Another Crushing End to a Caps Hockey Season

May 12, 2012 | Ed Frankovic

Another Crushing End to a Caps Hockey Season

There are no moral victories in pro sports, so the fact that the Capitals, after a dismal regular season made it to game seven of the second round, only to lose 2-1 to New York, shouldn’t make any Caps fan feel good about the season. Nope, this campaign is another failure in my book because Washington didn’t even get to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The game five meltdown, which officially stands as the worst loss in team history by my accounting, cost the Capitals a chance to play the New Jersey Devils for a shot at the Stanley Cup Finals. Instead they lose to a club they beat in FIVE games in the spring of 2011. The Rangers didn’t have Ryan Callahan last April when the Capitals dominated them, but they didn’t have Brandon Dubinsky in this series either. What the Blueshirts did have are two bonafide top line centers. GM Glen Sather, who once moaned in Edmonton about not being able to spend money to stay competitive, went out and got Brad Richards and at the end of the day, he was the difference between the Capitals going golfing and the Rags moving on to face Marty Brodeur and company.

It is a bitter pill to swallow for Caps fans and the core of Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Semin, Mike Green, and Brooks Laich has now gone five years without advancing past the second round. Ovechkin, after a great game six, was pretty much a non factor in the most important game of his career. It will be an interesting off-season now with Semin, Dennis Wideman, Tomas Vokoun, and Mike Knuble all unrestricted free agents. In addition, #52 is a restricted free agent.

Meanwhile, Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Laich will be back for sure, as well as Joel Ward, given their contracts. Roman Hamrlik will also likely be back since he gets $3.5M for another season (and he played very well in the post season).  Jeff Schultz is still due $2.75M for each of the next two seasons so he’s not going anywhere either.

Despite the overall failure, there were some good things that came out of this season. We know that Karl Alzner and John Carlson are a super defensive pair and should both be locked up long term, at some point. Braden Holtby stepped up and proved that he just might be the number one goalie going forward, his puck handling skills certainly helps the defense. We also know that this team can play the type of hockey necessary to win in the post season from a defensive standpoint. Guys like Matt Hendricks and Jay Beagle were major positives in an underachieving regular season. I am squarely in the corner of hoping that Dale Hunter is the coach next season. I’d just like to see him have more of his type of players.

The Caps have two first round picks in the upcoming draft, which reportedly is a good one. But General Manager George McPhee must FINALLY address the real problem facing this club, a lack of another center to go along with Backstrom. The Caps continue to rotate players in and out of that position and it is the MAIN reason why they are so wildly inconsistent (see only 4 shots in period three tonight when their season was on the line). Marucs Johansson, Mathieu Perreault, and Laich were all tried there this season and the problem was never really solved. It also IS the reason why the Caps nearly missed the playoffs before a late rally. No Backstrom for 40 games meant a lack of top two centers for half of the season.

Another reason for the season failure is the power play. The Caps were given a chance to tie the game up late in regulation in this one and it failed miserably. I still want to know why Johansson is on the first unit instead of someone with more strength along the boards and more ability to get to the front of the net? Also, Carlson would have been a much better choice than Wideman on the point and the indecision and lack of chemistry between #6 and #52 prevented the Capitals from getting set up at a critical time in the season. Special teams decide playoff series and the Rangers won it with their PP in game five while the Caps blew their golden opportunity to tie the game with the man advantage in game seven.

So another season goes in the books for the Caps. I call this one an overall failure and another major opportunity to win their first Stanley Cup wasted.

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7 Comments For This Post

  1. eric Says:

    We should just accept the fact this franchise is cursed and is never winning anything

  2. eric s Says:

    the king was better than the kid tonight,hence 2-1.
    but if they dont give up that goal with 6 seconds left,this game never happens.
    i dont want the caps to be like the ravens,i want them to be like the patriots,saints and packers.the best defense can be a great offense.hunter wanted a low scoring game and thats what he got.
    bruce took the team this far in the playoffs so you cant say this is how to win.his system also won 3 ahl championships.anaheim will be very good for years to come.will the caps?

