Disappointment on Ice: Caps burst the bubble of Potomac hockey fans

Kate Gregory, Staff Writer

To the disappointment of many Potomac hockey fanatics, after spending almost a month in the NHL bubble competing for the Stanley Cup, the Washington Capitals were eliminated from the 2020 playoffs in the first round by the New York Islanders. Perhaps we were spoiled by the long-awaited Stanley Cup victory in 2018, following years of going deep in the playoffs. We imagined that with one of the best players of our generation on our roster, we’d always be the team to beat.

The Caps lost the first three games of the seven-game series which put them down 3-0. They managed to pull off a 3-2 win in game four but were sent home a couple of nights later after a 4-0 defeat.

“There’s not much to say about that loss to the Islanders in my opinion. I think we played like we were exhausted, and it’s tough to come off of such a long break and play against such a solid team with a great coach, Barry Trotz, in the weirdest year in sports we’ve ever seen,” said sophomore Ben Schirmeier.

Going into the postseason, the Capitals were one of four teams that had clinched  a position in the Eastern Conference and played three games to determine their seeding. The Caps had a rough start to their playoff run, losing their first two seeding games, however, they had a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on August 9th to secure the third seed lead to face the sixth-seeded New York Islanders.

With the momentum from the win over Boston, the Caps were set for a competitive series facing the Islanders. However, the Islanders were a young, fast, and skillful team led by head coach, Barry Trotz who coached the Capitals for four years including the Stanley Cup-winning team in 2018. “I think that the Caps were definitely out-coached a little bit in the playoffs with the Islanders, as Trotz knew how all of the greats on the team play so I think he used that to his advantage and designed his plays to exploit their weak points,” said sophomore Annabel Cronic.

After the controversial hiring of head Coach Todd Reirden following the team’s refusal to meet Barry Trotz’ salary demands after his cup run in 2018, Washington’s talented lineup has failed in the last two years to make it past the first round of the playoffs. After much deliberation, the organization decided this August that it was time to part ways with Reirdon and hire 18-year veteran NHL coach, Peter Laviolette.

The coaching hire is not the only change for Washington, as after ten years in the organization, they had to let Stanley Cup-winning goalie Braden Holtby go due to the salary cap. Holtby signed a two-year, $8.6 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks. This is a big loss for the team as Holtby has been a top goalie in the league and a critical component of the team’s dynamic, and a big part of the DC community off the ice. In response, the Capitals signed former New York Rangers goalie Henrik “The King” Lundqvist to a one year, $1.5 million contract.

“I love the decision to sign Lundqvist. He’s made it clear that he’s not done with playing, probably has a good year left in him, and will be a good mentor for Samsonov who’s pretty young and not too experienced,” said Ben.

The depth of talent on the team is remarkable, and with the right coach, the Caps definitely have a good shot at the cup in the near future.

“I think the Ovechkin era is when the Caps can and will win another Stanley Cup. I mean unless an amazing player like Ovechkin comes along, it’s now or never with the talent and skill that the current team possesses,” said Intermediate and Middle School counselor, Ms. Weezie Parry.