I can speak for all Washington Capitals fans in saying that last year’s first round exit from the playoffs was upsetting—no, it was gut-wrenching. Sickening. Enraging. Depressing.
These are more accurate words to describe feelings that Game 7 and the whole series embedded into our minds.
It was a nightmare. How could the Caps have lost to No. 8 seed Montreal after the Capitals put up their best season in team history, obliterating the franchise record books along the way?
Some say it is the "Curse of the President’s Trophy." The ’08-’09 San Jose Sharks, ’05-’06 Detroit Redwings and the ’99-’00 St. Louis Blues are the only other squads to have experienced anguish like Caps fans in the 2009-2010 season.
You have to hand it to the Montreal Canadiens and coach Jacques Martin.
The goal-tending tandem of Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price alone was outstanding. They took advantage of an exhausted and spent Capitals squad. They deserved it.
With their first round win, they displayed how overrated the President’s Trophy is.
After the horrific ending to such a prolific season, Capitals fans were calling for Coach Bruce Boudreau’s head. If Ted Leonsis and George McPhee weren’t such a great owner and GM, respectively, Washington fans would have gotten their wish.
Boudreau would have been long gone by now.
The fans’ feelings hadn’t really changed towards Boudreau throughout the offseason until mid-February. Sure, the Capitals were in playoff contention, standing around fifth in the Eastern Conference, but I, along with other fans, were unsure if the team could make it as a No. 8 seed.
Not only was Boudreau under fire, but Alex Ovechkin (primarily) had joined him on the hot seat. Not only were Caps fans criticizing him, but as were hockey fans in general.
"What happened to Capitals?" many thought. The team who dominated the NHL the previous year was barely holding on to a playoff spot in the East.
The point I am making is that NHL teams should take note of the way the Washington Capitals have managed this season.
They’ve pulled a five month prank on the league.
Boudreau has kept composure through what was has been his most unsettled year as a coach. Ovechkin’s been questioned and doubted just as Boudreau, all season for his lack of scoring ability.
The reality is that the Capitals learned a huge lesson in losing to Montreal in last year’s playoffs: They learned that being the top point-getting squad doesn’t count, as long as you make the playoffs and are ready to push for the Stanley Cup.
The Capitals are doing just that.
In recent weeks, the Capitals have shown that they can be Cup contenders. We should commend, rather admire, the Washington Capitals for keeping their composure this season.
Put it this way: Ovechkin is reintroducing his wrister to the world, learned to captain an NHL team and the Capitals are playing their best hockey and will continue to play better as the regular season ends and the playoffs begin.