Washington Capitals to watch Stanley Cup Final on TV once again

They may not be chokers or losers, but whatever you want to call them, the Washington Capitals disappointed their fans once again during the 2016/17 NHL playoffs. They were eliminated at home in the seventh and final game of their second round playoff series 2-0 by the Pittsburgh Penguins on May 10th. The loss came exactly a year to the day since last year’s playoff letdown, which also came at the hands of the Penguins.   

This is the third time the Capitals have won the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s best regular-season team and have been eliminated from the playoffs before the third round. That in itself shouldn’t come as much of a surprise though since the top regular-season team has only won the Stanley Cup twice since 2004/05. That represents just a 16.7 per cent success rate for the league’s President’s Trophy winners over the past 12 seasons, including this campaign.

At least Washington made it out of the first round this season as four of the past 11 President’s Trophy winners were eliminated in the first round. The Capitals had their hands full in the opening round though as it took them six games, with five of them going into overtime, to eliminate the Eastern Conference’s eighth-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs. A few of Washington’s key players were playing through injuries, including captain Alex Ovechkin Karl Alzner and Marcus Johansson. Fans didn’t really want to hear about the injuries though since all teams have to who play through pain in the postseason.

The fact is Washington has now failed to reach the Conference Finals in their last 12 playoff appearances. Their only conference title came in 1997/98 while Ovechkin joined the club in 2005/06. Some fans are blaming the five-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner for the team’s lack of playoff success and point to the fact that the Russian star has missed the playoffs or been knocked out in the first round in six of his 12 seasons. The team made it as far as the second round in the other six years.

But it’s hard to pin the blame solely on the 31-year-old Ovechkin since the future Hall of Famer has scored 90 points in 97 career playoff games. Yes, injuries may have been a factor this season and there’s no doubt goaltender Braden Holtby struggled with a 90.9 save percentage and 2.47 goals-against average in this postseason. Holtby posted a 94.2 save percentage and a 1.72 goals-against average, but ultimately suffered the same fate.

Some critics of the Capitals will be calling for a complete rebuild which means firing coach Barry Trotz and trading Ovechkin. However, that will partially come down to Ovechkin since he has a modified no-trade clause in his contract. In all probability, the only way fans will see him leave town is if he feels his career needs a boost and he feels a new start somewhere else will benefit him. Ovechkin has the option of listing 10 teams he won’t accept a trade to which means there are 20 clubs the Capitals could work out a deal with.

It’s always possible that Ovechkin may be dealt, but he’s the centerpiece of the franchise and let’s not forget that NHL hockey is first and foremost a business. Since he’s still under contract for another four years and the Capitals posted the best record in the league over the 82-game regular season, it’s a good bet that Ovechkin hangs around for at least one more year.