It’s Like Deja Vu All Over Again: 2023 NHL Playoffs – Flashback to Playoffs Past

Photo: Karl B. DeBlaker/AP

In many ways, the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs has provided similarities and evoked memories of past playoffs. The teams and the players may be different but in many ways the stories are like the past, especially in the Eastern Conference.


2023 – Boston Bruins vs Florida Panthers

In the Atlantic Division, the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston Bruins played the eighth seeded Florida Panthers, who were also the second wild card.  The series brought back memories of the following first round playoff series from the past: Pittsburgh Penguins vs Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011, Washington Capitals vs Montreal Canadiens in 2010, and Tampa Bay Lightning vs Columbus Blue Jackets in 2019.

2011 – Pittsburgh Penguins vs Tampa Bay Lightning

The series was a matchup between the fourth seeded Pittsburgh Penguins against the fifth seeded Tampa Bay Lightning. While the Penguins, with a regular season record of 49-25-8 and 106 points, had earned just three standings points more than the Lightning, who had a record of 46-25-11 for 103 standings points, the Penguins were heavily favored to win the series.

The Penguins were a consistent contender and had won the Stanley Cup just two seasons prior. The Lightning made a dramatic improvement from the previous season (34-36-12) which followed two seasons in the Southeast Division cellar. In the series, the Penguins got off to a three games to one series lead. But the Lightning came back to win Game 5, Game 6, and Game 7, very similar to what the Panthers did to Boston in 2023.

Another similarity was the fact that the Lightning used a relatively old goaltender in Dwayne Roloson, who was 41-years-old at the time of that series, even older than Sergei Bobrovsky, who is currently 34.

2019 – Tampa Bay Lightning vs Columbus Blue Jackets

In 2019, the Tampa Bay Lightning breezed their way to the Presidents’ Trophy. They played faced the Columbus Blue Jackets, who were the second wild card team. However, the Lightning blew a 3-0 lead in the first game and went on to get swept by the Blue Jackets.

This was the first time that the Columbus Blue Jackets had ever advanced past the first round of the playoffs. The goaltender for Columbus was none other than Sergei Bobrovsky. While that series ended in a sweep as opposed to going seven games, it was a first-round upset of the Presidents’ Trophy-winning team.

2010 – Washington Capitals vs Montreal Canadiens

In 2010, the Washington Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy while the Montreal Canadiens were an eighth seed and barely qualified for the playoffs. In this series, the Capitals got off to a three games to one series lead, only to lose the series.

2023 – Toronto Maple Leafs vs Tampa Bay Lightning

In many ways, the current edition of the Toronto Maple Leafs is built built very similar to the Washington Capitals of just over a decade ago, but with an even more frustrating playoff history. Leafs forwards Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander could collectively be compared to the Capitals’ top three forwards of that era: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin. In addition, the Capitals had an offensive defenseman, Mike Green, who could be compared to the Leafs’ Morgan Rielly. While the Leafs have had trouble advancing past the first round, the Capitals of that era could often advance past the first round but could never advance past Round 2.

2011 Washington Capitals vs New York Rangers

During that series, the Capitals had a 2-1 series lead when they played Game 4, they fell behind 3-0 but clawed back to tie the game and eventually won it in double overtime. They ultimately took the series in five games. Many thought that winning in five games boded well for the Capitals who nearly always got involved in seven game series for the first round. After coming back from a 4-1 deficit against the Leafs to win in Overtime, the Leafs ultimately won their series against Tampa Bay in six games, but it was a milestone getting past the first round.  In both cases, the hope was to go deeper in the playoffs.

Many Goals And A Decade Ago: A Look Back at the Washington Capitals’ 2010-11 Season


2023 Toronto Maple Leafs vs Florida Panthers

This was the series where the Maple Leafs lost in humiliating fashion to the eighth seeded Panthers, by losing the first three games, staving off elimination by winning the fourth game, but falling in five games. The loss was humiliating enough to Toronto that despite advancing to the second round, there was an overload of consternation in the press, and their General Manager, Kyle Dubas, was fired. After that, Jason Spezza, who worked as an assistant to Dubas, also departed from the organization. There is now talk that one of the core players could be traded.

