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?
Mar 9, 2014, 11:58 AM EDT
Can Johan Franzen maintain his incredible post-Olympics pace?
Mar 9, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
The 21-year-old is making the transition from the KHL.
Mar 9, 2014, 10:37 AM EDT
It helped lead St. Louis to its fourth straight win.
Mar 9, 2014, 9:48 AM EDT
Buffalo hasn’t been so bad lately, despite what the team looks like on paper.
Mar 9, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
They both desperately need every point they can get.
Mar 9, 2014, 1:09 AM EDT
A much-needed victory for Vancouver.
Mar 9, 2014, 12:14 AM EDT
Short ones on Saturday.
Mar 8, 2014, 11:32 PM EDT
Roberto Luongo: quiet, so far.
Mar 8, 2014, 11:27 PM EDT
Tyler Seguin is just on fire right now.
Mar 8, 2014, 11:09 PM EDT
Dallas scored once on the resulting five-minute major penalty.
Mar 8, 2014, 10:59 PM EDT
Seeding battles heat up.
Mar 8, 2014, 9:55 PM EDT
Jaroslav Halak wins in his Washington debut.
Mar 8, 2014, 9:40 PM EDT
He scored the game-winner for New Jersey against Carolina.
Mar 8, 2014, 8:53 PM EDT
A solid Saturday for the Sens.
Mar 8, 2014, 8:24 PM EDT
His No. 9 ascends to the rafters.
Mar 8, 2014, 8:11 PM EDT
His latest acquisitions Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick are set to debut Saturday.
Mar 8, 2014, 7:39 PM EDT
Sounds like he’ll take his talents to Europe instead.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:37 PM EDT
He was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis earlier this month.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:16 PM EDT
Craig Anderson made 46 saves on Saturday.
Mar 8, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT
Making a strong first impression in St. Louis.
- NHL on NBCSN: Hawks know they can’t take Sabres lightly 4
- NHL on NBC: Red Wings, Rangers fight to cling onto playoff spots 2
- Video: Flames score center-ice goal against Canucks’ Lack 15
- Stars believe Lehtonen suffered concussion from Haula collision (update) 19
- Video: Stars retire Mike Modano’s jersey 11
- Rostislav Klesla passes on joining Sabres organization following trade 12
- Ryan Murray has knee surgery, likely done for season 1
- Washington finally signs top prospect Kuznetsov 33
- Roberto Luongo records the shutout in first game back with Panthers 31
- Steve Moore remains shocked, disgusted about Todd Bertuzzi attack 66
- Canucks trade Luongo to Panthers (93)
- BLOCKBUSTER: Lightning trade St. Louis to Rangers for Callahan (82)
- Kings make splash, acquire Gaborik from Columbus (72)
- Report: Canucks want center, top prospect and first-rounder for Kesler (68)
- Steve Moore remains shocked, disgusted about Todd Bertuzzi attack (66)