The Eliminators – Playoff History of the Teams Who Eliminated the Capitals During the Ovi Era

Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

The playoff history of the Washington Capitals is certainly littered with underperformance (performing worse than expected) based on their regular season record and playoff seeding position. But often it seems like the team eliminating the Capitals would make it to the third round or beyond. NoVa Caps examines the playoff history of the teams who have eliminated the Caps in the Ovechkin era.

2008 — Capitals vs Philadelphia Flyers

Going into the 200 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Capitals had a record of 43-31-8 record and 94 points, while the Flyers held a record of 42-29-11 record for 95 points overall.  By virtue of the Caps winning the Southeast Division and the Flyers finishing fourth in the Atlantic Division, the Caps were the third seed of the Eastern Conference in the playoffs and had home ice advantage. The Flyers began the series with a 3-1 series edge, but the Capitals won Games 5 and 6 of the playoffs. The Southeast Division champions would fall in seven games, however, a disappointing finish to their surprise turnaround season.

Len Redkoles Credit: Getty Images

In the second round of the playoffs, the Flyers upset the Montreal Canadiens, who were the top seed of the Eastern Conference, winning the series in five games. After that, they met the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals, who prevailed in five games and went on to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they fell to the Detroit Red Wings.

Final Result of Opponent: Lost in Eastern Conference Finals

2009 — Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins

Going into the 2009 playoffs, the Capitals had posted a record of 50-24-8 for 108 points, and had won the Southeast Division, given the second seed of the playoffs within the Eastern Conference. They had met the seventh-seeded New York Rangers in the first round, and beat them in seven games. In the second round, they met the defending Eastern Conference champion Pittsburgh Penguins, who beat the Capitals in seven games in a series in which the Caps had won the first two games but lost the next three. For the regular season, the Penguins were 45-28-9.

The Penguins went on to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they swept the Carolina Hurricanes in just four games. Pittsburgh went on to win the Stanley Cup by defeating the defending champion Detroit Red Wings in a seven-game series.

Final Result of Opponent: Won Stanley Cup

2010Capitals vs Montreal Canadiens

Going into the 2010 postseason, the Capitals had posted a record of 54-15-13 for 121 points. In addition to winning the Southeast Division, they won the Presidents’ Trophy for best record in the NHL and were the hands-on favorite to capture the Stanley Cup. The Caps met the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens, who had a record of 39–33–10 during the regular season, and lost in seven games, in a series in which they had once lead 3-1, ending their season in heartbreaking fashion.

The Canadiens moved onto the second round, where they met the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins in the second round, beating them in seven games. The Canadiens advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals and played the Philadelphia Flyers, who won the series in five games and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals, which they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Final Result of Opponent: Lost in Eastern Conference Finals

2011Capitals vs Tampa Bay Lightning

Going into the playoffs, the Capitals had posted a regular season record of 48-23-11 for 107 points. In addition to winning the Southeast Division, they had the best regular season record in the Eastern Conference and were the top playoff seed for their conference. After they dispatched the eight-seeded New York Rangers in five games, the Caps advanced to the second round and met the Tampa Bay Lightning, who had posted a record of 46-25-11 for 103 points.  The Lightning ended up sweeping the Capitals in four games.

The Lightning met the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals, who beat them in seven games. The Bruins went on to the Stanley Cup Finals where they beat the Vancouver Canucks in seven games.

Final Result of Opponent: Lost in Eastern Conference Finals

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2012Capitals vs New York Rangers

During the 2011-12 regular season, the Capitals had posted a record of 42-32-8 for 92 points, finishing in second place in the Southeast Division and went into the playoffs as the seventh seed. They met the defending champion Boston Bruins in the first round and beat them in seven games with a thrilling overtime goal from right wing Joel Ward. After advancing to the second round, they met the New York Rangers, who had won the Presidents’ Trophy with a record of 51-24-7 and 109 points. Despite their thrilling first round series win, the Caps fell in seven games to the their old playoff rivals from Broadway.

The Rangers went on to the Eastern Conference Finals and lost to the New Jersey Devils in six games.  The Devils advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals and lost to the Los Angeles Kings.

Final Result of Opponent: Lost in Eastern Conference Finals

2013Capitals vs New York Rangers

Thanks to the NHL labor-lockout, the Capitals posted a 27-18-3 record for 57 points. They won the Southeast Division and went into the playoffs as the third seed. They met the Rangers, who were the sixth seed, in the first round and lost in seven games. The Rangers went on to play the Boston Bruins in the second round and lost to them in five games.  Boston ultimately advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals and lost to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Final Result of Opponent: Lost in second round of playoffs

2014 — The Capitals posted a record of 38-30-14, finished fifth place in the Metropolitan Division and missed the playoff for the first time in six years.

