For much of the millennium, the Washington Capitals throttled opponents throughout the regular season en route to high playoff-seeding and astronomical expectations. “Rock the red” would hit fever pitch every spring in the D.C. area before the inevitable let-down to a Pennsylvania team or some underdog squad that barely squeaked into the playoffs.
However, each of the past two years have flipped the script to some degree. The 2011 Caps fired longtime coach Bruce Boudreau after flying well beneath high expectations early in the season before taking on a scrappy, defensive identity that helped them squeak into the playoffs as a No. 7 seed. Washington would knock off the defending champion Boston Bruins then give No. 1 seed New York Rangers all they could handle in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
After a disastrous start, the Caps are flipping that old script again by playing their best hockey down the stretch to rally towards the fringe of playoff seeding. With the help of shootout goals by Alex Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom, Washington has exacted some revenge on those Rangers in a 3-2 win. The Caps are riding a three-game winning streak and now sit only two points behind New York for the eighth and final playoff spot.
“It was a big week for us. It’s not just that we got six out of eight points. We played better as a team,” Backstrom said, via The Washington Post. “I think that’s the effort you gotta do if you’re going to fight for a playoff spot. You’ve just got to keep going here, keep working for 60 minutes every game and hopefully you get success.”