Sabres fans can take a sigh of relief, the team who played a major role in them missing the playoffs have now been eliminated! The Washington Capitals lost game 7 at the hands of the New York Rangers and failed once again to make it to the Conference finals.
This may have been the last time fans will be able to see the Capitals as the Capitals they saw on Saturday night. Alexander Semin is likely on his way out, Alexander Ovechkin may be tired of listening to coaches trying to change his game, do they stick to their new defensive minded style, and does Dale Hunter return to the NHL or go back to the OHL?
Dale Hunter came in and immediately turned the Capitals into a defensive team, showing a ton of backbone by shorting Ovechkin's ice time. But when push came to shove they didn't score enough goals to get the job done, they scored just 29 goals in their 14 playoff games and 13 of 14 games were decided by 1 goal. Brayden Holtby played fantastic for the Capitals throughout the playoffs, he showed composure and skill far above his level and may have played himself into the Capitals starting goaltending at the beginning of next year. But when you have a young, rookie goalie you need scoring support. They're going to mess up at some point, let in some bad goals and when your team is always playing those tight 1 goal games its extremely tough for them!
3 reasons the Capitals lost
1. Too many 1 goal games:
Some coaches really like to play in 1 goal games, Dale Hunter appears to be one of them. But it's a dangerous way to play hockey, it's like flipping a coin you never know which way the game can go. One bad bounce and you lose the game, with players like Ovechkin, Semin and Backstrom the Capitals had more than enough scoring power to get a 2 or 3 goal lead, but Hunter decided to hold his big boys back. The Capitals were able to get a 2 goal lead during a game just 5 times in 14 games, 6 of their games went to overtime. It was clear the Capitals (or at least Dale Hunter) wanted to play those close 1 goal games, it often keeps teams in games when they are clearly out of it. But it's like flipping a coin and game 7 at Madison Square Garden came up tails!
2. King Henrik
It was almost the perfect underdog story, rookie goaltender Brayden Holtby out duels the king Henrik Lundqvist key word almost. Endings like that are mostly written in Hollywood, yeah he came close to upsetting the king but when the series was on the line the king stepped up and the kid was not able too. Game 7 was Lundqvist's best game of the series and the second period was arguably his best 20 minutes in the entire series, the Rangers were able to get an early lead and then rely on their goalie for the majority of the game. When it comes down to it, it's better to have experience on your side!
3. Lack of stars
The Rangers 3 best players all stepped up in game 7 (Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Michael Del Zotto. While Semin, Backstrom and Ovechkin were all fairly quite during the series and game 7. When you're in a do or die game 7 you need to be able to rely on your best players to get the job done, it worked for the Rangers while the Capitals came up short.
It's back to the drawing board for the Capitals, a big offseason at hand and perhaps one more season before things really fall apart. How much more heart-break can fans and Ovechkin handle, he has to be tired of losing, he wants to win, he wants to be the best player. But for now all the can do is ask; What If?
Good news for the rest of the league, we get to see more of John Tortorella's press conferences!