Two more to go in our look at the playoff history of the
Rock the Red era in Washington Capitals hockey.
The penultimate review looks at a postseason that did not end
differently than any number playoff appearances by the Caps, but more than many
of those others, it begged an important question.
2. 2015: Finally getting it right after all these years?
“Stability" is not a word one would immediately use when
characterizing Capitals hockey in the Rock the Red era of playoff
appearances. In the past eight seasons the Caps employed two general managers, five coaches, 99 skaters, 11 goaltenders, and appeared
in the postseason seven times. Four
times they advanced to the second round of the playoffs but no further. The last of those four appearances in the
second round of the postseason came in 2015 after yet another off-season and
regular season of twists and turns.
The 2014-2015 season started almost as soon as the Caps
finished their 2013-2014 season out of the playoffs for the first time since
On April 26, 2014, just 13 days
after the Caps’ season came to a merciful end, the club relieved head coach
Adam Oates of his responsibilities and announced that they would not retain the services of George McPhee as general manager
In 17 years under McPhee’s management the Caps had a regular season record of
613-488-108, with 69 ties.
reached the postseason 10 times in 16 seasons (the 2004-2005 season lost to a
labor-management dispute), advancing to the Stanley Cup final in McPhee’s first
season but advancing as far as the second round only three times after that.
Oates, a Hall of Fame center who played parts of six seasons
with the Caps, was excused after two seasons in which he posted a 65-48-17
record, reaching the playoffs in his first season where he and the Caps lost to
the New York Rangers in seven games.
Whatever magic he worked in restoring Alex Ovechkin goal-scoring
production in his first season at the helm (after moving him to right wing in
the 2012-2013 seasion, Ovechkin recorded 32 goals in 48 games, a 55-goal pace
over a full season), Oates looked out of his depth for most of his second
season, overseeing a club that lost 12 of its last 21 games to fall out of
Exactly one month later, the Caps promoted Brian MacLellan
from assistant general manager to the general manager position, and they hired
Barry Trotz, formerly head coach of the Nashville Predators, to that position
with the Caps.
In hiring Trotz, the Caps
broke a string of five straight coaches hired without NHL head coaching
experience (Bruce Cassidy, Glen Hanlon, Bruce Boudreau, Dale Hunter, and
If the moves looked incremental
or safe, the team almost admitted as much.
As principal owner Ted Leonsis put it
“While we felt we needed to make significant changes – and
we did by moving on the GM and coach – we also didn’t feel we had to completely
rebuild or start from scratch…”
MacLellan and Trotz wasted little time putting their stamp
on the club. The coaching roster was
filled out with the signing of Lane Lambert and Mitch Korn, both of whom served
with Trotz in Nashville, and Todd Reirden, who had been an assistant with the
Pittsburgh Penguins. They joined Blaine
Forsyth, Olaf Kolzig, and Scott Murray, who were retained in other coaching
Then the player roster was addressed. On the first day of the unrestricted free
agency signing period, MacLellan signed defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt
Niskanen, formerly of the Penguins, and goaltender Justin Peters, formerly of
the Carolina Hurricanes, to fill specific needs. They were the highest profile signings by the
club in the early days of free agency since perhaps 2011 (Joel Ward, Roman
Hamrlik, Tomas Vokoun), and might have exceeded any early-July signing group
assembled by MacLellan’s predecessor, George McPhee.
It was left to play the games. The Caps started doing so under Trotz in
successful fashion, going 4-1-2 in their first seven games. Then they stumbled, losing five in a row to drop
to 4-5-3. They were struggling in an
unexpected way. In goal, Braden Holtby
was 3-3-2, 2.67, .891, with one shutout, while backup Justin Peters was 1-2-1,
3.04, .880. Despite Capital goaltenders
facing fewer than 25 shots per 60 minutes (24.8, in fact), goalie coach Mitch
Korn’s effect on them was yet to be felt in any obvious way.
The light seemed to go on over Holtby’s head shortly
thereafter. Starting with a 38-save win
in a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on November 7th, Holtby
would appear in 42 games and lose in regulation in consecutive appearances only
once. In those 42 games he went 26-9-7,
2.04, .931, with five shutouts. He
finished the season first in the league in appearances (73) and minutes
(4,247), third in wins (41), fifth in goals against average (2.22), eighth in
save percentage (.923), and tied for second in shutouts (9).
