Capitals Take the Hard Road in the Playoffs, Always

Posted April 22, 2018

16 Wins. That is all it takes to win the Stanley Cup. It’s possible to do that in 16 games, if you win them all. It’s possible to do that in 960 minutes of hockey, if you always win in regulation. The task doesn’t seem so difficult when you think about it that way.

In the Ovechkin & Backstrom era of the Washington Capitals, they’ve won their division 8 of 11 seasons, only missing the playoffs once, and finishing 2nd twice. That means they’ve been the higher seed heading into the first round 10 times in 11 seasons, yet they have never swept an opponent. 2 of the 8 series so far in this seasons’ playoffs have ended in sweep. The Capitals have only won one series 4-1 (2011 Rangers) in that era, yet another 2 of 8 series so far in this seasons’ playoffs have ended 4-1.

Much has been written about the Capitals inability to get past the second round of the playoffs, but most of the focus is on their failure to win, especially in game 7. We think the real problem is how often they go to game 7 in the first place. Even when they win a series, it takes 6 or 7 games. Since 2008, the Capitals have won 6 series, 3 in Game 7, 2 in Game 6, and 1 in Game 5. The series they have lost? 7 in Game 7, 1 in Game 6, and 1 in Game 4. The Capitals are just playing more games per round than other teams.

It’s not just the number of games, it’s the minutes played in those games. Only 5 games have gone to overtime so far this playoff season, and 4 of them have been between the Caps and Jackets (2-2).

Trotz is now up to 17 of 44 playoff games with the Capitals requiring overtime. Nicklas Backstrom has a historic number of overtime game winning goals in the playoffs (4), partially due to opportunity, as he’s played in so many overtime playoff games.

The Penguins are involved in a tougher series this year against the Flyers, but the past two seasons they’ve come into Washington for the 2nd round after dispatching their 1st round opponents in just 5 games. Last year the Penguins defeated the Blue Jackets 4-1 with 1 OT game in the process. The Capitals took care of Toronto in 6 games, but 5 of them required overtime. We all remember what happened next.

It’s said that adversity builds character. The Capitals have plenty of character. What they need is to win games in regulation, and win series (especially the 1st round) in the minimum number of games. That will help to minimize injuries and fatigue and put them in a better position to go further in the playoffs. We’re sure they know this, but for whatever reason, they just can’t seem to finish games in regulation, and finish lesser teams in a minimal amount of games.