  3. David Manzo Says:

    Taking the time to digest what i saw last night, i agree the season now is a failure. The Rangers out worked the Caps last night which got the Caps in the hole early and could never really could get out of it. They cant say they didnt have chances to win that game. They had tons but it seemed the regular season Caps reared its ugly head up again at the worst possible time. I dont know how the Caps move forward but if Semin, Green, Knuble. and Vokoun are not back with this team next season. I really feel the Caps had the best chance this year to make the run and they didnt get it done. Im not expert in how to run the team or what moves to make but i believe now is time for change and big change, the system is not working.

  4. Over_head (Rob) Says:

    Ed, first, I enjoyed reading your write ups after games this year and for the most part I think you got things right most of the time ;) (right, of course, being holding the same opinion I do)

    I am not sure why people are happy with this season at all as it is the same result as last year, 2nd round loss. My opinion is they built this team to play an up tempo, attacking style of hockey. Last season they changed to a more defensive system. This season after Dale took over they went to a very, very passive system that honestly drives me up the wall. I am biased as I cannot stand this type of play. Maybe it is the way to win in the playoffs, I am not sure. The players do not match the system.

    As far as the system/players match goes the main problem I see is they cannot get a solid break out going, they rarely transition well and are not very threatening. That allowed other teams to drop the 3rd man lower and also allowed the defenseman to pinch at will to keep pucks in the zone. When the Caps did gain possession the wings were so low in the zone that the only thing the d could do was chip it up the wall hoping that the wing or center would get to it. That lead to other teams possessing the puck for long periods of time and peppering the poor goaltender with shots.

    A 2nd line center is a need for sure. MJ needs to hit the gym and live in the squat rack, that dude is way too easy to muscle off the puck. He also could use an attitude adjustment as far as being willing to take a hit to make a play. In fairness to him, he is very young and is probably not in a good position to succeed.

    Mr. Hunter’s personnel decisions often left me scratching my head, but I give him the benefit of the doubt because there are lots of things I don’t know. Meaning I have no idea who was nursing injuries, who was dogging it in practice, who had a bad attitude, etc.

    The only reason the Caps beat Boston and hung with NY is they played with heart and determination. That is something that was missing for much of the regular season, IMO. Unfortunately, it was missing from much of game 7 as well.

    One of two things need to happen, IMO. The system needs to be adjusted in a substantial way or the make up of the team needs to be adjusted. And, as you pointed out, a 2nd line center is needed no matter what they do.

  5. Weezer Says:

    The 5 year “Young Guns” window of opportunity is officially closed. Time for some changes.

    Forwards – Top 6 Caps forwards per salary – Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, Laich, Ward, Brouwer. Semin will be gone; Ward is getting 2nd line money for 4th line production. Needs – 2nd line center (been a consistent problem for years) and forward depth with size. No options in Hershey. Choices are thin for free agent centers so might need to package a player such as Johansson and draft pick to get anything worthwhile. Would love to get Parise must price might be too high.

    Defense – Top 6 defensemen per salary – Green, Wideman, Hamrlik, Poti, Schultz, Erskine. Wideman won’t be re-signed; Green won’t be re-signed for $5.25 million. Needs – Sign either Shea Weber or Ryan Suter; re-sign Carlson; play Orlov.

    Goalies – Holtby, Neuvy. Vokoun won’t be re-signed.

    Off-season might rival the Redskins but hopefully will have better results.

  6. eric s Says:

    semin will be back,he does 1 year deals and is worth the money he gets paid.ovie cant do it all by himself.

  7. Vince Fiduccia Says:

    Ed,

    Thanks as always for the amazing job you do. This blog provides the reader with information and analysis that helps us make educated comments about the Caps. Look forward to reading more of your work this summer.

    (Note from Ed: Thanks Vince, I always appreciate your feedback! All the best, Ed)

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