On the other hand, Peters never really got out of the rut
into which he fell to start the season. After that 1-2-1 start he would appear
in just eight more games, finishing the season with a 3-6-1 record, a 3.25
goals against average, and a .881 save percentage. His was the second worst goals against
average in the league among goalies appearing in at least a dozen games, and
his save percentage was last in that group.
Among the skaters, it was tempting to take for granted some
performances, but they were excellent nonetheless, Alex Ovechkin won his third straight (and
fifth overall) Maurice Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal scorer and
improved his plus-minus from a widely ridiculed minus-35 in 2013-2014 to
plus-10. Nicklas Backstrom did what he
has done from the moment he stepped on the ice for the Capitals in 2007 –
average about a point per game (78 in 82 games). Meanwhile, John Carlson took his place among
the top-echelon of NHL defensemen, finishing the season having appeared in
every game for the fifth straight season, 11th in goals among
defensemen (12), tied for fifth in assists (43), tied for fifth in points (55),
and second in even-strength points (38).
The Caps were blessed with good health as well, with seven
skaters appearing in all 82 games and 12 appearing in at least 75 games. The top four defensemen – Carlson, Niskanen,
Orpik, and Karl Alzner – missed to total of only four games (all by
Orpik). Even Mike Green, whose
mid-career had been plagued by a series of injuries, appeared in 72 games, his
highest total since the 2009-2010 season (75).
It all came together for the Caps, enabling them to win 45
games and finish with 101 standings points, an improvement of seven wins and 11
points from the previous season.
Washington finished second in the Metropolitan Division, earning them
home ice advantage in an opening round series against the New York Islanders.
For all the good it did the Capitals in Game 1. In four games in the regular season between
these two teams, the Caps and Isles won two games apiece. Three of the four games went to extra time.
Game 1 would not end that way, though.
The Islanders scored first on a Brock Nelson goal that Holtby might have
wanted back six minutes into the game.
Marcus Johansson got the Caps back into the game late in the period by
taking advantage of some hard work by Brooks Laich. Mike Green started the play by working the
puck up from behind the Caps’ net. After
it was swept deep into the Islander end, Laich beat two Islander defenders and
goalie Jaroslav Halak to the puck. Laich
worked it around the boards in the corner, then saw Johansson filling in at the
top of the right wing circle. Johansson
took the pass, curled to the dot, then ripped a wrist shot past Halak’s blocker
to tie the game with 56.3 seconds left in the period.
It would be the last highlight for the Caps in Game 1. Ryan Strome broke the tie less than four
minutes into the second period, and Josh Bailey made it 3-1 seven minutes
later. Nelson added an empty net goal
with 1:19 left in the contest, and the Isles grabbed home ice advantage with a
Having lost Game 1 on home ice, the Caps needed a big
rebound from everyone, especially goaltender Braden Holtby, who allowed three
goals on 22 shots in Game 1.
Unfortunately, Holtby was, uh…indisposed with an illness that head coach
Barry Trotz told reporters was “none of your business, really
That left it up to Philipp Grubauer, who appeared just once for the Caps in the regular season (a wion against Anaheim in February), to fill
in and perhaps save the Caps’ season.
Unfortunately, New York picked up where they left off in
Game 1 at the start of Game 2. Cal
Clutterbuck scored when he called his own number on a two-on-one rush five
minutes into the game. Ryan Strome
doubled the Islanders’ lead three minutes into the second period when he ripped
a one-timer from the high slot off a pass from John Tavares past Grubauer.
Two goals on ten shots by the Isles, and the Caps were in
trouble. Then, the ice tilted. The Caps outshot the Islanders, 7-2, in
almost eight minutes after the Strome goal, then scored when Mike Green fed
Karl Alzner at the far edge of the right wing circle for a one-timer that beat
Jaroslav Halak on his glove side. The
Islanders restored their two-goal lead three minutes later on a Kyle Okposo
goal, but it did not blunt the Caps’ momentum.
Alex Ovechkin scored his first of the postseason two minutes after
Okposo, and the Isles took a 3-2 lead to the third period.
Then the Caps won the game within a game. Tom Wilson, who would figure large in this
series in edgy ways, drew a slashing penalty from Strome 2:50 into the third
period. It resulted in the Caps’ only
power play of the contest. With 54
seconds gone in the man advantage, Nicklas Backstrom took advantage of
uncertain defense to tie the game.