This brings back memories about two series that occurred during the 2011 postseason, the Washington Capitals against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Philadelphia Flyers against the Boston Bruins. In a closely competitive conference during the regular season, the Capitals had the best record in the Eastern Conference with 107 points, as they won the Southeast Division. The Flyers tied in points with the Penguins with 106 points but won the Atlantic Division, due to tiebreakers. The Capitals won their division by four points over Tampa Bay. The Boston Bruins won the Northeast Division with 103 points.

Retro Recap: Symmetric Rivalry — Washington Capitals vs Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010-11 Season

2011 Washington Capitals vs Tampa Bay Lightning

The Capitals, who had beaten the Rangers in five games, were expected to beat Tampa Bay, as they were more rested while the Lightning were expected to be emotionally spent after coming back from a three games to one series deficit to win their series against Pittsburgh. However, they lost both Games 1 and Game 2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. When the series moved to Tampa Bay, the Lightning won Games 3 and Game 4 to complete the sweep.

After that series loss, the Capitals felt humiliated. In conjunction with their playoff losses of the prior seasons and the fact that they could never advance past the second round, the team felt compelled to change the culture by having a tougher training camp the next season and more severe punishment to players for infractions.

2011 Philadelphia Flyers vs Boston Bruins

The Flyers had beaten the Buffalo Sabres in the first round of the playoffs to face the Boston Bruins, who had beaten the Buffalo Sabres. The Flyers had the home ice advantage in the series.

However, Boston swept that series, getting revenge for the results from the previous year when Boston won the first three games of that series but then the Flyers won the next four.  So now Boston advanced to the third round (Eastern Conference Finals) where they beat the Lightning and ultimately beat the Vancouver Canucks for the Stanley Cup.

Throughout their playoff run, the Flyers had a goaltender carousel. Sergei Bobrovsky, then a rookie, had won the starting goaltending job for Philadelphia for most of the season. In their series against Buffalo, he had a very short leash. After a poor start to his second playoff game, he was pulled and replaced with their backup. For the third game in that series, he was demoted to third on the depth chart. Overall, the Flyers didn’t give either Boucher or Leighton a long leash either.

The Flyers’ reaction to that sweep involved signing Ilya Bryzgalov to a long-term contract. They also traded Captain Mike Richards and their other star, Jeff Carter, during the off season. It was a consequential off-season that did not change their team for the better.

Playoff Run Similarity

The Panthers are currently waiting for the series between the Las Vegas Knights and Dallas Stars to determine their opponent in the Stanley Cup Finals.  They could possibly be following a similar script to the Los Angeles Kings of 2012.

The Kings had beaten the Presidents Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks in the first round. After that, they swept the St. Louis Blues who had the second-best record in the conference. They advanced to the Western Conference Finals where they beat the third seeded team, the Arizona Coyotes.  After that, they beat the New Jersey Devils to win their first-ever Stanley Cup, with two of the important players being Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, whom the Flyers had purged from their team during their humiliating playoff loss of 2011.

By Diane Doyle

Related Reading
Top Upsets In Stanley Cup Playoffs Since 2010
Ghosts of Playoffs Past: A Comprehensive Look at the Playoff History between the Capitals and Lightning
The Eliminators – Playoff History of the Teams Who Eliminated the Capitals During the Ovi Era

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
This entry was posted in Goaltending, History, NHL, Playoffs, Teams, Washington Capitals and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to It’s Like Deja Vu All Over Again: 2023 NHL Playoffs – Flashback to Playoffs Past

  1. Prevent Defense says:

    Dyspepsia, retching, indigestion, nausea, IBS, heartburn and ulcer: MEMORIES of all those wonderful Caps’ playoff disasters! The were all exquisitely painful. Which the most? Going down in four games to TBL (2011), even with that super-fancy “Young Guns” roster, that was hard to swallow. And it was a bitter flashback to the Jagr-Caps collapsing vs. the Vinny Lecavalier – Marty St. Louis – Tortorella TB Lightning a decade before (2003).

