On the 16th straight rainy day in the DMV it was much gloomier than usual at Kettler Capitals Iceplex as players were cleaning out their lockers following another disappointing playoff exit that ended too soon.
A season that started out with an overwhelming amount of promise and great expectations ended in heartbreaking fashion, this time at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night once again the decisive goal was made in overtime, this time by Nick Bonino, once again crushing Washington’s dreams of hoisting a Stanley Cup as well as continuing onto the third round and Eastern Conference Championship series.
“This (playoff loss) is by far the toughest,” said Jay Beagle. “We’ve had great teams in the past and the expectation is always to win the cup but this year, mentally, was going all the way. We weren’t expecting to leave. It hurts.”
After breaking his hand earlier in the season, Beagle went on to say that he is getting his hand strength back and is healthy heading into the offseason, according to Isabelle Khurshudyan of The Washington Post. After he returned, Beagle’s grip strength was 70 percent, CSN’s Chuck Gormley reported.
Capital’s defenseman Taylor Chorney said he had a good first season in Washington. Chorney, a former Penguin, was acquired this past offseason as a free agent.
“I think I did pretty well,” Chorney said. “Heading into the year you don’t really know exactly where your place is going to be on a new team. As the year went on I did a pretty good job of earning more trust from the coaching staff and from my teammates. I think by the end of the year I was playing some really good hockey, it’s just too bad that it got cut a little short.”
Another defenseman, Brooks Orpik had a rough series as he sat out for three round two games against the Penguins due to suspension on a hit in Game 2. And his double minor penalty in game six led to two goals being scored by the Pens. Brooks understands how tough it is to lose.
“It’s only been my second year here and I know a lot has been made about not getting by the second round. I’m sure people feel that frustration,” said Orpik. “I’ve lost in the finals before and whether you lose in the finals or you lose in the second round.. you lost. The goal here is to win the Stanley Cup.”
One of the Capitals biggest offseason acquisitions was Justin Williams aka “Mr. Game Seven”. He’s had a reputation over the course of his career to score big goals in the postseason. Williams however considered this season to be a failure.
“Listen, it was a failure. I’m not gonna beat around the bush,” Williams added. “I came here to try and help this team win, and we didn’t do it. I mean, people will be upset about that, calling it a failure, but there’s only one team that gets to finish their season with a win, and we weren’t it this year, so I consider it a failure in that aspect, but a positive that I know what this team can do.”
Justin added, “I’m certainly not going to say that we can’t do it because we can, and sometimes you want people against you because then you have something united to work for, and we’re going to prove you wrong and tell all the naysayers right now that are saying that we can’t get it done, ‘Bring it on.’”
For team captain Alex Ovechkin, this is the fifth time his team has been eliminated from the second round in eight tries. He has yet to reach the conference finals in his 11 year career.
Ovi said: “Obviously, it’s disappointing. Obviously you don’t want to stay here and talk about finishing the year and all that kind of stuff. I think we have huge progress mentally and growth. I think we’re growing up as a group and as a team. It sucks when you lose in the first round, second round, third round, it doesn’t matter. Your goal is to win the cup, obviously. I think we’re growing up as a group of guys who’s been on this team. I think this team was tight as a group. I’ve never been in this kind of position when I see everybody love each other, everybody have fun, play for each other. It’s been outstanding.”
Nicklas Backstrom, another long-term Capital, and Assistant Captain, thanked all the die-hard Caps fans for their support over the years.
“I love Washington fans,” Backstrom said. “They’re absolutely the best fans in the world and even if we disappoint them, hopefully they will have faith in us. We’re gonna do it. We’re gonna do it one day. I promise them.”
By Michael Marzzacco