Examining the Capitals’ Playoff Defeat

Washington Capitals
Photo: Pro Hockey Rumors

The Washington Capitals have officially begun their offseason after being swept by the New York Rangers in the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Finals. What caused the Capitals to fizzle out after barely sneaking into the playoffs? Here’s the rundown:

Special Teams

The biggest killer for the Washington Capitals in the playoffs was special teams. The Capitals were given a staggering 17 power play chances and managed to score on only two of them while also giving up two shorthanded goals. The team struggled to even get shots on the man advantage– just 14 shots came from their efforts. The Rangers’ special teams were stellar, inhibiting the Capitals as well. In Sunday’s game, the Rangers scored three of their four goals on the power play.

The Veteran Core

The Capitals’ captain was the talk of the town post-series, and not for a good reason. For the first time in his career, Alex Ovechkin had no points and no goals in this four-game playoff series. His previous lowest output also came against the Rangers, when he produced only one goal and one assist in 2013.

“We just didn’t score – our line didn’t score lots of goals,” Ovechkin said Sunday, admitting his faults. “Blame on me; I didn’t play well, so it’s suck that we end up like that.” Just five shots on goal came throughout the four games, and Ovechkin claimed to be healthy throughout the series. He added that he needs to think about what happened and reflect on his play throughout the offseason. “I don’t have that kind of touches,” he said. “I try to find a different way to put the puck in. But we just finished the game, so I have to think about it and see what’s happening and think about what happened.” He added, “We didn’t shoot the puck too much. But how I said, we just finished the series. I have to think about my game and overall.”

Rumors have been circulating of forward TJ Oshie possibly announcing his retirement in the offseason. Oshie has been dealing with injury after injury and consistent back problems that have been unable to be fixed. Oshie spoke to the media and revealed more information about the recurring issue, commenting that the pain can often get so bad that he is “literally on the floor peeing in water bottles.” He has been working closely with trainers, doctors, and specialists, but the forward said that his return next season is uncertain. “I’d like to find an answer and a fix to the problem before making another run at [playing again].” Hopefully, a solution can be found for TJ Oshie, as his love and passion for the game has been made clear time and time again.

The majority of Capitals goals across the playoff series were scored by younger players, with Tom Wilson and John Carlson being the only team veterans to score. It is no secret that the team’s core is aging and is not offensively producing at the level they used to.

Some Positives

Despite the series sweep being a huge disappointment, the Capitals weren’t all failures and fumbles. Charlie Lindgren was, undoubtedly, the series MVP. He stopped a staggering 90 shots throughout four games and was a huge factor in getting the Capitals to the playoffs in the first place. He seemingly came out of the blue this season, tying the league lead in shutouts (6) and registering career-best numbers in appearances (50), starts (48), and wins (25). “Ch Ch” took over the starting spot from goaltender counterpart Darcy Kuemper, starting 28 of the last 35 games for the Capitals after the All-Star break. Chuckie has been arguably our Most Valuable Player,” Spencer Carbery said. “He’s the reason we’re in the spot we are or a large reason why we’re in this spot.”

Martin Fehervary also stood out offensively. The defenseman only registered three goals during the regular season but managed to net two of them in his four games played against the Rangers. Alongside Fehervary, Hendrix Lapierre came in clutch multiple times throughout the series, helping to even the score in two different games. Lapierre will be joining the Hershey Bears in playoffs as the team chases the Calder Cup once again.

Getting into the playoffs this season once seemed a long shot for the Washington Capitals, so the team felt as if they had accomplishments to celebrate regardless of the outcome. They fell out of the playoff race more than once, sold at the deadline, and struggled offensively even when they were winning games. Dylan Strome commented on the situation, remarking “We got to the very end, so we’re all warriors in this room, proud to be part of this team, this organization. So lots to build on moving forward. Obviously, no one expected us to be in the playoffs. We grinded to get here…”

The Offseason

So, what can the Capitals do in the offseason to better their chances of having both regular season and playoff success in 2024-2025? The first place to start is freeing up salary cap space by having forward Nicklas Backstrom move from injured reserve to retirement. The 36-year-old signed a five-year, $46 million contract with the team, but has been sitting on LTIR for nearly the entire season, taking up valuable cap space and a roster spot from a potential young star. Should TJ Oshie retire, even more space would be freed up, giving the team more wiggle room and flexibility in the draft.

