The Washington Capitals were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Boston Bruins, losing 3-1 in Game 5 of the best-of-7 Stanley Cup first round at Capital One Arena on Sunday.
Here’s a look at what happened during the 2021 playoffs for the Capitals and why things could get even better next season:
Potential unrestricted free agents: Alex Ovechkin, F; Michael Raffl, F; Daniel Carr, F; Philippe Maillet, F; Zdeno Chara, RE; Paul LaDue, RE; Craig Anderson, G
Restricted potential free agents: Garret Pilon, F; Ilya Samsonov, G
Potential picks from the 2021 NHL Draft: 5
What did not go well
Age, injuries: With 13 players aged at least 30, the Capitals appeared to be wearing out during the compacted 56-game regular season. Ovechkin, 35, with forwards Nicklas Backstrom, 33, and TJ Oshie, 34 years old and defenders John Carlson, 31 and Justin Schultz, 30, each missed games at the end of the regular season with a lower body injury.
25-year-old rookie goalkeeper Vitek Vanecek suffered a lower-body injury in the first period of Game 1 that kept him out for the remainder of the series, and 32-year-old center Lars Eller (lower body) did not played the third game. line-up (other than Vanecek), with Samsonov and the center Evgeny Kuznetsov Returning from NHL COVID-19 protocol for Game 3, some of their players appeared to be playing less than 100%.
The first six scores have dried up: Depth forward Nic Dowd (two goals), Hathaway Garnet (two goals, one assist) and Conor Sheary (one goal) helped offensively, but the Capitals received little from their first two lines. Tom WilsonThe mark’s goal that opened the scoring at 6:22 in the opener was their only evenly matched goal from one of the six best forwards in the series.
Power play issues: The man advantage has been a strength for the Capitals during the regular season, finishing third in the NHL at 24.8%. But he struggled against the Bruins, going 3 for 21 (14.3%), including 1 for 11 with 13 shots on goal in the last two games of the series. The entry into the attacking zone and the shots at the net were the biggest problems.
The reasons for optimism
Relation Ovechkin-Leonsis: While Ovechkin may become an unrestricted free agent, his strong relationship with Capitals owner Ted Leonsis during his 16 NHL seasons and both sides feeling they don’t care about getting a new contract. are good reasons to believe that it will be re-signed. This will keep Ovechkin with the Capitals to continue his rise in the NHL’s goal list. He is a behind Marcel Dionne for fifth with 730.
McMichael en route: Connor McMichael, the 25th pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, had an impressive first season as a professional in the American Hockey League, leading Hershey with 14 goals and 27 points in 33 games. The 20-year-old center also made his NHL debut against the Buffalo Sabers on Jan. 24 and could have a chance to earn a berth in the Capitals roster at training camp next season.
Maturing Samsonov: The 24-year-old goaltender has enjoyed a tumultuous second season in the NHL that included two stints in the COVID-19 protocol. But Samsonov’s play after returning with little practice time for the last three games against the Bruins was encouraging. He made 40 saves before poor communication with Schultz led to the winning goal in a 3-2 double overtime loss in Game 3. Samsonov shrugged to save 22 of 23 shots in the first two periods. of Game 4 before Boston pulled out to win 4-1.