2015Capitals vs New York Rangers

Going into the playoffs, the Capitals had posted a record of 45-26-11 for 101 points and second place in the Metropolitan Division. They met the New York Islanders, who had finished third in their division, in the first round, beating them in seven games. They advanced to the second round, where they once again met the Bluehsirts, who had the best record in the Metropolitan Division (53-22-7 with 113 points) and had also won the Presidents’ Trophy. The Rangers beat the Capitals in seven games, a series in which the Capitals once had a 3-1 edge.

The Rangers went on to play the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Lightning beat the Rangers in seven games and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Final Result of Opponent: Lost in Eastern Conference Finals

2016 — Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins

Going into the playoffs, the Capitals had posted a record of 56-18-8 for 120 points. In addition to winning the Metropolitan Division, they won the Presidents’ Trophy for best record in the NHL.  They met the Philadelphia Flyers, who were the second wild card team, in the first round and beat them in six games.  After that, they advanced to the second round where they met the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had finished with a 48-26-8 and 104 points for the regular season. The Penguins beat the Caps in six games, as they advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Pittsburgh met Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals, beating them in seven games. The Penguins then beat the San Jose Sharks in six games to win the Stanley Cup.

Final Result of Opponent: Won Stanley Cup

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

2017 — Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins

Going into the playoffs, the Capitals had posted a record of 55-19-8 for 118 points. In addition to winning the Metropolitan Division, they won the Presidents’ Trophy for best record in the NHL.  They met the Toronto Maple Leafs, who were the second wild card team, in the first round and beat them in six games.  They advanced to the second round to play the Penguins once more, who had finished with a 50-21-11 record, with 111 points for the regular season. The Penguins beat the Capitals in seven games for the second straight postseason victory against Washington.

Pittsburgh advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals where they beat the Ottawa Senators in seven games. After that, they advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals and beat the Nashville Predators in six games to win the Stanley Cup, becoming the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings.

Final Result of Opponent: Won Stanley Cup

2018 — Going into the playoffs, the Capitals had posted a 49-26-7 for 105 points and had finished first place in the Metropolitan Division. However they were not eliminated in either the first or the second round. The team would go on to capture the franchise’s first Stanley Cup, beating the Vegas Golden Knights in five games; they had done so after beating the Columbus Blue Jackets (first round), Pittsburgh Penguins (second round), and Tampa Bay Lightning (Eastern Conference Finals) in each of the prior rounds to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

2019 — Capitals vs Carolina Hurricanes

Going into the playoffs, the Capitals had posted a 48-26-8 for 104 points, and once again won the Metropolitan Division. For the 2019 postseason, the Caps met the Carolina Hurricanes, who were the first wild card team. The Hurricanes would go on to best the defending champions in seven games, winning the seventh game in overtime. The Hurricanes advanced to the second round where they met the New York Islanders and swept them in four games.

The Hurricanes advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they met the Boston Bruins, who in turn, swept Carolina in four straight games. The Bruins went on to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost to the St. Louis Blues in seven games.

Final Result of Opponent: Lost in Eastern Conference Finals

Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

2020Capitals vs New York Islanders

Going into the playoffs the Capitals had posted a record of 41-20-8 for 90 points and finished first in the Metropolitan Division. They met the New York Islanders and former Head Coach Barry Trotz in the first round, which they lost in five games. During the regular season, the Islanders were 35-23-10. The Islanders advanced to play the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round where they beat them in seven games. After that, the Isles met the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals, which Tampa Bay won in six games. The Lightning went on to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they beat the Dallas Stars.

Final Result of Opponent: Lost in Eastern Conference Finals

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

2021 – Capitals vs Boston Bruins

Going into their first Stanley Cup Playoff tournament under Head Coach Peter Laviolette, the Caps had posted a record of 36-15-5 for 77 points and finished second in the MassMutual East Division during a shortened 2020-21 regular seson. While they tied the first place Pittsburgh Penguins in points, the Penguins finished first due to tiebreakers. Their first round opponent was the Boston Bruins, who beat them in five games, in a series which the Capitals had won the first game. During the regular season, the Bruins finished with a 33-16-7 record.  The Bruins will meet the New York Islanders in the second round of the playoffs since the Islanders beat the Penguins in their first round matchup.

Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

Summary – Since Alex Ovechkin joined the Capitals for his first season in 2005-06, the Capitals have made the playoffs 13 times. In those 13 postseason appearances, they were eliminated in the second round or prior 12 times, which includes six first round eliminations and six second round eliminations. The results for the teams who have eliminated the Caps were: three Stanley Cup winners, one team losing in the Stanley Cup Finals, seven teams advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals and losing, and one team advancing and losing in Round 2.

Two of the six first round playoff eliminations – 2010 against Montreal and 2019 against Carolina – were major upsets. The others involved teams more closely-matched even though the Caps more often the higher seed. But it seemed the teams performing the elimination gained enough confidence to carry them over to at least one more round.

By Diane Doyle

 

 

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
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