(photo by Jim McIsaac)
If you’ve just recently jumped on this Washington Capitals bandwagon (hence forth referred to as “pulling a Mike Wise“), there’s something you should know about your new favorite team as they head into tonight’s decisive game against the Montreal Canadiens – the Caps are just 2-6 lifetime in Game 7′s.
No sense in sugar coating it. No reason to beat around the bush. When the season is on the line, history shows that the Capitals fail to get the job done more often than not.
We point this out so that you, as the new guy on the block, can better understand the sheer panic surrounding a Capitals team that just finished the most successful regular season in franchise history.
You’ve undoubtedly looked around and wondered to yourself, “Why are so many Caps fans racing to throw themselves off of the nearest tall building? It’s not like Montreal has won anything yet.”
And that’s the beauty of being a newbie – you’re still in the infant stage of your Caps fandom. You’re too innocent too know any better. You haven’t been around long enough to know that the most dangerous thing a Capitals team can have (outside of a mentally-unstable Chris Simon) is a three-game-to-one lead.
Three different times in franchise history the Capitals have led an opponent three games to one and managed to lose the series. Right about now is when you start to second-guess your decision to “Rock the Red.” Trust us, we’ve all been there. But like a fat kid loves cake, we never stay away from the Caps for very long.
Not only are the Capitals 2-6 all-time in Game 7s, but they’re a mere 2-5 when playing those deciding games at home. So much for home-ice advantage.
Those individuals who prefer to focus on the positives can take solace in this – one of those two Game 7 wins came just last season, when the Capitals defeated the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. It’s also worth nothing that the Caps are 6-2 when facing elimination in the playoffs under coach Bruce Boudreau. If there’s anyone who can lead this team to victory during a Game 7, it’s Boudreau. (Or at least that’s the story we’re telling.)
Before 2008, it had been 13 years since the Capitals played in a Game 7. And of course, this is the fourth-straight series the Caps have needed a Game 7 to determine a winner (with Washington going 1-2 in these pivotal matchups the last two seasons). Sometimes you want to pull this current incarnation of the Capitals aside and say, “You know, just because it’s a best-of-seven series doesn’t mean you actually have to play all seven games.” But we digress.
In order to best prepare you for what will in all likelihood be a tightly-contested matchup (five of the eight Game 7’s in franchise history were decided by one goal), here’s a look back at each of those eight series:
Lost to Pittsburgh Penguins in the conference semifinals
Game 1: Capitals defeat Penguins 3-2
Game 2: Capitals defeat Penguins 4-3
Game 3: Penguins defeat Capitals 3-2 (OT)
Game 4: Penguins defeat Capitals 5-3
Game 5: Penguins defeat Capitals 4-3 (OT)
Game 6: Capitals defeat Penguins 5-4 (OT)
Game 7: Penguins defeat Capitals 6-2
The Capitals came out flat and watched helplessly as the Penguins reeled off five-straight goals en route to an easier-than-expected 6-2 road win. Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov was pulled after allowing four goals on 18 shots in just over 22 minutes of action.
Defeated New York Rangers in the conference quarterfinals
Game 1: Rangers defeat Capitals 4-3
Game 2: Rangers defeat Capitals 1-0
Game 3: Capitals defeat Rangers 4-0
Game 4: Rangers defeat Capitals 2-1
Game 5: Capitals defeat Rangers 4-0
Game 6: Capitals defeat Rangers 5-3
Game 7: Capitals defeat Rangers 2-1
Veteran center Sergei Fedorov scored the series-clinching goal for the Capitals with less than five minutes remaining in regulation as the Capitals down the Rangers in front of a sellout crowd at the Verizon Center 2-1.
Lost to Philadelphia Flyers in the conference quarterfinals
Game 1: Capitals defeat Flyers 5-4
Game 2: Flyers defeat Capitals 2-0
Game 3: Flyers defeat Capitals 6-3
Game 4: Flyers defeat Capitals 4-3 (OT)
Game 5: Capitals defeat Flyers 3-2
Game 6: Capitals defeat Flyers 4-2
Game 7: Flyers defeat Capitals 3-2 (OT)
After taking a three-games-to-one lead, the Flyers allowed the Capitals to battle back to force the first Game 7 in Verizon Center history. Flyers forward Joffrey Lupul scored a powerplay goal on Caps goalie Christobal Huet just over six minutes into overtime for the win.
