With a record of 55-19-8, the President’s Trophy-winning Washington Capitals have been a force to reckon with on the ice all year. The Caps had some great individual efforts throughout the season, such as center Nicklas Backstrom finishing fourth in the NHL in points (86) and second in assists (63). Defenseman Dmitry Orlov and Brooks Orpik and right wing TJ Oshie finished in the top ten in the NHL in plus-minus during the regular season.
The Capitals have made it to the playoffs nine out of the last 10 seasons, failing to advance past the second round in any of those years. It’s been since 1998 when the Caps appeared in their first and only Stanley Cup Finals, where they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings in four games.
Part of the Caps’ recent failure has been because of Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the defending Stanley Cup champions. The Penguins weren’t too far behind the Caps in the regular season, ending the year with 111 points, putting them second in the league, only seven points back from the Capitals and the President’s Trophy.
The Capitals are 1-8 all-time against the Penguins in playoff series, with their series win coming in 1994. Their last series took place last spring, when the Caps fell to the Penguins in six games, and of course, the Penguins went on to win it all.
The Capitals struggled in their first round matchup this year against the young but highly talented Toronto Maple Leafs, led by 19-year old phenom Auston Matthews. It took the Caps six games to beat the Maple Leafs, five of which went into overtime. The Penguins, however, had an easier path to the second round of the playoffs, dominating the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 4-1 series win. The Pens clinched the series in large part because of center Evgeni Malkin and right wing Phil Kessel, who combined for 19 points in the five-game series.
Does this mean that the Capitals’ fortune can’t change? No, this means that the Capitals are due for a win, a chance to go to the Stanley Cup finals. The fans are due after over 40 years of heartbreak, giving up to the Penguins won’t solve anything. The Caps are the best in the league with a comeback player in Oshie, one of the best goalies like Braden Holtby, and one of the best duos in hockey in Backstrom and Ovechkin. It’s time they finally win it, and win it all. Just because they lost the first two games doesn’t mean they’re done. They’re done when they’ve lost four games.
Goaltender Braden Holtby struggled in the first two games of the Penguins series, giving up the winning goal in game one with less than eight minutes left on the clock, giving the Penguins a 3-2 win.. He then gave up three goals on just 14 shots in game 2 before being benched in what became a 6-2 loss on Saturday. Some of the goals shouldn’t be blamed on Holtby alone, because a couple of them featured a lack of defensive support The Capitals are also fifth in the power play coming into the second game with just 28%, while the Penguins are in first with over 80%
The Caps won Monday against the Penguins 3-2 in overtime. They will play again in Pittsburgh with a 2-1 deficit in round two. Crosby is out with a concussion and we do not know when he’ll be back.