They have all been together now for a total of five seasons. In that span they have made the playoffs every year, with four Southeast Division titles. Altogether they have combined for 544 goals and 827 assists since joining forces at the beginning of the 2007-2008 season. However, there is one thing that the Washington Capitals ‘Young Guns’ – Alexander Semin (28), Alex Ovechkin (26), Mike Green (26), and Nicklas Backstrom (24) – have yet to do.
These four haven’t led the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Finals, let alone the Eastern Conference Finals in there five years together. In their four postseasons together, they have only won two first-round series. And when their fifth postseason together starts Thursday, they will be quite the underdogs when they take on the defending Stanley Cup Champions Boston Bruins.
Veteran winger Mike Knuble had a message for the young foursome prior to the beginning of the playoffs this year. Get it done now.
“It’s very easy as a young player to say, ‘We’ll get ’em next year. We’ll all be together next year.’ But that’s not the reality. Salary caps and salary issues all pop up and guys move on. Later on, you’re like, ‘Aw, we had a real good team and we didn’t do anything and it never came around again.’” – Mike Knuble
With Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, and Green, the Capitals became one of the most feared offensive team in the NHL from 2007 to 2011, racking up an average of 108 points per season. However, this year the foursome played together for only 12 games with everyone’s statistics suffering. Ovechkin finished with 38 goals, and a career-low 65 points. Semin scored a career-low 21 goals, Backstrom had a career low of 44 points, and Green had a career low of seven points.
And the foursome might not be together all that much longer. While Ovechkin and Backstrom are inked to long-term deals, Ovechkin until 2020-2021 and Backstrom until 2019-2020, Semin becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and Green will be an unrestricted free agent.
The decision to keep all four together will be hanging on how they perform in the playoffs. If Semin is his usual enigmatic self he won’t be resigned. If Green doesn’t perform like he has in the past, the Capitals make make him a short term offer or let him go to free agency. It all depends if this group can make a deep playoff run, and they have yet to do that.
Injuries definitely took a toll on the team this season, but that can’t be an excuse now. The Capitals are in the playoffs, seeded in seventh and can be overlooked by many teams and upset them. Sure, they aren’t the favorites like they have been in the past but that might take the pressure off and let the guys just go out and play hockey.
Being with the Capitals for three years now, Knuble knows what talent he has around him with these four stars. But he believes the league doesn’t see them as a threat day-in and day-out until they make deep playoff runs consistently. He knows the kind of toll that hockey puts on the body, and knows that these four won’t always be together and if they want to be a threat and stick together, they have to ‘Do it now.”