The Caps will have to go through a tougher division to make the playoffs and then to reach the East finals. They won the Southeast Division five of the past six seasons but went 8-10-2 against the Penguins, Rangers, Islanders, Devils, Flyers and Hurricanes this year.
Because the Washington Capitals were done before the final horn in Game 7 Monday night, those watching had some extra time to contemplate general manager George McPhee's work this offseason. But after the Caps became the only NHL team to make the Stanley Cup playoffs in each of the past six years and not reach at least the conference finals, don't expect much to look different when they open the 2013-14 season.
Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin knows full well that his playoff failures are adding up.
That the Rangers may be a smidge better is not arguable. Five-oh better? No way. That a tight series became a laugher in the finale can be, in part, blamed on the Caps' ugly playoff past. There's not an elephant in that room. There's a herd of them in there and it is not an easy thing to clear out.
Scoring 23 goals in 23 games, he was the reason the Caps' season turned around. But totaling just a goal and an assist in seven games against the New York Rangers made him the focal point of yet another early playoff exit.
Going into Monday night's deciding Game 7, Nash had just one assist amid plenty of speculation that he's playing through injury.
Given the tightness of the series, it was shocking that the Caps did not put up a fight in being eliminated. And the end unfolded in stunning fashion.
Against a team with a more functional power play, Washington would already be done. The Rangers are 2-for-26 with the man advantage (including 0-for-3 when up five-on-three) through six games.
He hadn't scored for the Washington Capitals since April 18 and he hadn't scored in the playoffs since April 27, 2008. Still, the playmaking No. 2 center didn't let shifts that went by without production shake him.