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Will This Be Another Old Story for The Caps?

Posted by Webster Washington on 2/21/2016 4:53:32 AM

The Washington Capitals are beating up the NHL, and Alex Ovechkin has been playing like gangbusters. Kick the jukebox if you've heard this tune before. So, considering their sordid playoff past, you must wonder if the Capitals can win their first Stanley Cup, or if this is some sort of Groundhog Day nightmare unfolding once again.

Positive Present; Painful Past

The Caps, 41-10-4 at midweek, are the winningest team in hockey. They were the fastest to 40 wins in league history. They lead the Metropolitan Division by a whopping 14 points, and are 12 better than anyone else in the east. And the Caps are in the top five in the league in every major statistical category, including first in goals per game (3.3) and in power play percentage (23.7). Ovechkin had 35 goals as of Wednesday, just above Chicago's Patrick Kane.

And he has help. Centers Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov have 53 and 57 points respectively in this high-powered offense. The Caps defense is anchored by certifiably brilliant Braden Holtby (2.16 goals against average) and defenseman Karl Alzner, who carries a hefty plus/minus of 21.

Now let's look at the painful past. Washington entered the playoffs as the top seed in the east in both 2010 and 2011. In '10 the Caps were out by the first round, compliments of the New York Rangers. In '11 they were swept by Tampa Bay in Round 2. How about last season? Ding! Down go the Capitals in a seven-game decision to the Rangers in the second round – blowing a 3-1 series lead. The Caps have lost in the Eastern Conference finals and in the Stanley Cup finals, too.

Fair Warning

Here's the deal: the Capitals have Stanley Cup on their minds and are well aware of the past - possibly too aware. But the Cup is way off and a huge hill to climb for any team, no matter how good. Besides, there are teams such as the Rangers, Panthers and Lightning who may have something to say about the Caps' aspirations. And if the Capitals do get that far, the Blackhawks and Kane may well be awaiting (what a series that would be!). The Caps are currently +165 in the futures odds to win the east and +350 to win it all. These numbers are not even close to anything I'd consider value for a team as likely to choke this year as in any. Play the Caps all you like in regular season games. But when the playoffs arrive, watch for the bile to rise in some throats.

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