Taking a pass from John Carlson at the red line and skated down the
middle toward the Islander zone. Four
defenders surrounded Backstrom and backed off him in a box formation expecting
a pass. Backstrom just kept going, and
when he reached the hashmarks he snapped a shot past Halak.
Less than four minutes later, the Caps had the lead. Nick Leddy made a huge mistake, taking the
puck beneath his own goal line and trying to force a pass up the middle. It was intercepted by Matt Niskanen just inside
the blue line. He backhanded the puck to
Jason Chimera, who fired it from the right wing circle toward the Islander
net. Halak made the save but the rebound
was nudged by Jay Beagle back to Chimera.
He did not fail a second time.
His shot beat Halak past his blocker on the long side.
That left it up to the young goaltender, Grubauer. He was aided by a Caps defense that allowed
only five shots on goal in the last 12:23 following the Chimera goal, and
Grubauer stopped them all. The Caps
salvaged a split in their first two games of the series at home and headed to
The object here for the Caps was to obtain at least a split
at Nassau Coliseum. It would take a
smart, controlled road game approach to accomplish that, and they applied just that
approach to the start of Game 3. The
teams were scoreless for the first 32 minutes, but it would be the Caps who
would blink first. Finding it difficult
to clear the puck out of their own end, the Caps were relying on Braden Holtby,
back from his bout with illness, to keep the Isles at bay. Finally, the Islanders broke through on a
Lubomir Visnovsky drive that was redirected by Kyle Okposo for the game’s first
At the other end, the Caps were having no success, having
directed only 13 shots on Jaroslav Halak over the first two periods. The Caps dialed up the pressure in the third
period, and they were rewarded when Nicklas Backstrom took a pass from Mike
Green along the right wing wall, curled out above the faceoff circles, found a
shooting angle he liked, and snapped a shot that deflected off the crossbar and
in to tie the game with 6:06 left in regulation.
That would be how the teams would go to overtime, but the
extra session was over in the blink of an eye.
The Islanders won the opening faceoff of overtime and sent the puck into
the Caps’ end. Holtby gloved the dump-in
down and left the puck for John Carlson in the corner to his right. Carlson sent the puck up the wall, but
without much pace, and it was intercepted by Nick Leddy at the blue line. His drive was redirected by Nikolai Kulemin,
but Holtby stopped it. He did not
control the rebound, though, and it ended up on the stick of John Tavares, who
put it back to end the overtime at the 15 second mark in a 2-1 Islander win.
The Caps found themselves in the position of facing a
two-game deficit when Game 4 began. They
did, however, break on top in the first period when a harmless looking John
Carlson shot from the blue line was redirected by Alex Ovechkin as he was
skating between the hashmarks in front of Halak. The Isles tied the game with just 12.6
seconds left in the period when Casey Cizikas jumped on a rebound of a bouncing
Cal Clutterbuck shot that handcuffed Braden Holtby.
And that was it for the scoring in regulation. Holtby stopped 21 shots over the last 40
minutes; Halak turned away 13. In
overtime, though the Caps dominated play.
It would be Backstrom taking things into his own hands to end it. After winning a faceoff to Halak’s left, the
puck came back to him in the corner.
Waiting for John Tavares to commit on defense, Backstrom stepped aside
and up the right wing wall, whereupon Tavares lost his stick. Backstrom continued turning around the top of
the faceoff circle and slung a long-distance shot that flew through a maze of
players and past Halak to tie the series.
Game 5 in Washington meant that the Islanders would have to
play shorthanded. In the second period
of Game 4, Tom Wilson took two penalties.
The first, a kneeing call when he encountered Josh Bailey, pased without
undue turmoil. The second, taken just 22
seconds after he returned to the ice, was much more consequential.
Wilson was sent back to the box with a charging penalty, but
Visnovsky left the ice, not to return to this or any other game in the series,
having suffered a concussion. The
Islanders dressed Griffin Reinhart in Visnovsky’s place for Game 5, and while he had a
fairly good game, at least at the start, his teammates did not. After taking the early lead on a Josh Bailey
goal less than six minutes into the game, they were steamrolled by the support
troops for the Caps. Evgeny Kuznetsov
tied the game when he won a faceoff in the Islander end, then circled around to
the far side of the net just in time to swat a loose puck out of mid-air and
The Caps took the lead mid-way in the second on some
persistent play from Troy Brouwer. Calvin
deHaan sent a weak pass up the middle from below his own faceoff circle that
Jay Beagle deadened. The puck rolled off
Beagle’s stick, but Brouwer was there to collect it and get a shot off. Halak trapped the puck, but not securely, and
Brouwer poked it loose. Carrying it around
the back of the Islander net, he found Karl Alzner pinching down through the
left wing circle. Alzner’s one-timer
beat Halak, and the Caps never looked back.
