May 12, 2012, 10:35 PM EDT
The Washington Capitals’ 2011-12 season is hockey’s answer to the adage “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
If you compare their ultimate results to the expectations they carried into the season, then one could argue that losing 2-1 to the No. 1 seed New York Rangers in a tight seven-game series still remains a disappointment. Context changes matters, however, as the Capitals pleased many who wanted them to play a more conventional, defensive-minded style after years of being hockey’s answer to “The Greatest Show on Turf” era St. Louis Rams.
Ultimately, the takeaway is very much a subjective thing, but the most rigid, bottom-line result is that the Alex Ovechkin Capitals still haven’t played a single conference finals match.
The Capitals bounced back from some big challenges, yet they ultimately ran out of rebound opportunities once Game 7 rolled around. Washington shook of a triple-OT loss and perhaps an even more brutal last-second OT loss in Game 5 to push the series to the limit, but the Capitals couldn’t beat the Rangers at their own game in the end.
Who takes the blame?
Assuming that you’re on board with Dale Hunter’s decision to convert the Capitals roster to a defense-first-second-and-last machine, Alexander Semin is the easy target as usual. He had a -2 rating in Game 7 (representing both Rangers goals, whether they were his fault or not) and only had one assist in the entire series. In fact, he sandwiched that assist between two four-game pointless streaks, so it’s unlikely that the pending free agent made himself much money in the playoffs.
Plus, he’s Alexander Semin – his middle name might as well be “scapegoat.”
What will they do about it?
That’s where things can get very interesting.
First things first, it’s no guarantee that Dale Hunter will return as head coach – and it might be his choice, which is pretty unusual in this profession. If he wants to come back, Capitals GM George McPhee needs to determine that he really wants to go in the direction Hunter took them.
If his answer is “Yes,” the Capitals can clean house to a staggering degree. Go-to scapegoats such as Semin, Mike Green and Dennis Wideman headline the list of guys whose futures are foggy. Meanwhile, it seems likely that Tomas Vokoun and Mike Knuble won’t be back while John Carlson‘s restricted free agent negotiations should be interesting to watch.
Vokoun brings things to an interesting third factor (beyond coaching and free agent yes-or-nos) for the Caps: should they go after a veteran goalie? Braden Holtby had a fantastic playoff run but hasn’t ever carried an NHL workload. Meanwhile, Michal Neuvirth has been solid-but-unspectacular on the NHL level.
If the orders are to go all-defense all-the-time, then they might just want to invest in a goalie with a heftier resume.
That’s the interesting thing about the Cap; beyond Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom‘s lengthy contracts, McPhee has an intriguing opportunity to make sweeping changes. So let’s leave that to you, then: what would you do with this odd but still seemingly promising group?
Oct 23, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Looks better than one might expect.
Oct 23, 2014, 2:13 AM EDT
Meanwhile, Buffalo scored!
Oct 23, 2014, 1:19 AM EDT
Pretty good chance for three straight.
Oct 23, 2014, 12:23 AM EDT
He was injured on Oct. 16.
Oct 22, 2014, 11:49 PM EDT
No. 8 was having a bit of a difficult night.
Oct 22, 2014, 11:25 PM EDT
Oct 22, 2014, 11:08 PM EDT
Big win for Philly after getting beat bad in Chicago on Tuesday.
Oct 22, 2014, 10:19 PM EDT
Last shift came in the first period.
Oct 22, 2014, 10:13 PM EDT
Oct 22, 2014, 9:48 PM EDT
Little bit of history here.
Oct 22, 2014, 9:19 PM EDT
Milbury doesn’t understand why the Pens would extend him.
Oct 22, 2014, 8:32 PM EDT
Tremendous gesture from the Penguins organization.
Oct 22, 2014, 8:17 PM EDT
NHL Insider joined Kathryn Tappen live in studio.
Oct 22, 2014, 7:45 PM EDT
Blueliner’s had zero luck in the health department.
Oct 22, 2014, 7:22 PM EDT
Two teams that, how should we say, care not for one another.
Oct 22, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
“We had no choice but to.”
Oct 22, 2014, 6:21 PM EDT
He won’t travel with the club for its upcoming three-game road swing through Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.
Oct 22, 2014, 5:25 PM EDT
Charles Wang remains in charge until then.
Oct 22, 2014, 5:22 PM EDT
Worth a reported $16 million.
Oct 22, 2014, 5:11 PM EDT
Not clear yet if charges will be filed.
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