The Stanley Cup hopes of the Washington Capitals were dashed by their first-round exit at the hands of the Boston Bruins. This makes the third straight season of not making it past the first round, and fans are probably wondering if their window has closed. There’s no question that time is ticking, but as long as the players believe they can win, they can keep the clock from striking midnight. The offseason for the Capitals will be filled with major decisions, especially related to re-signing players such as Alex Ovechkin. However, with a salary cap that’s tight, it is going to be interesting to see where the Capitals go from here.
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By the Numbers
Record: 36-15-5 (77 points)
Power Play: 24.84 percent (3rd)
Penalty Kill: 83.95 percent (5th)
Goals For: 191 (3rd)
Goals Against: 163 (17th)
Normally it would be Ovechkin, and maybe it should be. However, due to illness and the strange season, he was not exactly at his best. Nicklas Backstrom led the team in points (53) and assists (38), and he was third in goals (15) behind Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie. Backstrom was a solid and consistent player for the Capitals this season. He racked up 33 takeaways in the regular season, and his Corsi was at 49.6 percent. The playoffs were not as great for him; mainly due to a lower-body injury he was playing through. Overall, Backstrom had a great season, living up to what the franchise expected of him.
The biggest disappointment cannot be narrowed down to one person or event. Despite the shortened season, the Caps attempted to make the best of the hands they were dealt throughout the season. However, their performance against Boston in the playoffs left something to be desired. Were they there? Yes. Did players show up? Yes. Washington had opportunities in each game to take control, but they failed to do so when given the opportunity. The team was inconsistent, as were their shots on net. They played well (especially in the last game), however, they still failed to come out on top. That was the biggest disappointment of them all.
Behind the Bench Analysis
As with every coach this season, Peter Laviolette did his best with what the team was given. Illness and injuries didn’t detract them from their regular-season goal of making the playoffs. In that respect, Laviolette did a good job. However, when the playoffs arrived, he could have done better at getting his players to be more consistent. The coach can be credited for how they were playing in both the regular season and the playoffs, but once Stanley Cup fever hit, the Capitals did not do such a great job of finishing what they started. Laviolette knows what it takes, and with any job there’s always room for improvement. Hopefully there will not be as much going against them in the playoffs next time.
Front Office Analysis
General Manager Brian MacLellan has a lot to deal with this upcoming offseason. The job he did for the 2020-21 season was probably the best he could have done under the circumstances. He did bring Laviolette in as the head coach, which was a good move because there was an improvement from last year in the team’s stats. He brought in Zdeno Chara on a one-year contract that added to a strong leadership core. MacLellan signed Craig Anderson to be on the taxi squad after Henrik Lundqvist announced he would undergo heart surgery and not play this season. Anderson didn’t play in many games, but he was there when needed. MacLellan was able to do a respectable job of shoring up an aging team in a win-now mode.
2021 NHL Entry Draft Picks/Prognosis
The Capitals have 5 picks in the 2021 Draft, and as of right now they have no first round selection after trading it to the Detroit Red Wings (with a 2022 draft pick) for Anthony Mantha. They received a pick in the third round from the New Jersey Devils in the Jonas Siegenthaler trade in April. Washington had also previously traded a third-round pick to the San Jose Sharks in the Brenden Dillon deal last year in February. They will need to consider where their roster might be in a few years and make their choices carefully. While no one will ever be able to replace Ovechkin, if they can’t trade for a player similar to him, hopefully, they will be able to find one to draft.
Offseason Wish/Checklist & Prognosis for 2021-2022
There’s no reason to panic yet or go into a rebuild mode, yet the franchise and fans alike should know that it’s coming. The Capitals do not need to make any sudden moves that might appear as an overreaction to how the 2020-21 season ended. Laviolette has done a sufficient amount of work to get the Capitals to play a full 60-minute game, but they have a long way to go and some young players to fold into the mix. If they make a few course corrections and be consistent with those changes, then the Capitals will have a much better 2021-22 season. They’ll be in contention for the playoffs again, and if everyone is at full strength, there’s a chance.
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