Secondly, the Capitals should release goaltender Darcy Kuemper. Rumors are circulating about his potential dismissal from the team, and for good reason. The 33-year-old had his worst full season in the NHL, with 25 or more stars over the season. Kuemper had career lows in goals against average (3.31) and save percentage (.890). He finished the season with a win/loss record under .500 (13-14-3) and did not win a game after February 26. Since the new year, Kuemper only made 13 starts for Washington. The Capitals have two potential candidates to fill the spot alongside Charlie Lindgren next season– Hunter Shepard and Clay Stevenson, both of whom play for the Hershey Bears. Shepard was the 2023 Calder Cup Playoff MVP and this season’s goalie of the year, and Stevenson led the AHL in shutouts (7) and posted a 2.06 goals against average and .922 save percentage. Both players are, arguably, more deserving of the NHL roster spot than Darcy Kuemper.

The Capitals also need to distribute the scoring load and alleviate some of the pressure off of Alex Ovechkin and Dylan Strome. These two were the only two players on the team with 20 or more goals, netting 31 and 27, respectively. General manager Brian MacLellan has been vocal about his desire to add a young, top-six winger to the team for some time now. The Capitals desperately need to strengthen their defense and quicken their pace of play if they want to be serious Stanley Cup contenders in the upcoming seasons. Due to selling at the deadline, the Capitals enter the summer with a handful of potentially exciting draft picks to work with. Spencer Carbery desperately wants a “40-goal, 100-point” player who could be acquired through this year’s draft. Filling in the gaps with young, fast players alongside veterans Ovechkin, Carlson, and Wilson could cause the Capitals to be an impressive team next season.

The Washington Capitals have lots to work on in the offseason to get in their best shape, but with five months remaining until they hit the ice again, increased success is not impossible. Happy offseason, Caps fans, and may the odds be ever in our favor.

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
  1. We Got The Jack
  2. Episode 7. Player Safety First!
  3. Episode 6. Early Trade Season
  4. Episode 5. Longing For The Chiarelli Years
  5. Episode 4. Ottawa’s On Fire

One thought on “Examining the Capitals’ Playoff Defeat”

  1. As long as the Caps suffer the presence of Ovechkin on the roster, this team will continue to be marginalized. The real story..and no one has gone near writing it yet…is the contrast between how TJ Oshie put himself out there on the ice while played injured and the “I could care less” attitude of Ovechkin. I have yet to see anybody in the league who makes a mockery of the sport like Ovechkin. His skill set can’t compare with anyone out there and everyone knows it. He can’t manage, pass, move or secure the puck. He doesn’t know what to do with and routinely feeds it to the other team. That’s happened there for the last 3 years but this year showed that he’s blown a gasket and is useless on the ice.
    It’s really discouraging that the home team announcers aren’t allowed to criticize him. You can hear them lamely overlook his turnovers and lack of effort. Allen May comes as close as anyone but doesn’t cross the line that ownership has obviously established. There’s nothing great about 8 anymore. He doesn’t try. He doesn’t play defense. He never hustles. He doesn’t care. It’s all about the record. Look at Carlson. Look at Oshie. look at Wilson. They care. They hustle. They leave it all on the ice.
    I wonder what his teammates…the ones who put it all out there every night…really think about him.
    It’s hard to think about a figure like Ovechkin in all of the sports world. I can’t think of anyone who was so blatantly and consistently not in the game when he was on the field/rink/court.
    As long as he’s on the roster, every other team in the NHL knows that when he gets on the ice, the Caps are down a man. Laviolette knew that this year. He must be doing cartwheels every morning having been liberated from the Ovechkin freak show. He knew that bad things happen to the Caps when Ovechkin is on the ice.

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