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Washington Capitals face big questions after fourth-straight first-round exit


Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are leaving early once again.

Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are leaving early once again.
Picture: beautiful pictures

Washington D.C. just got angry Eastern Conference series first round against the Florida Panthers. The President’s Trophy winners have been crowned for three consecutive games. And the Panthers won all three post-season competitions in a row, two in extra time and one after a 3-0 lead, to become the only team from the east to advance without Game 7.

This is the fourth consecutive outing for the Caps, all of which have come since the team’s Stanley Cup win in 2018. It has taken Washington nearly three to win a stipulated playoff in that span. after being wiped out by the Islanders in 2020 and picking up a playoff win last year, in extra time, in a 4-1 loss to Boston.

This playoff exit for the Capitals is unique in the post-S Stanley Cup universe. It’s not a total disappointment (Carolina in 2019) or overplayed in every way, like what happened in the previous two seasons. Washington has all the tools to take down the strongest team from the regular season and potentially deal more damage, as neither Rangers nor Penguins look impressive and are easily eliminated after season two. .

Would the Capitals’ lack of combat represent the team’s capabilities without Tom Wilson, who was injured early in Game 1 and didn’t compete for the rest of the series? Or is it a sign of a much larger problem? I’m afraid it’s the latter. Washington is not young anymore. Core players of the 2018 Stanley Cup will be locked out of contracts next season and, without a blockbuster deal, will not be leaving the nation’s capital.

With the Capital’s lineup finding more gray hair, the new kids that could become the next generation’s stars weren’t included. Many promising prospects have been traded for players who want chase a Stanley Cup now, mismanaged or released all together. Where will Washington be with Filip Forsberg? The veteran he was traded to, 40-year-old Forsberg senior Martin Erat, hasn’t played in the NHL since 2015. It was the biggest of several confusing decisions by the former general. director George McPhee, is currently being shown.

Current GM Brian MacLellan hasn’t done much to prevent Capital One Arena from turning into the NHL’s high-profile hub. Washington six could not be without Alex Ovechkin (more than he was at one point), Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, TJ Oshie, Wilson and John Carlson have an average age greater than 32. That comes close to 34 without Wilson with Almost six games as proof of what looks like in this series.

The Capitals have 15 players under professional contract as free agents this summer, with six players unlimited. The only person the team needs to step down is Justin Schultz. Yep, he’s 31 years old and just a year younger than the aging core. He hasn’t shown it all year and could be part of Washington’s top D pair with Carlson. As good as the reunion with Marcus Johansson, the team could easily get a younger, cheaper and better player.

Of the 9 restricted freedom agents, a few should return to Washington, the oldest being llya Samsonov. He won the No. 1 spot in the grid next season. Is he phenomenal in the knockouts? Absolutely not. Is the 25-year-old Russian the reason the Capital failed in this series? Again, absolutely not. Blame it on the lack of effort from the people in front of him, and Florida is an all-time resilient team. The capital should bring back Vitek Vanacek as well as Samsonov’s backup. Neither is a long-term solution to goals if they don’t improve, but holding them together is the best short-term option.

The most relevant thing about Capital is (and has been since 2004) Alex Ovechkin. The the greatest goal scorer in hockey history will chase Gordie Howe into second-all-time on the NHL’s all-time scorers list early next season, after which he begins his long road to Wayne Gretzky. The Great 8 will be 37 the next time he plays in an NHL game. You see the gray beard. He hasn’t lost a step yet. And this playoff exit doesn’t place more on his shoulders than anyone else on the team, and doesn’t define his legacy.

It may be true that it was a disagreement with Ovechkin as the Capitals made it past the second round so far in his tenure with the team, while correcting that Ovechkin did not carry the playoff frustration trait with him. . These departures would have left Ovechkin hurt even more without that 2018 Cup. He was spectacular in the post-season. It shows he can do it.

The unsettling tendency for Ovechkin and the core of the Washington team that surrounds him is how the next man just doesn’t fit. Worse yet, who is the contender to be the next market star for the franchise? There is not a good one. Connor McMichael is the only under-27 forward to play for the Capitals in this series, only taking his place due to Wilson’s injury, and is virtually invisible. Maybe Hendrix Lapierre? He needs a world of growth before he becomes the limelight.

Without superstars or a collection of All-Star caliber players in the organization, Capital’s relevance in the NHL will dwindle, if it hasn’t already begun to do so. Washington has been one of the most consistent teams in the league since the turn of the century and is an ideal destination for free agents to sign contracts and try to win a championship. That obvious path is no longer pristine. And it puts the Capital in a predicament without a clear safety net.

The answer is not to lose the core of this team. Ovechkin and Backstrom have made it clear that they want to retire from DC before going to the Hall of Fame. Eliminating Wilson or Oshie would be the same big mistake as the Forsberg trade-off. The answer is not to get rid of Carlson’s or Kuznetsov’s team, but at the right price, namely their proven top superstar, MacLellan won’t listen. The only question is, which team would be willing to make that transaction? Good luck finding that trading partner.



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