The Washington Capitals know of their past. Their fans singing hymns of hope that insist that “this is the year.” However, they know their shortfalling, where they’ve been unable to make as deep as a run as they hope to, despite a strong regular season record and a dominant team. This season, they hope to change that narrative, to stop playing that broken record.
“I’m pretty sure everybody tried to be a really good team this season, and in the playoffs, we don’t get success,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “I hope with the guys we have right now, we can take a step forward in the playoffs, stay for a little bit longer and win what we all want.”
The Capitals kick off their playoff series Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team they have yet to play in the postseason. And, with a younger squad, their star players producing and more depth added throughout the regular season, Washington hopes to come in as a top competitor and make a deeper run.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re gonna play against,” Ovechkin said. “It’s going to be a tough series. It’s not going to be easy for both teams.”
New-Look Capitals Ready for Playoffs
After losing key players in the offseason, mainly Justin Williams, Marcus Johansson, Karl Alzner and Nate Schmidt, the Capitals replaced them with young up-and-coming prospects within the organization, including players like forwards Jakub Vrana and Chandler Stephenson and defensemen Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey.
As the team approached the end of the season, they added more pieces, including fringe NHLers Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek, who have both proven their worth in the Capitals lineup. They also recalled Travis Boyd and signed NCAA players Shane Gersich and Brian Pinho, hoping to add more depth on the forward lines.
According to winger Tom Wilson, consistency and a full team effort, as well as strong individual performances, is what will lead to success as the playoffs get rolling.
“I think we needed to get our group together, the group that’s going to be going and everyone knowing their role going forward here and doing their role to a tee because that’s what’s gonna get us success,” Wilson said.
Capital Gains: Seeking a Deeper Run
Despite a new-look team and considered somewhat of an underdog heading into the 2017-18 campaign, the Capitals still captured a Metropolitan Division championship and has home-ice advantage in this first round.
“I think we’ve done a good job this year putting ourselves in a position to make a good run,” winger T.J. Oshie said. “A lot of factors got to all come together here in the next couple weeks, but you see at times, you see a lot of fire in this group, a lot of determination.”
Washington has not made it past the second round since making it to the Stanley Cup final in 1998, but Ovechkin and his teammates believe that they can make significant strides and further because of the mentality and culture in the locker room heading into the playoffs.
“I think we understand who we are,” Ovechkin said. “You know, we know exactly what we have to do to get success, how we have to play to get better and get wins.”
As they get ready to start their run, the Capitals made some changes to their lineup, shuffling the bottom-6 and most significantly, deciding to go with Philipp Gruabuer between the pipes after Braden Holtby started 59 of the team’s last 60 games.
Overall, the players have faith and confidence in their team and think that with their group, they have potential to be a top contender and dangerous in the postseason.
“We got a lot of guys pitching in on the scoresheet as of late, so that’s got to continue,” Oshie said. “I’m excited about our chances.”
Sammi Silber covers the Capitals beat for The Hockey Writers and is an NHL contributor with Sporting News. She has also contributed to USA TODAY College, Huffington Post, FanSided and the Nation Network. Silber has written four books and recently worked on graphics for the film, The California Golden Seals Movie.