    As Pi**-poor a playoff team as the Washington Capitals have been throughout their existence, it’s amazing that koo-koo fans like us continue to come back for more punishment, year after year. Maybe 2023-24 will be different — Naaaahh!

    Anyway thanks for the analysis DD. Key word: Humiliating

    • Anonymous says:

      Hey, it could be so much worse. We could be Toronto or the San Jose teams who dominated the early 2000s! Plus at least the Caps got their future hall of famers a Cup, as much as I dislike the Rangers, it will always be a little sad Henrik Lundqvist never got one.

      • Diane Doyle says:

        I do feel sorry for San Jose, also. All those amazing teams with Thornton and Marleau that contended year after year after year but could never win the big one. They finally made the Cup Final towards their fading days but lost to Pittsburgh.

        • novafyre says:

          And Thornton isn’t entirely theirs the way (so far) Ovi is entirely a Cap, Lundqvist a Ranger, Stammer a Bolt, or Sid is entirely a Pit. There is something rare and special about a Hall of Famer (or candidate) sticking with one team, one fan base, a consolation prize for the fans. (Marty Brodeur blew it when he spent two months with the Blues.) The Oilers claim Wayne but he actually spent more years away from the Oilers than he did with them.

          • Diane Doyle says:

            Thornton was an old Bruin. He was the #1 pick overall for Boston the year the Sharks got the #2 pick which was Marleau. And the Sharks had Pavelski for a long time until he went to Dallas. (Sharks have not been the same since they left. If I were a Sharks fan, I would have been heartbroken over the departure of Pavelski.) But rare and special when a guy sticks with one team. In the case of Brodeur, he didn’t want to admit it was “over” when Jersey decided to move on from him so off to the Blues he went.

  2. Prevent Defense says:

    OK Diane D and NovaCapsFans “senior” engineers! This thread is appropriate to evaluate one of my favorite Caps disaster events, and it has bearing on the current GMBM Head Coach Hunt

    That great Ovechkin – Brooks Laich – Sergei Fedorov season where the Caps won a whole bunch of consecutive games at season’s end (2007-08), finally making the playoffs for the first time in the Ovechkin era. It was glorious! Until the Caps took on Philadelphia in the First Round. Good old Cristobal Huet was the goalie-of-the-moment heading into the series. And Gabby the Miracle Man behind the bench

    The Caps did surprisingly well against the Danny Briere Flyers and managed to stretch the series into a Seventh Game. Tom Poti took that infamous overtime tripping penalty (a ghost penalty to me!) and the immortal Flyers F Joffrey Lupul potted their power play goal. The Caps lose and all that good Karma went down the drain.
    My beef was that Mr. Huet looked to me to be QUITE porous in the series, and was outplayed by his opposite in Orange, Marty Biron. All the while some guy named Kolzig was cemented, nay CHAINED, to the Caps bench, having achieved full-doghouse status with Head Coach Bruce Boudreau. I wanted Olie the Goalie to emerge from the doghouse for that Game 7. But no way in heck. Boudreau wouldn’t hear of it.

    So that’s my primary Boudreau event that set my teeth on edge. I thought his pride got in the way of roster management. Could have won the series by allowing the experienced goalie to take over — even temporarily — for the stumbling young fellow. I think Boudreau has grown to approaching master Head Coach status. He got a raw deal in VAN last season. But in that fateful 2008 playoff series, I thought he was out-coached by John Stevens.

  3. Jon Sorensen says:

    Greetings folks! Just a quick note, if you haven’t done so already, please consider subscribing to NoVa Caps posts in the “subscribe” box located in the upper right corner. Thank you!

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