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?
Apr 19, 2015, 2:51 AM EDT
It will be interesting to see what happens as this series heads to Winnipeg.
Apr 19, 2015, 1:40 AM EDT
Series shifts back to Winnipeg.
Apr 19, 2015, 12:41 AM EDT
Had a dominant performance in Game 2.
Apr 18, 2015, 11:56 PM EDT
Anaheim’s veteran forward received a minor penalty on the play.
Apr 18, 2015, 11:13 PM EDT
“I think I bring a really good winning attitude and I have a lot to offer offensively.”
Apr 18, 2015, 11:09 PM EDT
Sidney Crosby scored twice and that helps.
Apr 18, 2015, 10:20 PM EDT
Had one goal in 19 playoff games prior to Saturday.
Apr 18, 2015, 9:25 PM EDT
These teams combined for eight shots in the opening period.
Apr 18, 2015, 9:08 PM EDT
Craig MacTavish has some decisions to make, now that he’s won the Connor McDavid sweepstakes.
Apr 18, 2015, 8:39 PM EDT
St. Louis with the win.
Apr 18, 2015, 8:26 PM EDT
Edmonton wins the Connor McDavid sweeps.
Apr 18, 2015, 7:33 PM EDT
Can the Penguins and Jets even things up?
Apr 18, 2015, 7:01 PM EDT
Not wasting any time.
Apr 18, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT
This series is all tied up at 1-1.
Apr 18, 2015, 6:06 PM EDT
Mrazek pulled after two periods.
Apr 18, 2015, 5:44 PM EDT
Deryk Engelland’s game misconduct for instigating was rescinded.
Apr 18, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT
Enter Jimmy Howard.
Apr 18, 2015, 4:23 PM EDT
He has his first two of these playoffs.
Apr 18, 2015, 4:13 PM EDT
Congrats to Pullar Stadium and War Memorial Arena.
Apr 18, 2015, 4:13 PM EDT
Congrats to Decatur and St. Michael-Albertville.
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