Believed to be heavy favorites to win the Cup this year, the Caps did not have the season most thought they would. An offensive juggernaut, the Caps came into the year with a new philosophy. Having lost in the last three playoffs due to their defensive deficiencies, the Caps employed a new defensive system to prepare themselves for the more tight checking playoffs. But the new system took some time to get used to.
The Caps season this year can be broken into three parts:
The first part was their first 26 games of the season where they implemented their new system. It wasn’t easy for Caps coach Bruce Boudreau to change the mindset of his offensive team. At first, they were the same run-and-gun team that put up a lot of points but would lose in the playoffs. In their first 26 games, the Caps went 18-6-2 which put them in the upper echelon of the Eastern conference.
The second part of their season was their eight game stretch at the beginning of December which saw them lose eight straight games. Mirrored in one of the worst losing streaks in franchise history, the Caps were surpassed by the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Southeast division lead. There were even rumors of a coaching change if the Caps didn’t right the ship quickly. In addition to their losing streak, the Caps were featured in the ground breaking HBO series 24/7 that followed them in the weeks leading up to the Winter Classic battle with the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 1st. In this stretch, the Caps were outscored 27-11 and were falling fast in the Eastern conference.
Then came their December 19th game against the Senators. With Ottawa in their own tailspin, it was believed that coach Boudreau was to be in serious trouble if his team lost to the Sens. With the Sens going up by two after the first period, it looked like the Caps troubles would continue. But, with Ottawa being such a swell team, they did Washington a solid a spotted them three goals in the second period to help them snap their losing streak.
From this game onward, the third part of their season started as the Caps finished out their last 47 games of the season with a record of 29-11-7 and captured the Southeast division title and first overall in the eastern conference. Beating the Senators gave the Caps a new life and they were able to find their game. One of the hottest teams in the second half of the season, Washington was able to overcome major injuries and decreased production from their offensive weapons. As you can see by the game highlights below, the Caps celebrated this win like they just won the Stanley Cup. And if they raise the Cup come this June, I think Ottawa can be said to have had a hand in it.
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