Familiar ending: Capitals can't get past 2nd round

Associated Press  |  Last updated May 13, 2012
(Eds: Updates with details, quotes and byline. With AP Photos.) By JOSEPH WHITE AP Sports Writer All those changes didn't get the Washington Capitals any further in the playoffs. That's the big-picture view, the one that says this season was another disappointing performance by an immensely talented roster. Remember last summer, when the Capitals in quick succession added five players who were the final pieces to really, for-sure, this-time-without-a-doubt take them to the Stanley Cup? Remember how they were the fashionable choice to win the Eastern Conference in September, a notion reinforced after their 7-0 start? Then there's the other view, the one that focuses on the last two months, when Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green finally got healthy and the team started to find a comfort level with the defensive mindset preached by new coach Dale Hunter, who had taken over when the tuned-out, run-and-gun Bruce Boudreau was fired in November. After barely scraping into the playoffs, the Capitals eliminated the second-seeded and defending champion Boston Bruins in a seven-game, low-scoring series and nearly did the same to the top-seeded New York Rangers. ''You know, we had our chances to win it, and so did they,'' Hunter said following Saturday night's 2-1 Game 7 loss at Madison Square Garden. ''It's like two good teams battling each other. What can you say? It's just that we came up short tonight. We had our chances that we didn't bury. And they buried two, and we only got one.'' Therein lies the rub. When the goal is to play a 2-1 game, it's quite often that it's the other team that scores two. In fact, 13 of the Capitals' 14 playoff games were decided by one goal. A lineup that includes Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Backstrom and Green scored just 29 goals in those 14 games. So the Capitals are at a crossroads. Do they stick with Hunter, assuming he wants to return? If he doesn't, do they stay with the defensive close-to-the-chest system with another coach? If they do, do they have the right personnel for it? Ovechkin, in particular, is paid handsomely with the expectation that every year he will be among the league's elite players. This season, he was not. Even in the playoffs, there were flashes of the Great Eight here and there, but he would disappear for long stretches. Sometimes Hunter would keep him off the ice altogether for extended periods, preferring to go with other matchups. Saturday night, with the season on the line during the adrenaline rush of a Game 7 - and with the Capitals trailing most of the game - Ovechkin managed to put only two shots on goal, the same number as defensemen John Carlson and Roman Hamrlik. After the game, Ovechkin uncharacteristically sat at his locker for several minutes after the interviews were done, still in his full uniform, staring straight ahead. He has now played seven seasons in the NHL, and he's yet to get past the second round of the playoffs. The Capitals took the day off Sunday, but questions about Hunter, Ovechkin and everyone else will resume when they reconvene to pack up their belongings for the summer. Hunter was asked about his future immediately after the game and said it wasn't the right time to address such matters, but he made an interesting switch from ''we'' to ''you'' when answering another question about the style of play he implemented. ''It's the right way to play, to win,'' he said. ''Next year we'll, you know, you can, you know, start off and that's your goal. To win.'' It's also clear that Hunter, if he returns, will have to do a better job of learning how to push the buttons of his players. Ovechkin wasn't the only one who wasn't his top-notch self for Game 7. Except for a few minutes in the second period, the Capitals were clearly outplayed by the Rangers. ''We didn't play our best game, didn't have enough fight, enough grit,'' defenseman Karl Alzner said. ''Didn't battle for pucks enough, had a power play that was awful. It's really too bad that in a game of this magnitude we stunk the bed, pretty much. It's just not good enough for us.'' --- Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Brian Cashman defends A-Rod despite season's struggles

Report: Charles’ workload won’t be limited if healthy

Report: Westbrook doesn’t want trade, will think about extension

Chargers don’t know if Joey Bosa will report to camp

Report: RG3 to be given four out of five first-team reps


Report: Peterson likely entering last season with Vikings

Cubs trade for Chapman a risk, but potential payoff too hard to ignore

Wisconsin kicker will wear 27 to honor Nebraska's Sam Foltz

Dennis Schroder wears disguise to play in German streetball tournament

Browns indicate they will give Josh Gordon another chance

Prince Fielder to undergo season-ending neck surgery

Top five storylines heading into MLB trade deadline

Angels listening to offers on Hector Santiago

Chris Sale’s so-called ‘apology’ was anything but

Ten hottest golfers heading into 2016 PGA Championship

Five NFL sophomores poised to break out in 2016

Tre Mason's family concerned about RB's mental health?

Dion Waiters' deal signals the end of the 2016 money grab

Tom Jackson could leave ESPN after almost three decades

Cavs sign coach Tyronn Lue to a five-year extension

More than 10,000 people registered for Jaguars Pokemon Go night

NFL issues new concussion protocol

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

QUIZ: Name every city to host the NBA All-Star Game

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

The top NHL free agents available as offseason winds down

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker