Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images
The Capitals’ first-round series comeback against the Blue Jackets was one for the franchise record books. Trailing 2-0 in the series, the Capitals reeled off four-straight victories for only the second time in franchise history (2009). While the comeback was impressive, the early series deficit was not.
Digging early postseason series holes and immediately relinquishing home ice advantage has been an issue for the Caps as of late. The Capitals are a cumulative 6-8 in Games 1 and 2 of a postseason series under the Barry Trotz administration. After a decent start, going 2-2 and 3-1 in his first two seasons, the record has steadily deteriorated, going 1-3 and 0-2 in the first two games of a postseason series the last two seasons.
To compound the issue, an unhealthy portion of these losses have come on home ice. The Capitals are 5-7 in Games 1 and 2 on home ice under Barry Trotz.
One can easily argue that least season’s second-round elimination by the Penguins in seven games was more related to the poor start to the series, than the loss in Game 7. The Capitals fought their way back into the series, only to fizzle in the final game. While their performance in Game 7 in that series left something to be desired, had they started the series better, they may not have found themselves in a Game 7 in the first place.
If the Capitals are to have a chance at (finally) getting past the Penguins, they will need to start this spring’s edition of the Caps-Pens showdown much better than they have the last two seasons and given that the Penguins have won nine of the last 10 postseason series between the two teams (including the the last seven; additionally, the Penguins have beaten the Capitals in the playoffs in the Ovechkin era three times and each time have gone on to win the Stanley Cup), the Caps should have plenty of motivation to finally put their past playoff woes behind them.
The playoffs are a grind, and waiting opportunities and lengthening series will inevitably come back to bite you.
By Jon Sorensen