Lost to Pittsburgh Penguins in the conference quarterfinals
Game 1: Capitals defeat Penguins 5-4
Game 2: Penguins defeat Capitals 5-3
Game 3: Capitals defeat Penguins 6-2
Game 4: Capitals defeat Penguins 6-2
Game 5: Penguins defeat Capitals 6-5 (OT)
Game 6: Penguins defeat Capitals 7-1
Game 7: Penguins defeat Capitals 3-0
After falling behind in three games to one, Pittsburgh battled back to force Game 7. Penguins goalie Ken Wregget outdueled Capitals rookie Jim Carey in the seventh and deciding game to earn a 3-0 shutout victory in Pittsburgh.
Lost to Pittsburgh Penguins in the division semifinals
Game 1: Capitals defeat Penguins 3-1
Game 2: Capitals defeat Penguins 6-2
Game 3: Penguins defeat Capitals 6-4
Game 4: Capitals defeat Penguins 7-2
Game 5: Penguins defeat Capitals 5-2
Game 6: Penguins defeat Capitals 6-4
Game 7: Penguins defeat Capitals 3-1
Penguins forward Mario Lemieux scored a shorthanded goal on Capitals goalie Don Beaupre and set up forward Jaromir Jagr with the eventual game winner at the Capital Centre. Ron Francis added an empty netter to enable Pittsburgh to win the game 3-1 and the series 4-3 even though the Caps led 2-0 and 3-1.
Lost to New Jersey Devils in the division finals
Game 1: Capitals defeat Devils 3-1
Game 2: Devils defeat Capitals 5-2
Game 3: Devils defeat Capitals 10-4
Game 4: Capitals defeat Devils 4-1
Game 5: Devils defeat Capitals 3-1
Game 6: Capitals defeat Devils 7-2
Game 7: Devils defeat Capitals 3-2
Devils forward John MacLean scored the game-winner on Caps goalie Pete Peeters with six minutes left to give New Jersey a 3-2 victory over Washington at the Capitals Centre in the Patrick Division Finals.
Defeated Philadelphia Flyers in the division semifinals
Game 1: Flyers defeat Capitals 4-2
Game 2: Capitals defeat Flyers 5-4
Game 3: Flyers defeat Capitals 4-3
Game 4: Flyers defeat Capitals 5-4 (OT)
Game 5: Capitals defeat Flyers 5-2
Game 6: Capitals defeat Flyers 7-2
Game 7: Capitals defeat Flyers 5-4 (OT)
Capitals forward Dale Hunter scored one of the most-memorable goals in franchise history – a breakaway goal at 5:57 of overtime – to give the Caps a 5-4 win and their first-ever best-of-seven series victory.
Lost to New York Islanders in the division semifinals
Game 1: Capitals defeat Islanders 4-3
Game 2: Islanders defeat Capitals 3-1
Game 3: Capitals defeat Islanders 2-0
Game 4: Capitals defeat Islanders 4-1
Game 5: Islanders defeat Capitals 4-2
Game 6: Islanders defeat Capitals 5-4
Game 7: Islanders defeat Capitals 3-2 (OT)
Islanders forward Pat LaFontaine scored on Caps goalie Bob Mason at 8:47 of the fourth overtime to give New York the victory. The epic Easter game, which lasted a grueling 128 minutes 47 seconds, was the longest NHL game in more than 44 years.
Like we said at the top, there’s a lot more bad than good when discussing the history of the Capitals. That’s why many long-term fans are so heavily invested in this year’s team – watching and dreaming as this Capitals squad continues to raise the bar and rewrite history.
Alex Ovechkin and friends have far more talent than many of our favorite Caps team of yesteryear. The question is, now that they find themselves in that all-too-familiar Game 7 situation, will they suffer the same fate?