Screenshot: Washington Capitals
Saturday was “breakdown day” for the Washington Capitals. The day symbolically represents the final day of the 2022-23 season for the team, as players hold final meetings with management and hold their final media availability with local press.
After two seasons of varied results from young goaltenders Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek, the Washington Capitals inked goalie Darcy Kuemper to a five-year deal to be the club’s unquestioned number one netminder, fresh off a Stanley Cup run with the Colorado Avalanche.
The Caps, however, struggled through injuries to key players, inconsistent play, missing the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs and finishing sixth in the Metropolitan Division.
“I mean it’s been disappointing for awhile”, Kuemper said in his exit interview, “Not just today…we had a lot higher expectations for how our season was gonna go, so it doesn’t feel good that it’s done already, but that’s how it went.”
“It kind of felt like we were chasing it the whole year”, he continued, “Obviously we struggled with inconsistency, we would look good and feel really good one game, and we were never really able to build on that…but I think we showed, at times, how good this group can be and we just got to use the humility of how this season went to push us through the summer and make sure we’re ready to get back to where we want to be next season.”
As Darcy Kuemper Returns to Colorado For the First Time After Winning the Stanley Cup, A Look at His First Season in Washington Thus Far
In his first season in a Capitals sweater, Kuemper posted a 22-26-7 record, with a 2.87 Goals-Against Average, .909 Save Percentage, and five shutouts in 57 Games Played (56 starts); his five shutouts finished tied for second among all NHL netminders (Colorado’s Alexandar Georgiev and Dallas Stars’ Jake Oettinger were the others).
“I’m happy with the effort I put in but I’m not gonna feel good about my game being in this position”, said a thoughtful Kuemper when asked to evaluate his performance, “I gotta look at how I’m going to improve this summer, and what I’m going to do to do my part to help the team get back to where we want to be.”
With the Capitals missing out on the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in nine seasons, the team and Head Coach Peter Laviolette, whose contract was set to expire on June 30, mutually agreed to part ways yesterday.
“I really liked playing for Lavi. It was only one year, but it was great getting to know him, working for him”, Kuemper said thoughtfully, “It’s sad he’s not going to be back next year. You know, we’re disappointed the year went the way that it did and we weren’t able to play better for him…yeah, it was great playing for him and I’m wishing him all the best going forward.”
In addition to Kuemper, the Capitals also signed Charlie Lindgren to serve as the team’s backup goaltender. While their roles were largely set, the relationship both on and off the ice between the two netminders strengthened over the course of the season.
“It was great playing with Charlie. As a goalie, you’re kind of separated from the rest of the team in what you go through, so to have a good partner that you can kind of just hang out with and talk about things with is huge”, Kuemper said.
“I thought he was great for us this year and I’m looking forward to being together for years going forward here.”
Under Control: Darcy Kuemper And Charlie Lindgren Are Among League’s Best At Limiting Rebound Shot Attempts
Kuemper also revealed that he missed time this season due to a concussion and back issues. To see his full comments, watch the full interview below:
By Michael Fleetwood
Tough second half of the season for Darcy. He had good stats by January, then…
Another guy who suffered because of all the injuries and the sell off.
it just seemed like the team didn’t help the goalies enough, didn’t protect the net. Too many high danger area chances, guys setting up by the posts and the Caps not clearing them out or tying up their sticks enough. It’s hard to keep standing on your head all the time. Too many odd man rushes this season, too many shooting galleries and open season on our goalies…. 😥