A Look Back At The Washington Capitals 1993-94 Season – Ups and Downs and Hunting for Playoff Success

Photo: NHL (Capitals)

Going into the 1993-94 season, the Washington Capitals had made the playoffs for eleven consecutive seasons but had never won the Stanley Cup and only advanced to the Conference Finals one time throughout that period.

The Capitals ended the 1992-93 season, frustratingly. During Game 6 of the playoffs against the New York Islanders, Dale Hunter took out his frustration with a hit on Pierre Turgeon that caused injury. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman suspended him for a then record 21 games so the Caps would be sans Hunter until late November.

It was also a season where several players were in the option year of their contracts, including their Captain Kevin Hatcher, Sylvain Cote, Dmitri Khristich, Mike Ridley, and Alan May.


The Capitals appeared rudderless without Dale Hunter, losing their first six games of the 1993-94 season. At that point of the season, the only teams with no points were the Capitals and the San Jose Sharks, who was a third-year expansion team famous for their futility.

After six games, the Capitals had allowed a league-worst 30 goals against, but finally got their first win, 4-3 against the Buffalo Sabres on October 16. They ended up winning five of their last six games of the month to improve their record at the end of October was 6-7-0.


The winning streak that started in October continued through November and ultimately reached six games. After their fifth straight win, a 2-1 victory over the Quebec Nordiques, they pushed above the .500 mark. The sixth and last win of the streak was a 4-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning, which featured goals by all three of their leading scorers. Peter Bondra, Dimitri Khristich, and Randy Burridge.

Photo: NHL (Capitals)

Unfortunately they won just once more in November, with six losses and one tie. On November 26 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Dale Hunter finally returned to the lineup but then Peter Bondra was slashed in the hand, knocking him out of the lineup.

In Hunter’s second game back, a 3-1 loss against the New York Rangers, Alexei Kovalev of the Rangers clipped him from behind, causing a knee injury. Their record for November was 4-6-1 and for the season overall was 10-13-1.


It turned out that Bondra’s sore hand was a fracture and he would be out until December 26. Meanwhile, Hunter was out until December 23 with his injured knee. Unfortunately there was more bad news on the injury front. On December 23, in a 1-0 loss against the New York Rangers, Kevin Hatcher, their Captain and top defenseman, broke his hand. This further decimated their defensive corps since Al Iafrate was also out with injury. Their record for December was 7-4-2, with their record for the season at 17-17-3.

Photo: NHL (Capitals)


The Caps started out the month with a 5-5 tie and a blowout 8-2 loss against the Boston Bruins. After that were two wins followed by two losses. After a 4-0 win against the Quebec Nordiques on January 15, the Caps proceeded to lose four in a row. After their third consecutive loss, a 3-1 loss on January 25, the team fired Head Coach Terry Murray and replaced him with Jim Schoenfeld, who had formerly coached the Buffalo Sabres and the New Jersey Devils.

Washington General Manager David Poile felt that the players had lost confidence in Murray and that the move to dismiss the coach had been building the “last couple of weeks.” The Capitals management felt a change was needed as Murray was a relatively patient coach who would give players multiple chances while Schoenfeld was more intense, brought more discipline, and would goad players to exert maximum effort.

Schoenfeld set the tone at his first team practice, having players redo drills if they messed up. They ended January on a winning note with two straight wins. The team’s record for January was 5-7-1 and their record for the season was 22-24-4.


February started with a 5-3 win against the Flyers on February 2, but got shutout 4-0 in their next game on February 4. The next game, on the very next day, was the start of something special.

Coach Schoenfeld reorganized the lines, playing Peter Bondra on the top line with Dale Hunter and Dmitry Khristich, hoping to spark Bondra. Bondra had only scored three goals after returning from his broken hand. The move paid dividends as Bondra scored five goals, a franchise record, on the way to a 6-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was an early birthday present for Bondra, who would turn 26 years old two days later.

The Capitals won their next three games and would not lose again until February 21. The unbeaten streak from February 5 through February 20, included five wins and two ties. In one of the best months in franchise history, they were 9-2-2 and had a record of 31-26-6.


The Capitals began March by losing 4-3 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. After that were two ties, followed by three losses in a row. They finally won their first game of the month on March 15, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime, but three days later lost 6-2 to the Dallas Stars. The rest of the month was a mixed bag, but they beat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-3 to end the month on a good note. Their record for March was 4-6-4 and their season record was 35-32-10.

The Capitals made several trades at the trade deadline on March 22, dealing Al Iafrate to the Boston Bruins for forward Joe Juneau, trading Alan May to the Dallas Stars for Jim Johnson, and defenseman Enrico Ciccone for Joe Reekie. They were hoping those moves could improve their playoff fortunes.


The Capitals started the month off well with a 2-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils. Kelly Miller scored the game-winner with less than a minute to play, but then they lost their next three games. They rebounded with an 8-4 win against Ottawa that featured a hat trick by Todd Krygier who had been scratched the three previous games. They closed the season with two more wins.  Thus, for the month, they had a 4-3 record and ended the season at 39-35-10.

The Caps finished in third place in the Atlantic Division, behind the New York Rangers, who had won the President’s Trophy, and the New Jersey Devils. They ended up as the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and would play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round.


In the first round the Capitals would face the Pittsburgh Penguins, who won the Northeast Division with a 44-27-13 record. This was the third time the two teams would meet in the playoffs.

They split the first two games that took place in Pittsburgh with the Caps winning the opener 5-2 and the Pens winning the second game 2-1. After that, they went to Washington where the Caps won both games, winning Game 3 by a 2-0 score, and winning Game 4 with a 4-1 score to take a 3-1 game series lead.

Pittsburgh won Game 5 3-2 to stay alive. But the Caps won Game 6, winning 6-3 and taking the series. The Caps took a playoff series from Pittsburgh for the first time in franchise history.

Their reward for advancing in the playoffs was to face the New York Rangers, who won the Presidents’ Trophy. The Caps lost the first three games of the series, losing 6-3 in Game 1, 5-2 in Game 2, and 3-0 in Game 3.  They would stave-off elimination in Game 4 with a 4-2 win but fell in Game 5 by a 4-3 score.

1994 NHL Eastern Conference Semi-Finals: NYR vs. WSH | Hockey-Reference

The Rangers went on to play the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals, beating them in seven games. They went on to the Stanley Cup Finals where they met the Vancouver Canucks, beating them in seven games to become the Stanley Cup Champions.


That was the last season before the lockout of 1994 that resulted in canceling the early part of the 1994-95 season. Kevin Hatcher, the team’s captain, left the team in free agency and signed with the Dallas Stars. Their next captain would be Dale Hunter. Mike Ridley, the team’s leading point-getter, also departed.

1993-94 Washington Capitals Schedule | Hockey-Reference.com

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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