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?
Mar 4, 2015, 2:28 PM EST
News and notes from around the crease…
Mar 4, 2015, 2:09 PM EST
“You can never have too many d-men at this time of the year.”
Mar 4, 2015, 2:04 PM EST
Detroit captain draws in for the first time in four games.
Mar 4, 2015, 1:53 PM EST
Veteran tough guy hopeful to return by the playoffs.
Mar 4, 2015, 12:49 PM EST
Boyle and the Rangers take on Detroit (on NBCSN), Tanguay and the Avs will play Pittsburgh.
Mar 4, 2015, 12:34 PM EST
Just two wins in their last eight.
Mar 4, 2015, 11:56 AM EST
Incident occurred Tuesday night, on Stars defenseman Trevor Daley.
Mar 4, 2015, 11:55 AM EST
“Not the start I wanted or the team wanted, and I’ve got to be better than that.”
Mar 4, 2015, 11:48 AM EST
Anaheim hosts Montreal at Honda.
Mar 4, 2015, 11:15 AM EST
Both were viewed as candidates to be moved at the deadline, but neither got shipped out.
Mar 4, 2015, 10:36 AM EST
“We are very pleased and hope our fans will be, as well.”
Mar 4, 2015, 10:31 AM EST
He’s on his way up from AHL San Antonio.
Mar 4, 2015, 9:57 AM EST
It took him just 68 decisions.
Mar 4, 2015, 9:21 AM EST
The captain is still proud to be a Maple Leaf.
Mar 4, 2015, 8:49 AM EST
Erik Cole and Marek Zidlicky are set to debut while Henrik Zetterberg might return from a concussion.
Mar 4, 2015, 8:02 AM EST
Wednesday’s collection of links.
Mar 3, 2015, 11:31 PM EST
Some exciting moments from Ducks – Coyotes.
Mar 3, 2015, 11:02 PM EST
The frequent Islanders hitter has two long-ago suspensions.
Mar 3, 2015, 10:40 PM EST
A truly weird scene for Florida’s goalies.
Mar 3, 2015, 10:17 PM EST
Easy, if uninspired, win for Tampa Bay.
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- Video: Kessel says the way Toronto media treats Phaneuf is ‘embarrassing’ 47
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- Winners and losers of the 2015 trade deadline (78)
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- Wings get Zidlicky from Devils (74)