August 26, 2016

Washington Capitals Breakdown Day 2016: Picking up the pieces

As another round of mid-May exit interviews proceeded on Thursday morning and early afternoon at Kettler, the Washington Capitals were in strong agreement on two things.

First, this is the worst recent playoff exit to date for the club.

Second, the season was a failure.

After Tuesday’s furious comeback attempt fell short in a season-ending overtime loss in Pittsburgh, the players tended to wear their emotions on their sleeves on Thursday. For many, it was a struggle to explain how this once-promising campaign, which featured likely the best regular season in franchise history, ended a full month before its previously projected conclusion.

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Opinion: Answers not easily found, but must be discovered quickly for Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Will Ovi ever hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup? (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Alex Ovechkin’s latest spring postmortem might well have been his toughest yet. The 30-year-old has been the face of the Washington Capitals for over a decade, and the quickly-graying Russian welled up in Pittsburgh late Tuesday night after his team again fell short of the championship and accompanying long playoff run that this city will continue to wait for.

“Every year, lots of expectations, lots of great players, something missing. This group of guys can do better and bigger than just the second round,” Ovechkin said. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Second Round Game 6 Recap: Disappointment again

CAPS RALLY FROM THREE-GOAL DEFICIT BUT BOUNCED IN OVERTIME

 (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Yup. We all feel that way. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The Washington Capitals rallied from a three-goal deficit to force overtime, but once there they were overwhelmed and Nick Bonino scored 6:32 into the extra session to promote the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, sending the President’s Trophy winning Caps packing, once again.

It was, perhaps, the most Caps-like way of being eliminated from a playoff series.

Logically, it shouldn’t have gotten to overtime. The Penguins came out focused and flying, dominating the Caps in all facets of the game though the first 38 minutes. Phil Kessel put the Pens up 1-0 in the first, then Brooks Orpik was assessed a double-minor high-sticking penalty, and Kessel and Carl Hagelin made it 3-0, cashing in on both penalties, midway though the second period.

But T.J. Oshie got the Caps on the board with a power play goal with 1:30 left in the second, giving the Caps some hope going into the third. Then Justin Williams added one 7:23 into the third period and suddenly a comeback looked do-able. Then things got weird, as the Penguins were assessed three consecutive delay-of-game penalties, giving the Caps a pair of five-on-three power plays.

They made good on just one, however, with John Carlson’s rocket tying the game at three with 13:01 left in regulation.

Both teams had good opportunities down the stretch, but as they had all series, Braden Holtby and Matt Murray stood tall and kept things deadlocked to force an extra session.

Unfortunately for the road team, the Penguins came out on fire once again in overtime. A sequence early should have ended it there, but Holtby made several “how did he do that” saves, and Jay Beagle dove to deflect a puck off the goal line, only to prolong the agony.

Bonino’s game winner came off another excellent save by Holtby, a low kick save, but Matt Niskanen was unable to tie up the Pens’ forward and Bonino got just enough of the rebound on the backhand to sneak it past the prone Holtby and into the gaping net.

There are no clever words to describe the disappointment for this Caps team being eliminated in the second round, prolonging the District’s bizarre tenure of being the only city with at least three of the four major sports not advancing a team into a conference finals since the last time the Caps did it in 1998.

This team seemed to be “built the right way.” It rolled four lines all season long, and had legitimate NHL forwards in the press box most nights. Could they use another defenseman? Sure, but who can’t? As they’re constructed, the Caps have a nice blend of youth and experience and should challenge the top of the conference again next season.

That doesn’t help now, though. For now, it’s disappointment, yet again.

Washington Capitals Second Round Game 4: Penguins win in overtime, take 3-1 series lead

Statistically, it wasn’t going poorly at all. The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins were very close in most major metrics late in the second period on Wednesday night, but in reality, Pittsburgh was all but dominating play with higher-quality chances and sustained possession in the Capitals’ zone.

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Washington Capitals Second Round Game 3 Recap: Everything but the win

CAPS CONTROL PLAY BUT NOT SCOREBOARD; LETANG HIT ON JOHANSSON TO BE REVIEWED

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The Washington Capitals got two third-period goals but couldn’t find the equalizer and dropped Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-2, before a capacity crowd decked out in yellow t-shirts at Consol Energy Center.

Typically, when a team outshoots the other 49-23 — including 21-9 in the third — the outcome is predictable. Unfortunately, these things seem to happen to the Caps more often than not in the playoffs. [Read more…]

Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Määttä

The NHL announced Sunday evening that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games as a result of his hit on Olli Määttä in Game 2 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday in D.C.

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Washington Capitals Second Round Game 2 Recap: Fehr’s late tip tops Caps

OUTPLAYED MUCH OF GAME, CAPS CAN’T FIND THE GO-AHEAD IN THIRD

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

For much of the second half of the regular season, the Washington Capitals got into a habit of playing 20-25 minutes with enough energy to pull out a favorable result. On Saturday night at a raucous Verizon Center, it wasn’t nearly enough.

Old friend Eric Fehr tipped an entry pass from Evgeni Malkin past Braden Holtby late in the third period and the Pittsburgh Penguins evened their Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup with the Caps at a game apiece with a 2-1 regulation win. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Second Round Game 1: Oshie’s hat trick, overtime winner propel Caps in Game 1 win

With dozens of hats sailing to the Verizon Center playing surface and Chuck Brown’s “Bustin’ Loose” playing over the public address system, the ultimate outcome of the opening game in the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins lay still in doubt.

Fans begged for T.J. Oshie’s hat-trick goal, the game-winning wraparound 9:33 into the overtime session, to stand as called on the ice. The building’s pressure-cooker status reached its peak as referee Dan O’Rourke took off his headset after a review that seemingly lasted as long as this all-time playoff contest itself.

His affirmation of the goal resulted in a raucous scene of euphoria. What more often than not felt like the first round of a heavyweight title bout brought a 4-3 decision in favor of the hosts, the latest step in the to-be-determined journey of this team that, at least for now, wears the hopes of its city on its back.

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Washington Capitals First Round Game 4: Caps flat in Philadelphia; Flyers force Game 5

GAME FIVE SET FOR FRIDAY AT 7 P.M. IN WASHINGTON

(Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

With a 3-0 series lead in hand for the first time in franchise history, and riding high after a dominant win in Game 3, the Washington Capitals came out flat again in the opening stages of a game in this best-of-seven series.

Giving up the game’s first goal for the second game in a row, Washington looked very out of sorts throughout the first two frames; a T.J. Oshie tally with 17:22 left was not enough as the Capitals fell to the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 on Wednesday night.

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Washington Capitals First Round Game 3: Caps take 3-0 series lead after penalty filled affair

OVECHKIN TAKES FRANCHISE RECORD FOR PLAYOFF POINTS; ORPIK EXITS AFTER ROUGH HIT

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Ima

With a high-tension game that ended with a five-minute major against the Philadephia Flyers, two ten-minute game misconducts, and a delay-of-game penalty assessed to the Flyers’ fans, the Washington Capitals silenced the Wells Fargo Center and took game three of the series 6-1.

The Capitals scored five power-play goals, the most in their history in a Stanley Cup Playoff game. They were 5 for 9 and are 8 for 17 with the man-advantage in the series.

The goal scoring in the first, when Marcus Johansson added anther point to his stellar first-round sheet. On the very first power play, John Carlson took a shot from just inside the blue line and the puck deflected just of Johansson’s shin. Adding his first goal of the series to his five assists, Johansson grabbed his sixth point in the series to trail only Nicklas Backstrom and Carlson (7 apiece).

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