As the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs begin, hope springs eternal for all Caps fans everywhere. Let’s take a look back at the last time the Capitals won the President’s Trophy in 2009-2010 and compare it to this year’s Caps team.
The 2009-2010 President’s trophy-winning Capitals finished the regular season 54-15-13 for 121 points. The team was ranked 1st in the league in both goals scored and power play efficiency. Their goal differential led the league at a whopping plus 85. The team had seven players finish with over 50 points. There were seven 20-goal scorers and eight players finished with 19 or more goals. Defensively, the free-wheeling team finished 16th in goals against and 25th in penalty killing efficiency. Jose Theodore led a three-headed goaltending tandem with 30 wins, but his 2.81 GAA was a bit higher than the other two rookie goalies on the team, Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth.
Every Caps fan remembers what happened to that 2009-2010 team. Montreal, the eighth seed, made two goaltending changes during the first round playoff series with the Capitals. Montreal started with Jaroslav Halak in goal for the first 3 games then briefly switched to Carey Price during game 3 and started Price for game 4. After a game 4 loss to the Caps, the Canadiens were down three games to one and switched back to Halak. Halak got unbelievably hot and the rest is history.
Naysayers say Alexander Ovechkin will never be strong enough to carry the Capitals to the Stanley Cup. But looking at that stats from that series with the Canadiens, two things stand out. First, Ovechkin did his part. Ovechkin led the team with five goals and five assists for 10 points on 34 shots on goal. Second, Halak stopped 131 out of 134 shots on goal over the last three games of that series against the Caps. One of the chief culprits of the lack of goal-scoring potency was long since departed Alexander Semin. Semin, a 40 goal scorer during the regular season, managed zero goals and just 2 assists against the Canadiens. Semin took 44 shots on goal (10 more than Ovechkin!) over the course of the series and was stopped on all 24 shots on goal he took over games 5, 6 and 7! Semin took more shots on goal than Ovechkin but didn’t score a single goal! If just one or two or even 3 pucks go in for Semin, maybe the Caps would have advanced past the Canadiens that year. Who knows what would have happened then.
This year’s President’s trophy-winning Capitals team appears to be stronger overall than the 2009-2010 team. This year’s Caps were 56-18-8 for 120 points. They ranked second in the league in goals scored and fifth in power play efficiency which were similar numbers as the 2009-2010 team. Their goal differential also led the league at plus 59, even as goal scoring per game in the league overall has dropped since 2009. This year’s team had five players finish with over 50 points. There were six 20-goal scorers and eight players finished with at least 17 goals or more. All are similar numbers when compared to the 2009-2010 Washington Capitals. The big difference between the two teams was on defense and in goal. This year’s Capitals team finished second overall in goals against and penalty killing efficiency. Braden Holtby led the league with a NHL record-tying 48 wins and his GAA was just 2.20, good for 5th in the league overall among all goaltenders and over a half-goal per game better than Theodore.
Perhaps with a strong offense, more secondary scoring, a better defense and better goaltending the results will be different for the Capitals this year. Perhaps this year’s team has what it takes to finally win the Stanley Cup. At least this Caps fan hopes so.
By Russ Gebhard