The Capitals’ season is over.
Oh, there are still three games remaining on their schedule, but for the first time in seven years they will mean absolutely nothing.
With the Detroit Red Wings’ playoff-clinching 4-3 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins giving them 91 points, and the Columbus Blue Jackets’ playoff-clinching 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars giving them 91 points, the Capitals were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs Wednesday night.
Even if the Capitals [85 points] manage to win their final three games and finish with 91 points, they would lose the first tiebreaker. Through 79 games the Caps have just 26 regulation or overtime wins. The Red Wings have 33 and the Blue Jackets have 37.
The Capitals’ 2013-14 season began on Oct. 2 when they saw the Chicago Blackhawks raise their Stanley Cup banner, then erase a Capitals’ third-period lead en route to a 6-4 win.
It was a harbinger of the things to come. A little more than six months’ later, the Capitals are lamenting the 13 times they blew two-goal leads.
They are also lamenting the seven-game losing streak in mid-January that dropped them out of a playoff spot and the five-game losing streak in late March that killed their chances.
“If we look at it, there were so many opportunities,” Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said on Monday. “You don’t really want to look back because it just bugs you more and more.
“But if you look back, it’s one of those things you should keep it in the back of your mind for next year or the year after or whenever you’re in a race again. These points are extremely important.”
And now the Caps’ final three games becomes a bit of a death march for everyone in the organization, from general manager George McPhee, who is believed to be in the final week of his contract, to head coach Adam Oates and his players.