Following the Capitals’ first-round playoff elimination by the New York Rangers, general manager George McPhee met with reporters to share his thoughts on the 2013 season, head coach Adam Oates and what it might take for the Caps to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
In Part One of the interview, McPhee analyzes the Caps’ seven-game series with the Rangers and the affect officiating had on the series' outcome:
On his overall assessment of the season:
I thought it was a really good season. We improved in a lot of ways. A lot of players had excellent years. Our coaching staff was terrific. The players really enjoyed playing for them. We had a slow start [2-8-1] but we really played well down the stretch [15-2-2] and played well in the playoffs. It didn’t go our way.
On what he would say to fans who are frustrated by the Caps’ lack of success in the playoffs [3-6 in their last nine playoff series]?
Well, we’ve made the playoffs six straight years and you’ve got to be in it to win it. It’s exhilarating to be in the playoffs. You make the playoffs and at the start of it you think you can win the Cup. We lost Game 7. To me it doesn’t matter whether it’s 2-1 or a 5-0 loss. I’m not disappointed in the way we played that game. I thought we played that first period as well as we played any period this year. We came out, we played really well. We were outshooting them, outplaying them 5-on-5 and they got a bounce. They got a break. [Braden] Holtby couldn’t see that first shot [by Arron Asham] and it changes momentum. There’s a randomness sometimes to this game, some luck to this game sometimes.
On the opinion of some of his veteran players that this was the best team they’ve been on in Washington:
I don’t know. I think we’ve had a lot of good teams, but I don’t know if one was better than the other. They’re all different in certain ways. That’s a good question that I never really sat down and thought about. I don’t know why I would because you start every year with a different team. It’s interesting. I talk to coaches at different levels – at the college level and the pro level – who have won championships and they’ve said they had better teams but won with this one. Either way, I thought it was a really good team. I’m proud of the way they played and I’m really delighted with the way some players came along and had real good years for us.
On the first questions he asks himself at the end of a season:
You try to do some sort of analysis. You really have to take the emotion out of it and try to be analytical. It’s hard. You know going into a Game 7 this could be it. You’re really hoping you keep playing but when it’s over there’s quite a vacuum there. It ends and it crushes all of us. It’s hard because you’re so invested and so committed for so long, as we were with this team. And they played so well down the stretch. When I look at this, our goaltending was good and it’s been good for the last three series. … Five-on-five play we were no different in the playoffs than we were in the regular season, really good. Once this system kicked in and the guys got used to it, I thought it was actually improving in the playoffs. Coaching was good. Penalty killing was excellent. We got really good late in the season [21 for 23] and it was good in the playoffs [24 for 26]. What we needed a chance to do was go on the power play very often, which was a real strength of ours. It was real good during the season [No. 1 in the NHL at 26.8 percent] and we didn’t get many power plays in the series [3-for-16]. I don’t know why. We had to kill too many penalties. I don’t know why. I didn’t think that pat of the game, from the league’s standpoint, was all that good. I didn’t like the refereeing but if you complain about it during a series you’re accused of trying to gain an edge. If you complain about it after a series is over then you’re whining and it’s sour grapes, so I’m not going to do that. But that is my analysis right off the bat. We’ll get deeper in that.
On Alex Ovechkin saying there might have been a league-wide conspiracy to force a Game 7:
I don’t think there’s a league conspiracy, but it sure didn’t feel right. And Alex wasn’t wrong.