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Eastern Conference Semis Prove To Be The Caps’ Kryptonite
Once again, the Capitals failed to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs, a feat they haven’t accomplished since 1998. After Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Rangers, the Capitals have nobody to blame but themselves for another early playoff exit, something that was evident after a heartbreaking loss in Games 5. Washington came out lackadaisical in Game 7, and the Rangers looked like they wanted it more. The score may have been 2-1 but it was evident that the Rangers were the better team, something that wasn’t necessarily obvious after the triple overtime (a game the Caps lost by an inch), and a pointless high-sticking penalty that led to a Game 5 meltdown.
At some point, the early playoffs exits need to be addressed by the front office. Guys who make millions a year have high expectations, but they didn’t deliver when it counted most. Just as the players and the personnel in the organization are starting to get restless watching the team get knocked out before the dream of winning the Stanley Cup is being realized, fans are getting restless as well. Throughout the course of this postseason we have learned that there are guys on the team who have the ability to step up and take considerable roles when called upon. When next season comes around, guys like Jay Beagle, Matt Hendricks, and Braden Holtby will be given a lot more responsibility because they’ve proven themselves capable.
However, we must give some credit Dale Hunter who helped draw up a system to let these role players succeed. He came in under unfavorable conditions and was badmouthed by fans, bloggers (myself included), and even members of the mainstream media. The world was waiting to see what “Hunter Hockey” was all about and once the playoffs started people tuned in to watch a solid defensive effort. It will be interesting to see if he returns next season. The players have finally bought into his system and it may prove to be disastrous if another coach comes in, which will force the players to learn yet another system.
While next season hangs in the balance due to an impending battle in regards to the collective bargaining agreement, the Capitals will be honing their skills to be better than they were this year. While fans are still reeling from the elimination, it’s important to never give up hope. A new season brings on new hopes and aspirations for everyone involved. Keep the faith fans, because without you there is no chance at all, and when the Caps bring home the Stanley Cup next year, all of the pain, suffering, and heartbreak you have endured will be well worth it.