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.