Brooks Laich scored less than three minutes into the third period,
Kuznetsov scored his second of the game less than four minutes later, and Jason
Chimera capped the scoring at the 9:00 mark for the final margin in the Caps’
As happens so often with the Caps, though, once they push a
team to the edge of the cliff, they can’t manage to shove them off. Back on Long Island, the Islanders and Caps
exchanged goals in the first period – John Tavares for the Isles and John
Carlson for the Caps, the latter scoring with just 4.3 seconds left in the
period. The second period passed without
a red light going on, but the Islanders would ensure the series would go to one
last game when Nikolai Kulemin scored mid-way through the period, and Cal
Clutterbuck added an empty net goal with 52.6 seconds left to clinch Game 6,
Game 7 in Washington.
We’ve been here before. Seven of
nine postseason series played to this point in the Rock the Red era went to a
seventh game for the Caps. The Caps were
2-5 in those series, 1-4 in Games 7 played at home. The eighth Game 7 in their past ten playoff
series started in tense fashion. Neither
team could score in the first period, although the Caps held an 11-3 edge in
shots. The Caps maintained the pressure
in the second period, outshooting the Islanders, 18-6, over the first 18
minutes. It looked as if the Caps were
squandering yet another opportunity to close out a team in Game 7 on home ice.
Then, the “heavy” style of hockey the Caps adopted this
season bore fruit. With less than two
minutes left in the period, Nicklas Backstrom slid the puck down the wall
behind the Islander net. Joel Ward
locked up with Nick Leddy in a battle for the puck. Ward won that battle and moved the puck to
Alex Ovechkin in the corner. Ovechkin
sent the puck out to Brooks Orpik at the left point, during which Ward made his
way to the front of the net. Orpik fired
a shot from the point that Halak stopped, but Ward had position on Leddy and
Johnny Boychuk and stuffed the puck under Halak’s pads and in to give the Caps
The Islanders tied the game in the third period when Frans
Nielsen fired a shot that Braden Holtby misplayed through his pads. It looked as if the teams might have to
settle this in overtime, but Evgeny Kuznetsov put an end to that thinking. Jason Chimera fought off Boychuk in the
corner to Halak’s left to move the puck up to Kuznetsov along the wall.
Kuznetsov cut to the middle, slipped between three defenders, held the puck as
Halak committee to the ice, then wristed the puck into the open net 12:42 into
the period to give the Caps a 2-1 lead.
The Caps clamped down from there, allowing just one Islander
shot over the next 4:24. But with 2:54
left in regulation, there was still some suspense to be dealt with. John Carlson took a roughing penalty to put
the Islanders a man up. The Caps shut
down the Islander power play, allowing only one shot attempt – a miss by Bailey
– in the two minute advantage. It was
the last gasp for the Isles as the Caps closed the door on the game and the
series, 2-1, to move on to the second round.
Caps…Rangers. Again. For the fifth time in seven years, the two
teams met in the postseason. The teams
split their previous four meetings, the Caps winning in 2009 and 2011, the
Rangers coming out on top in 2012 and 2013.
Game 1 was what this extended series was all about. Coming into this game the teams had played 26
games in four series, and 18 of them ended in one goal decisions. This contest would make it 19 in 27
games. The Caps got started late in the
first period in simple fashion. On a
power play, John Carlson skated out from behind his net and fed a long pass to
Alex Ovechkin skating down the left wing in the neutral zone. Ovechkin carried the puck into the Ranger
end, backing off Brian Boyle. At the top
of the left wing circle Ovechkin snapped a shot that sailed over goalie Henrik
Lundqvist’s glove and into the top corner of the net.
Washington held that 1-0 lead for almost 40 minutes, but it
was not long enough. Jesper Fast tied
the game with 4:39 left in regulation by being there. A shot by Kevin Hayes from the blue line
struck a Capital on its way through, then hit Fast’s leg, redirecting the puck
just enough to elude goalie Braden Holtby to tie the game.
