After Game 7 Loss, Capitals' Offseason Work Begins
By Stephen London
Going into Game 7 against the New York Rangers, the Washington Capitals had a ton of momentum coming off of their 2-1 victory during Game 6.
But the momentum swung toward the Rangers at the start of Game 7, when Brad Richards scored within the first two minutes of the game. The Rangers used that momentum to get a 2-1 victory, advancing to the Eastern Conference finals and ending the Capitals' 2011-12 season.
"We had a lot of opportunities," Capitals forward Troy Brouwer said after the game, "but ... it is what it is."
The Capitals defense could have done more to block Richards' shot and help out rookie goaltender Braden Holtby. But the main issue that cost the Capitals the game had to do with their forwards and the power play.
The Capitals cannot expect to win any game, let alone a Game 7, when they score just one goal, particularly during the third period and off of a defenseman. Forwards such as Nick Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin, who get paid to score goals, came up empty against the Rangers and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Ovechkin said during his postgame interviews that the effort was there, but it didn't always seem that way, particularly during the first period. Although the shots were even at eight apiece, the Capitals were playing too much hockey in their own zone during the first period. The Rangers simply looked much more energized to start the game.
Holtby had a good game in net, stopping 29 of the 31 shots faced, but Lundqvist had the better game, stopping 22 of 23 shots faced. The quality of the Rangers' shots was better than that of the Capitals. The Rangers were able to fire off one-timers, control the puck behind the Capitals' net and position at least one player right in front of Holtby.
The second period featured a great offensive push by the Capitals, but they were not able to capitalize on the offensive rush. Of the total 23 shots the Capitals took during Game 7, 11 came during the second period.
Even though the third period was when the Capitals scored, they took only four shots during the final 20 minutes. Not only did the Capitals almost stall during the third period, but the Rangers also took a penalty right after the Capitals got back within one off of Roman Hamrlik's goal.
The power play that ensued was one of the worst power plays of the postseason. During the two minutes they had a man advantage, the Capitals could not even connect two consecutive passes, let alone get a shot on net.
Now, it is time for the Capitals to look to the future. Given the success Holtby has had, playing every minute of the playoffs and saving 93.5 percent of the shots he faced, the Capitals will likely drop veteran goaltender Tomas Vokoun during the offseason, freeing up $1.5 million in cap room. Also, expect others to get dropped or traded so that more cap room is freed up for acquiring some free agents.
General manager George McPhee has his work cut out for him, as he has the last couple seasons. He'll have to find the missing link to this already star-studded cast of players. The Capitals are just 2-3 players away from making some serious noise during the playoffs.
Now that the season is officially over, Ovechkin and Semin are going to join their countrymen in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships in Helsinki, Finland, and Stockholm, Sweden. Backstrom will also be joining his fellow Swedes in the hope of winning a world championship.
Posted May 14, 2012