The Washington Capitals were deemed the best team in the NHL. They finished the regular season with the most wins, earned the most points, and deservedly won the Presidents' Trophy for their regular season accomplishments. The Caps were certainly favored to win the East, if not win the whole enchilada this postseason. But what did all that end up meaning in the grand scheme of things during the playoffs?
The Montreal Canadiens succeeded doing what most experts and fans felt they could never do, defeat the Caps in their best of seven series.
We could talk about some of the factors behind the "Capital Meltdown." The great goaltending of Jaroslav Halak. The willingness of the Habs to attempt to block every shot imaginable. The ineffectiveness of Washington's powerplay. The inability of the Caps' stars to make key plays. The fact that previously used and abused coach Jacques Martin, seriously out-coached his counterpart, Bruce Boudreau.
The Washington fanbase and brass can and will analyze what went wrong all summer long, but this is not the first time a Presidents' Trophy winner has had a premature exit in the postseason. As a matter of fact, usually the team holding the Trophy goes down in flames in the playoffs much sooner than most expect.
Since the inception of the Trophy presentation in 1985-86, only 7 of 25 winners have gone on to win the Stanley Cup. For what it's worth, each of those seven Cup winning teams earned fewer than the 121 points the Capitals accumulated this past year.
Only two clubs earned more than 121 points in those 25 years. Detroit had 124 in 2005-06 and they were eliminated in the opening round by the 8th seeded, Edmonton Oilers. Detroit earned 131 in 1995-96 and lost to Colorado in the Conference Finals.
Instead of pointing fingers and talking about who should go and who should stay in the Nation's Capital, perhaps time should be spent analyzing why it's so difficult for teams to do well in the playoffs after running away with things in the regular season?
Do teams get complacent because they play so many meaningless games at the end of the season? Do their opponents have the edge because they play pressure packed games right up until the final day? Is leadership a problem, or is it experience?
After having such a dominating regular season, one wouldn't think there is too much wrong in DC. But still, this is not the first postseason meltdown for these Caps and obviously some adjustments need to be made.
It will be a very interesting offseason in Washington and a much longer one than many of their fans had originally anticipated. But I would not expect them to re-invent the wheel in our Capital City. Perhaps tighten a few loose spokes?