Overtime looked like a certainty in the last minute, but the
Caps had one more push left. Alex Ovechkin
carried the puck into the Rangers’ zone but lost control of the puck and his
balance. Brian Boyle chased the puck
into the corner for the Rangers, but Nicklas Backstrom separated him from the
biscuit long enough for Ovechkin to get back into the play. Ovechkin took the puck around the end wall,
and as he was curling behind the Ranger net he threw a pass back and around
Derek Stepan from the direction he came where Joel Ward was filling in. Ward snapped a shot from the top of the
crease that slid under Lundqvist’s left pad, and the Caps took the lead and
Game 1 with 1.3 seconds left.
The Caps met a different Ranger team in Game 2, one that
would get out to a quick lead. Chris
Kreider put the Rangers on top just 38 seconds into the contest. Dan Boyle added to the Ranger lead on a power
play late in the period to put the Rangers up, 2-0, heading to the first
intermission. It proved to be a bit much
for the Caps to match. Evgeny Kuznetsov
got the Caps within a goal late in the second period by chasing his own dump-in
and putting back a rebound of a shot by Jason Chimera. Unfortunately, the Caps could not get the
tying goal before the Rangers restored their two-goal lead, that coming when
Derick Brassard got behind the Caps’ defense and scored six minutes into the
third period. Ovechkin scored four
minutes later on a highlight goal, splitting two Ranger defenders and wristing
the puck past Lundqvist as he was falling to the ice, but it was as close as
the Caps could get in dropping Game 2 to the Rangers, 3-2.
Caps-Rangers series have been marked by a scarcity of goals,
and Game 3 in Washington was no exception.
Neither team could put a mark on the score sheet in the first period,
and they went another seven minutes into the second period before a red light
was lit. It was a frustrating moment
followed by a surprising one. Evgeny
Kuznetsov lifted the puck into the Ranger zone from the red line to start a
line change. Troy Brouwer stayed on and
put pressure on Martin St. Louis trying to reach the puck. With those two locked up, the puck slid to
Dan Girardi, who was pressured by Andre Burakovsky in the corner to Lundqvist’s
right. Burakovsky backhanded the puck to
the middle, right on the tape of Jay Beagle skating down the middle. Beagle had a wide-open opportunity for a
one-timer, but Lundqvist got enough of the puck going by to steer it into the
end wall. Beagle followed up his own
shot and got control of the puck behind the Ranger net. From below the Ranger goal line he backhanded
the puck in an effort to find Burakovsky closing on the net. However, the puck struck the skate of
defenseman Keith Yandle, hit Lundqvist’s pad, and caromed into the net to give
the Caps a 1-0 lead. That was all that
Braden Holtby would need. He faced 30
Ranger shots and turned all of them aside to earn his second career postseason
The teams played things close in the first three games, all
of them ending in one-goal decisions. Game
4 would prove to be no exception to the pattern. In fact, Game 4 followed the script of Game e
rather closely – no scoring in the first period followed by an extended
scoreless stretch to start the second period.
Unlike Game 3, however, it was the Rangers that broke through
first. Martin St. Louis’ pass from the
left wing to Derick Brassard darting down the middle was right on the tape of
Brassard’s stick, and he had just enough of a lead on Alex Ovechkin bearing
down from behind to lift the puck over the left arm of Holtby to make it 1-0 at
the 6:12 mark.
Just over ten minutes later, the Caps tied it. Andre Burakovsky, who recorded his first NHL
postseason point in Game 3 with an assist, stole the puck from Chris Kreider
along the right wing wall, curled to the middle, held the puck, then snapped it
past Lundqvist’s blocker.
It took less than half a minute of the third period to break
the tie. Ranger defenseman Ryan McDonagh
had trouble controlling the puck at the red line in front of the penalty
boxes. It was kicked ahead by Troy
Brouwer to Burakovsky behind the defense.
Burakovsky curled in and with McDonagh trying to annoy him off the puck,
he shielded himself from the defender and unleashed a backhand the beat
Lunsqvist on the far side to give the Caps a 2-1 lead 24 seconds into the
period. It was Braden Holtby’s game
after that, and he stopped all nine Ranger shots he face in the third period to
record the win and send the teams back to New York with the Caps in a position
And that is just what the Caps were poised to do,
nursing a goal by Curtis Glencross 11 minutes into the third period into the
last two minutes of Game 5. But Chris
Kreider one-timed a pass from Derek Stepan from the left wing circle past
Holtby to tie the game with just 1:41 left.
