'Your papers, please' must never be heard in America
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
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.
The Capitals committed five penalties during their 1-0 loss in Game 6 and never had a power play. Postseason success is rarely a tidy matter for this team, and another round of undisciplined play ensured that Sunday.
Fehr isn't the Caps' best penalty-killing forward; he's one of eight Adam Oates is able to rotate through. But his presence makes a difference short-handed.
Dale Hunter's 2012 team flipped a switch when the playoffs began. Adam Oates' team showed in Game 1 against the Rangers that nothing changed from the regular season.
Joel Ward returned for Game 1 of the Caps' Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers after missing the final nine regular-season games with a bruised left knee.
After a victory late in the regular season that included two goals by Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom was asked if it felt like the "good old days" when the franchise cornerstones powered a high-scoring team. "It depends how it is in the playoffs," he said. "And we weren't that successful in the playoffs in the past."
Adam Oates walked into the locker room after the Washington Capitals' final regular-season game Saturday night and told captain Alex Ovechkin he wanted to meet with players after they spoke to reporters. The coach wanted to make sure his guys were prepared to face the New York Rangers in the playoffs beginning Tuesday. The only problem is the Caps and Rangers' Eastern Conference quarterfinal series starts Thursday, not Tuesday, throwing the variable of extra rest into the equation.
Scoring his 11th and 12th goals of the season, the defenseman reminded everyone of his value to the Washington Capitals in Saturday night's 3-2 overtime victory over the Boston Bruins.
With one more game left that has no bearing on their seed, the Caps are left to wonder whether they'll face the Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs or New York Islanders in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they begin next week.
Growing up playing hockey, Matt Hendricks remembered the kind of language he would hear. It wasn't always appropriate. "Words were probably thrown around a little bit too loosely," the Washington Capitals forward said.
At 2-8-1 on Feb. 8 there was reason for doubt, same thing March 20 after a devastating loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins that put the Caps nine points back of the Winnipeg Jets. But one man didn't lose faith in the Caps: the rookie head coach whose positivity in the lean times so often ran opposite the trend of losing.
It's Washington's sixth straight playoff appearance and fifth division championship in that time. It's also something that would have been difficult to envision at several points earlier this season. The Caps started 2-8-1 and were at the bottom of the NHL standings.
In 16 games since Johansson began skating with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin going into Thursday night at the Ottawa Senators, the 22-year-old Swede had four goals and 12 assists.
On Tuesday night he missed his 34th game of the year, and there's no telling when the 29-year-old forward will return. It might not be this season.
"I know Adam doesn't want me fighting," Hendricks said. "We've talked about that numerous times."
"I felt, 'OK, this is what I've got to do at this point in the game,' " Hendricks said. "They wanted me to answer the bell for fighting their top-line guy, and I think they know that he asked me to go. But against them, that's what you've got to do in those situations."