May 12, 2012, 10:35 PM EST
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?
Dec 21, 2014, 3:45 PM EST
Rob Zepp makes NHL debut
Dec 21, 2014, 3:00 PM EST
Collapsed on the team’s bench Saturday night.
Dec 21, 2014, 2:15 PM EST
Was fired by the Oilers Dec. 15.
Dec 21, 2014, 1:30 PM EST
The 33-year-old was recalled Friday.
Dec 21, 2014, 12:45 PM EST
The Penguins forward was penalized twice for embellishment on Saturday.
Dec 21, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
Torrey Mitchell and Tyson Strachan have been placed on IR
Dec 21, 2014, 11:15 AM EST
They’re not impressed with how Bylsma and his staff were treated.
Dec 21, 2014, 10:30 AM EST
He called it “no big deal”
Dec 21, 2014, 9:45 AM EST
Had just one goal in eight games prior to the injury.
Dec 21, 2014, 1:18 AM EST
Christopher Tanev scored the overtime winner on his birthday.
Dec 21, 2014, 12:33 AM EST
Vancouver reported it’s holding him out of the rest of the game for precautionary reasons.
Dec 20, 2014, 11:51 PM EST
Minnesota has won five of its last 13 games.
Dec 20, 2014, 11:20 PM EST
They had pulled their goaltender on a delayed penalty.
Dec 20, 2014, 11:05 PM EST
Stamkos hopes this loss will serve as a wake up call.
Dec 20, 2014, 10:43 PM EST
Ray Emery certainly got a lot of offensive help with Steve Mason out.
Dec 20, 2014, 10:17 PM EST
Montreal beat Ottawa 4-1.
Dec 20, 2014, 9:55 PM EST
It’s the third time this month New Jersey has been goalless.
Dec 20, 2014, 9:35 PM EST
Calvin Pickard had another great game.
Dec 20, 2014, 9:08 PM EST
It’s been a heated game between Pittsburgh and Florida.
Dec 20, 2014, 8:06 PM EST
It set a franchise record for both teams.
- Giroux line takes Leafs ‘to school’ in Flyers’ 7-4 victory 15
- Wolverine Pacioretty gets two assists just two days after being hospitalized 16
- Ovechkin scores beauty as Caps shutout Devils 7
- Seriously? Stress fracture sidelines Columbus’ Jenner for 1-2 months 6
- Julien chides Bruins’ offense for too many cute plays 40
- Sens roll over Ducks, who ‘weren’t ready’ 11
- Flyers’ Mason tweaked back, will miss weekend games 10
- Gordie Howe makes ‘amazing’ recovery following stem cell treatment in Mexico 15
- Video: Penguins’ spoof of ‘Christmas Vacation’ is pretty good 18
- Mason hurt, helped off ice at end of Flyers practice 8