Let’s say this up front, the Washington Capitals have missed the playoffs just once in the last 15 seasons. They’ve been remarkably consistent in a town where heartbreak and despair typically rule the local sports landscape.
Sadly, the Caps will miss the postseason for the first time since 2014, and many of the names and faces that fans have grown accustomed to over the last several years might be elsewhere when the puck drops next season.
Washington’s general manager Brian MacLellan has some difficult decision to make — first and foremost, whether or not to re-sign coach Peter Laviolette. Once he figures out who will be behind the bench, MacLellan can turn his attention to which players have earned the chance to stick around for the last few seasons of Alex Ovechkin’s illustrious career. Players like Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson and John Carlson will almost assuredly return next season, but many others currently on the roster are on far less-stable footing.
That’s why the last two weeks of this disappointing season remain so vital … and so infuriating. Each loss might help the Capitals secure a better draft pick, but it also exposes more potential problems with the roster as presented constructed. With an offense that struggles to score consistently and a defense that’s seemingly incapable of allowing less than four or five goals per game, despite a strong statistical season by Darcy Kuemper in net, it’s looking more and more like radical changes are needed to return to the postseason.
All of these flaws were on display for a disappointing 5-2 loss at the hands of the New York Rangers. Washington fell behind early and never really threatened to make it much of a contest as they dropped a fourth-consecutive game. More Capitals players fought (three) than scored (two) during this matinee matchup, which sums up an otherwise forgettable afternoon perfectly.