing down in just seven games at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens. Over the next several days the players will have their last team meetings and begin cleaning out their lockers, some unsure of their future status with the team. So where did it all go wrong for the Caps? That will surely be the question that haunts the players until camps begin again in September.

2 Comments

  1. This summer should be an interesting one in Washington. They’ve gotta give Backstrom at least $6 million a year I would think and somehow fit in some good defenseman.

  2. This summer will be VERY interesting for the Caps. They have eight unrestricted free agents and six restricted free agents to sign. Backstrom will be the key signing, but you’re right, he will want in the ballpark of $5-6 million. But Theodore is a UFA, so they may opt to let him go and go with Varlamov in net, which frees up about $4 mill to put toward Backstrom.

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