It was a place the Caps found themselves all too often over the course
of their history, unable to close a team out in Game 5, and they paid for it
mid-way through overtime. From just
outside his own blue line, Glencross tried a diagonal pass up ice to Brooks
Laich. The pass was knocked down by
Jesper Fast, who turned and headed down the right wing into the Caps’ end. As this was going on, Laich went to the
bench, and that exchange might have created a fatal opening. Fast sent the puck across to Stepan, who left
it for McDonagh entering the zone, into a gap where either Laich or his
replacement might have filled in.
Instead, there was nothing but open space, and McDonagh stepped up and
fired a shot past Holtby to send the teams back to Washington for Game 6.
With a chance to close out the Rangers at home, the Caps
laid an egg. Kreider scored goals in the
first and last minute of the first period, the second with two-tenths of a
second left when a shot of a faceoff win was stopped by Holtby, but John Carlson
kicked the puck back and between Holtby’s pads, leaving Kreider with a tap
Jason Chimera got a tap-in of his own 28 seconds into the
second period when Henrik Lundqvist did not handle Joel Ward’s shot from the
top of the right wing circle cleanly.
The Caps could not get the tying goal in the second period, and the
Rangers pulled away in the third. Goals
by Rick Nash and Dan Boyle less than five minutes in gave the Rangers a 4-1
lead. Evgeny Kuznetsov made things more
interesting in the eighth minute when Ward poked the puck off the stick off the
stick of Stepan, and Kuznetsov rifled the loose puck off the post past
Lundqvist on the short side.
Ward got one of his own less than three minutes later when
his persistence was rewarded in front of the Ranger net. Jason Chimera fired the puck at the net from
the left wing wall, and when Lundqvist made the save, Ward was there to poke it
past Lundqvist’s left pad to get the Caps within a goal. That would be as close as the Caps would get,
though, and the Rangers skated off winners, 4-2, to send the series back to New
York for Game 7.
For the fourth time in five series in seven years, the Caps and
Rangers went to a seventh game. In the
previous three Games 7, the Rangers scored first. Not so in this one. As the first period was reaching he 13-minute
mark, Nicklas Backstrom won a faceoff in the Ranger end to the right of
Lundqvist. The puck came back to
Ovechkin, who managed to poke free to Backstrom, who sent it down the wall to
Marcus Johansson. From the far edge of
the faceoff circle, Johansson found Ovechkin cutting down the middle, and
Ovechkin snapped the puck over Lundqvist’s glove to make it 1-0.
In the seventh minute of the second period, Kevin Hayes tied
the game on a power play when he took a feed from J.T. Miller on the back side
and slid the puck behind Holtby. And
that would be it. For the second time in
three games and second straight time in Madison Square Garden, the teams would
go to an overtime tied, 1-1.
In the end, it ended quickly, but in slow motion.
The Rangers won a faceoff to the left of
The puck slid back to Keith
Yandle, who fed Dan Girardi for a one-timer.
Holtby kicked out the drive, but the rebound went straight to Derek
Stepan, who wasted no time spiking the puck past Holtby, on his back in the
Cue the handshakes.
For the fourth time in the Rock the Red era, the Caps made
it to the second round, but no further. This one, however, felt different from
the others. There was a lot to build on,
even in another second round loss. For
starters, there was Braden Holtby. He
was excellent in his first playoff appearance, that against the Boston Bruins
in 2012, but he cemented his position as a goalie who could reasonably anchor a
Cup winning team with his performance in this postseason. Among goalies appearing in five or more
games in the 2015 postseason, he had the best goals against average (1.71) and best save percentage
(.944). He is the only goalie since the
2004-2005 lockout having appeared in at least 25 postseason games with a
career goals against average under 2.00 and a save percentage above .930.
Alex Ovechkin, for the fourth time in five postseasons,
recorded five goals, but he had an interesting supporting cast. Evgeny Kuznetsov, appearing in his second
postseason, tied Ovechkin in goals with five.
John Carlson became only the third Capital defenseman in the Rock the
Red era to finish with more than five points for a postseason (1-5-6), joining
Mike Green (three times) and Tom Poti.
The Caps were within two minutes of clinching their second
round series in Game 5 and an overtime away from it in Game 7 against the
Rangers. While there might be truth in
that there are only so many bites at the apple a team might get in advancing to
a Stanley Cup, the 2015 team looked to be closer to realizing that goal than
perhaps any team in the Rock the Red era.
For the first time, perhaps ever in this era and certainly since 2010,
one had the sense they were closer than they ever were to getting it right in
Photo: Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images