For the third straight season, the Washington Capitals have been eliminated in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Now following back to back President Trophy seasons, and two of the best seasons in franchise history, the Capitals are in a interesting spot.
Everything on paper for the Capitals screams Stanley Cup contender. Offensively they are led by veteran stars Alex Ovechkin, Niklas Backstrom, and T.J Oshie, as well as budding stars Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson. These stars helped lead the Capitals to the third best offense in the NHL during their impressive regular season.
Defensively, the Capitals finished the year with the least amount of goals against during the regular season. Defenseman Matt Niskanen, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, and Brooks Orpik contributed majorly to the teams success, with Kevin Shattenkirk joining the group later in the season.
Obviously goaltending plays a large role in the defensive side of the game, and the Capitals are just as strong there. Braden Holtby has been one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, winning 40 or more games three seasons in a row, and has finished with a goals against average of under 2.30 a game.
But even with this team looking good on paper and performing on the ice, the capitals were eliminated in the second round once again. So what is the problem? What do the Capitals do?
Many have talked about trading Alex Ovechkin, including hockey expert Barry Melrose. Melrose feels Ovechkin has let the team down, but a trade would supposedly be for Ovechkin, not for the Capitals sake.
From The Washington Post:
“I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. I like Alex, he’s great when I’m around him and deal with me and stuff like that, but I really think it’s time for the Washington Capitals to look at moving Alex Ovechkin. I think it’s to that point, and for his sake. Not for the Washington Capitals’ sake, for his sake. Look at what we’re talking about now, everyone’s just ‘Alex Ovechkin let the team down, Alex Ovechkin let the team down.’ He can’t win in Washington right now. Theoretically, it would be good for him to move on to another team with a fresh start also. This team, 10, 11 years, they don’t win. They don’t get to the third round. They’re always winning the Presidents’ Trophy, they’re always one of the best teams in the NHL, they’re always one of the most exciting teams in the NHL, they spend as much money as any team in the NHL, but they never get to the third round. It’s time to do something if you’re a Washington Capitals fan.”
Another expert, NBC’s Mike Millbury feels it will take more than just Ovechkin going, but that they need a reevaluation of the future.
“I mean, they have to rethink their whole philosophy, their future,” Milbury said Wednesday night. “What to do with Ovechkin, what to do with Backstrom, what to do with everybody on that roster? Big decisions on Williams and Oshie. If they can’t do it now, were they ever gonna do it?”
Those decisions Melrose alludes to are that Oshie, Williams, and Shattenkrik are all set to become, unrestricted free agents this summer, and it is likely that some of them do not return. With those three set to become free agents, as well as questions around Ovechkin, this team could have a very different look going into next season.
Whatever the Capitals decide, they have to choose a direction and run with it. The Capitals have made the playoffs 9 of the last 10 seasons, yet have never made it past the second round of the playoffs. There is no right answer, but what they are doing now is not working, so its time to change things up.